How-To Video Building a DIY Travel Trailer – The Frame

Our friend and master DIY’er Joe Mooney of Homesteadonmics is back at it again! This time he’s working on a Travel Trailer build, currently welding the frame together to create the basic shell. This will end up somewhere at the crossroads of a Teardrop Trailer & a full size Camp Trailer. Stay tuned as his project transforms from this base frame into a full fledged aluminum clad roadworthy companion!

From the Forney welder to the steel & aluminum, down to welding tabs, our six stores have everything you need to make one of your own!

About The Project – By Joe Mooney:

Building the base frame of this DIY Travel Trailer project started about two years ago when I was asked if I wanted an old axle from a Travel Trailer that was getting a larger axle installed.   Being an opportunistic user of what some would call junk… I said YES!  And that was the start of a rather long developed build that is now becoming a travel trailer!

After getting the axle, I figured I’d build a simple ‘angle iron’ utility trailer frame that I could pull with my 2006 Jetta TDI.  And maybe add some sort of lightweight teardrop style camper later on.  Well, as time passed, so did the Jetta with it’s 300k miles.  And the trailer sat just collecting dust and rust until I figured what the new plan would be.  And so the Travel Trailer plan developed.

Extending the Base frame…

The first step was to lengthen and widen the trailer from the angle iron utility frame that I originally built.  This definitely isn’t the ideal start to a travel trailer, incorporating different profiles and steel thicknesses, but it’s what I had to use.  I made all of the extensions with 2×3 14ga tubing coming off of the original 2×3 3/16th angle frame.  Each of the extensions off the sides and the back was also supported by the original frame angle that was positioned horizontally and had been left slightly wider than the original frame.  This keeps the new sides from ‘pulling’ outwards on the original frame.

As a matter of dimension the original frame started at roughly 5.5’W x10.5’L and with the new additions sits now at 7’ wide and is 13’ long for the foot print (lengths do not include tongue)

Building the upper frame…

The upper frame is constructed of 1×1.5” 16ga steel tubing for the sides and roof and 1×1” 16ga tubing for the front and back walls.

Starting the upper frame began with laying out a basic roof outline on the base frame, using it as a template, and then welding four wall posts up from the roof assembly.  Once this was done I then dragged it off of the trailer base frame and then flipped it over and set it back on the trailer base frame and tacked it into place.  Boom!  Walls and a roof started!  Once these were in place I then welded vertical ‘studs’ to infill the side walls and roof.

Next I added the back wall and connected it to the base frame at a 45 degree inward slope to give a clearance section for the back of the trailer.    The next big step was adding the front wall and then bending the front ‘radius’ sections.  This was accomplished in the old school method of a torch and an old water tank we used as a form.  Once those bent sections were in  tacked in place I then in filled horizontal pieces and went about framing a doorway and adding metal tabs to provide mounting points for window frames and interior wood framework.

So that’s about it for the general frame build.  The next steps are to prep for paint and adding all the window frames and other support members prior to adding the aluminum ‘skin’ to the outer shell.  This is currently underway and will be in the part 2 video of this series!    Thanks for watching and stay tuned for more on this build!


VIDEO: How To Build Your Own Welding Table

Our friend Joe Mooney of Homesteadonomics building a Welding Table / Multifunctional workbench for his shipping container shop. He plans on using this welding table/workbench for more than just welding so there’s added functionality. It will likely be a multipurpose workbench for many of his projects and will help out a lot for the next few shipping container shop additions!

We (Industrial Metal Supply Co.) partnered with Joe on this How-To DIY project by supplying some of the steel for this build! Shop our inventory, check our store locations or get quotes online here.


how to bend sheet metal

How to Bend Sheet Metal

With just a few simple tools, such as a vise and hammer, you can bend sheet metal by yourself – for auto restoration, home decoration, light metal fabrication, etc. The size and thickness of the sheet will determine whether the job can be accomplished with hand metal bending or will require the help of a metal bending machine, or brake.

Bending is Not for All Metals

Sheet metals come in a range of sizes and gauges (thicknesses). Some sheet is more brittle than others and may break if bent too far, so you may want to test a small sample before committing to a large project.

Bending a piece of metal will cause it to stretch on the outside of the bend (and compress the inside). That means the finished length will be longer than the original sheet length, so include that in your calculation when sizing the sheet.

How to Calculate Bend Deduction

The total amount stretched is called the bend deduction – because that amount must be subtracted from the starting length of the piece in order to end up with the correct length after bending.

The bend deduction calculation depends on several factors, including:

  • Thickness of the material
  • Outside bend angle (180° minus the inside bend angle)
  • Inside radius of the bend
  • The K factor, a constant based on the material’s properties and thickness

The K factor of your metal sheet, and the calculation of bend deduction, may require a few different sample bends. You can estimate the bend deduction using this chart, which uses an assumed K factor of 0.33, or plug your values into a design software such as Solid Edge, Solid Works or Pro-Engineer.

The Bending Process

Mark the two lines on the sheet metal where the bend will begin and end (the material between these two marks – the bend allowance – will deform to create the angle).

To create the bend manually you can use a shaped form, perhaps made of wood, which conforms to the bend radius you want to achieve. The form should be wider than the metal sheet you are planning to bend.

Set the form into a heavy vise so that the curved radius faces up. Next, place the metal piece into the vise right next to the wooden form and clamp it securely. Make sure the first bend mark lines up exactly with the curve in the form, so that the bending will begin in the right spot.

Using protective gloves hold the free end of the metal sheet with one hand and with the other hand use a mallet or hammer to begin bending the sheet down and around the curved radius of the wood form. Start at one end and slowly work down to the other

To help the bending process you could apply some heat, which softens the metal, making it easier to work.


how to etch metal

How to Etch Metal

Etching is an ancient craft that’s been practiced for centuries to produce beautifully decorated items, such as jewelry, weapons and armor. It’s also a way to create designs on metal plates that can then be inked to print on paper or other materials.

It’s possible to etch mild and stainless steel, as well as the more traditional copper, gold, zinc, brass, and even aluminum.

Here are the basic steps required to etch metal.

Safety first

Some chemicals used in the metal etching process are toxic. Protect your eyes with safety glasses, your hands with gloves, and your skin with an apron, long-sleeved shirt and long pants.

Etching chemicals typically produce dangerous fumes, so you may need to wear a protective mask and/or make sure there is enough airflow in the area. Be sure to follow the directions on any chemical packaging.

Prepare the metal surface

If etching a metal plate, file off any sharp edges.

Alcohol or a chlorine-based cleanser can be used to remove any oils. Prepare the metal surface to accept the resist by lightly sanding with fine sandpaper, steel wool, an abrasive plastic sponge or a wire brush. Make sure not to scratch the surface too deeply, which might affect the etched pattern, but aim for a slightly rough texture.

Rinse completely with water, then wipe with isopropyl alcohol.

Create your design

Traditional etching involves covering the metal plate with a resist made of wax or varnish. Next, the design is drawn by hand using sharp tools to scratch off the resist in every place where a dark line is desired. This leaves a pattern on the surface that is vulnerable to the etching action of the acid.

For a more modern version, use electrical tape, nail polish, or permanent markers to cover the parts of the surface that you want to remain light. Any area not covered will be etched in the acid. You could also use vinyl stencils or transfer paper to transfer a printed black and white design. After pressing on the design with a hot iron, the white parts will peel away, leaving the black ink on the surface, which will act as the resist.

If you are going to use the etched metal plate to make prints, the design will be reversed: The part covered with resist will remain light, while the parts that are etched will be inked.

Etch the design

If you are etching a plate, tape over the edges with masking tape to protect them from the acid. Immerse the object in a container (“bath”) of the acid.

The type of metal you are etching will determine which type of chemical bath you should use. For example, steel can be etched with hydrochloric acid, nitric acid, or sulfuric acid. Copper can be etched with ferric chloride mixed in water to form weak hydrochloric acid. Soft aluminum can be etched with ferric chloride, using acrylic polymer paint as a resist.

The longer you leave the item in the bath, the deeper the pattern will etch. For printing plates, this means darker ink.

Clean the plate

Once the metal has etched to the desired depth, stop the etching action by washing the plate in water or using baking soda to neutralize the acid. Next, remove the resist, using an appropriate method or chemical. Use turpentine for varnish, alcohol to take off wax or permanent marker, or acetone to remove nail polish.

For more information about metals, contact the experts at Industrial Metal Supply.


How to Use Patinas

How to Get Started with Patinas

Whether you are creating an artistic sculpture or an architectural design, sheet metal finishes are easy to achieve. A patina isn’t just copper gutters turning green with age – it is the coloring of any metal surface by natural weathering or chemical “rusting” with acids.

Thanks to modern metallurgical science, a patina can make any metal finish “come to life with rich surfaces and vivid colors.” Different metals, such as galvanized aluminum, tin, stainless, iron, bronze, and copper, produce different patterns and colors using different types of finish. Not all patinas, waxes and oils can be applied to all metals, so be sure read the instruction. Watch this video about selecting the right patina based on ideal look, metal alloy, and layering options.

Patina Creation Instructions

Follow these basic instructions for creating a patina. Be sure to wear appropriate personal protective equipment, such as gloves, goggles or safety glasses, and a respirator if needed. Work outside if possible, or in a location with adequate ventilation.

1. Clean the surface. The metal must be clean and free of any grease, dirt, rust or scale using a metal cleaner and degreaser. Be sure not to touch the piece with your hands, which would leave behind unwanted oils.

2. Prime the surface. For some processes, the surface can be cleaned and abraded with an electric sander or sand blaster to better allow dyes or coatings to adhere. Or, use a wire wheel or vinegar to etch the surface lightly. Make sure the piece is completely dry before proceeding.

3. Apply the stain or finish. Different finishes may require the surface of the metal to be either hot or cold (room temperature). Following directions for the particular finish, immerse the object in the stain or dye, or spray, brush, sponge, roll, or rub it on. Then, depending on the formulation, allow the finish to sit for a few minutes up to a day. As the chemicals react with the metal surface, a colored pattern appears. Use two different finishes, one on top of the other, to achieve different effects.

4. Seal the finish. Once the desired patina has been achieved, seal the piece with a clear sealer, metal oil or wax. Two or three lighter coats are better than a single heavy coat, allowing the piece to dry between coats. Finish with a wax coating if more protection is desired.

Ron Young, a highly regarded metallurgist who was known throughout the world for his knowledge and use of patinas, authored the two books on the subject, “Methods for Modern Sculptors” and “Contemporary Patination.”

Young’s company Sculpt Nouveau has created a full line of patina products, with everything you need to make beautiful and vibrant metal finishes, featuring:

  • Patinas
  • Coatings
  • Rubs
  • Stains
  • Dyes
  • Primers & Sealers
  • Patina supplies

For more information about Sculpt Nouveau patina products and sheet metal finishes, contact Industrial Metal Supply.


How to: A Beginner’s Guide To Welding

Welding two pieces of metal together forms a permanent bond in which the metals are heated to a melting point, mixed together and then cooled, creating a single object. This type of bond is stronger than other bonds, such as soldering, which can be reversed.

There are four basic types of welding: MIG, TIG, flux-cored, and stick. The process and welding techniques to be used depend on the application, the types of metal to be welded, and the skill and experience of the welder.

MIG Welding

New welders just learning how to weld should start with metal inert gas (MIG) welding, also known as gas metal arc welding (GMAW). MIG is a type of electric arc welding, which relies on creating an electrical circuit that runs through the objects to be welded together and a welding wire, which acts as an electrode.

When the welding wire touches the metal object, the circuit is completed. The wire is then pulled back a short distance, causing an electric arc that heats up to thousands of degrees Fahrenheit, melting the wire and partially melting the two pieces of metal. This creates a melt pool where all three metals merge to become one as it cools and solidifies, leaving a bead along the welded seam.

As the welding action continues down the seam, the wire melts off and more wire is fed continuously from the tip of the welding gun. At the same time, a gas is diffused from the gun, spreading around the arc to shield the welded area from contaminants in the air, such as oxygen and nitrogen.

TIG Welding

Tungsten inert gas (TIG) welding requires more skill and takes longer than MIG welding, but it offers more precision. TIG, also known as gas tungsten arc welding (GTAW), can be used to weld aluminum and alloys, such as 4130 chrom-moly.

TIG welding is similar to MIG, but instead of a consumable wire, the electrode used is a tungsten metal rod inside the welding gun. The welder holds the gun in one hand while feeding a filler rod in the other hand. As the arc creates a melt puddle from the two work pieces, the heat of the melt puddle melts the filler rod, so that all three mix together in the puddle. Like MIG welding, TIG welding guns disperse a shielding gas to protect the new weld.

A TIG welding machine also includes a foot pedal to adjust the current running through the electrical circuit created between the metal objects and the tungsten electrode. This can be used to slowly increase or decrease the heat applied to the metal, which can help prevent brittleness caused by thermal shock.

Flux-Cored Welding

A third type of welding, called flux-cored arc welding (FCAW), uses a continuously fed electrode tube in place of the wire used for MIG welding. The tube is metal on the outside, with a flux agent in the core. As the flux melts during welding action, it creates a liquid slag and gas that shields the weld from contaminants. This provides better protection for the weld than the shield gas used in MIG welding, especially where strong breezes might disperse the gas, but it also results in more spatter which must be cleaned up afterwards.

Stick Welding

Otherwise known as shielded metal arc welding (SMAW), stick welding is a two-handed method, like TIG. Stick welding uses a metal filler rod, or stick, coated with flux. As the stick material melts in the heat, the flux coating also melts, creating both a gas and a liquid slag, which act to shield the weld from oxidation. As with FCAW, shield gas does not have to be dispensed during the welding process but the leftover slag leaves a mess requiring cleanup using a sander or solvents.

Welding Equipment

Once the method of welding has been decided, the next step is to select the proper welding equipment. Welders can choose either a MIG welder or a MIG/Stick/TIG multi-process welder which can be used for all four basic types of arc welding.

Along with the proper machine, the next important piece of equipment required is a welding helmet to protect the face and especially the eyes, from the extreme heat and bright light created by the electric arc. The latest technology has made possible auto-darkening helmets with vision screens that instantly adjust to the light level so that the welder has constant visual input.

Welders also need sturdy leather gloves and shoes, as well as caps, long-sleeved cotton shirts, bibs, overalls, and/or aprons to protect their skin from sparks.

Welding Materials

Materials needed for welding include consumables, such as MIG wire and flux-cored wire in various diameters and materials, welding tips, electrode sticks or tubes, flux, and TIG or gas brazing rods.

Other useful equipment includes magnets and clamps to hold metal objects in place during welding, adjustable welding tables and workstands, and fiberglass welding blankets to prevent the spread of sparks.

Weld-on tabs in a variety of sizes and shapes are used to create flanges, holes, handles, and other mechanical parts when welded to a pipe or other metal object.

Welding Methods

Each welder develops his or her preferred welding techniques. One of the most commonly used is nicknamed “stacking dimes,” which ends up looking like a string of round coins overlapping along the length of the weld.

As the welding arc liquefies a small pool of metal, the welder pushes the melt pool ahead with the electrode, using a fluid motion similar to writing a series of the letter “e” in cursive. Alternative motions may be described as, “figure 8,” or “half-moon.” The key to each type of movement is to ensure that the electrode pushes the melt pool back and forth evenly between the two workpieces, so that both are fully welded.

Some welders prefer to pull, rather than push the melt pool along, depending on their handedness (right or left) and the position of the workpiece. When MIG welding, the choice is a personal preference.

With TIG, the welder pushes the puddle along the seam, making sure to move back and forth, all the while dipping the end of the rod in and out of the puddle with the other hand.

However, stick and flux-cored welding requires a pulling motion, to avoid welding over the melted flux slag, which creates porosity and “wormholes” in the finished weld.

Material Differences

Welding different types of metal varies, depending on the different physical characteristics of each. For example, stainless steel doesn’t transfer heat as well as other metals, so it’s easy to build up too much heat in the weld area, causing the steel to warp and reducing its corrosion resistance. To control the heat, reduce the current on the welding machine and speed up the movement of the torch.

Compared with all types of steel, aluminum has a much higher thermal conductivity, as well as a lower melting point. It is also highly reactive to air, creating a hard oxidation layer on the surface. Because this oxidation layer melts at a much higher temperature than the aluminum underneath, it must be removed with a wire brush or chemical solvent before the welding begins.

Aluminum can be welded using both TIG and MIG methods, but aluminum filler wire is quite soft and can easily get tangled in the wire feeder of a MIG gun. To prevent this, use a Teflon or plastic liner in the wire feeder and guide tubes to support the wire from the feeder to the gun.

Aluminum welding requires a higher amperage welding machine and faster welding speed than steel to avoid “burning through” the base metal, melting a hole with too much heat. Aluminum welds also must be well protected from oxidation with an inert shield gas, such as argon.