Every welding video or book implies that the first thing you want to build is a welding table. There are examples all over the Internet of beginner’s tables. But we didn’t buy the welder to build welding tables and welding fixtures, did we? We bought it to build motorcycles, repair cars or make garden ornaments. So we don’t want to spend a pile of money and time on a table before we start doing the fun stuff. The fact is though, a table is a huge help in welding. It beats the heck out of kneeling on concrete in the side yard.
This is my compromise. I have one of those folding workbenches with the expanding clamp for a top surface. I think mine is the Skil XBench Portable Work Station 3115 but I used to own a Black and Decker Workmate and it is much the same idea and would probably work too. The Skil has a quick adjustment and aluminium jaws the the Workmate did not, and happened to be what the big-box store had in stock when I was looking for a new workmate.
Purchase some 1/4″ hot rolled steel, big enough to overhang the table by 3″ when the jaws are open 4″. The steel yard will cut it for you, so you don’t have to have cold sweats about spending 3 hours with a hack saw. Add four bits of round bar with the outside edges 4″ apart to match the jaw opening. Drill some 3/8″ holes along the middle, and tighten up 3/8″ coarse thread bolts and flange nuts in the holes, with the nuts on the back. Tack the nuts in place, remove the bolts. Done.
The nuts are the same thread as the clamping tools on my mill – 3/8″ coarse – so I can use the same bolts to clamp vices and stuff to the table, and I can also use the mill hold-downs. The biggest part of the job was cleaning the mill scale off the surface. This convinced me it was time to buy an angle grinder, which is an essential welding accessory anyway.
The whole thing packs away into a small space, and is very portable, and the bench is still itself when you lift the weld surface off. The total cost was about $60, not including the bench which I already had.
The welds for the round bar don’t interfere with the sharp edge of the table clamp, so it always lies flat. When clamped up it is very solid – the table’s natural flexiness is gone. The plate is heavy enough to beat on somewhat with a hammer to do some minor blacksmithing, like making frog legs, but not too heavy to pick up and put away.
See: garden ornament frog, with legs!