How hard is steel building?

Steel and aluminum boatbuilding. See: "Boatbuilding Methods", in left-hand column of the Home page, for information about alloys.

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pinkfish

How hard is steel building?

Post by pinkfish »

Morning,

I am thinking about building a boat and I have no idea about building with steel. How hard is steel to build with? I have done some arc welding in the past, although quite some time ago. I guess my biggest question is what exactly is the process of building with steel?

I have never seen a good explanation of what this is exactly.

Good luck!
David.

Guest

Bldg in Steel

Post by Guest »

Hello pinky,

:lol:

A real abbreviated sequence would be:
1) Get & decide on boat plans/equipment to install inside (engines etc)
2) Buy steel; cutting equipment or steel kit; Buy other stuff to move plates;
3) Cut steel forms for beams that shape the form of the hull & weld in position. connecting w/longitudinal beams
4) Cover the welded frame work that looks now like a boat with hull plating &weld
5) Flip boat over if welded upside down and finish interior welding; Cut & weld boat house;test hull for leaks
6) Finish interior and install rest of equipment
7) Buy more stuff & have launching party
8) Buy stuff you forgot on item 7)

Also read some good books to start. You could find Steel Away in most public libraries. Good luck, I was in the same boat 5 yrs ago All pun intended.

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Graham Knight
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Post by Graham Knight »

I watched a boating program on cable a few weeks back, one of the items featured was a guy who'd built a steel hulled narrowboat, just him and his dad working in a field.
I think neither of them had welded before, he took a course, bought himself a welder, and the narrowboat was his first welding project!
It looked really good when it was finished, and I bet he was a better welder at the end of it than when he started!
So I guess the answer to your question " How hard is steel to build with?"
is "Not that difficult". If you can weld and can figure out the building process it must be just like building in any other material, just different if you see what I mean?
Graham in Shepperton, England

Good, Quick, Cheap, pick any two.

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Dave Grason
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Post by Dave Grason »

Now if building in steel has you intimidated, there's no need to fear. A woman in Argentina has built herself a steel 34ft sailing yacht and is circumnavigation the globe. If she can do it, you can too. Here's the website:

www.miryambrizuela.com

She not only can build boats in steel, she's a hottie too. :P
Isn't it amazing!! The person that never has the fortitude to pursue his own dreams, will be the first to try and discourage you from pursuing yours.

Guest

Post by Guest »

Welding is the easy part. Well, sort of. It takes a certain technique, but you can learn that while making forms and jigs and carts and such before you actually begin the boat or trailer. The thing is this, in any welding project you'll spend about 70% of the time cutting and shaping the metal, 20% of the time rigging up ways to hold the pieces together where they belong, and only about 10% of the time actually welding.

With a boat you'll have to hold large sheets of metal in place on the forms in order to weld them, so you'll probably need pulleys and overhead supports to hang them from. Still, in the end, I can't see building a boat out of steel being significantly more difficult than building one out of wood.

My best piece of advice would be, don't scrimp on the welder. Get a good quality unit with more than enough capacity for what you'll be welding. A 220 volt unit from Lincoln, Hobart, or Miller would be my recommendation (assuming you're in the U.S.). The worst mistake you could make would be to buy a cheapo, 110 volt, Harbor Freight unit and then try to "make do" with it.

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Graham Knight
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Post by Graham Knight »

I agree with the recommendation to get a quality welder, what little welding I do is made much easier by the decent welder we have at work. Splash out and get a good one, you can always sell it when you're finished and a good one will fetch a good price second hand.
Graham in Shepperton, England

Good, Quick, Cheap, pick any two.

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Dave Grason
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Post by Dave Grason »

Graham Knight wrote:... Splash out and get a good one, you can always sell it when you're finished....
Or you might be able to find a good one used already. I bought mine used from the Lincoln repair center. The guys that work there are always coming up with good used units. They buy and sell and swap back and forth and it's not unusual at all for them to take in an old worn out machine on trade. Then they'll completely refurbish it and it's good as new. It just looks old. I say it has "personality." :D

To me, there's nothing quite like a shiny brand new machine to scream: "HEY EVERYONE!! I'M A TOTAL NEWBY!"

LOL
Isn't it amazing!! The person that never has the fortitude to pursue his own dreams, will be the first to try and discourage you from pursuing yours.

kyozoku
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Same Question

Post by kyozoku »

Well since I have pretty much an extension to this same question I figured I'd ressurect this thread from the grave.

I have a few questions specifically for welding boats, of all things.

1. What welding process should be used? I thought I had heard TIG welding.

2. Classes, anyone who has taken them, do you need to run through the whole set of courses or should you just take the one course specifically for the type of welding you are doing?

3. Shaping steel?

4. Whats a good guestimate for the operating costs of the welder for the proces from 1?

Thanks lads.
USCG Auxiliary | Flotilla Gloucester Point, VA

Boating Safety Instructor
Flotilla Staff Officer

mcmbuilder
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Post by mcmbuilder »

I have been welding for 30 years , the last 17 of which I have been teaching at a VocTech so hopefully my answers will help you decide.

1) Unless you are planning on building an aluminum boat I would not worry about TIG welding. For a steel hull boat MIG or as it is sometimes called "wire" welding is an easier process to learn. Most recreational boat plans I have seen use 1/8"- 3/16" plate. If so a MIG welding in the 175 amp range will be sufficent. Do not get a 120 volt machine. Stick to a Lincoln, Miller, or Hobart. Don't let someone tell you a Century, Snap-on or someother brand is the same. Even if one of the big three built the machine, it is not the same as their name brand one.
DO NOT USE SELF SHIELDING WIRE!!!!! Make sure the machine you purchase has a gas solenoid for shielding gas.

2) Most schools have their welding program broken into segments and will allow you to take whatever section you want to. They may require a base course which is mainly safety and then you can take whatever you want to. I live in a coastal area and have had several students take MIG or TIG welding for the sole purpose of building thier own boat.

3) Most instructors can teach you the necessary skills for shaping and cutting the steel in the needed shape.

4) As for the cost, you can expect to spend <1000 for a good welder and a bottle of shielding gas. If you foresee doing any additional welding in the future and can afford it, a step up to a machine in the 250-275 amp range it will be well worth it. Such a machine will cost you between $1800-2400.

GOOD LUCK!!!!!

bollox
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Post by bollox »

i am in the process of building a steel sailboat. pics are in the "mast dimensions" thread in the sailboat forum. most of the above i agree with. i would add the following. if you get a stick (smaw) machine get either a dc or one with a dc capacity. ac weld spatter is a a pain and the difference in price is not that much. i would also strongly recommend a mig machine for all shell plate welds. anything lighter than 3/16ths is prone to warbling when heated by welding arc. my shell plate is 10 guage and the process for the hull welds with my ac stick welder required only burning a half a rod before moving 6 to 10 feet away to continue. mig welding would not require as much of this as i understand the heat is more controllable. thing about mig is that you really need a wind break unless you dont mind sitting idle on windy days in addition to rainy ones.

if i had my project to do over i would actually build a shelter to work under and buy a good mig machine at least for the plate welds.

i would also add that steel work is very labor intensive. i would suspect it is as labor intensive as straked built wooden boats. in addition to the framing, plating, welding noted by "guest" above is the blasting and coating process. when i blasted my boat i used 2 pallets of sand. thats 6000 pounds. i can't think of many things as miserable as sand blasting in july in coastal mississippi.

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