Doug, mcm, and other readers,
I use steady rests, hand bases, guides, a wire feed gun, and a programmable power supply to get as good a quality weld as I can. All I care about is the final weld, so whatever I can find to make my steady rest more useful, I use. Whatever I can find to improve the welds, (if I can afford it) I do and everyone who welds can follow the same ideas to get better welds than they might put down if they tried to everything with the older transformer power supplies and pure free cup, free elbow welds.
I didn't just buy the Miller Dynasty 300DX and get these welds. I have spent dozens upon dozens of hours making small adjustments to the various arc controls then making welds in all four positions (flat down, vertical up, overhead and vertical down, and some odd angled or sloped runs too) to see what each control did to the arc in AC or DC and in Aluminum, carbon and Stainless Steel. So I'm also advocating that if you buy an inverter you will only get it to perform at the highest level if you 'know that machine' and that has to come from personal experimentation and practice.....
....but if anyone will take some time to 'tune
' their bead, they can get fine, uniform, well formed and strong weld beads from the new inverter type power supplies that are digitally controlled.
When I run the TIG gun I use the back of my left hand -on the gun- as a general guide, that is I'm holding with BOTH hands so steadying is much more easily done. One hand (right) has the pistol grip and trigger and wire speed and amperage controls, the other (left) cups the gun along the front edge of the case and hoses.
Next, if the back of the left hand or forearm is on the work (assuming the work is large enough) then the torch is guided along the work, not being steadied by my arms, but by the guide of the arm/hand/wrist on the work.
So I'm two handed
welding, and not
'free hand' or 'free elbow'!
Last, if I can't find a way to 'lock up' on the work, then I rig some sort of steady rest.
Here is an example of the type of temporary steady rest clamping I use made from furniture clamps.
same set up from a different point of view but showing how to set up arm and hand rests to improve weld quality without having to take all day to adjust or assemble a rest.
I also use pipe jacks with pipe or angle between them to work long seams, and I use an electric roll out wheel or positioner to do work that is round if possible.
I realize that many welds are only a few seconds long, maybe a minute at most. BUT... I contend that the weld is going to last a long time, may be the key to safety and reliability and is therefore something that could be called a 'critical path' or weak link in the chain of sound metal fabrication. My experience is that it is worth it to take time to get good equipment, to have prepared yourself to do the weld and that includes steady rests, good position of the body and some practice welds to insure you're as ready as you're going to be to do that weld.
Getting familiar with a power supplies controls, adjusting them to the best they will perform for a given weld and using the most effective means of putting down a 'straight' bead is also critical to good welding.
Shaft struts, engine mounts, tanks, deck hard ware including cleats and all the other metal parts that might be involved in a wooden or composite boat can be made by the home builder. If these parts aren't well made it would be safer for the builder to buy or have others make these parts. But, with the newer digital controlled welding power supplies, just like modern glues and higher grade leveling lasers and other building aides; more and more of the formerly higher end metal fabrication is now within reach of a home builder if they are inclined to buy the equipment and work to learn how to use these power supplies.