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4xAggie 138 gal Pit Construction (4-17-16)
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4xAggie
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Location: Katy, TX

PostPosted: Fri Jun 07 13 7:11 am    Post subject: 4xAggie 138 gal Pit Construction (4-17-16) Reply with quote

Howdy!

For my first post on the ring, I would like to introduce myself and the Pit that I am going to be building over the next time undefined (month, several months, year, years?). Building a pit is something that I've wanted to do since Ag Mechanics my junior year in high school, and I'm glad that I finally have the chance. I'm very glad to have found the opportunity, and I'm really glad to find this website to help along the way. I've been lurking here for a while now, but, seeing as my build is about to start, it's time to start posting so others can hopefully share.

I'm a die-hard Aggie--I grew up in College Station, I'm a (retired) professor's son, I can count over 10 Aggies in my near family tree, and I am an Aggie myself. I say that to say that I'm hopeful k.a.m. won't hold it against me since it's his kids that align themselves with "the other school," and he isn't a big football fan.

Anyway, on to the build, which has grown exponentially in size since I first really though about going after it.

My first step was locating the pipe, which the ring helped me to do through its advertisers. I tried a local College Station place, and was quoted about $90 per foot for a 24" diameter 1/4" wall pipe--and you had to buy the whole 25' segment. That's when I noticed the Texas Iron & Metal ads, and I quickly found exactly what I was after (let's hope I successfully executed the pic resizing and SoEzzy doesn't dislike me after 1 post):


I had pre-planned the load very carefully to make sure it would fit in the truck bed. It was planned even down to the lumber to hold it in route--see the 4"x4" and the little pieces of 2x4 to lock it in place.


I purchased two pipes: a 26" diameter, .3125" thick by 5' long pipe for the main cooking chamber, and a 22" (0.375" thick and 2'-10.5" long) drop piece for a charcoal grill. This, combined with some 1/4" drop plates set me up with a load of 975 lbs--just below the "limit" for my 1/2 ton truck.

I have a perfect place to build--at my family's ranch--but, it is just north of College Station, and I live in Katy, TX. The only downside is that I'm limited to build when I can make it up to the ranch, but then again, one of the reasons I got the go-ahead for the project is that it gives me a natural draw to the ranch while my dad (who is 79) is still able to work. Once I made the 125 mile drive and got to the ranch, I had to make room in the big barn for the project (my dad had let it get a little cluttered where he wasn't working):


Let me tell you that sweeping out even parts of an 80' x 100' barn is a real chore.

Then, I claimed an old welding table that was just hanging out in the nearby equipment barn:


Next, I went to unload the pipe:


...And fish the small pipe out of the big pipe:


All I got done that weekend was getting the pipe a little cleaned up with the wire wheel (which made it much nicer):



For a guy with a desk job (engineers don't get to do enough fun stuff out in the field), it was a pretty rewarding day's work:


Finally, in an effort to keep my wife happy--and to take a picture that I could show around at work, I posed a little bit:


Last edited by 4xAggie on Mon Apr 18 16 8:38 am; edited 9 times in total
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Wreckless
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 07 13 8:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Looks to be a fun build, looking forward to watching it progress, have a niece and nephew at A&M ( corps) now, good luck, Welcome to the Ring, Gig 'Em!
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 07 13 8:31 am    Post subject: Work since Reply with quote

So, since that weekend, I've played around entirely too much with the pit calculator. I've modified the spreadsheet time and time again to fit my desires and formatting, and I added tabs to keep track of the budget ( Confused ), what the next "orders" will be and when they'll happen, weight distribution, and rough dimensions. I've flipped between 3 potentially plans for mounting this thing on a trailer.

Finally, this week, I got another order of steel put together, and will make it up to the ranch again.

For the pit design, I'm decided to do a square firebox. I thought about the wall thickness, and went with a 1/2" plate when I heard back from the folks at Texas Iron & Metal. For the order, I got 2 pieces of plate that are 24" wide by 73" long. I'm planning to build the firebox to 24" x 24" x 20", which would be about 14% larger than the calculator calls for. Note: inside diameter of the pipe is 25.38", and at 5' length, I get a total inside volume of 30,343 in3--so a desired firebox volume of 10,114 in3. 24" x 24" x 20" gives a volume of 13,824 in3.

I've gone back and forth on RF (man that grease drain of k.a.m.'s looks cool) vs. Tuning plate, so I think I'm going to do the hybrid--that way I don't have to choose now and regret later. I've got extra 1/4" plate, so I think I'm also going to put up a warming box--dimensions tbd.

So, that's where I'm at now. In some ways, I'm not sure where to start. A general plan is to use the charcoal cooker as a guinea pig so I can practice my skills a bit (it's been a few summers since I was doing a lot of welding):

1. Cut out and attach end caps
-Question here: on the firebox/cooking chamber side, should I put in a full end cap, or can I get by with a partial circle above the firebox and then just tie the firebox directly to the cooking chamber pipe? I'm planning to skirt by with just a partial circle (I don't really have the steel for an end cap on that end), but I could be persuaded if you all think differently.
-Is there anything else I should inside the pipe before putting the end caps on? I could look at welding supports, or putting "fins" on the back of where the doors will be--basically, anything to try to minimize the chances of doors springing.
-For cutting out the end caps and setting up the weld, do you recommend 1) staying true to the O.D. of the pipe--with grinding a groove in the pipe and/or end cap for the weld, or 2) slightly undersizing the end cap (maybe 1/8" or so?)?

2. Cut/build firebox
-Depending on what you guys say above, I'm going to want to get this done before putting on the partial circle, so I can make sure the firebox and the partial circle meet up well.
-Also, I want to verify and check dimensions. Would you guys recommend upping the firebox to 24" x 24" x 24" (it would be about 3,700 in3 large--or 37%)? I'd probably be looking at 9 to 12 inches of clearance on the firebox whenever I get around to putting it on a trailer.
-Alternatively, is 24" x 24" x 20" too big?
-For the weld set ups, do you recommend a full corner joint for 1/2" to 1/2"?
-If a full corner joint is preferred, what type of welding rods, sizes, and number of passes is best? I started welding on 6011, and did a lot of welding a couple summers ago with 7018--most everything with a 1/8" rod.

Note: I doubt I get beyond this step for a while--I may even wait to cut out the firebox.

3. Cut Out doors
-This will have a whole extra list of questions--we'll see how long it takes to get there
4. Install rails for tuning plates to rest on
5. Install Angle for grate slides
-Otherwise, actually making the grates could come at any point once the slide angles are set.
6. Cut/build/install warming box
7. Install smoke stacks
7. Realign any door spring, attach doors, and put on the seal straps (note: k.a.m. likes 1/8" x 1.5" strap--already ordered)
8. Various finish work on firebox doors, warming chamber doors, air inlets, thermometers, fire grates, etc.

Does this sound like a good plan? I bet that it changes as the project progresses, but it's what I'm thinking for now.
At some point, I'll get the trailer built and mounted, but, that's going to have to wait a while--I chose to buy the steel first, and I can't just go around buying everything at once.

Thanks in advance for answering any of the above questions. I'm going to be getting started this weekend (I can't wait for that!), so any good advice before I actually start cutting metal would be appreciated.


Last edited by 4xAggie on Fri Jun 07 13 8:36 am; edited 1 time in total
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4xAggie
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 07 13 8:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Looks to be a fun build, looking forward to watching it progress, have a niece and nephew at A&M ( corps) now, good luck, Welcome to the Ring, Gig 'Em!


That's awesome Wreckless! I was class of '07 in Company N-1. That was such a fun time.
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k.a.m.
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 07 13 10:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Welcome to the ring 4xAggie, looking forward to seeing some pics of your cooks and following your cooker project. Smile
I see you have been doing your homework. Wink I have nothing against Aggies just don't ask my grandson to sit in a Maroon chair that isn't gonna happen. Laughing
Your off to a great start for sure, just don't over study your project that takes the fun out of it. Wink
1. Cut out and attach end caps
-Question here: on the firebox/cooking chamber side, should I put in a full end cap, or can I get by with a partial circle above the firebox and then just tie the firebox directly to the cooking chamber pipe?

If you can align the firebox to a pre-existing opening then I say go for the single wall.

-Is there anything else I should inside the pipe before putting the end caps on? I could look at welding supports, or putting "fins" on the back of where the doors will be--basically, anything to try to minimize the chances of doors springing.
You have already done more than I would have. I save the cleaning of the rust to the sand blasters.
As far as supports on the doors I do not care for them and will always take my chances with my doors.

-For cutting out the end caps and setting up the weld, do you recommend 1) staying true to the O.D. of the pipe--with grinding a groove in the pipe and/or end cap for the weld, or 2) slightly undersizing the end cap (maybe 1/8" or so?)?
I always cut to the OD and groove both pieces.

2. Cut/build firebox
-Depending on what you guys say above, I'm going to want to get this done before putting on the partial circle, so I can make sure the firebox and the partial circle meet up well.
-Also, I want to verify and check dimensions. Would you guys recommend upping the firebox to 24" x 24" x 24" (it would be about 3,700 in3 large--or 37%)? I'd probably be looking at 9 to 12 inches of clearance on the firebox whenever I get around to putting it on a trailer.
-Alternatively, is 24" x 24" x 20" too big?
-For the weld set ups, do you recommend a full corner joint for 1/2" to 1/2"?
-If a full corner joint is preferred, what type of welding rods, sizes, and number of passes is best? I started welding on 6011, and did a lot of welding a couple summers ago with 7018--most everything with a 1/8" rod.

I would stay with the slightly larger firebox. The 24" square is to big in my opinion.
On the welds I always go corner to corner. For 1/2" the 1/8" 6011 for a root and fill will work then cap out with the 1/8". 7018.
If I missed anything feel free to say so. Very Happy
I look forward to seeing some more pics and updates. Very Happy

On a side note I was the class Reporter and the recipient of the AG-2 and AG-2 Mechanics award in my Senior year in High school, it was a few years back though. Very Happy I still have my jacket. Very Happy
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Maniac
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 07 13 7:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

4xAggie welcome to the ring Exclamation

i'll say you plan alot more than most of us...just by looking at your blocking on the pipe in the truck Wink
great job. As kam stated don't over think it ...get the important details and most of all have fun. Most guys on here would kill for the space you have to work with even thou it is 175 miles away.
ps enjoy time with your dad also.
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 08 13 8:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

4xAggie, Looks like your off to a great start. Very Happy

Seems like all your questions are answered for now. I agree with Maniac and k.a.m., try not to over engineer, everything looks great on auto cad, just doesn't work that way sometimes. Wink

Have fun on your build and enjoy the time you can spend with your Dad, those are the most important things, everything else can get straightened out. Very Happy

BTW, you may wanna invest in a pair of gloves. Wink Razz
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4xAggie
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 08 13 9:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

k.a.m. Thanks for the advice. After reviewing over 100 pages of threads, I'm continually impressed by your willingness to help others out.

I also enjoyed my time in FFA--I took Ag classes throughout high school, showed cattle, did livestock judging, and got to serve as an officer. I still have my jackets too!

Maniac Thanks! If you think that blocking on the pipe is neat--just know that it's not even the half of it. Those blocks were cut to fit in place with both pipes side by side. I've got to put to work all that math from engineering school to work!

I'm also pretty proud of that space. The summer before dad retired (it was about 4 years ago now) and before my last year as a doctoral student, we finally got to build his dream barn up there. It's a base 60' x 100' rigid steel frame, and has a 20' wide addition (making it 80' x 100') that we built ourselves. I did all of the welding for that portion of the project. It's great--almost too big!

GF Thanks! You'd be surprised if you actually got to work with dad for a day or two. He may be 79, but he's still got a lot of tread left on those tires. He's still operating a herd of over 125 registered Charolais cattle and tending to over 500 acres of ranch land. If he hadn't lost an eye to a fight with a cow a few years ago, he'd barely be showing any signs of aging at all.

I'll blame not having gloves at that point on the dog taking em. Cool I'm sure you guys will get to meet Brody sometime.


As a general comment, planned and "over-engineered" is probably what we'll get on this project. As an engineer, I basically get to sit there with CAD and try to think through as much of the design as possible. I've also done work on long-term (up to 50 years!) water planning projects. Combine that general nature with weeks between times to work, and that's what happens!

Of course, having said that, effective improvising is where it's at. The contractors seem to have ideas that just work a little better out in the field.


One more question: What size opening do you guys have (or would you recommend) on the doors to the firebox?
Also, how high off the firebox floor do you put the fire racks?

I want to make sure I have enough room to adjust my fire--and I don't want to "forget" and have to draw a door like k.a.m. did for SoEzzy! To maximize size, I was guessing about 6" off the bottom, 2" or so in from the edge of the box, and 2 to 4" down from the top (which would give 10" to 12" over the grate to get in and adjust the fire). But, I'm also wondering if that is too big.

Thanks again. I look forward to getting more pictures for you guys. I've also got several pictures of some simple modifications that I did on my current "starter" smoker. I'll get that thread posted when I get the time--the pictures have already been taken.
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 08 13 9:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

4xAggie, depending on the type of door you want whether it is edge to edge or in some will determine what you do. I chose to have my door in some. Look at the opening you want and figure your wood will be about 20" long minimum and about 4" in diameter. My basket slides in and out of my door on rails about 4.5" above my floor. The top of my intake is 5" off the bottom. Most of my intake is below my coal base but I also wanted my fire as low as possible. So you figure a happy medium.
I hope this helps. Very Happy
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 08 13 9:01 pm    Post subject: Re: Work since Reply with quote

4xAggie wrote:


1. Cut out and attach end caps
-Question here: on the firebox/cooking chamber side, should I put in a full end cap, or can I get by with a partial circle above the firebox and then just tie the firebox directly to the cooking chamber pipe? I'm planning to skirt by with just a partial circle (I don't really have the steel for an end cap on that end), but I could be persuaded if you all think differently.

2. Cut/build firebox
-Depending on what you guys say above, I'm going to want to get this done before putting on the partial circle, so I can make sure the firebox and the partial circle meet up well.
-Also, I want to verify and check dimensions. Would you guys recommend upping the firebox to 24" x 24" x 24" (it would be about 3,700 in3 large--or 37%)? I'd probably be looking at 9 to 12 inches of clearance on the firebox whenever I get around to putting it on a trailer.

At some point, I'll get the trailer built and mounted, but, that's going to have to wait a while--I chose to buy the steel first, and I can't just go around buying everything at once.

Thanks in advance for answering any of the above questions. I'm going to be getting started this weekend (I can't wait for that!), so any good advice before I actually start cutting metal would be appreciated.

4xAggie, while I did read the part of having enough steel for the end cap but can be persuaded otherwise, I build my FB side end cap to include the backing for my FB so there is no mating up of the FB to the cooker. I finish the fab of the fb right on the cooker. Building it this way leaves me with only the original fit up of the cap, put my half moon intake right at the top of the firebox and everything squares up nicely, that's just me tho but it has been working fine. As far as the ground clearance once mounted to the trailer, for sure I would go with 10" min. Since you are using cad and can adjust your design at will, you can achieve this and keep your grate height where you want it, 37" has often been recommended to me. i offered the ground clearance advice once before on here but it was not needed as the gentleman lived in flat land. Here in Texas, many a BBQ is set up off the beaten path with the occasional bar ditch and gully to navigate, i like as much clearance as possible. Be sure to include the prerequisite grease lip on the FB in your design. Hope this was useful. Smile



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PostPosted: Sat Jun 08 13 9:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

kam: Thanks. I'm planning to do an offset much like the firebox on your competition cooker. Out of curiosity, what are its dimensions (overall, and door opening size)?


Wreckless: That build sure is neat and comes together nicely! I do like the single piece connector--and that had been my original plan. Unfortunately, I didn't make it home with a piece of steel that can serve as one--they are all 24" wide, which would be 1" short on either side of my 26" diameter pipe. TI&M wanted to sell me steel that was a little oddly sized, rather than a straight 4' x 8' sheet.

Oddly enough, I don't actually have a CAD model of this thing. I prefer to use spreadsheets and hand sketches.

Thanks again guys. Off to work now!
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 19 13 3:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I made it up to the ranch the last couple of weekends to get work done--sorry I was too busy to update last week.

Here ya go GF:


The weekend start with steel order #2. This should hold me over for a good while--another 950 lbs or so. After the first order, I wanted to get an idea for the distance my truck sags under the weight (about 3.5"):



The transport went nicely:


The unloading was interesting. Each of those .5" plates weighed 450 lbs, and we didn't have a great way to get the tractor under them. We used manpower and a wheelbarrow to tilt them over my bed, move them forward, and then get them to the cutting table. Then, we each took a side and moved them on the table. Not bad for a 79 year old man!


Next, I went to cut out the end caps (I wanted to get them on before I cut into the pipe). I decided to build a circle cutter jig that could be extended for bigger/smaller circles. I'm certain it slowed me down a bit (time to build and finish), but I know I got consistent circles (though the small ones were a little big and the big one was a little small).




I'm somewhat hesitant to put up this next picture, but it's the backside of one of the cuts. Obviously, it's not the cleanest. I was rusty, using a jig cutter, and I think a bigger torch tip than is called for. But, it's the result, and it's interesting enough.


I ground it smooth and used some motivation to knock the circle free:


The end products of the weekend:


Work Weekend #1 provided a sobering reminder: this takes a lot longer than you'd think--especially if you want to be picky--and a perfectionist.

Update from this past weekend upcoming![/list]
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 19 13 5:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

looks like you and dad did a great job man handling those plates. i think thats a pic of GF on your gloves Wink Very Happy

nice circle cutter...smaller tip or back yours down and save yourself a lot of grinding...chipping hammer your slag is all you need with a good cut...practice will be your friend cuz your in to it big now Cool
keep up the nice work.
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 19 13 8:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

4xAggie, I apologize I missed your last question about my firebox. Embarassed
My firebox is 27" square. The door opening is 21" x 21".
As far as the slag it looks like your tip was dirty or your travel was a little slow allowing your pieces to weld back on you, either way you adapted and overcame Wink Very Happy
I prefer to free hand all my cuts, the chances of the pipe being perfectly round is slim.
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 19 13 8:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

4xAggie, things are looking good. Very Happy

Take your time and don't try and rush it, everything takes longer than you figure sometimes. Rolling Eyes

I hope you bought your Pop a few beers for helping you with all that steel.

Enjoy your time spent with your Dad , building your cooker. When you're showing your grandkids how to run that pit, you aren't gonna remember every crappy fit-up, or weld you had to re-do, you'll only remember the good times with your Dad. Wink

BTW, I'm not the tillman man, I'm much greyer, besides I think that guy should be Chinese. Shocked
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 19 13 8:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

One reason to post the picture was to get feedback on it.

I'm hoping it was the tip for sure (not me just being rusty). My cuts never looked that bad in the past (like back in '09 when I was building the barn). The tip that was on there was a Victor 2 - 101 (I think--I know it was a 2), and I sent dad to the welding supply store and get me the right one--he came back with a 0. I cleaned it multiple times for each cut--so I don't think it was dirty (unless I wasn't cleaning it right).

The funny thing on the speed is that I kept loosing the cutting edge as I went around--I wanted to go faster, but if I went faster, I'd have to stop and restart.

You're probably right on not needing the jig. By the time I got the end caps on, I certainly used enough of the grinder to take care of any differences. But, it was fun to build--and I kinda like it still.

I had planned to build a makeshift track torch for cutting the firebox pieces. I'm thinking I may forgo that--we'll see how the first cut goes. It'll be one of the joints on the back/bottom.

K.a.m.--No worries. I haven't been going fast enough for that info to be needed--maybe this weekend.
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 19 13 8:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The 2 would've been my choice for .500. I use my 0-1-101 up to .375 and that is pushing it. For that cut I would have pushed my acetylene to the max at 15 psi and my oxygen at 40 psi.
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 19 13 9:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

GF: I wish on the beer for dad, but that's just not his thing.

So, the update for this past weekend:

I started off figuring out the 12, 3, 6, and 9 for the pipes to have the nicest parts of the pipe up front, and then trying to mate up the end caps for the best fit on the 12 to 3 areas.



Then my time with the grinder got started--I got the end caps and the pipe beveled, and got set up for the fits. I used pieces of rods to set up a gap--started with 3/32" and then went to 1/8" later. I wanted to set up an open root weld and see how I could do.
Bevel:
Setup:



Tacked:


First full rod burn of the project:


Getting the root pass in:


Not bad on the back--I could certainly do better with start/stops, but I also got in a little deeper at times than necessary. I'll clean it up later on when the doors are opened up.


6011 Root pass complete:


Joint Prep for the 7018 fill:


Man I love 7018s. This was the first one of the project.




All in all, I appeared to have retained my skills at putting beads together a little better than cutting:


I cleaned the welds up a bit, and realized that the remaining gaps would best be filled with a smaller rod (so I don't have to grind as much). This is where I left it after the weekend:



I did some pretty good damage to grinding wheels this weekend (this picture was taken before finishing--I killed the 2nd wheel and started on the Forney wheel before it was over).

And, I swept up a lot of dust before taking off:


I was tired on Sunday--hopefully the pace gets a little faster next weekend. After this coming weekend, I'm going to have to take a little break--my wife's friends have wedding showers and another wedding the next couple of weekends.
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 19 13 9:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
The 2 would've been my choice for .500. I use my 0-1-101 up to .375 and that is pushing it. For that cut I would have pushed my acetylene to the max at 15 psi and my oxygen at 40 psi.


That's good to know. I haven't cut into the 0.5" yet. The end caps so far have all been 1/4".

So, given that, are you saying the cut would have worked better with the 2 if I had bumped up the pressures like you said? Or, should I leave the 2 in for cutting the 1/2" and use the 15/40 pressures?
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 19 13 9:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

JM2C i run 7/8 acet...35 oxy i don't think i ever ran acet at 15 ever YMMV
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