In yesterday’s comparison post we gave you the information you need to select an entry-level flux-core/MIG welder for your shop. In today’s follow-up, we’ll walk you through using one of the welders from the comparison to build an inexpensive game chair to make playing GT4 or Forza a lot more fun.
This project was completed entirely using Hobart’s Handler 125 EZ, which sells for around $380 on the street and is targeted at novice welders (and people who just want to get the job done). With a project materials cost of around $80 (and considering the $40 rebate Hobart’s currently offering on the unit) you could buy the welder and build the chair for around $400 — about what you pay for much lesser chairs out of the back of magazines.
Or, if you just want a game chair, you can win ours. Click for details. (Much, much more after the jump.)
Hands-On: Hobart’s Handler 125 EZ
Hobart’s Handler 125 EZ is targeted squarely at the home/farm market, and is specifically designed to provide a welding experience that’s as simple as possible. It’s a single-phase 110V unit, which requires only a readily-available dedicated 20A three-prong outlet. (You’ll often find such outlets called “freezer plugs” in newly-built homes. The idea is that you want a freezer on its own circuit so some other product doesn’t blow the fuse and spoil your food.)
Also, by limiting the unit to flux-core use only with a single type and size of wire, Hobart eliminated most of the situations requiring separate voltage and wire-feed adjustments. This enabled them to replace the two separate adjustment knobs on the standard Handler 125 with a single knob labeled with material thickness.
Best of all, its street price starts around $380, and Hobart’s currently offering a $40 mail-in rebate for Father’s Day. (Since we were comparing welders from so many different sources, the prices in yesterday’s comparison were list.)
Unboxing/What’s in the Package
Though the box isn’t that big, it is heavy. The unit itself weighs around 50 lbs., which is light for a welder, but heavy enough that you should remember to lift with your legs and not your back. The welder ships via standard carrier (as opposed to dedicated truck shipping), which is a good thing in our book.
Note: Click on the pictures throughout this post to see larger versions.
The box contains the welder, a torch, a roll of .030 flux-core wire, some extra tips, and manuals.
There’s very little setup required. To install the included wire, you simply open the door on the side of the welder, remove the assembly that holds the spool in, place the spool on the spindle, and reapply the spring and bolt. After feeding the wire through the rollers, you power up the unit and use the power feed to push the wire through the cable and out the end of the torch. All that’s left is to install the tip and adjust feed tension.
Following the manual’s procedures it took us about 15 minutes to go from opened box to ready-to-weld.
To use the EZ, you simply set the unit’s single knob to one of its four settings based on the gauge of metal you’re welding. In our case, we were using 14-gauge stock, so we selected the 16-12 GA setting. Minutes later, we had performed our first weld. After just a little bit of practice, we were able to effectively connect metal to metal.
Project: Building a Game Chair
In order to put Hobart’s “easy use” claims to a real-world test, we invited a couple of friends over who’ve never welded before and gave them each a shot at the EZ during the game chair build below. We’ve also provided step-by-step instructions and information to help you build your own with the EZ or other similar-quality, inexpensive wire welder.
(In fact, if you’re the lucky winner of the game chair, you’ll get to see first-hand the work of welders ranging from complete novices to seasoned experts. It looks surprisingly good!)
While we sometimes enjoy driving games, we’ve always wanted that full-on arcade experience with a force-feedback wheel, pedals and (most importantly) a real chair to sit in. Though a variety of seats of this type are available commercially, they tend to fall into two categories: cheap and flimsy (though not necessary inexpensive), and quality (but way out of our price range). The better ones sell for $300 and up, which is a tough spend for a toy.
So why not build one? We discovered that you can obtain a real leather car seat from the junkyard for less than $50, and with another $25 or so of steel and a little time, you’ve got yourself a first-class game chair.
- Leather Car Seat: $37
- 8′ Sticks of 14 Gauge 1″ Mild-Steel Square Tubing (x4): $20.80
- 2′ of 14 Gauge 1-1/4″ Mild-Steel Square Tubing: $1.60
- 2′ of 1/4″ Mild-Steel Angle: $1.25
- 2′ of 3/4″ Mild-Steel Angle: $0.90
- 13″ of 6″ x 1/8″ Mild-Steel Bar Stock: $5
- Paint: $12.50
- Total Cost: $79.05
Obviously, we used the Handler 125 EZ, which (as we said above) is available for around $380. You’ll also need your basic safety gear, including a shield (hood) and gloves. Additionally, we used the following tools:
- 4-1/4″ angle grinder: $75 (Cheaper units are available starting around $40, or you can just be careful and clean up your welds with a brush and a file: $5)
- Horizontal/vertical band saw: $125 (again, you can find units starting around $80 that’ll do the job fine, or if you’re building on the cheap you could use a hacksaw: $5)
- Optional: small framer’s square: $5
- Optional: silver craft marking pencil: $1
As we’re giving this chair away, we knew we’d need to ship it eventually, so that affected our design criteria a bit. Specifically, we bolted the chair to the base as opposed to welding it on, and we designed the wheel mount to unbolt from the chassis to collapse when crated. While these features may appeal to you — it’s nice to be able to disassemble the chair to store in a closet, for example — if you don’t need this them, you can save yourself some effort by simply welding it all together. Hey, if you want to take it apart, just cut it and weld it back together later, right?
We’ve built a couple of these chairs for home and friends, and the area where people disagree most is the design of the wheel mount. The easiest way to mount the wheel is via a single post sticking up from the middle of the base (Fig. 1). However, some “drivers” object to straddling the post. You can avoid the post by using either a pair of angled supports from the front of the base (Fig. 2) or by creating a “hoop” through which your legs fit (Fig 3). We chose the latter as it was simpler to build in a way that can be disassembled. Of course, you’re welcome to approach it however you like.
Obtaining a Seat
One of the advantages of fabricating your own chair is that you can use whatever kind of seat you desire. So, if you’re loaded and want that full-on race feel, you can order a racing seat from any of a number of online retailers or from a speed shop in your hometown. Seats start at around $150, though sometimes you can score lesser-expensive knockoffs for much less on eBay. If you go this route, you’ll want to be sure and order the seat rails and and “adjuster” as they usually come separately (often for another $40 or so).
Personally, we prefer the cheaper and more realistic method of snagging a seat from the you-pull-it junkyard. Most of the yards we checked offer seats starting at around $25, ranging up to $100 or so. Generally they’ll ask more for seats from newer and/or more popular vehicles (as they’re more likely to sell) and less for older, dirtier seats.
Believe it or not, it’s often possible to get a leather seat without spending a fortune. The trick is to locate a particularly dirty seat, hopefully in an older, unpopular car. Dirt alone isn’t a real problem as leather can take heavy washing and scrubbing. In the past we’ve actually scored leather seats for as little as $25. Your mileage may vary.
If you want (or end up with) a cloth seat, you’ll want the cleanest one you can find. Certainly you can work the seat over with a good carpet cleaner, but the bad spots aren’t going to come out, so avoid seats with big stains.
Either way, you’ll definitely want to look for a seat where all four mounting points are in the same “plane.” Some seats mount vertically in the front and horizontally in the back, and those seats are harder to mount to your fabricated base. They’ll work in a pinch, but you’ll save yourself time looking for flat ones.
- Wear work clothes. You’re going to spend your day climbing around piles of rusty metal, so pass on the Nikes and shorts in favor of thick jeans and durable boots.
- As with any time you work with metal, be sure your tetanus boosters are up to date. No one expects to get hurt.
- You’ll need to take tools with you, of course, but don’t bring them in when you first go in to look; you’re likely to end up carrying them around with you through five different yards before you find the part you want. Once you’ve found what you want, go back in, negotiate price, then bring in the tools to pull the part. They’ll probably want to check your tool bag on the way out to make sure you’re not stealing anything.
- Don’t bring lots of expensive tools. If you turn your back, they might get stolen. For that matter, leave your expensive electronic gear at home as well; you won’t need it here.
- EVERYTHING, and we mean EVERYTHING is negotiable. This isn’t Wal-Mart, so expect to negotiate a bit. Don’t just head for the counter when you find the first acceptable seat. Keep looking, and make a mental note of a couple of them that’ll work for you. It helps to have options while negotiating.
- Remember that you may need to check a few ‘yards to find what you want. Don’t be afraid to walk away.
- Important: If it’s as hot where you are as it is here in Texas right now, bring some water or Gatorade or such with you.
We ended up finding a nice burgandy leather seat out of an old Mazda 929 for $37. We initially found a really clean seat in a 2003 PT Cruiser, but the yard wanted $100 for that one. We negotiated that to $60 by offering to take one “from an older car,” then finally offered the $37 in cash we had in our pockets. It worked.
Next, read on to page 2 to begin planning your build.