Of the many items I’ve had on my “things to do” list, I’ve been super excited about two of them in particular: learning how to weld and building a plywood rack for my old pickup. Fortunately Lincoln Electric recently reached out and asked if I would be interested in trying out their new Power MIG 210MP. Naturally, I was totally on board. For my first welding project I decided to make a rack for the bed of my truck bed to allow me to haul plywood flat and elevated. It’s a pretty simple project, especially if you already know how to weld.
Things I Used In This Project:
After purchasing a bottle of 75/25 Argon/CO2, I was ready to go. I used a couple of good youtube resources for learning the basics. One of them was from the Lincoln Electric channel (found here) and the other from Welding Tips and Tricks (found here). After a days worth of laying down some practice beads on flat plate, butt-joints, T-joints, and lap joints, I felt I was ready to start sticking material together and build the rack I’ve been seeing in my head for the past 6 months or so.
I was having quite a lot of fun learning how use this machine.
When I am hauling a nice piece of cabinet grade plywood with a finished veneer, I always cringe when I have to slide it on the old black rubber bed mat. The rack I’ve had in mind would be simple, lightweight, easy to remove and install, and most importantly, would not cause damage to finished materials. My idea has been 2 rails, which span the width of the bed and hang in place. This way material can be hauled while lying flat and it will be off the bed floor where it may become scratched due to small debris.
A good friend allowed me to help myself to some steel on his property and I wound up with some 2″ angle iron, 1-1/2″ steel tubing, and some 2″ flat bar. After cleaning the surface rust off the material with a wire wheel on an angle grinder, I started cutting the angle iron into 6” strips. These will serve as the hangers on the inside of the bed rails. Since I’ll have 2 rails, I needed a total of 4 of the 6” angle pieces (2 per rail). Then I cut the flat bar material. The flat bar material creates the “drop” for the rails. I needed the plywood rack to be below the top of the bed rails and decided cutting all 4 pieces at 6″ would do the trick. I waited to cut the steel pipe until the brackets were made though. More to come on those later.
With the material cut I could finally start welding together actual parts! Super exciting! I aligned the middle of the flat bar with the middle of the angle iron, made sure it was all nice and square, then put a couple of tack-welds on it. Afterward, I double checked for square-ness, then put a full fillet weld on the lap joint between the flat bar and angle iron. After the first one was completed, I trucked on with the others the same way.
Finally, all four brackets were made and it was time to cut the cross rails. Rather than measure with a tape, I decided to take the “mark and cut” approach. I started by clamping two brackets in position on the bed rails of the truck. Once they were in place, I enlisted the help of my niece for marking the cut length tubing on the other side of the truck. I butted up the tubing on one end, and then she marked it on the other where it needed to be cut.
After the tubing is cut, it was time to weld the brackets into position. Now if you don’t have one of these handy-dandy right angle magnets, this part can be a real pain. Fortunately I found one of these in my husbands tool box and it did an awesome job of holding the tubing at a right angle to the bracket while I put on a couple of tack welds. Again, after double-checking it for square, I welded it in position permanently. One bracket – done!
The opposite end of the rail gets the same treatment. However, it’s easy to forget that it needs to be “clocked” according to the first one so the rack sits snug on the bed rails. For this part I took the workpiece out of my Super Jaws and then used the concrete floor to “clock” the orientation of the bracket. I simply placed the end with the welded bracket on the floor so that the angle iron was flat on the floor, raised the pipe up until it was level, placed the other bracket in position where it’s angle iron was flat on the floor, used the help of the magnet once again, and then tacked that sucker in place! That’s a lot easier said than done for me but it was beginning to take shape….I felt so awesome! lol. The last step was simply run a bead of weld around the tubing and she was done. This is the part where I should mention that I absolutely love this welder!
With the one rail complete, I moved on to the other one and simply repeated all the same steps. The second one took much less time since I was on a roll. I decided to shoot a coat of paint on the rails for rust protection and aesthetics. I had some flat black in a rattle can on the shelf so that’s what they got.
And even though my old truck has rough and weathered paint, I still wanted to add a bit of scratch protection for the bed rails. I know my truck is old and the paint is patina’ed, but I really can’t stand the idea of it being scratched. So, to keep the paint in good nick, I decided I would cut up an old mouse pad and glue it to the underside of the angle iron. This worked perfectly since it was nice and thin and had a soft texture to it.
The last finishing touches called for some 550-nylon cord (paracord) and a couple of bolts. I wrapped two sections of the rails with some paracord to keep the veneer from scratching when wood is sliding in to the truck. This part was a little time consuming but very well worth it. Although I think the rack is not likely to slide back and forth on the bed rails, I still placed a small bolt through the angle iron material and the bed rail for peace of mind…yes this required me drilling through my truck body….yes I teared up a little. : )
And that’s pretty much it. Overall I had loads of fun with this project and learned a ton of great things. Welding is something I have always had an interest in and I am just absolutely tickled that the time has come for me to move forward with it. Who knows where the hobby will take me or the things I’ll be able to create having experience in both wood working and welding.
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