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[oletrucks] Welding Progress Report

To: <oletrucks@autox.team.net>
Subject: [oletrucks] Welding Progress Report
From: "Deve Krehbiel" <dkrehbiel@kscable.com>
Date: Wed, 7 Mar 2001 17:17:39 -0600
Awhile back I shared with you all my dismay about what previous owners seem
to think they have the right to do with their trucks. In this case, someone
took a pair of tinsnips and cut out a huge hole in the dash to accomodate a
much larger radio than would normally fit. The hole wasnt even square or
neat. It was just snipped out and then holes drilled high and low to bolt it
in. No effort was made to make it look like anything but a garbage truck.
Okay so I am slowly getting over it but I do have good news....

I went to the salvage yard and had the owner torch out a piece of the dash
on a salvage truck that was slightly bigger than what I would need to patch
my dash. I then took a die grinder and trimmed this piece so it was square
and manageable to install in the dash of my truck. After sandblasting the
piece and cleaning the edges, I put that piece up to the dash and drew a
line around it in the exact place I needed to cut the old mess out of. I was
very careful to measure several times and make sure I cut slightly inside
the line to ensure there were no surprises. The idea was to butt weld the
piece into place so I needed NO gaps anywhere. I proceeded to cut the hole
out of the dash and it was slightly too small (just like I wanted). The
little 3" die grinder makes the best trimmer for enlarging the hole. If I
used my Makita grinder, it would have been too aggressive. After I made the
hole exactly perfect.. and this is a challenge that takes patience more than
anything else.. I took the grinder with a 120 grit flap disk and cleaned off
the old paint around the hole. This is a very important step before butt
welding thin sheetmetal. It takes the contaminants out of the picture
allowing a good clean weld with minimum heat. I then placed the new piece in
the hole and used several welding clamps to hold it in place. You have only
one shot to do this right, so the clamping is real important. You need to
make sure its even with the dash and that isnt as easy as it should be. Your
next hazard is that butt welding thin sheetmetal is not easy since the
initial amperage from the welder wants to blow a hole in the work instead of
adding weld to it. Strike the welder against the dash first and then quickly
run the weld over the crack. The dash first since thats where the welder is
grounded to and makes the best contact.

Once you have it tacked in place in about 6 areas... and only tacked.. you
cant use the welder like a sewing machine and stitch it up. You need to run
a very small 1/4" or so tack in one place, then go across to the other side
and do another, and then on top, bottom and repeat until the entire piece is
welded in. Its very tricky because you not only have to worry about blowing
a hole in it, but the worst enemy is warpage. If you apply too much heat to
one place (and almost none is too much) you warp the dash and it would look
really bad afterwards and then almost impossible to repair.

Now, instead of doing what is normal and grabbing your Makita with a
grinding disc, put a 120 grit sandpaper flap disk in the Makita. Even if it
takes longer to do it, it will not be too agresssive and really makes for a
smooth base. Also, grinding can overheat the metal and cause warpage. Run
the flap disc for short periods before moving on to the next area, then
revisit the areas that are needed. In case it isnt clear, I welded on top,
not under the dash. Although ones first impression that its better to weld
under the dash, you quickly get over that when you cant get in where you
need to easily while doing such intricate work.

After the welding is completed, its my opinion that no matter how good you
are in welding, there is no getting around the need for a skim coat of
filler. Welding just doesnt make for a perfect finish no matter how hard I
try. Trying too hard can warp the work and cause you great pain. I used a
product from Sherwin Williams called Gray Spot Putty. I put some on my
finger and just rub it into the places it needed and then let it dry for
about an hour before sanding with 300 grit. After the spot putty, I used
Sherwin Williams Gray Primer Filler and then resanded.

How does it look? I would bet there is no-one on the planet that can tell
this piece was ever welded in. The work came out exactly as I had
envisioned. I cant imagine anything more satisfying than seeing that hacked
up dash transformed into a source of pride.

We spend to much time worrying about our individual rights but when we sell
a vehicle to someone else we figure what the heck.. pass on the trouble to
the next guy, afterall, its not my problem anymore. What we sometimes fail
to realize is that we are all in this together and someday that person may
have to make the decision as to wether or not to pull your sorry butt out of
a burning car or something. As to wether I would pull the good ole boy that
hacked this dash all up out of a burning car.. I suppose, but I can always
fantasize! Cost for the entire escapade was gas to drive 180 miles to the
salvage yard and back, the $25.00 for the salvage owner, $20.00 in putty and
materials, and about 10 hours of my time.

Hope this helps someone! :) (especially if you have a tinsnips in your

Deve Krehbiel
Hesston, Kansas
1950 3100 * 1949 3600 * 1948 4400 * 50 3100
oletrucks is devoted to Chevy and GM trucks built between 1941 and 1959

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