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Old 09-12-2012, 09:48 PM   #1
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Anyone using engine-powered welders?

I am just now getting into welding small things, like a rack for my propane tank on the back bumper... It's only a 90A 115V welder, so it'll do up to 1/8" but no more. I would like to learn more about welding, maybe take some classes, etc, but am curious if any skoolies have either run a welder off their engine (using a 'weldernator' setup), or had a separate generator-welder unit that they put somewhere, perhaps mounted underneath? There are plenty of portable welder-generators out there, but I'm concerned that going with a premanufactured one will prove difficult to fit into a 24" x 24" (more like 18") x 48" space, be extremely heavy (400 lbs) and expensive ($3000).

Ideally I'd find a setup that could be mounted under the bus and act as an AC power generator when need be, as well as a strong enough welder to handle 1/4" steel. That would be about a welder that handles 230V and 200 amps. There are lots of examples out there, but many seem underpowered, too complex for the novice, or not suitable for AC.

I may be best off doing it in two separate projects - the generator mounted underneath, and then the welder to attach to it. I'm not sure if it's easier or cheaper to get an all-in-one unit (or make one from scratch), or just buy a 230V welder from a store and have it plug into a 230V generator. Which may be easier since it's in two pieces instead of one. Having electronic controls for the welder seems a bit complicated.
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Old 09-13-2012, 12:38 AM   #2
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Re: Anyone using engine-powered welders?

there are a few different portable welders that work good, including gas.
my guess is that if you are going to have a bus conversion, and want to have a welder as well (like several of us do) that you should buy a good genset that will run 230v as well as the 110v for your conversion. My stick 220v welder will easily run off of my 6k gen set, and i have a 110v mig portable for the bus as well. Keep in mind that you also will need to run the grinders, etc as well as maybe a plasma cutter, so you need a gen set that will keep up with the 110v stuff.

buy the best welder you can for what money you have, or a good used expensive one like i did many years ago. also, if you have a large enough inverter, you can run a small mig off of that as well.
course, if you have gas and mig and plasma stuff, you will need tank storage as well for the 4 or 5 kinds of gas you need. You can get a propane head for cutting, so you can use your reg rv tank along with the oxygen. i have both, propane and acceletene heads, which is nice in case i want to use the cheap stuff.
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Old 09-13-2012, 01:16 PM   #3
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Re: Anyone using engine-powered welders?

Just my two cents here.....


I dont know if I would get in to welder to do just a couple of projects? A bigger 230v welder (mig) is a pretty costly item. I drive in demolition derby during the warm months of the year and when I got my first mig welder it did pretty much all I needed. I am not a fan of 115v welders. My feelings are you can always turn bigger down... you cant always turn smaller up. If you need a bigger unit to make these projects and thats it I would look to maybe getting a student at a school to maybe make your project or renting one from a rental company once you get the plans all together. You can use a arc or stick welder that is not very expensive to get in to but they are not as easy to weld with as a mig welder.

The welding generators you speak of are loud. So using it in a combo application may not be ideal for a rv/school bus. If you need power you will be better off with a rv gen, again just my opinion.

Not sure if you will be doing some of these things while your out using your bus as I know some people do. Just trying to get the most for your investment. As 49 said... get the best your wallet will allow. You will have less issues with units like a Miller or Lincoln to name off just a few.

Hope this helps
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Old 09-13-2012, 04:49 PM   #4
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Re: Anyone using engine-powered welders?

I have used the "readywelders" and a few types of altenator welders,its always on the trail without said welder the ratchet strap,wrap chain etc would need to be broke out to get the rig back to camp.
Yes they do work.
They would be a very poor chose (if given one) to build stuff with...it has been done.
I used a very slick spool gun setup with 2 batteries before...actually worked very well...for the$$$$

Your best bet is to get a 110v 135/140 amp lincoln or miller welder; with flux core 1/4" is easy and even with gas and .030 wire you will be fine when....and say it again...when you learn to melt metal together.
With mig and the parts and stuff we fab for buses and 4x4's....it will be fine esp. With a nice hot pass on both sides of the metal.
Meet a friend who can weld,and share a 6pack to learn basics
Ie:the haze pattern,under cut and weld laying only comes with practice...oh did I mention practice?

You will need a dedicated plug for welder or ......any time...say the fridge comes on while welding...the breaker (20amp) will trip....after multiple replacements of breaker.
You will run a seperate onefr welder
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Old 09-13-2012, 04:53 PM   #5
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Re: Anyone using engine-powered welders?

you will need a dedicated plug for welder or ......any time...say the fridge comes on while welding...the breaker (20amp) will trip....after multiple replacements of breaker.
You will run a seperate onefr welder.......

Sounds like the voice of experience..........
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Old 09-13-2012, 04:53 PM   #6
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Re: Anyone using engine-powered welders?

Biggest issue with 110 welders is the "time" or "duty cycle" compared to a good 220v machine it takes longer to weld long runs ,because you don't want to overheat welder.
Realistically if you setup for 10 minutes and weld for 1 or 2 minutesz it is not a issue.
And most material you would use for your bus etc is at the most 1/4" mostly 1/8 and smaller
.
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Good luck!
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Old 09-13-2012, 04:57 PM   #7
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Re: Anyone using engine-powered welders?

Quote:
Originally Posted by GreyEagle
you will need a dedicated plug for welder or ......any time...say the fridge comes on while welding...the breaker (20amp) will trip....after multiple replacements of breaker.
You will run a seperate onefr welder.......

Sounds like the voice of experience..........
No doubt...I'll be upside down in a junglegym.....and...silence.#%$&*...climb out walk to box....flip breaker...cuss electrical devices in general.....flip off the fridge or freezer....and headback outside.....life....
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Old 09-13-2012, 07:45 PM   #8
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Re: Anyone using engine-powered welders?

[quote=Iceni John]
Quote:
Originally Posted by "tomas_maly":2lk24kwk
I am just now getting into welding small things, like a rack for my propane tank on the back bumper...
And if you get rear-ended?

While a lot of NFPA 1192 is of marginal relevance to us conversion folk, it's prudent to follow its recommendations about LPG. Propane is one of the few things on a bus conversion that can easily kill you (and others) if done wrong. There's plenty of space under the floor where propane cylinders can be safely located.

John[/quote:2lk24kwk]

The propane tanks will be shut off whenever I'm driving around and I'd only open them when parked and about to use them.

I can't put them underneath because these are vertical 30lb tanks - they won't fit, not unless sideways (which I'm told is a no-no). I wish I could put them somewhere else, but I don't see where. If it's not outside, it's under, and potentially too close to the ground. Not unless I were to cut out the side wall somewhere and build an enclosure so it is accessed by a side panel on the outside.

I'm only planning on using propane for a little while before switching to a wood stove for the winter.... But either way I may modify the design to put the tanks higher, above the bumper, and use a 'cage' design (even though it's only 16g) so it can be mounted higher.

If anyone has any better ideas on how to put them on the outside (they are tall vertical 30lb tanks), feel free to suggest. I haven't finished the welding yet.
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Old 09-13-2012, 07:58 PM   #9
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Re: Anyone using engine-powered welders?

I only even REMOTELY thought of putting it on the back bumper because the dealer at an RV place (who sold me the tanks) said so. His logic was that the trailers all put their tanks on the A-frame in the front. I guess he wasn't thinking about auto collisions. Now I have these tanks and I'm hoping to at least mount them on the back wall (below the stop lights) high enough to avoid an auto collision. I guess I still have to worry about if I accidentally back up into something. Either way it's 16g steel which I think means for something, at least for when backing up.

I suppose I will go to the RV place tomorrow and ask what his reasoning was.

I'm already stacked full of projects, but I suppose I can consider eventually moving the dual propane tanks underneath, in front of the rear axle and just do some metal work to extend the wheel well, ie extend it into a box shape so it can fit as tall as they are without cutting out the floor/wall too much.

Or is it better to consider some other place entirely? I just really don't see it going under without some body/wall/floor modification.
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Old 09-15-2012, 12:42 PM   #10
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Re: Anyone using engine-powered welders?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Iceni John
NFPA 1192 says that LPG cylinders should be between the axles. This seems sensible to me, as then there's plenty of metal between them and a frontal or rear-end impact. 30-lb cylinders are 24" high, and you should have at least this amount of vertical space under your floor without them hanging down too close to the road. You're right in that they must remain upright. One idea I had for my propane cylinders' compartment was to have a slide-out mount for them, but with separate unconnected slides for the bottom and top, i.e. two per side. The base would be on the lower slides, and a separate top retention fixture would be on the upper slides. Because I have only 23" vertical space for my door, the cylinders would be tipped over to get them through the opening, then put upright once inside, all by means of the separate upper and lower slide mounts. I know this is a slightly fuddled explanation of what I was going to make, but it would have worked! However, I ended up using 20-lb cylinders instead because they're easier to make a simple non-pivoting slide-mount for, because they're universally available if you ever need to exchange them instead of refilling your own, and because three 20-lb cylinders (two connected and one spare) hold as much propane as two 30-lb cylinders.

I've made a steel compartment for my propane cylinders, and between them and the tires I have a total of at least 3/8" of hefty steel to prevent a blown-out tire from rupturing them. (A blown-out 12R22.5" tire can do an awful lot of damage to everything nearby, hence my concern at protecting the cylinders from any possible damage.) I also put the propane cylinders as far behind me as I can, so if they caught fire or exploded I would have a better chance of surviving.

Remember that most RVs are made as cheaply as possible, not to be the best possible engineering solution. One reason we're going to all the trouble of converting buses is because we know we can make something better than the typical crappy S&S POS-mobile. I wouldn't copy what's done on cheap junky trailers, even though some sales-dude says it's OK. He'll say whatever it takes to make his commission. What a slimeball!

Good luck!
John

not all propane tanks have to remain upright.. some are made so that they lay on their side.. even the 20 lb ones.. as you well know permanent tanks are mostly all horizontal. It just depends upon how the valve inside is positioned. you can even remove the valve on an upright tank and change it to a horizontal...
i have 2 20 lb ones that are horizontal mount...but i dont use them on my bus.
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