Man, this was such a fun build so far! Let’s jump into it and describe the process for the first part of the project.
To start, I had to collect all the materials. Some was upcycled, some was bought, sadly. I always try and use 100% upcycled materials but I have been looking for steel like this for months and could only find rebar. I did not want this to be a rebar project so I ended up ponying $37 for the square steel. This was the only thing not upcycled and $37 isn’t that bad. Our Ikea laundry cart was trashed after a few months of use so that is the real motivation for this build. You can see in the picture below how I had to zip tie it together to take it down to our laundry room. Gross…
Once all the materials were selected, I had to lay out the cart by taking measurements and creating a drawing blueprint of the entire build. I did this on a scrap piece of cardboard. No sketch-up needed for this!
Once the layout was complete, I went into the metal shop to begin cutting down the square steel stock. I used a horizontal bandsaw because it makes dead straight cuts and is liquid cooled so it cuts better, cooler, and cleaner. This bandsaw is my favorite tool in the metal shop because of how easy it is to use and how much time it saves with it’s reliability.
After the bandsaw, I layed out all the pieces to check if they were square and to get a sense of the overall weight of the finished cart.
After verifying everything was on track, I cut the last pieces for the project by taking a plate of steel over to the gigantic and scary Edward’s Ironworker machine. This thing is an absolute beast and scares the dickens out of me. It uses hydraulic pressure to shear off and punch holes in steel like a knife through water. This thing is truly amazing. Although I did ask for some assistance because I was a little nervous using it. You can see one of the great shop guys below. Thanks bro!
Below is what the Ironworker did to the steel. Sheared it right off at the exact line I needed. Just a little final prep work to be complete!
Once the steel came out of the Ironworker, I took it to the huge disk sander to straighten out the edges. This thing throws hot steel sparks everywhere and I think I burnt a little patch from the top of my head with an extra long glowing piece. You definitely must wear eye, ear, and face protection to avoid the fumes and shrapnel.
Once the sanding was completed, it was time to get going on the layout. I used this amazing welding table surface to start the layout in the welding area. The surface is thick gauge steel and has hundreds of deep holes in it that a myriad of corresponding metal clamps fit into to secure your work down to the work surface. I cannot tell you how important a table of this caliber is. Necessary, no. But a hell of a lot better than how I used to weld, on the ground with a single C-clamp. To be precise, maintain good tolerances, and to cut down on movement as the steel is heated and warps, a good clamping setup is a must!
Also, it may look like a kill-room from Dexter, but the blue plastic is there to cut down on exposure of the harmful welding rays to unsuspecting bystanders and sudden blindness. Always a good thing!
After getting myself ready, I had to get the welder ready. We use Lincoln welders in the shop and I must say that I’ve used many welders in my day but this big daddy of a welder is an absolute joy to work with. I don’t have to worry about current fluctuations, improper wire feeds, or nozzle clogs. Simple maintenance is all it takes as Lincoln makes amazing welders.
On the inside flap of the welder is a table graphic with the wire speed and heat setting for most types of metal. Follow these rules closely but not absolutely. There are many variables that can change from what the chart recommends. For instance, for my size steel, the chart had me crank everything wayyyy up. After a test weld, I burned a hole right through the steel like a friggin space death ray gun. So I dialed everything back. Remember, MIG welders are like shooting molten lava from the gods; they get HOT!
Once dialed in, I was ready to get blasting. I love the simplicity of a MIG welder. It is basically point and shoot. The welds may turn out nice or not depending on your skill level, but that is why grinders were invented. 🙂 To the opposite point, a TIG welder is more like dancing. Instead of a lava-shooting-super-soaker-space-death-ray-pistol, TIG welders are artful. With TIG, you must maintain an appropriate count and beat in your head, alternating feeding in wire and shooting the spot with lightning. It is a two handed affair instead of a one handed spray and pray. All fun but definitely different.
I tacked everything together at first to ensure as best I could that the metal didn’t move on me and warp my joints. The worst thing ever is having a wobbly final product because the steel went all noodley on you. So tack weld and then follow it up by giving it the beans (completely welding it). Check for square frequently, like all the time frequently. Don’t let one poorly aligned weld throw off your entire project.
Go slow on the welding. It is not a race. You want the steel to cool before you keep shooting it with more lightning death rays. If you do not, it will literally turn into a large glob of molten lava and could potentially fall into your shoe, or into your glove, or pop off and land in your hair, or even go down…your pants… not like ANY of this has happened to me before…right… Just be careful, go slow and learn from my singed body parts.
After you have made all of your welds and you are still conscious, not bleeding or crying from pain, you can move on to grinding your welds. Now, unless you love that “I am literally building a zombie apocalypse weapon” look, you will need to get out your handheld grinder, a flap disk or grinding wheel and go to town on that mother. Just because this video is entitled “Apocalypse-Proof” doesn’t mean I want it to look like I built it in an apocalypse. Just saying. As with the last grind up above, wear ALLLL of your PPE (personal protection equipment). My wife was standing nearby without the appropriate PPE, despite my many warnings, and I nearly lit her on fire… It is the small moments in life that bring couples together.
And just like that, zip, zam, bam, the first phase of our project is complete! It took me a full working-day in the shop to get this far. But, after much sweat, a couple blisters, and a few glasses of cold water, I have something that is starting to resemble a laundry cart. To be honest though, this thing could haul hundreds of pounds and not just laundry. Perhaps one day when we move out of our small apartment…
So that completes the first part of the build. Next up will be final prep work and sanding, powder coating so that it can in fact survive an apocalypse, and caster wheel assembly.
I hope you enjoyed the read through and learned a little bit about the process. As always, don’t forget to head over to my Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and Patreon page to show your support so that I can continue to make awesome content like this.
Thanks for reading!