No time to waste, the summer is ticking by and I need to keep the project flow going. Back onto the gazebo railings this week. First order of business was coming up with some way to make sure I could accurately align the railing while I welded it up in the shop. I decided to build a railing jig out of some 1” square tubing. The jig was constructed in a way that it would allow me to clamp all three of my horizontal supports to it and therefore maintain the railing alignment throughout the rest of the fabrication.
I have five sections to build. Whenever I “mass” produce anything I always start by building 1 complete unit first. This way I can work through all the glitches on the first one and then mass produce the rest.
The railings are getting attached to the side of the 6 posts that support the gazebo roof. All the posts are set at a 30 degree angle to one another therefore in order to ensure that the railing lines up with the center of the posts the horizontal sections need to be cut to exact length. I started with building the top horizontal section to the exact length required and then temporarily tacked it into place. I was then able to hang, and clamp, my jig onto the top support. Now the middle and lower horizontals could be cut to length and clamped in place. Once the 3 horizontals were secured to the jig the complete assembly was then taken off of the gazebo and moved into the shop for welding.
I started by welding in all the 4 inch circles that I had previously prepped. I was not completely sure how to run the beads. I had been talking with a couple of local powder coating companies and they highly advise me to weld all the joints completely shut and not just tack weld it all. The reason was that the powder coating would obviously not coat in between where the circles touch the horizontals and because this space would remain unfinished rust may eventually occur. I totally understand why they advise me to do this but…these guys aren’t welders (actually neither am I) and I’m not sure they have a real clear understanding of what they are suggesting. In order for me to produce a completely sealed weld around each one of the circles where they meet the horizontals I would have to MIG weld it. TIG welding was not an option for me. In my opinion the gaps are too tight and I can’t fit the TIG torch in the tight space. MIG welding did not sit right with me simply because the volume of weld would destroy the clean look. I went against my better judgement and welded a couple of circles on using the MIG. Forget that!!!!! Ugly, chunky, embarrassing, and there was no possible way I could cope with the results. No way am I MIG welding them. I cut the 2 test circles off and started over with the TIG. Much better! However they are only getting tacked. I decided that the risk of rust over the hideous look of the MIG weld was the lesser of the 2 evils.
So I got on a role and buzzed in all the circles. I was very mindful throughout the welding of the possibility of warpage. I made sure I did not concentrate on one specific area for too long. I just worked my way back and forth from one end of the railing to the other tacking in the circles to try and eliminate any potential warping. With all the circles tacked in I checked it for straightness. Perfect! No signs of any deflection.
Onto the spindles. I trimmed up a scrap piece of ½ inch plywood on the table saw to act as an accurate spacer for between the spindles. This time the spindles were going to get MIG welded in and they would get sealed completely to both the upper and lower horizontal members. I wanted them sealed for a couple reasons. One because of the powder coating and two because I do not want to risk the chance of getting any moisture or water inside the ½ inch spindles. If rain works its way in from the top and settles inside the bottom of the spindle come winter it’ll freeze and expand all my spindles at the bottom. Don’t ask me how I know this, let’s just say I have learned a thing or two from my past projects and more specifically what not to do. I had thought about drilling drain holes but I decided to rely on my welds and ensure that they all seal. With the wooden jig set in place the spindles took no time to secure into place.
Once all the guts had been welded into the horizontals I did some finishing welds on the circles and decided to join them all to each other. I think it really cleaned up the look of the top row of rounds. I was a bit nervous about unclamping the complete railing section from the jig in fear that I would be met with warpage. The railing practically fell out of the jig and once it was eyeballed everything looked 100%.
The true test came when I checked it’s alignment to that of the gazebo posts. I am happy to say that all the predrilled holes lined up perfectly and the railing sat straight, square and in the center of all the posts. It looks like the first mock up and fabrication of the primary railing section worked out according to plan. The up coming week will be spent mass producing the other 4 sections. I’ll see how far I can get in a week.