Need Welding Advice - Concerned About Quality

bapple

New member
Hope there are a few welders reading tonight…

I am in the process of building a camper that will sit on the flatbed of an F350. I came up with the shape of the camper (very much a traditional flatbed camper with cabover). A smart (paid) engineer designed the aluminum frame to achieve the desired shape. A professional (paid) welder is now welding the frame for about $8,000 (material and labor). I provided a cut sheet of all 120 members (length, cut angles, etc.). I just visited the welder to approve the assembly before he welds all of the joints (it is currently tacked together).

I am not a welder! I fully accept that I have zero knowledge about welding. But I am an engineer at work, have two engineering degrees, and design/build machines during the day. The assembly had a few noticeable areas that caused me concern and I’d like to ask the forum for advice. The frame is made of aluminum square tubing. I do not know which alloy. The welder has encountered a series of small problems that seem to be cascading into a few larger problems. Here are my concerns (see pics):
  1. Some of the gaps of the joints are 3/8”. These joints will be structural. Can these joints be filled and be as strong as if the members were cut to the correct length?
  2. Some bar stock and tubes were cut too short. His fix was to weld the shorter pieces end-to-end. Acceptable or not?
  3. The longest straight section of the camper is 12 feet. The maximum deflection of this straight section is 1.5” on one side (bowed out) and 0.25” on the other side (bowed in). Aside from the asymmetry that must be fixed. What is a reasonable maximum allowable deflection in a straight plane? He already tried to straighten the frame with a jack and said it bent several inches in the right direction.
  4. The design diagrams indicated 2x1 tubing in certain areas. The welder ordered the wrong material so instead is using two 1x1s. It’s heavier but will this be as strong? Lead to other problems? Acceptable?

I’ll never see the welds after I skin the exterior and interior so it’s important the welds be reliable.

Many thanks and virtual beers for your thoughts.

Ben
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bapple

New member
Thanks, Guys. All three responses I've received are in strong agreement. Very much appreciated.

Just to be clear... these pictures are after the frame was only tacked together. The plan is for me to approve the assembly when it is tacked together and then he would weld each joint. Not sure if this matters.
 

brp

Observer
I went to welding school and I am currently a sheet metal worker. I don't like what I see.

I'm am not saying it is a lost cause, but it appears that whoever is doing the work is not skilled and is not paying any attention to detail. I would not accept the short pieces combined to make a longer piece. The cuts look off, some of the tack welds looks like terrible full welds.

In the right hands, this could be saved, but the quality and skill demonstrated to this point are not those hands.
 

steelhd

Observer
Not a pro by any means so take this with a grain of salt. It kind of looks to me like maybe he tacked it using SMAW (stick aka arc welding). Of all the processes you can use for aluminum the only one worse is brazing. Better is MIG and TIG. Maybe he doesn't have the right machine and a spool gun and just wanted a fast fitup before TIG welding it out. Maybe he just completely hosed MIG tacks. Either way Id personally pack up my stuff up and run.
 

john61ct

Adventurer
You could do better yourself buying a welder after a few lessons and practicing in between.

It is possible to get much better results with aluminum even stick welding.

That's just shoddy work full stop, he's either a rank beginner, physically disabled somehow or just does not care.
 

motoboss

Bad Influence
Nothing about that looks acceptable. I would never, never butt join pieces where any type of load is expected and would never accept replacing requested material with " ordered the wrong" material. Especially with a different size.

And the tack welds look hideous. If it's not TIG it's wrong.

Wowza!
 
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vintageracer

To Infinity and Beyond!
We call that "Pigeon Schidt" welding down south.

What you have here is another "Good Ole Boy" who THINKS he learned how to weld down on the farm and now calls himself a professional welder.

Cut your loses NOW, go pickup your stuff and run away from this quack as quick as possible!
 

another_mike

Adventurer
We call that "Pigeon Schidt" welding down south.

What you have here is another "Good Ole Boy" who THINKS he learned how to weld down on the farm and now calls himself a professional welder.

Cut your loses NOW, go pickup your stuff and run away from this quack as quick as possible!
I had a welding instructor in the Midwest that would look at a weld and simply give a turkey gobble then walk away....

translation: turkey 💩
 
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