Before I get into details, let’s start by giving those in this post (who shall remain nameless) a get-out-of-jail-free pass. Everyone who’s ventured into metalwork knows how easy and tempting it is to “over-engineer” designs. Let’s face it: It takes far less volume of metal to do the same job than it takes wood, and sometimes it takes a while for this concept to sink in.
Two prime examples:
A friend of a friend had a wheelbarrow. After years of heavy use, the wheel bracket finally rusted and came apart. Thinking that fixing it would be a great use for his new flux-core welder (right), he proceeded to fab up a new one — from 1/2″ plate (doh!). When he finished, it was quite sturdy — to say the least — but the new bracket weighed more than the entire wheelbarrow did before. It was hard to push even when empty. (He also did the same kind of thing with a string trimmer later…)
Another friend — who should’ve known better as he has far more experience in fabrication than most people I know — decided to build a sunshade for his lawnmower. Why get a sunburn every time you mow or spend zillions on a sunshade — assuming they even make one for your ‘mower? Why indeed. He built one out of 11 gauge square tube, which is quite heavy. Between the heavy material and the height of the design, the mower became quite top heavy. In fact, the first time he drove it out of the shop (and down a slight ramp to the yard) it flipped over on its back.
The lesson to be learned here is that more is not necessarily better. Even if you’re not a mechanical engineer, you can make an educated guess as to what type of material will best suit your job — and add no more weight or bulk than’s necessary. This “minimal” type of design will produce more usable items — especially if they’re designed to be carried around or otherwise human-motivated in use.
Have you seen any over-engineered projects recenty? Drop us a line — or better yet a photo.