An M.G. Locost Build

April 11, 2012

These are exciting times. Welding has finally begun. We took the plunge last night and tack welded together the four L-tubes, which form the nose of the Locost space frame. So all around pretty exciting, at least for us.

  The first piece of the Locost ever welded
click to enlarge

We actually started the evening by tack welding spacers onto one of the differential brackets. As we mentioned earlier, these are non-structural welds, and that's probably a good thing. We had the welder set for 16GA steel and these pieces were way thicker, so there wasn't a lot of melted metal other than the gobs of melted filler wire. But the spacers are where they should be and they won't be going anywhere, and I still think the bracket looks better than it would if we just glued the spacers in place. You're free of course to feel otherwise.

Tubes locked in the jig, ready for the big moment  
click to enlarge

The preferred method for building a Locost space frame has you starting with the ten tubes that form the base of the structure. However, this requires that you have a build table. We don't. We do however have a nose jig, therefore ergo sum our choice to start our welding journey with the nose. We loaded the L-tubes into the jig and clamped them down, and we were pretty confident at this point that no matter what happened we had the necesssary experience and skill to cut four more L-tubes, should we happen to totally mess up the welding part.

  Side tube looks misalinged, but isn't really
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Back when we were first practicing with the MIG torch, we always tack welded all four sides of a tube. It didn't look strong enough with just one or two tacks. Since we couldn't get to all four sides of the L-tubes, loaded in the jig as they were, we just tacked two seams at each end of the top tube, and one at each end of the bottom . We then carefully pried the fragile nose out of the jig, using a large rubber hammer instead of the usual large steel one, with the idea that we'd finish tacking the joints once the nose was free of the jig.

Small step, but a giant leap for mankind. Or not.  
click to enlarge

Amazingly, though, the nose turned out to be really strong with just six tack welds. Even more amazing, the thing was perfectly straight, and we were pretty sure that trying to tack anything else would change that in a hurry. So we're good. The nose is done, at least until it's all attached to the frame and it's time to fully weld all the joints. The tack welds on the nose may not be the greatest in the history of metal fabrication, but they'll work, and we expect to get a lot better at this welding business in the future. We'd almost have to.

On a brighter note, our Star Wars boycott turned out to be a huge success (see post from March 1, 2012). George Lucas has abandoned his plans to build a giant media center along one of the most beloved back roads of Marin County. He cited complaints from neighbors, but I think we all know what the threat of a boycott can do. George, whatever your reasons you did the right thing. Motorcyclists and sports car enthusiats everywhere salute you. And our Locost will now proudly bear the Lucas name on all of its electrical components. At least until they fail.


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