Sheet Metal Cutting and Welding Oxy / acetylene

I am looking to purchase a small setup for welding and cutting sheet metal on a 1950 Ford Pickup. I need to cut the floor board out and weld in patch panels. I also need to replace a few spots on the fenders. There are a whole lot of choices. I read that Smith offers tips just for cutting sheet metal and found a few references to them. They are specialty tips such as the Smith SC17-0. I have also found setups such as the Henrob which looks interesting but seems to be pretty expensive the torch itself is $359.00 then you still needs regulators say $150.00 for a cheap set then hoses. Is there a setup for a beginner that people here can recommend ? I would like to get something that has parts availability.

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If you want O/A, the good starter set is a Victor single stage. Usually runs about $150 - $175 for 2 regulators, torch, cutting head, 3 tips, and hoses. If you want to go down in price, has victor knockoffs for $119. If you want to go up in price, get a Victor or Harris unit with double stage regulators. Used ones are around, they tend to be beat up large scale commercial units. Unless you can check the rig out and know what you are looking at, I'd advise against used.

The big $$ hit is with the tanks. The 120 cubic foot O2 and similar Acetelyne will run $350 or so to purchase or l> I am looking to purchase a small setup for welding and cutting sheet metal

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I don not mind paying for a higher quality unit to a point I see the knock offs are pretty cheap. I question the quality of the units especially when working with fire. I wonder if the regulators are any good and how long the tips are going to last? If you were looking at a kit from Smith or Victor what are the differences in the heavy duty, medium duty, light duty setups, super range long range etc? I bought a book on welding and hopefully it will help answer some questions once it gets here.

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I'm partial to the Victor outfits, Smith and Harris are just fine.

In the victor line, the light duty and medium duty outfits use the 100 series torch. I like the light weight and small size for working on automotive and project sorts of things. This unit will flow all the gas you will ever need as well as take all the usually dropping and mishandling you will give it. The medium and heavy duty lines have the two stage regulators. These are better if you do long burn times or precison work since they are much less prone to drifting than the single stage. But if you are just setting up, heating one joint and shutting down, who cares if it drifts a bit?

For the difference in price, I'd go with the Victor (or Harris or Smith) over the Harbor Freight. I have no problem using knock off tips and rosebud though.

As I menti> I don not mind paying for a higher quality unit to a point I see the knock

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I know you are asking about O/A, but for body work, that's not a very good choice. The reason is that you'll get a *lot* of panel distortion when cutting or welding with O/A. For cutting out old bodywork, an abrasive cutoff wheel, or an air or electric saw (Sawsall), will do a better job without all the distortion (or if you want to spend the bucks, a plasma cutter would be great).

Note, for replacing old rusted out foot wells, just drill out the factory spot welds with a spotweld cutter bit, then knock them out with an air chisel. Works fast and leaves you with sound metal to weld in the replacements. Use a MIG to plug weld the replacements at the same points as the original spotwelds.

Note that you usually will *not* want to do a full seam weld when repairing or replacing body sheetmetal. Either plug weld at the original spotweld points, or for patch panels, weld short beads on about a 2 inch spacing. Skip around when welding so that too much heat doesn't build up in one spot. Grind the welds down smooth, then use lead or bondo to hide the seam.

(You *can* TIG weld a continuous seam and *hammer weld* it smooth. That's what very high end car restoration places do, but that requires a great deal of skill to do well, and a great knowledge of how to control distortion.)

For welding in new foot wells or other body panels, MIG is the way to go. That'll give you the least distortion, and it is *much* faster than O/A too. One of the little 110 volt baby MIGs will suffice for sheetmetal, but if you also may be doing heavier pieces, then a 220 volt machine in the 200 amp range will serve you better.

You can get an adequate air cutoff tool from Harbor Freight for $19, or spend about $80 for a classy one from Chicago Pneumatic. Both work the same, though the more expensive one may use a bit less air, and may last longer.

Baby MIGs are available everywhere for prices running from around $200 to $600. As is usually the case, the more you spend, the better the tool, but even the Italian jobs sold by the likes of Harbor Freight are Ok for patching up sheetmetal. For the bigger 220 volt machines, stick with Miller (Hobart) or Lincoln. They cost close to $1,000, so you want something with good manufacturer support over the years.

O/A costs will be dominated by the cost of bottles and gas. If you insist on going this way, shop around aggressively. The deals offered by gas suppliers vary all over the map. Most gas suppliers also sell torch outfits. Most sell house branded Victor knockoffs at the low end, and if you're buying gas from them, the suppliers will usually cut you a good deal on the torch outfit.

(Note, *no one* pays list price at a welding supply shop. Ask for and get a substantial discount, or walk.)

Despite what I said above about the undesirability of using O/A for cutting and welding on auto bodies, you probably will find a gas torch useful for heating brackets to bend them, and for use when leading a body (assuming you want a traditional "lead sled" instead of using more modern plastic body fillers). One of the cheap Victor knock offs will do fine for these uses.


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Gary Coffman

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