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Old February 18th, 2012, 09:27 PM   #1
CreatureFeature
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Default How did you started with welding, fabrication, and volksrodding?

Hey folks, long time lurker but a bit on the quiet side. Spent the past year or so shopping around for projects and convincing myself to buy one already but life gets in the way. Kind of daunting to start out with little money, no skill, no garage, and just a desire to build a volksrod. Dreams deferred and all that.

Got me thinking, how did most of you guys get started? Seems like a lot of you guys into chopping bugs and fabricating have full on auto garages. Others have picked up these skills from family or friends working with metal. Then there are some that just sacked up and went for it.

Any insight, ideas, or stories from the people that actually know what they are doing or how to learn (welding and metal work in specific) would be appreciated.
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Old February 18th, 2012, 10:18 PM   #2
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Default Re: How did you started with welding, fabrication, and volksrodding?

I started in high school, working on other people's stuff.
Quickly figured out, they didn't know what they were doing, and didn't appreciate my efforts. When I needed help, they were nowhere to be seen, so fuck 'em.

Over the years, I've taken night school classes in
TIG, MIG, OXY, and Arc welding, welding theory; Blueprint Reading, sheet metal pattern development, sculpture, ceramics, furniture making, glass blowing, drawing, painting, etc. Was going for my TIG
"all position pipe" ticket at one time. Went to Southard's School in Fla, to study suspension set up and driving. 2 years collage full time, plus a 4 year apprenticeship as a Tool & Die Maker.

Bought just about any How To book available,
lots of videos from Ron Covell.

Learning stuff "the hard way", sounds romantic and
Old School. It's also very slow, and unnecessarily frustrating. And you might not ever figure it all out by yourself. The myth of the self taught genius, is just that, a myth.

There is so much info available today, it's amazing.
Same with tools, incredible variety and low cost.

The hardest part, is getting your thumb out and get started.
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Old February 18th, 2012, 10:52 PM   #3
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Default Re: How did you started with welding, fabrication, and volksrodding?

I started in September 2009 with my one-and-only one half hour welding lesson the morning I cut the roof off the bug. Everything else I learned as I went along except the spraying. I blew off a couple of accident repairs for a friend back in 1975 so I had a little experience there.

but like Ian say ...

Quote:
Learning stuff "the hard way", sounds romantic and Old School. It's also very slow, and unnecessarily frustrating. And you might not ever figure it all out by yourself. The myth of the self taught genius, is just that, a myth.
There were a hundred times I've wished I knew what I was doing before I started ... generally after doing it again for the third time fixing the previous mistakes ... and how often I've wished for some proper tools ...

BUT ...

Don't let that stop you getting started. Bug bodies are cheap .. it's experience that's "expensive".
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Old February 18th, 2012, 11:34 PM   #4
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Default Re: How did you started with welding, fabrication, and volksrodding?

CF you have a good question.
My learning experience is very similar to UnklIan.
Poverty and a desire to build cool stuff has driven all of my learning experiences.
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Old February 19th, 2012, 04:31 AM   #5
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Default Re: How did you started with welding, fabrication, and volksrodding?

When I was 3, I got a dump truck toy for my birthday. I wanted to know how the little guy in the front went from side to side if you turned the wheels. So I took some tools from my dads toolbox and took the toy apart. My parents got mad, but I promised them I could put it back together again. And I did. Nothing has changed over the years.

To me it's all about learning new things the old fashioned way, by trial and error. I did study Art&Design but most things I learned by trying it myself, listing to old timers and checking the internet. That's how I like it.
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Old February 19th, 2012, 06:23 AM   #6
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Default Re: How did you started with welding, fabrication, and volksrodding?

Was raised by my Grandfather that was a blacksmith. He started showing me how to made hunting knifes,etc when I was 8-10 years old. Was allowed to go hunting by myself at 10 years old. Always worked and fixed things on the farm. Latter went through the appreticeship making hand made glasswhare. Went through the Boilermaker appreticeship, went to B&W's welding school in welding boiler tubes in coal fired power plants. Worked building and repairing boilers all over the U.S. for 15 years. Also weld 4130 aircraft tubing in restoring old aircraft. So I have been fabricating and welding steel most of my life. Also worked as a ME in auto plant,(VW) designing robots. Also a Com pilot and flew for the U.S. Gov as a private contractor for my wife's company.That is about it except having had side business building VW engines, and buying and selling VW's. Now retired and building VW's and airplanes. Pop
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Old February 19th, 2012, 06:28 AM   #7
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I started in the family dairy ranch at about 12 helping the Ranch mechanic every chance I had, fixing tractors and equipment the he gave me a box of old rod and some plate one day at 14 I've been hooked ever since. Throughout the years I have carried the tools for many mentors in the field. They had the knowledge I wanted, and I had the youth and vigor they wanted to. I was coachable and they liked that, and they taught me most everything I know. Night classes I still take now and then to learn new skills and YouTube videos give me great ideas. Since I don't have kids I'm eager to pass my knowledge on to the right person someday and give them a step up in life, like it was so generously given to me.



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Old February 19th, 2012, 07:36 AM   #8
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Default Re: How did you started with welding, fabrication, and volksrodding?

As I grew up I had no interest in cars. My father was a career Air Force fighter pilot and I grew up overseas switching bases and schools, every one or two years. My passion at a young age was airplanes, (DAH).
We came back to the U.S. for my senior year in high school and my dad gave me $500.00 as a graduation present to help me purchase a car.
Thats all it took.... within three months I had my 69 Nova ready. If I was not at the drag strip on Sat. I was street racing every night. A few years, many tickets and a couple wrecks later I started my own business, got married, had two great sons and never looked back.
A few years ago I decided to restore a Nova like the first one I had. I had absoluetly no experience with rust repair, metal fabrication, welding, etc. I could build a hell of a motor and bolt on parts but that was it.
I have now finished five complete rotisserie restorations on 2nd and 3rd. gen Novas, a couple of 69 Camaros a 65 Bug for my wife to run around with in the summer and I am currently making a V-Rod out of a 71 Super.
I am self taught in everything I have done. Teaching myself by reading books on the subjects and then going for it. It is my belief that if you really want to do something bad enough you will find a way to be able to do it.

Confidence and Determination.
Thats my story and I'm sticking to it....

You will have to start small and within your means, but keep after it and you will get there. Good Luck.

Last edited by justsomeguy; February 19th, 2012 at 06:31 PM.
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Old February 19th, 2012, 07:42 AM   #9
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Default Re: How did you started with welding, fabrication, and volksrodding?

My Dad was a Tool and Model Maker for IBM, 4yr course taught by IBM. Grandfather was always messing with R/C boats and electronics. Next door neighbor did paint and body in his garage..He was retired. We grew up in a house that was 1/2 100 years old with a 60 yr old addition. Some one was always working on something.
I hung out watched, helped. Took HS auto shop, Mechanical drawing. Then at 15 got a 66 Bug for Christmas, rusty, bent, brakes frozen. Now 33 yrs and a few cars later, after HS job as a mech. and 12 yrs of active then 14 reserve in the Navy. On the job trained as a Machinist, 9 yrs in a Job shop making parts for everything from Farmers plow to explosive bolts for the space shuttle. Manual and CNC Mills. Self taught welding..with tips from pro's. Metal work learned by watching reading and trying. Self taught machine engraving. Self taught CNC Burn table...still workin on that one. OJT on CAD programs.
The Volks rod stuff started after my divorce.. Just wanted to build an all steel custom car. Bought my brothers Baja project, before it was even cut on. That was 93. Found this site in 06. I Met a guy who was wanting to build a hot rod style bug, he showed me this site and been hangin around ever since.
As for the aborted Baja? Its still around, almost everything has been done twice, as far as the custom metal work. See my avatar. Did some paid work on restored and rodded cars, on the side. Now I spend my days Working on blown up and broken MRAP's in lovely Afghanistan.
Some day when I settle down, and am home for more than 2 weeks at a pop, I'd love to take a few metal shaping classes. But since I already have some of the tools..I may just keep stumbling along. I figure 19 yrs on 1 project is still cheaper than a Shrink.

Last edited by cuttinup; February 19th, 2012 at 07:44 AM.
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Old February 19th, 2012, 09:23 AM   #10
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Default Re: How did you started with welding, fabrication, and volksrodding?

I got my start in VW's when I was about a year old. That's when my parents bought a '72 bug that is still sitting on my side yard. Once I got my drivers license, I was given the bug under the condition that I got it running and driving again. I was introduced to welding and fabrication by a neighbor that was building a 1938 Ford humpback sedan. A couple of friends and myself got to help with some of the work on it. I got my start in welding and fabrication about 19 years ago while helping my soon to be Father in law build a 1930 Tudor sedan. I got heavy into it when I got the Volkstruck, and the Bay Area Volksrod Garage has been going strong ever since!

Neighbor's '38 Ford


The 1930 Tudor sedan
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Old February 19th, 2012, 11:12 AM   #11
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Default Re: How did you started with welding, fabrication, and volksrodding?

i grew up in a dirt track and drag racing house as i got older they moved on to asphalt and my father now builds touring cars (more notably the bell motor sports daytona prototype)
i messed around and dabbled got an apprenticeship under a small engine repair man(lawn mowers,dirt-bikes atvs and such then eventually Harley's)
never messed around with fabrication on anything other than a lathe till later in life...but i did learn how to work a lathe at age 12 and did alot of parts cleaning and making junk parts new and look new


i started getting really into metal fab when i was about 17-18 because when i was learning body-piercing and body art (w/e you wanna call the freaky stuff i do for a living ) i felt alot of tools could be better or could do a better job than they were doing so i started taking and redesigning medical tools and also making some of my own from scratch then started making custom body jewelry on the side only working in titanium

and also machining silicone for implants...then i got into tattoo machine building and the best part of that is i dont even tattoo i just find the machines very fascinating because despite how retardedly simple they look (two electro magnetic coils hit the switch bam, like an old doorbell) making one that works good and better than others is a big process... contact point geometry, dwell angle, spring rate/spring geometry, sound feel all kinds of stuff

and that got me more into metal fab since i use all kinds of techniques to build them from brazing to casting to just using random pieces of metal.... and my current form of this im very proud of because im now fully self reliant and every single part of my machines are made in house down to the screws even =]
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Old February 19th, 2012, 05:23 PM   #12
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Default Re: How did you started with welding, fabrication, and volksrodding?

A lot of knowledge in this forum. Kind of expected it. I tried to weld a wagon back together at a cousin's house when I was 12. That's about all the experience I have but its always stuck with me.

It broke. So Im kinda concerned about being one of those guys that has a "project" rotting in their back yard because I cant hack it (except into pieces).

Thanks folks, keep the stories coming. Its nice to know where people's passions come from. Im thinking i'll try to find someplace I can take a handful of classes and go at it from there. Google and the cheapest set of tools I can find will be my best friends Im sure.
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Old February 19th, 2012, 05:37 PM   #13
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Default Re: How did you started with welding, fabrication, and volksrodding?

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Originally Posted by CreatureFeature View Post
Im thinking i'll try to find someplace I can take a handful of classes and go at it from there. Google and the cheapest set of tools I can find will be my best friends Im sure.
Check for a local tech college. They should have a class you can get started in.
Down here it's an elective in High school ~
I have very little heavy duty experience. I'm the drawer/designer ,body worker and part painter of the family, since I was raised in my Dad's body shop since I was 7. But I have the desire which is most important to take on this kind of hobby
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My attraction to volksrods is that these are bottom-feeders where things are still real ... people scraping together parts, doing their own work and often on a tight budget. Real hot rodding is still alive here.
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Old February 19th, 2012, 07:04 PM   #14
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Default Re: How did you started with welding, fabrication, and volksrodding?

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cheapest set of tools I can find will be my best friends Im sure.
Buy the best that you can afford, to get you started.

As you gain knowledge and money, only go for better tools.
GOOD tools last longer, and (usually) will not let you down. Not good to have something break, half way thru a job.

I still have some of my OLD Craftsman tools, from when I was 15. Craftsman tools are made cheaper now.

My 2 cents
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Old February 19th, 2012, 07:36 PM   #15
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Default Re: How did you started with welding, fabrication, and volksrodding?

Cheap wrenches/sockets don't fit right,
and round off nuts and bolts.
They also break when you really need them.
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Old February 19th, 2012, 07:37 PM   #16
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And try not to loan tools to your cheapass friends.
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Old February 19th, 2012, 07:58 PM   #17
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Default Re: How did you started with welding, fabrication, and volksrodding?

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And try not to loan tools to your cheapass friends.

I fully agree with this!!
Would love to have the money spent, replacing loaned tools.

When it comes to money or tools, friendship turns to henshit!!
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Old February 19th, 2012, 08:34 PM   #18
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Default Re: How did you started with welding, fabrication, and volksrodding?

My friend Bridget got me into VWs, my dad got me a 1970 bug to start on (first car, still have it) started ripping it apart, got an angle grinder. Many years later I bought my welder totally against my parent's wishes. They thought if I crossed the street I would die. Got a HF 10 ton press and then a dad got me a drill press for a birthday. Raided all his tools. He let me have most of them. Love the Saw-Zall!
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Old February 19th, 2012, 08:34 PM   #19
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Default Re: How did you started with welding, fabrication, and volksrodding?

Once upon a time...anyway, my dad bought his first new car in '64, and the dealer offered him fifty bucks if he'd keep the '47 Ford coupe that he wanted to trade in. I'd been reading car magazines since I was twelve, built lots of model cars and already had big plans for the old coupe. I came home from school and the new Merc was in the drives and the coupe gone...(aak!) into the backyard..whew. A neighbor had taught me to gas weld and before my sixteenth birthday, I'd swapped a Nailhead from a t-boned but running '55 Buick Super into the coupe. This taught me all sorts of things about how early Ford gearboxes and rear ends didn't hold up behind the Buick. I'd also learned to arc weld with a Lincoln buzz box.

Three years later I'd run the coupe at the grudge races at Fremont (fourteen flat at 100.004 mph) a couple of times (Borg Warner T-10 four speed, '56 Chevy rear end, dual leafs and Jaguar front suspension. The coupe was sold when I went in the Army.

Back from Vietnam in early '72 (January 20th actually)I bought the Single Cab from a used car dealer for $295.00. (I'd planned to buy a new Sportster but the Harley dealer gave me some grief about being a Nam Vet...things were different then and yup, I still carry a grudge) The 36 HP would get me to about 48 mph... a whopping fifty-one when I added an extractor and a home built camper shell.

Along the way I also built a Corvair powered '62 VW Baja, and '72 'vair powered bug, and a Nailhead powered Fifty-five Ford 4 door sedan ( a real sleeper). They were eventually sold and the Single Cab ran a couple of Corvair drive trains and then in '79 I swapped in a 351 Windsor motor, T-98 truck four speed and '68 Ford rear end. Front suspension is '72 Bay with power discs.
The S.C. is still on the road with that powertrain and I had it out yesterday to pick up some lumber. 'Been tinkering on her for just over 40 years.
I also work on motorcycles, have a '83 Cafe Sporty I built back in the late eighties and did not buy from a dealer.
Regarding tools; have a cheap ass set to loan out if you must loan tools to your cheap ass friends... do not loan out your good stuff...voice of experience here.
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Old February 19th, 2012, 09:43 PM   #20
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Default Re: How did you started with welding, fabrication, and volksrodding?

either you have the interest or not. if youre here, you do. these guys are all multi-disciplined sculptors. in the middle of your life it gets interesting because you combine all the different things you learned into your own gig.
theres a lot to be said for watching before doing. you get an idea of what to do and you can dial it up to your tastes. just get interested and start. go to people that share your interests and ask for advice. there's no substitute for experience.
I started taking shit apart in high school and never looked back-- pay attention to how things come apart-- take photos in case it takes a few days to reassemble.
I taught myself auto upholstery this way, and never told the customer it was my first off until I delivered.
there was a place called bldg 2 at douglas aircraft in torrance, ca. I worked in the woodshop [aircraft interiors] and there were all manner of different subassemblies going on in this huge ww2 building [late eighties]
I used to chat and watch the jig and fixture guys next door, the mockup guys down the way and a guy that fit clear canopies for the f15 eagle. the polish dept made wing control surfaces shiney and I got cool compounds and tips from them. metal stamping, the burr bench and heat treat were all within 200 feet of my bench.[fwd drop cieling, dc9 and md 80 plus dc10/md11. what a total heaven that place was-- now its scraped and tiltups stand there--
metal bonding, and a guy that cut stuff with water, another guy sprayed molten aluminum onto parts as a coating, all while they were building the first c17 globemaster.

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Old February 20th, 2012, 05:34 PM   #21
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Default Re: How did you started with welding, fabrication, and volksrodding?

My old man always played with classic cars and of course i was there and so..i began to love them. I went more for the wild side, thinking way outside the box.

At 16 i put a 74 superbeetle on a simple rectangular frame and mounted (dont laugh i had it, it ran good and was free) everything off a 69 fiat 124 into her. Used all the fiat parts exept the vw front end which was extended and flipped.

She was.. ugly, crude, but very cool to a 16 year old. I drilled 2" holes up and down the hood so the radiator would get air.
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Old February 20th, 2012, 06:00 PM   #22
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A Fiat from a 124? Was that the twin Cam? All the Fiats hauled ass anyway. but that sounds like a cool swap.
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Old February 21st, 2012, 07:27 PM   #23
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Default Re: How did you started with welding, fabrication, and volksrodding?

Well let's see, when I was 5 and got my hands on my dad's tools I took my 1st 2 wheel bike apart, lost a few pieces so it didn't pedal all that well after that
Then at about 12 I was always bringing lawn mowers home when I seen one in the trash, I took them apart, fixed a few, then got into mini bikes, go-carts and anything else that used anything other than leg power
I always hung out with the guys who worked on their own cars, learned as much as I could from them, a few of them were my dads age but he got out of hot rods when my older brother was born, he had a few really nice and fast cars, I only heard stories about his 55 Chevy which at the time was one of the fastest street cars around back in the late 50's and early 60's (brother was born in 62 that's when he sold it)

My mom's cousin was into hot rods back then and always said he was disappointed about my dad getting out of the car scene because he always had a fast car back then, same cousin has a 57 Chevy he built from the ground up into a show car, he hasn't had it in a show in a while now because he ran out of room for all his trophies

At 14 one of my friends went to the vocational school and took "Machine Trades" he would come home with some pieces he had made and I was hooked, I knew right then I was gonna take "Machine Trades" my junior and senior year of high school, my sophomore year I took metal class where we learned the basics like foundry work, we were only aloud to make a sand mold and the teachers poured the molten metal into the molds, we also forged a cold chisel, made a screw driver, as well as a few other things I can't remember what they were, I only wish I had kept with the forge work back then rather than waiting until I was 37 years old, but it was easy to learn just by getting my hands dirty

So when I began machine Trades I learned the basics of a machine shop, I took the flywheel from my 1st VW and turned it down so it was only 12 lbs, then I did a crude balancing of it using a large grinding wheel balancer to balance the flywheel, you turned it and waited for it to stop and mark the bottom, checked again and if it repeated a few times I drilled out some material and checked it again until it was balanced as best I could get it, it worked and didn't cause any vibration so I think I did a good job

Once I graduated I got a job in a shop that did all sorts of work, besides the machine shop they had a punch press section, a sheet metal shop, and welding shop, I learned to make a few punch press dies, I never did get to build one from scratch but made parts for a few that they were building, I did get to modify a few of the dies, all of them worked just as good as they were supposed to work I ended up getting laid off from that place I believe do to a back injury I got while working there, so a few months into 1986 I got a job at a new machine shop that had just opened a few months before I started, I worked there for 9 years learning to run every machine they had, I also did a lot of learning at that job, I was the only full time employee for 4 months, so I did everything from running CNC machines, to running all the manual machines as well as welding, most of the welding was just tac welding parts together so a welder could come in at night and finish weld everything I tac welded together

I also made many many parts for my VW's and most everything for my Rail buggy while working there, when they moved to far away from where I lived I took a job at a shop closer to home, I worked there until my last day of work in 2000

That's when I got the Internet where I did as much research as I could, I bought a bunch of books, then I came across the Back Yard Metal Casting web site and started melting aluminum, then built my own forge and began making tools, knives and flowers

I now have an antique machine shop in my garage, a foundry that I built everything myself for and then I started building my forge and began beating hot iron into knives (pattern welded knives are very addicting)

Everything I have done I learned from books, the internet, and just getting my hands dirty, that is except the machine shop, I learned the basics my last 2 years of high school, the rest I learned in the shop, handed a print, shown where to get the material, I cut everything up and started the job and finished the job, went from a 1 man full time employee (me) to I believe they have well over 50 employees now

All that time in between I was always driving a VW Bug, most times I'd just buy one that someone took apart and decided they were in over their head, picked them up for $25, $50, $75. I'd pull them home and put my engine in it, make sure it had brakes, and then drive them until they just fell apart, or started breaking in half, then I'd strip it and junk it, buy another and continue on

As I said I have had at least 25 VW Bugs and 1 Karmann Ghia, if only I had all of them now

But that's my story and how I learned to do what I do, when in doubt I do my research, read books, and now search online, then I just go out and get my hands dirty


Ron

p.s. that's the quick version, I could have gotten into details, but it would have most likely bored most of ya'll, so that's it
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Old February 22nd, 2012, 04:35 AM   #24
Desert Fox
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Default Re: How did you started with welding, fabrication, and volksrodding?

This is a verry interesting thread. I Started tinkering early on mostly on toys and broken appliences and electronics. Then I pieced together a gocart and next thing i knew I was the family mechanic. When I was 15 I got a 63" Chevy (I still have it) and over the next year I got it running and driveing. Then auto class in Hgh school and college. I spent 13 years working as a line tech at diferent dealerships and the last 6 worhing on Raymond Forklifts. All of my expierence building frames and doing bodywork is hobby time expierence. Lots of research on this board and others.

Dont be afraid to start and if you dont know ask questions. Oh there will be someone that tells you to use the search function but more times than not someone will point you in the right direction.

As for tools start with the basics. A good mechanics set in your budget. I like kobalt for a budget set. Harbor freight has somewhat decent tools on some things I personaly have there imact sockets that I use every day. If you want to be an auto tech buy the best tools you can get. Nothing else will hold up. The year I said eff it and switched from Craftsman to Snap on I doubled my salery. No lie. if you are just tinkering as long as it dosent have china stamped on it it will probably do what you want.

Things you cant scrimp on. A cheap welder welds like a cheap welder. Find a descent 220v model somewhere used. I have a Miller 35 its from the 70's. I paid 400.00 for it and it will do anything I want to do from sheet metal to plate steel. You will kill cheep grinders get a good one. Do not by tools that are rated to do the job you want to do. If you are looking at plazma cuters and it says it will cut 1/4" but is rated for 1/8", get a bigger size because you will have to cut 1/4" at some point and a machine that is rated at that max will not do a good job.

It takes a lifetime to get the things you want/need. Start small Get some common hand tools, find a car play with the motor and the interior. Take it slow have fun.
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Old February 22nd, 2012, 02:19 PM   #25
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Default Re: How did you started with welding, fabrication, and volksrodding?

When I was three, my parents threw me, along with several lengths of metal, a right angle grinder, a power cord, and a Lincoln Welder into a pit of wolves.

I had less than seven seconds to fashion a knife blade and weld it to the handle. I was SO angry that I wanted to kill both of them AND the wolves.

Well . . . I'm alive, both parents are dead and I still have a taste for wolf meat.

Last edited by TeamEvil/TC; February 24th, 2012 at 07:36 AM.
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