Sometimes just moving a project around the shop can be a giant pain in the ass, especially with limited space like I have. Like most of you at home, I have to move one project around to get the other in or at least in position to work on it. If it has wheels, this is not a problem. But if the project doesn’t even have the ability to bolt wheels, or at least not all of them, on it then it becomes a challenge. In our case, the front end of our Blazer project still has the stock suspension on it. But out back we’ve done a Chassisworks rear subframe and while the FAB9 housing is under it there are no guts in it. No axles, and therefore now way to bolt wheels to it.
“So jam a floor jack under it Chad!” you say. Well, I can do that, but with my two post lift and the hump in between for the chain, getting the floor jack to roll over it is impossible. Ask me how I know. Plus, dragging a car around on a floor jack is one thing, but pushing it becomes much more difficult, especially if you are by yourself.
So, with a new Flowmaster Exhaust system waiting to go onto my Suburban I needed the Blazer to get the hell out of the way, and here is what I did.
After a trip to the local Harbor Freight, which is only about 5 minutes from my shop, I came back with a pair of 10″ inflatable rubber tire casters that are rated for 300 lbs each. Yep, not nearly as heavy duty as I would need if this was a complete car, but good enough for what I was working on, and the price was right at just $15 each. The casters I really wanted were out of stock, and were the 6 inch Rubber Wheel Heavy Duty Casters that are rated for 600 lbs each, but beggars can’t be choosers so I grabbed the squishy ones.
If the corner of my shop is anything like the corner of yours, it’s full of metal. New steel, scraps from other projects, and some sheet metal and aluminum thrown in for good measure. After measuring the end of the axle tube on the Blazer, to verify what size material I was going to need, I went diving through my scrap and found some 3/16th inch x 3 inch strap that would work perfect for mounting flanges, and a chunk of 2x2x.180 wall box tubing that was perfect for the uprights. Boom, it was time to start measuring, marking, drilling, cutting and welding!
We used two different methods of measuring on this to show you how to do it with whatever tools you have on hand. And some of it is by eyeball as well. Trust your gut and roll with it, this is not an ultra precise fab project, but you do have to get the holes close enough that these things will actually bolt up when finished.
First up, we got out our handy speed square and marked a line approximately 3/4 of an inch in from one end of the steel strap. Because our FAB9 rear axle housing uses Late Big Ford Housing Ends, with a pattern of 3.557 inch x 2 inch, we got out our calipers and marked the spot for our second line at 3.557 inches from the first.
We came down approximately 1/2 inch and marked another line length wise and then a second two inches below that to get our intersection points where we needed to drill and then use a spring loaded punch to mark those spots and start drilling.
We did the second set of marks exactly like the first, with one exception. This time we used a tape measure. Sure, calipers are only $20 at Harbor Freight, but if you don’t have one then you use a tape measure or square like we did on bracket number two.
Again, this is not some super precise fab job, but the bolt holes do need to line up. With that said, we were going for safety as well by drilling the bolt holes oversize just slightly. The housing uses 3/8 inch SAE fine thread fasteners and we drilled our final hole size out to 7/16 just to give ourselves a little wiggle room.
Note the oil. Your drill bits will love you long time if you keep them lubed up. Don’t and they will love you only short time and will likely give up at the most inopportune time, usually before you have finished drilling whatever it is you need to drill. I used PB B’laster, but JB80, WD-40, Zepreserve, or whatever your favorite oil is will work just fine. I predrilled with an small bit, 3/16 inch I think, and then stepped up to the 7/16 inch bit for the final size. If this material were thicker I might pick something in the middle before going to the full size bit since I was drilling by hand instead of with a drill press.
After drilling all the holes, I used my chop saw to cut the two pieces off so that I had two flanges.
(Chad Disclaimer: Yes I’m wearing flip flops. Yes I know the dangers. Yes you should wear real shoes. I don’t, and that is my choice. Don’t be like me. Don’t bitch at me about it, and don’t tell me all the dangers. I know and don’t care.)
The next bit of measuring is not pictures, but involves deciding on how long the legs should be to make the Blazer sit at the right height. Since the casters were actually 12 inches tall, and I wanted to mimic having a 29 inch tall tire on the back, and figured that the tire on the caster would squish at least 1/2 inch, I went for a leg that stuck down below the axle centerline 3 inches.
(Important Note: Do not use Brake Clean for cleaning metal that is to be welded. Use Acetone. Some brake cleaners leave a residue that when heated makes a vapor that can fry your brain. Do not do it. And make sure you are welding in an area that is adequately ventilated. Especially if you will be welding for any prolonged period of time. And in those cases you should consider wearing a respirator or air filtration setup. I may not wear shoes, but I do like to breath, so listen to me on this one.)
Once the box tubing was cut, I eyeballed it for center in between the bolt holes, made sure it was hanging down 3 inches, fired up my Miller Welder, and started welding.
So I laid down some beads, and then slammed the casters into the vice and held the brackets to them for a quick tack weld. Then I checked that they were at least close to square and burned them in. Gently though. I didn’t want to completely fry the bearings and grease in the casters swivel mechanism so I worked quick, kept the heat in the tubing as much as possible, and it seemed to tolerate it just fine.
(Another Chad Disclamer: Yes, I started welding without gloves. I would have lived with welding the entire thing without gloves, but I needed to pick up the parts and they are hot so I put gloves on. Yes I’m welding in flip flops, shorts, and short sleeves. I almost NEVER wear pants. My legs are just fine. My head on the other hand should have been covered with a hat because that little bald spot of mine wouldn’t have liked a spark. Luckily it got none that day. By the book, you should wear long sleeves, long pants, a good hat, and good gloves when welding. And if I was going to be welding for hours I would have worn long sleeves. But shoes are a point of debate. In my opinion you should either wear shoes that a spark absolutely cannot get into, or shoes that you can get off in a nano second when one does. I never worry about it with flip flops. Sparks just bounce off. My feet are like elephant hide. With that said, don’t be like me. Wear all the safety crap you are supposed to so your mom, wife, husband, or whatever won’t bitch at you. Mine knows it won’t make a difference. )
All welded up, and cool enough to handle, I bolted those suckers on and they went on like butter. Both sides! It didn’t matter that we measured one with a tape and one with calipers. And I don’t know which one was which way, because they both practically installed themselves. Cole and I set the blazer on the ground afterwards and were able to push it over the hump and under the four post lift so I could bring the Suburban in the next morning and get my exhaust on. Wait for the Flowmaster install, dyno testing, and more coming soon as we introduce our latest projects.
Lots of shop stuff coming your way folks!
ANY OTHER TECH STORIES YOU WANT TO SEE? IF YOU HAVE FABRICATION IDEAS, TECHNIQUES, OR PROJECTS YOU WOULD LIKE TO SEE US TACKLE, LET US KNOW AND WE’LL TRY TO ADD THEM TO THE LIST. IF THERE ARE LESSONS YOU WANT US TO WALK YOU THROUGH, CERTAIN SKILLS YOU WOULD LIKE US TO DEMONSTRATE, ETC, JUST LET US KNOW AND WE’LL SEE WHAT WE CAN DO. EMAIL ME [email protected] WITH YOUR SUGGESTIONS