My career has been in information technology – designing networks, decoding TCP/IP packets, and troubleshooting network problems. But I grew up hauling hay, riding horses, and fabricating projects around my dad’s shop. When I get tired of sitting in front of a computer, I like to head out to my shop and work on a project. My recent project was to build a rack for my dad’s old post hole auger that fits on the back of his Mahindra tractor.
I got tired of the post hole digger just laying on the ground on the back of my 2.5-acre property. I like to keep our place looking nice and have to constantly weed-eat around the digger. I don’t like the PTO shaft laying in the dirt – although it has been doing that for 20+ years. About time to fix this problem.
I inherited my dad’s tractor and implements when he passed away a few years ago. I used this auger when building my shop and it works pretty good.
I also like to work in my shop and am always looking for projects to tackle. I decided to throw this rack together out of some extra steel I had salvaged from an old building. I wanted to make it easy to attach the auger to the tractor, store the spare oversized auger bit, and keep everything up off the ground.
My first task was to chain the auger to my tractor’s front-end loader and haul it around to the front of my shop so I could use the auger to build the frame. I often design my projects in Sketchup 3D modeling software, but this project was so simple I just decided to “wing it” and build it on the fly. I was tired of sitting in front of a computer all day!
I attached a chain to the auger and lifted it into place in front of my shop so that I could use the actual auger to make measurements. The front-end loader on my tractor is so handy for projects like this. I use it all the time as a lift. It can lift around 2,200 lbs so it is very powerful. I wanted the rack designed so that I could easily back my tractor up to the auger and attach it, then drive away.
I grabbed some 3″ thin-wall square tubing I had behind my shop, tossed the tubing on some sawhorses, grabbed my tape measure and begin planning my design. I wanted the stand wide enough to be stable, but mostly I needed it stable fore and aft, so I made the base frame first. I could have made my cuts using my nice 4″ band saw, or a Dewalt cut-off saw, or my super awesome Milwaukee steel skill saw, or even my acetylene cutting torch. But I had not been using my plasma cutter much lately, so decided to give it some love and use my plasma cutter to make my cuts. One thing I like about the plasma cutter is that it only requires electricity and compressed air. I don’t have to refill bottles or buy new cutting blades when they wear out. And the plasma cutter is easy to engage – just pull the trigger.
I used my Speed Square to mark out my lines with soapstone to make my cuts. Very thankful that my brother-in-law Mark Hanks showed me all the uses of a Speed Square several years ago. Such a handy tool. I was very happy with the nice smooth, clean cuts from my plasma cutter.
I used some thin 14 gauge scrap steel plate I had laying around to make end caps for the 3″ square tubing. They didn’t need to be very strong since their primary purpose was to seal the ends of the square tubing. I had to be careful welding them in place since they would burn through very easily, but that was just a matter of adjusting my welding settings properly.
I used a framing square to get everything in place and then tack-welded the bottom frame in place on my shop floor. Tack welds allow me to get everything straight and square – I can still move the metal if needed. Once I had it where I wanted it, I put in a few more tack welds to better hold it in place from warping during welding. When I started the final welding, I spaced the beads out so that the frame would have minimal warp from heating and cooling. Finally, when I was sure I wasn’t going to get any warping, I finished out the welds so each joint was sealed and solid.
MIG vs TIG welding
I really enjoy TIG welding for many of my projects, but it is much slower when fabricating large projects such as this. TIG welding takes regular practice to stay proficient, so I try to TIG weld as many projects as practical. But in this case, it just didn’t make sense to TIG weld this together. MIG welding is just so, so much faster. It is also easier to hold something in place with one hand and tack-weld it with the MIG gun in the other hand. When I TIG weld I usually have to clamp things in place since I need both hands to TIG weld.
For my MIG projects I use my Lincoln 210MP welder. It is a multi-process welder and will do MIG, Stick and TIG welding. It won’t do AC TIG welding so no aluminum. I ended up also purchasing a Lincoln Square Wave TIG-200 welder so that I can weld aluminum, so now I just keep the 210MP set up for MIG most of the time. When I need to stick weld I just grab my TIG-200 since it is easier to set up for stick welding.
Next came the uprights. These were fairly easy. I just had to decide the height, get them square, tack them in place, and weld them in place like before. I designed the rack so that the legs in front were longer so that when I hung the auger in place it wouldn’t tip over in front. I just guessed on how far to make the legs stick out in back so that it wouldn’t tip over backward when loading and unloading the auger.
One problem I had when I began was getting a good ground on this rusty metal. When I was welding the end caps in place on the first pieces of square tubing, I would lay the tubing on my metal welding table. But I had trouble getting a good ground and had to flap disk a clean place on the piece to get a good ground to my table. And since I was using 3″ square tubing, my clamp wouldn’t open wide enough to clamp directly to the piece.
After fiddling and fussing with this problem for a bit, I remembered the magnetic ground clamp I had purchased a couple of years ago. This thing works wonders. I just attach it to the workpiece via the built-in magnet, clamp my ground clamp to the magnet, and viola a good ground. What a handy piece of welding gear.
Mounting my auger
To mount the auger, I welded two struts made out of 3″ square tubing to the top brace. These were designed to cradle the auger gearbox. I left them open so I could just back my tractor up, connect to the auger, and then drive away.
Once I had those in place, I was easily able to hand-carry the rack out to the front of my shop and place underneath my auger. I was thankful that I used thin-wall square tubing to keep the weight down on the rack. I lowered the auger in place and got it all squared away.
The next step was to weld some braces for the auger arms, and make an attachment to hold the extra auger bit. It was getting late in the day so I put things away, cleaned and swept my shop, put my tractor away, and put my tools back in place. My dad always pounded into my head that a job isn’t done until the worksite is clean and the tools are all put away. I try to follow his guidance, especially if it will be a few days before I can get back on the project.
Building the braces
I put the project on hold a few days and finally got back to it one evening after work. It gets dark early in January so while I could build the arms inside my shop, I had to weld them to the stand outside. I rigged up some lights so I could see what I was doing and worked on a nice 55 degree winter evening to try and get this done before the predicted snow in the upcoming weekend.
My first task was to build braces to hold the arms. I used 3″ square tubing and propped the auger arms into an approximate place, then held the square tubing in place to mark the angles for the cut. I used my speed square to mark all the ends and cut them with my plasma cutter.
Welding outside with 110v
My welders all hook up to 220v inside my shop. I didn’t want to move the stand inside my shop, and I didn’t have a long 220v extension cord, so I just switched my Lincoln 210MP to weld using 110v power. I rolled the welder outside, hooked it to a heavy-duty 110v power cord, rigged up some lights, and got to work in the dark. I love that both my Lincoln welders can run on 110v or 220v simply by using a different power cord. And 110v was plenty of power for the thin-wall tubing I was using.
MIG welding in the wind
It was fairly windy outside and any welder will know that MIG welding in the wind is a challenge. The wind can blow the protective MIG gas away from the weld area, making the weld not nearly as strong. I had to struggle to protect the weld while also only using 110v power. My welds while outside didn’t turn out nearly as nice as the ones inside using 220v power, but in the end, I feel they are plenty strong enough to hold the arms of the auger in place.
A bracket to hold the spare auger bit
I wanted to store the spare auger bit on the rack and get it up off the ground. So once I got the auger in place and the brackets done for the auger arms, I turned my attention to the spare auger bit. I decided to use another scrap piece of 3″ square tubing to make a hanger for the auger bit. I searched around and decided to use a short piece of 1″ square tubing to hold the auger bit. I drilled a hole in the 1″ square tubing so a bolt could pass through it and the auger bit, then welded the 1″ tubing to the 3″ tubing and then welded the 3″ tubing to the rack. It is now easy to lift the auger with one hand and remove the bolt holding it to the rack with the other hand.
I don’t use the bigger auger bit much around my property, since I have hard clay soil and the bigger bit usually won’t dig in my hard clay unless it is really wet. Instead, I usually use the smaller bit and if needed, hand-dig the sides to make a bigger hole. But I keep the bit in case someone needs to borrow the auger to dig holes in sandy soil.
Chain hooks and painting
I wanted an easy way to drag this around and like to finish off my projects nicely, so I decided to weld some chain hooks to the rack so that I could easily drag it around. I also wanted to paint it. But I didn’t want to do all the prep work to clean the rust off. That would take longer than building the darn thing, not to mention it is really nasty work without a sand blaster. So instead I just purchased some cheap black spray paint at Lowes and painted over the thing rust and all. Yea, I know it won’t last all that long, but when it wears through I will just hit it again with more spray paint. I wouldn’t take this approach with something like my equipment trailer, but for this rack I am satisfied with just painting like it sits.