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Jared Smith




Location: Tennessee
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PostPosted: Sun 14 May, 2006 5:03 pm    Post subject: what type of welding for home made armour?         Reply with quote

I would like to know what type of welding equipment is recommended for making basic armour out of sheet steel in the home garage.

I have been contemplating making some "simple" home made armour. I wish for the armour to be good enough for live steel re-inactment (not actually trying to kill each other, but sparring agressively with steel blunts.)

Ideas I consider reasonable to attempt include some of the simple barrel "great helms", splinted arm and leg braces, etc. Much of this could be done with rivets, but eventually one wishes to make a bar grill, a more attractive helmet, etc.

1) Can a simple oxygen / acetylene torch welder produce acceptable seams in multi-piece helmets made of 14 to 16 gage mild carbon steel (i.e. 1050 or similar?) I ask because basic starter kits (no gas bottles included) seem relatively affordable. Wire feed MIG/TIG jumps the price up and I am not sure what power of machine is really needed to do 14 / 16 gauge steel acceptably well. I do not currently have 220 Volt outlets in the garage (just standard 15 amp 120 Volt.)
2) Does any type of economical welding equipment produce welds in "armour appropriate" gauges of mild carbon metal that are stress free enough not to require an annealing furnace afterward?

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Christopher Finneman




Location: Sartell Minnesota
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PostPosted: Sun 14 May, 2006 10:22 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

wire feed will be your best bet or if you want to go real fance tig weld it.
But wire is usually the easiest

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Tim Scott




Location: Whitesboro, TX
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PostPosted: Mon 15 May, 2006 11:39 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jared, let me start by saying I hope an experienced armourer will jump in here and give you some advice. Since you're not getting much response so far, I'll throw in my 2 cents.
I got the chance to do a little welding, both gas and arc, in a few sculpture classes I took in college. I never had any problem with the quality of welds I got with gas, so I think you'll be alright with that set up.

Christopher is right , electric is easier. It's also more versatile, but the equipment is way more expensive. If you're not going to do much welding, I'd suggest either the gas setup, or just hiring the welding done when you get to that point in your project. If you decide to do your own welding, be sure to practice on some scrap until you are comfortable with the process before you attempt it on something you've got your time and sweat invested in.

As for your second question, I can't help you. I never had a reason to anneal anything I welded. I'm not sure what effect that might have on the weld either.
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Mon 15 May, 2006 2:31 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I also did some gas welding years ago in art school and with very thin sheet steel not burning a whole right through the metal instead of welding two pieces together takes a lot of practice: You have to get both pieces being welded hot enough and get the welding rod melting also at the same time and then move down the plate edges at a constant speed.

If you go too fast you don't get a good weld and if you go too slowly you melt away a hole in the plate: Once you have the right heat and speed you have to move down the wanted weld at a steady speed.

With 1/8" thick plate it's not too difficult: The thinner the plate the harder to impossible it gets.

There may be special tricks to doing this ? Some actual armourers will have to confirm or contradict the above advice based on my limited experience.

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Allan Senefelder
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Location: Upstate NY
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PostPosted: Mon 15 May, 2006 2:55 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jared, I think you'll find some varied opinion as to wheather i'm an actual armourer out there but here goes.

Gas welding while it can tend to be the cheapest in terms of getting the equipment is the biggest pain in the ass to learn. as Jean said its a bit of a trick trying to get two pieces of sheet stock and the welding rod all molten at the same time and not just cook your way right through the metal. Also unless you have an open bed truck to transport you tanks when droping the empties off and picking up fresh ones getting new tanks might be a problem depending on where you are. Alot of states now have regulations that prohibit transportation of these tanks in enclosed vehilces and welding palces won't let you take them unless the vehicle is open as they're liable if something happens.

Electric can and most likely will cost more (shoppe around some, you can find welder used especially at auctions for a ggod price) but is far easier to learn to do. You may have to make modifications to an outlet to accept the high amp plug and you should have at least a 200 amp service avaliable to handle the draw of the welder.

Electric is alot more of a "nobrainer" in terms of being able to start cold with little to no practicle expierience, gas welding provides for alot cleaner welds (in other words there will be less abrasives work to make the weld dissappear). That being said I taught myself both so if theres a will theres a way.
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Jared Smith




Location: Tennessee
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PostPosted: Mon 15 May, 2006 4:23 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I know one person with a wire feed electric welder that I can probably get to let me use it for at least an occasional try or two.

Long term, I am still wondering about the need for annealing and tempering. I realize that many of us do not want to spend $300 to $600 for nice quality helmets, and then subject them to bashing. A do it yourself option makes it seem a little more viable (along with a very good interior liner and padding.) Some web sites I browsed and found, stated that heat treat was needed after welding. An interesting qualitative judgement site regarding dent resistance of armour with varying quench methods follows as an example... http://www.eskimo.com/~cwn/hardening.html

A forge large enough to heat an entire helmet costs more than a welder. Those who make raised and riveted helmets should really heat treat helmets when the forge has cooled down since the forge enables this to be done efficiently while every thing is done being hot worked. For those who weld and want to anneal, just a good sized commercial kiln (large enough for a finished helm) seems to run around $2000. If someone has the space for a good sized forge, the forge seems like the way to go. I just don't happen to have a great spot to store one.

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Allan Senefelder
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PostPosted: Mon 15 May, 2006 6:00 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Actually Jared, your not supposed to be reheating the weld after welding at all. It screws it up making it less strong and more prone to cracking out.
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Mike Pospichal





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PostPosted: Mon 15 May, 2006 7:45 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well, I don't know how much this will help, but I'll throw my 2 cents in. In my high school welding class, our destruction testing was the teacher(about 6.5 feet tall, 250 lbs) beating on the weld with a 3.5 hammer until it failed. Most welds held up surprising well, definately not what you'd want to subject your head to. After we were finished welding, the only thing we did was let it cool off at it's own pace instead of quenching, and that was the result. Hope that helps you decide.
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Jared Smith




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PostPosted: Mon 15 May, 2006 8:20 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think I may have confused the issue. I am not really talking about heat treating the weld in the sense of "re-attempting" a good weld. Rather I am talking about the fact that the metal will be in an annealed condition (softest state) locally adjacent to a properly welded joint.

Some vendors offer "spring steel" helmets and armour components. I am speculating that if they weld the steel, to really have "spring temper", it would have to be reheated, quenched and tempered, or else have softer regions near the weld (not necessarily a problem if that welded / softer area is a raised/ structurally more substantial ridge as in a Sugarloaf pattern I am attracted to.) My impression is that historically, heat treating for hardening / temper was not really done that much on armour, with the exception of attempts to carburize.. improve the carbon content of the alloy.

Any how, the consensus here as I understand it is;
1) Wire feed type electric welders would be easier for the beginner to weld sheet metal armour seams with.
2) A heat treat oven is not a must for the helmet to be suitable for serious use.

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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Mon 15 May, 2006 8:21 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Yeah, basically if you let steel cool down slowly you wont get any hardening. Well, there are some air hardening steels
like A2 that might harden on you after heating to weld, but you wouldn't be using this type of steel anyway.

The only other reason I can see for annealing would be to remove some work hardening before doing more shaping.
( Not related to the actual weld, but the workhardening of hammer shaping a piece of armour )

A regular oven at 500F and leaving a helm to cool slowly should be hot enough to at least partially anneal: You don't have to reach welding temperatures to soften carbon steel. High speed steel might retain it's hardness at these temperatures. Heating a helm to heat treat it is something else and you would need to get to something around 1650F I think. ( Just balpark figures that might vary depending on steel type and I'm just going on memory here. )

Oh, if you put a hardness file in an oven at 500F for a couple of hour and let it cool slowly you will get a very soft file, it might still be harder than un-heattreated steel or fully annealed steel, but it will be down to maybe 45 r.c. or 50 r.c. if not softer: Pretty much ruined as a file.

I could be wrong but some workhardening in the finished piece gives you some of the qualities you might want from heat treating armour anyway: Not as much as creating a spring steel temper but more than dead soft mild steel or annealed high carbon steel.

Just to be clear, I don't make armour and I'm not an expert but I have read about the subject over many years and my early schooling included machine shop training that included making our own heat treated tools like a center punch and some theory about steels.

Hopefully I'm not giving erroneous information here. Eek! Laughing Out Loud

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Allan Senefelder
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Location: Upstate NY
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PostPosted: Mon 15 May, 2006 8:46 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Got it, sorry Jared I misunderstood you. The other thing I picked up from talking to proffessional welders after I learned/taught myself ,is that you shouldn't quench the weld either to cool it off as this will muck it up as well. And yes if you were welding two already heat treated plates together there would be an annealed strip running down either side of the weld. This strip will be much narrower if done electrically as the heat required to get all three surfaces to welding temp will be achived nearely instantaniously whereas with gas welding it will take longer to get the heat up and therefore it will have time to spread out over a larger surface area.
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