Everyone in farming gains huge benefits when armed with a basic welder, and a grasp of how to use it.
The techniques are no way as difficult or magical as experts make out. As a small-scale farmer (52 acres), I spent years in awe of the man who did my necessary repairs, and an equal amount of time trying to avoid the expense, with the ingenious use of baler twine.
But twine never really worked as well as the proper repair, and I wasted vast amounts of time, and caused myself unnecessary frustration, by being a non-welder.
My farming changed in 1985 with six evening lessons and a new Stg£3,150, 180-amp stick welder — a machine still in regular use today.
Latches were re-attached to gates, a Dutch harrow with floppy tines restored to new, the hinge on the Super Major seat was made safe, metal shelving and a small welding table were built for the workshop.
I paid almost nothing in a farm sale for electric-fencing stakes, because most of the treads had been broken off. I repaired them, and had a barrow-load of serviceable stakes.
My ‘stick’ welder is as simple as it gets, no gas, motors, wire feed, etc, as in the MIG variety. It’s much better at dirty metal, slicing through the grime to form slag, and with a quality plug on it and a decent fuse (I use MK), electrode holder and a good earth clamp, plus the essential mask, you’re in business.
Add a four or five-inch angle grinder (my nine-inch is too big, heavy, dangerous and cumbersome), attach the spanner to the lead of the grinder with a cable tie, so they are never parted (do the same with the chuck key for your drill), and you can start a metalworking workshop.
You’ll soon find it necessary to take the welder to jobs, and it’s heavy and awkward to move about. Here’s a solution we featured — an old wheelbarrow that’s been given two wheels for stability, a flat deck for the welder, a tube for the electrodes, a space for the cables, and so on.
I’d make the mains-lead holder with a swivel, like some vacuum cleaners, as you don’t want to weld with the mains cable coiled, because the current heats and destroys the insulation.
Your new equipment will set you back no more than Stg£3,250, far less in a sale, and will have a pay-back period of six months.
If there’s doubt in your mind, ask a neighbouring farmer for a trial run with his welder. Anyone who likes acquiring skills — and what skills can any farmer do without? — will find welding to be as useful as riding a bike or driving a car.
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