2020 - I might do a welding course

Why? Because I like the freedom having welding skills could bring. I am liking the beauty of the Flansberrium unis…

I had the idea of making my own mini penny farthing about a year ago, and it actually was made, but someone else did the welding.

It was successful though.

What kind of welding technology do you have in mind?

Thought I’d start with a basic welding course from TAFE.
Now here’s the interesting thing. Ultimo TAFE offers it as a 7 week course, $850. Meadowbank has basically the same as a 9 week course for $1200. Both are 3 hours, 1 evening a week.

Any thoughts on what option is better or worse?

Here’s the details:





If you are wondering, both would be convenient for me to go to, so there’s no real difference there. Meadowbank is convenient and close to home but Ultimo isn’t far from work. Both are on a perfect train line for me.

  • I would enrol for a April start for Ultimo as I already have something scheduled term 1 for the evening it runs there, whereas I would enrol for Feb start for the Meadowbank course.

So, if I had to pick one of the two, which should it be, and why?

Looks like the Meadowbank one includes TIG (aka GTAW) but the Ultimo one doesn’t.

For building your own bike frames you would generally use TIG if you’re welding it or oxy-acetylene to fillet braze it. You can also fillet braze with a TIG welder but it’s a bit easier with the oxy torch.

If you’re putting together a home workshop TIG can be quite accessible if you go for a simple setup (not capable of welding aluminium) and it’s safe. A fully featured TIG rig can get very pricey.

Oxy-acetylene has some definite safety implications to consider before setting it up at home. Honestly if you had both a TIG and oxy rig you would probably only use the oxy for heating and bending, at least for frame building applications.

I would agree with the above. If you want to make cycle frames (uni, bike, trike) without using lugs learn to TIG weld, preferably with an AC TIG welder rather than with a basic scratch start TIG setup (which is basically just a stick welder with a gas shield round the tungsten electrode).

If you’ve seen any of the programmes on TV where they make custom motorcycle stuff (“American Chopper” style programmes), that is all done with TIG. Those welders are reasonably expensive and you’ll need argon gas (or CO2 mix) etc, but all perfectly doable in a home workshop and a lot more affordable nowadays. You can do steel, stainless and aluminium (and probably more) with TIG.

If you watch the “Unicycle Factory” documentary (as far as I remember), Tom Miller welds with a stick welder – I wouldn’t want to try to weld nice CroMo (eg 4130) tubes with a stick welder. Likewise, I would avoid MIG on that too. Gas welding thin CroMo would need a bit of skill and practice but would give a nice job, I think you would need to be careful about heat damaging the tubes (and blowing out big holes!).

I have considered fillet brazing a unicycle frame but I am a bit concerned about the strength of a lugless brazed joint for a unicycle, but you could add gussets etc, so it might well be fine. It depends what you are doing with it though I suppose.

I learned gas (oxy-acetylene) welding quite a long time ago and found TIG welding steel pretty similar and in some ways easier when I tried that (eg. less worry about heat and distortion). At one point I intended to buy an AC TIG welder to learn aluminium welding to do recumbent and HPV frames, but I have to avoid arc welding now (medical reasons) so that never happened, so I can’t say much about that.

If you are interested in frame building, see if you can pick up a copy of “The Paterek Manual for Bicycle Framebuilders”, I think I got mine direct from Tim Paterek quite a few years ago and I don’t know if it is still available – the interweb will tell I’m sure.

Thankyou @lightbulbjim and @DrD
Very helpful :slight_smile: Meadowbank it is then :slight_smile:

@DrD, yes, I’ve watched Tom Miller and the Unicycle Factory video… I can’t forget those fingernails…

Well indeed, with my utmost respect to him and what he has done, I was amazed that he could get anything done let alone build unicycles. I’d be petrified they’d get pulled into something rotating and mangle my hand up or something, either way it would be pretty sore (other adjectives may be more appropriate :wink: )

Anyway, back on topic, I found this book quite useful, Amazon tells me I bought it in 2003, but it really doesn’t seem that long ago… (there is a newer edition though)


Also, a bit previous just now perhaps, but as and when you get to trying get hold of CroMo tubes to build something, back then I found that places that sell stuff for folk building their own planes a good source of good tubes in small quantities. I’d imagine Australia would have its share of places like that.

Awesome. Thanks for the tips :slight_smile:

I taught myself oxy acetylene welding many years ago when I lived on a rural property with no electricity. I became a deft hand at welding thin sheet and panel beating which I learnt out of a 1964 textbook I borrowed from the library. It is very satisfying to rebuild a complex rusted out section, beat and file it smooth not using any filler.

It is surprising what can be achieved with oxy when there is no alternative.

Stainless steel is difficult as it burns very easily. Weld it with a reducing flame to avoid excessive oxygen availability and ensure it is thoroughly coated with flux on both sides of the material. It can be very frustrating because just when you think you have done it and the joint is cooling, a little volcano of burning chromium can burst out. It expands a lot too so distortion needs to be addressed.

I’ve even welded aluminium with oxy. Aluminium melts before it turns red so you have to judge the temperature by the fluidity, dip the stick into the puddle and stir. This also brings the flux and other oxides to the surface. Aluminium is incredibly conductive and the whole job can liquefy very easily with a little too much heat. You have to work very fast.

I once oxy welded a new bypass outlet onto a cast aluminium automotive water pump. The original outlet had corroded and snapped off. The repair survived for the couple of years until the pump was replaced when the bearing failed.

Well you’re a better man than me… if I tried that it would probably end up with just a big blob/splat of aluminium on the ground, probably burning my foot in the process!

I’ve just stuck to steel with gas (or steel/rust combinations in some cases :wink: ) albeit some of it done in “non ideal” situations lying on my back under a car working above my head – then smacking my head under said car when trying to get away from the molten puddle that just blew back in my face because I heated it too much!

Don’t let these sorts of things put you off Gockie, it’s the difference between the things you have to do when you’re in a fix and the things you want to do (like building a unicycle!)

The fact that the water pump was chunky and covered in a heavily oxidised layer that acted like a mould probably helped.

Best cut well beyond any corrosion to perfectly clean metal if possible. Even after the rust comes off, the pitting makes welding a lot harder.

Welding can be difficult when you don’t have room to keep the torch in the right orientation. But in the right situation it can be a breeze. The key to this is having a big flame angled at 45 degrees and working quickly. The big flame preheats in front of the weld and drives the thermal expansion gap shut evenly where a small flame is more likely to distort around the weld.

My most memorable welds have been in big panels where I judged the allowance perfectly and the gap closed and fused without filler. The gap is generally about one percent for mild steel but depends a bit on the nature of the piece. Always better to have a small gap that you can fill than deal with overlap that cause uneven thickness and can jamb the expansion.

Been there, done that. Poking yourself with the hot end of the rod isn’t much fun either. I very quickly invested in a full face mask after a bead rolled into the corner of my goggles near my nose. The wider field of view of the big mask really helped in difficult positions but it didn’t help with clearance.

Then there is coming out from under the car and discovering that the mastic goop the manufacturer used to seal the floor joins had burst into flames on the inside of the car. :astonished:

Gockie I’m planning to take a Welding I class in March. It covers MiG,Tig, and oxy-acetylene. I’m taking it to build a 3 seated tandem with steel tubing.

Take a class, but also buy Paterek’s book. It is the Bible of frame building. It give so much detail about building frames you won’t need another book. I know Amazon sells a digit version that’s less expensive than the paper version. I bought the paper version and its worth the money.

I’ve been welding for a long time, but with no training. Started with a wire feed (flux core) welder, stick welder, brazing, steel mig, then aluminum mig and soon, tig, when I have time. I wanted to take a course, too at the local trade school, mainly just for tig, but it didn’t happen yet.

Most people can figure out mig welding with no training by just doing it. But it’s not a small investment, between the machine, & gas.
For what you’ll pay to own a tank and a decent mig, you can buy 1/2 to 3/4 of whatever unicycle you want, if they make it.

My suggestion, would be to learn to weld if you’re going to use it for other purposes, like art, car repair, building things, etc. I use mine all the time. On your way to learning , you’ll likely develop enough skill to learn to do mild steel on a unicycle frame.

I can only give my opinion on TIG, so take it with skepticism, because I haven’t fired mine up yet. With tig, same thing, between the gas and the machine $$$, you might just want to buy a premade uni. From what I heard, Tig is more of a skill that MIG, so learning on chrome moly will be even more expensive , requiring more skill, and different gas than mig (steel)

We learned uni, so we can all certainly learn to weld… you just need some money for a good machine… and other tools, and time.

This actually seems like a really good idea. I might have a look at this also when I have time.

Join with me at Meadowbank?

I agree with your point on welding skills, well worth while. Also I agree with your warning about the cost, $$$$$$$ of equiptment and suplies. So I advise you who are interested to take the courses, learn with thier machine and suplies and then after your 2nd. 3rd. or 4th custom muni frame, hub, and suspension system, You may just own a system that doesn’t really cost all that much. And the Satisfaction!

I’ve now paid, so I’m enrolled!

The welding course.

Good for you Gockie, Show us what you make. It is a new skill you will enjoy.

Sounds like fun always good to learn new skills. I’d like to know how to weld myself, my Dad is really good at it. He made a trailer for his car years ago and something to lift engines out of cars.