Build a chassis/fixture Table on a budget

I’m sure most of you could agree with me when I say that this hobby is pretty addicting. Some of us are caught in a whirlwind of finding, fixing, and building old cars that consumes our free time and some of us our lives! In these cases once you’re nearing the end of one project you’ve probably already got your next project in mind (or already in the driveway!). I have to admit that I have project car A.D.D. and I always have a few projects going at once. I’ve been slowly nearing the end of the major fabrication work on Project Pile House and I’m soon ready to start fine tuning the body and getting filler, primer, and paint on the truck. This means I’ve been finding my mind wandering to future projects. I’ve been day dreaming of building up a good old hot rod. True to the way things work, I put my feelers out and stumbled across a carcass of an old circle track car; a 1930 Ford Model A Coupe. The car (if you can call it that) had some good parts on it, but being an 80+ year old car that was raced, the chassis had seen better days. I decided I’d jump in head-first and build a chassis from scratch for the car.

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In a effort to make my life easier I decided I would build a table that I could build and modify chassis on in the future. I only had a few simple rules; it needed to be mobile, I needed to be able to easily level it, and it needed to be AFFORDABLE. If you haven’t checked, the metal required to build a heavy fabrication or chassis table new is big bucks. I’d rather save that cash for my project cars and repurpose some metal from my local scrap metal yard.

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My local scrap metal yard is AMAZING, they have everything organized by type of metal, round, square, flat, etc and they’ll rough cut it to size if you ask nicely. I knew I wanted my table to be just a little over 8 feet long so I had to find something that would be strong and beefy enough to fixture to. I then turned the corner and found the I-beam aisle (yes they have an entire row!) all organized by size from girders to build a skyscraper down to a small bridge. I found about the smallest size they had and pulled two beams that looked relatively straight. You need to be careful if you’re using salvaged beams, if they’ve been stored incorrectly and have a bow to them you’ll be fighting that the entire table build. I ended up pulled a third beam I would use as cross bars for the perimeter frame of the table. I wanted to use identical materials so I could easily make the top as smooth and even as possible.

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I chose some box tubing for the legs and we started by laying the materials out on the floor in the shop with what would be the top of the table visible first. After some checking we found that floor had a slight high spot to it that wouldn’t allow us to build the table directly on the floor. We decided to build each half on top of each other so that the beam took some of the inconsistencies. After grinding the ends of the beams down to bare metal we level the beams out diagonally across the first half. We found we needed to raise the one corner a few degrees so we used some small sheet metal panels shims to get the half sitting level. We then transferred the shims to under the beam so it set the beam level throughout.

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We then squared up the beams and used the Eastwood MIG 250 to tack weld them together. Since I had ground a bevel in the two ends of the beams it allowed the welds to sit flush with the surface.

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With the first half securely welded together we swapped the assembled half onto the floor and put the last two pieces on top. We repeated the shimming process until it was level and we welded the last two beams to make the second half of the perimeter frame.

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With the two halves built we put the halves together and set them on square box tubing in each corner to allow for adjustment. We then squared each corner up and welded the last two seams to complete the outer perimeter frame of the table.

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Now that we had the perimeter frame built we decided to add two crossbeams out of the I-Beam material. We used the same process as the outside frame to square and level these and welded them in place.

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With the top work surface tack welded together securely, we flipped the frame over so we could work on the bottom. I then took the legs we had cut to size and set them on top of the box tubing we had blocked the frame up on. This assured me that the top of the legs would be even with the top work surface. I used the level and square to get each leg sitting correctly and welded them in place. I made the legs the height I wanted the table (minus the height of the feet and wheels). I wanted the table to be quite low because I plan to always be building “up” on the table and while it seems short now, once I block up a frame 2-3″ and work on top of that it will be the perfect height to sit or stand and work on my project. This low table also allows me to put a body on top of it and work on the majority of it at a comfortable height without having to be on my hands and knees!

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The last step of the project was to make the table mobile. I cut out 3/8″ plate with the Eastwood Versa-Cut 60 to use as base plates to mount the wheels and feet to. I also checked to make sure these were square and level before welding them in place. Finally I clamped the wheels to the center four legs and the risers to the outer four legs and stitch welded them in place. I put the welds on the outside of the plate so I could easily cut the welds and replace the wheels or risers if one ever failed.

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With everything on the bottom welded up we flipped the table back over and I finished welding up all the seams on the top work surface of the table. I then ground any weld spatter or proud welds smooth and we had our table done. The way the risers and casters work is that the when the table is mobile the four wheels in the center allow the table to easily roll around the shop, stomp on the risers on the outside corners and they lift the weight off of the wheels. Each riser foot is threaded and you can take a wrench and turn it to level the table out before you start working. The little red lever is then stepped on to drop the table down and you’re mobile again!

The last step of this project will be to get some 2″x 2″ box tubing to make blocks out of to set on top of the table and build off of. These will be “L” shaped on each side so that you can push them in and fixture them against the sides of the frame rails to keep them from twisting while your working. I’m almost done gathering my parts to build up a chassis and I’ve been studying the stance and frame style on some of my favorite hot rods and I hope to have a solid plan here soon. We’ll be sure to shoot the process and take photos along the way to show how we build it and to show the Eastwood products in use! Thanks for reading and watching.

-Matt/EW

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