June 25, 2013



While I mostly build things from re-purposed steel such as bike parts and bed frames, it’s good to know where to get new materials.

Wick’s Aircraft Supply

Online orders, shipped from Highland Illinois

This is the cheapest place I can find for 4130 chromoly steel, which is used heavily in SCUL, and is used for practice material for my TIG welding class. I typically get 1.125″ x .058″ for TIG class, as well as SCUL. It sleeves nicely over 1″ tubing with a .0045″ gap between the tubes, which means that it slides in easily with almost no rocking. Be sure to remove the burr on the inside diameter, and paint on the inner piece if you are chopping a bike frame or fork.

Turner Steel

West Bridgewater, Massachusetts

This is a great place to get mild steel. If I were to build something big and heavy, I’d probably start with Turner. I’ve had excellent service with Turner. Will deliver by truck on any order over $150.


The Streets

Why not reuse items being discarded? Old metal bed frames may be structural enough to use. Keep in mind, however, the quality of the frames vary greatly. Sometimes the metal is hardened enough to smoke your drill bits, so you may have to bust out a plasma cutter to get the job done. There’s also steel bicycle frames for tubing. steel bicycle rims work too.

Weld Supplies

For tungsten electrodes, collets, weld wire, and gas, I typically visit my friendly local weld supply shop. Igo’s in Watertown is my favorite, but I also like Airgas in Central Square, Cambridge are close by to the Artisan’s Asylum.

Welding Wire

For dissimilar metals, I use stainless: 309L stainless wire Рmore nickel is better. Low carbon 316L and 213L are good too. This wire is not good for objects subject to stress or vibration, such as a bicycle frames, but perfect for Astrobots. Often I use a stainless steel bicycle spoke for higher-amperage welding.

Weld Machines

I have an old Miller Syncrowave 250 transformer; powerful, enormous, and ridiculously heavy.¬†Transformer machines are very tough; but the smaller, lighter inverter machines are more efficient. Some of the inverter machines I used when welding for Seven Cycles ran on 110 voltage. Expect to pay more for the inverters. I’ve always welded with Miller machines, but I’ll use anything that works for the particular job: in fact, I had good luck with the Chicago Electric, a la Harbor Fright, helping to restore a vintage Ferrari chassis.

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