Setting Up A Model Engineering Workshop In Thailand – Making A Steel Work Bench

Model Engineering In Thailand – A Prelude To Retirement Test

Where To Buy Welding Equipment, Power Tools And Steel In Pakchong (Pak Chong), Thailand

As I mentioned in an earlier Post this trip is meant to be a “Test” of whether I really want to retire in Thailand or not.

I’m not the type to sit around “relaxing”, or going to the bars and beaches. I’ve got to be busy.

So I had a large workshop built on the ground floor of our retirement house in Pakchong (Pak Chong) so that I can retire and follow my hobby of building working models of engines and suchlike. For example, steam engines, Locomotives, traction Engines and more as you can see on the Workshop page. Such a hobby is generally known around the world as “Model Engineering”.

So, as part of the “Test” I wanted to do some engineering work in my workshop to see:-

1. If I had the drive (inclination, energy etc) to do it.
2. If I enjoyed it.
3. What suitable tools and materials were available in Thailand to allow me to undertake such a hobby.

The result of the “Test” would be part of my decision to make a commitment to retire to Thailand – a decision not taken yet by the way, despite my huge investment in the land and house.

I decided to break the “Test” into two separate parts:-

A) To buy a lathe in Thailand (A major investment).

This is planned for 4th January.

B) To find a bench suitable to place the lathe on.

This bench would have to be very strong to carry the weight of the lathe.

Building the lathe bench is the subject of this Post.

Buying A Lathe Bench In Pakchong

The type of steel work bench I wanted is as shown in the photo below. This is a ready-made workbench (well you do have to assemble it) that is readily available by mail order in the UK. This particular version measures 1800 Long X 650 Wide X 880 mm High, and costs £192 (9,400 Thai Baht). Quite expensive, for a work bench I think.

Image of A Ready-Made Steel Workbench

A Ready-Made Steel Workbench

Before I decided to build the lathe bench myself I tried to locate one in Pakchong (Pak Chong).

Kanyah picked up a local person who our neighbour said “knew the area” and we drove around with here looking for workbenches.

The nearest we got was a light canteen table type workbench with folding legs. It would have done for light assembly work but was hopeless as a lathe bench. Asking price was 2,000 Baht. The shop had another one with broken legs so I wanted to know the price for both of them so that I could ditch the legs from the broken one and stick the bench top to the other on to beef it up.

They weren’t interested in selling the broken one cheap so I left the shop. 2 X 2,000 Baht = 4,000 Baht – far too much for a work bench not up to the job.

I ended up building a bench that cost more than that but at least it will do the job. Here’s the story, mostly pictorial.

The Starting Point – The Stainless-Steel Gate and Handrail Maker

Having drawn a blank looking for a ready-made workbench in Pakchong (Pak Chong) I asked Kanyah to take me to the back-street factory where they made our stainless steel gate and stainless steel balcony handrails.

I had been there last year when the gate was being made and I noticed the small welding machines they were using to weld the stainless steel. The welders were TIG welders. (Technical term) They also had (naturally, all other kinds of metalworking equipment – no lathe though).

Through my translator (Kanyah) I enquired where such equipment and the steel materials could be bought.

“Ying Ja Leum” he said and Kanyah immediately knew the “Ying Ja Leum” shop(s) in Pakchong (Pak Chong). These are two large “Builder’s Merchants” in Pakchong (and presumably across Thailand). She has spent many hours and many thousand of Baht in them when she was building our retirement house.

Anyway my logic was that the workbench I would be building would be steel and welded. If I could find the shop selling welders they would probably have the other tools I needed too.

So off we went to “Ying Ja Leum 1″ – the tool shop. They also sell water pipe materials.

Image of Ying Ja Leum Shop Sign In Pakchong (Pak Chong)

Ying Ja Leum Shop Sign In Pakchong (Pak Chong)

Yes, they had the welders but at around 15,000 to 20,000 Baht I thought they were a bit pricey.

Then I spotted a small gas welding kit of the type I had always wanted back in the UK. (But they were difficult to find).

The price was around 5,000 Baht including one fill of gas. (Two bottles – one oxygen, one acetylene)

They advantage for me – apart from the lower cost – was that gas welders are more versatile that arc welders – even TIG welders and can be used for brazing of none-ferrous metal like copper which is very useful in model engineering. Many model steam boilers are brazed copper construction.

I knew also that gas welders weren’t so good for heavy welding of steel. (I was soon to find out all about that!)

Anyway I went for the gas welding kit and moved on to the metal cutting machines.

Image of Looking Inside The Welding/Generators/Pumps Section Of The Ying Ja Leum Shop In Pakchong (Pak Chong)

Looking Inside The Welding/Generators/Pumps Section Of The Ying Ja Leum Shop

I bought a Makita cut-off machine and a Makita hand drill. Makita are the very best of these type of machines. The company is Japanese and the motors are very strong and well engineered. (I know because I have worked for Makita in the U.K. in my role in construction engineering).

I bought a few other goodies – couldn’t resist – I was in my element in this shop, then took all my goodies home.

Image of Ying Ja Leum Shop Inside The Power Tools Section

The Power Tools Section Inside The Ying Ja Leum Shop

Above, I bought two Makita power tools from this shop. One a cut-off machine and the other an electric hand drill.

Image of The Power Tools And Welding Equipment I Bought In The First Ying Ja Leum Shop

The Power Tools And Welding Equipment I Bought In The First Ying Ja Leum Shop

Above you can see the gas welding equipment and the power tools I bought in the Ying Ja Leum shop in Pakchong (Pak Chong), Thailand.

Image of The Makita Power Tools I Bought At The Ying Ja Leum Shop Includes A Hand Drill And A Cut-Off Machine

The Makita Power Tools I Bought At The Ying Ja Leum Shop

Above and below a close up of the power tools and welding equipment I bought in Pakchong (Pak Chong), Thailand to make a steel work bench for my model engineering workshop at our retirement house.

Image of The Gas Welding Kits But They Aren't Available In U.K. - This One I Bought At The Ying Ja Leum Shop In Pakchong (Pak Chong)

The Gas Welding Kit I Bought At The Ying Ja Leum Shop In Pakchong (Pak Chong)

Next we went to “Ying Ja Leum 2″ a shop selling steel and other building materials like roof tiles and so on.

I was amazed to see the huge stock of steel they had and how easy it was to buy it. Thrilled I was to have such a valuable resource so close to our retirement home. Just look at the vast selection of steel in the photos below.

Image of The Ying Ja Leum Shop Steel Stockholders In Pakchong (Pak Chong)

Steel Stocks On Show At The Ying Ja Leum Shop Steel Stockholders In Pakchong (Pak Chong)

Image Showing Another View Of The Ying Ja Leum Shop Steel Stockholders In Pakchong (Pak Chong)

More steel sections on show at the Ying Ja Leum Shop Steel Stockholders In Pakchong (Pak Chong)

Image of Hundreds Of Steel Off-Cuts Lying On The Floor At The Ying Ja Leum Shop Steel Stockholders In Pakchong (Pak Chong)

Steel Off-Cuts Lying On The Floor At The Ying Ja Leum Shop Steel Stockholders

Image of Loading The Steel For My Lathe Work Bench Onto The Pickup At The Ying Ja Leum Shop Steel Stockholders In Pakchong (Pak Chong)

Loading The Steel For My Lathe Work Bench Onto The Pickup At The Ying Ja Leum Shop Steel Stockholders

Then it’s back home and too dark by then to do anything but pack away my purchases.

Image of The Lathe Work Bench Steel Placed In The Huge Spare Room In The External Utilities Building

The Lathe Work Bench Steel Placed In The Huge Spare Room In The External Utilities Building

Building The Work Bench

Below, starting the build process, cutting off the steel sections to length.

Image of The First Set Of Steel Sections For My Home-Made Steel Model Engineering Work Bench

Steel Sections For My Home-Made Steel Model Engineering Work Bench

I’m not going to give a blow by blow description of this process, this is shown in the photos below, but here are some things I discovered:-

The gas welding kit was difficult to use and the welds were of lousy quality. Let me stress that this is the fault of the workman – ME – not the equipment.

The welder came with a number of nozzles of different sizes and I had no idea which one to use so I used the one fitted to the torch. Could have been too big or too small – I have no idea.

The problems I had were these:-

1. The welding rod kept “freezing” to the weld. Could be the welding rod was too thick for the size of welding rod I was using.
2. Insufficient penetration into the steel of the weld.
3. ‘Blow-throws’. i.e. holes burnt in the base metal.
4. No idea what gas pressures to set the regulators to. See below.
5. Cracks in the welds after thay had been left to cool. Seemed to me that i had been using too much oxygen and the steel had become ‘burnt’. (i.e. oxygenised when it would loose it’s strength)

Then there were some problems I can blame of the kit:-

1. The nozzles didn’t have their size stamped on them. I know that there are appropriate sizes of nozzles to be used with the particular thickness of steel you are welding. If I had the nozzle sizes I could have checked which one to use on the Internet.
2. I didn’t know the proper gas pressures to use for the particular nozzle i was using. See above.
3. The Oxygen gauge (after 3 days of welding!) indicated zero pressure and I thought I had run out of gas. But it kept working so it could be a gauge fault.

Image of The Steel Sections For The Metal Workbench Being Welded On The Garden Table

Welding The Workbench Sections Together On The Garden Table

Above, the garden table was an ideal height and strong enough to place the steel sections of the work bench to start the welding process. Shouldn’t really be using the lovely garden bench for this purpose but it had another advantage. All-round seating for me as I welded the steel sections together!

Image of The steel workbenck for my model engineering workshop turned upside down to weld on the steel work top

Finishing Off The Welding To My Steel-Topped Workbench

Above, I didn’t mention going back to Ying Ja Leum to but a piece of steel for the bench top. This is 3 mm thick and was paid for by weighing it. Can’t remember the prices for all this steel (nor the tools) but all the receipts are there in Pakchong (Pak Chong). If anyone is interested I can  look them up next time I go back there as part of my further Thailand retirement thearpy. (Likely to be early April this year)

Image of The completed steel model engineering workbench for my retirement house model engineering workshop in Pakchong (Pak Chong), Thailand, standing on it's own legs

The Completed Steel Model Engineering Workbench

Below is a close-up of one of the horrible welds I produced.

Image of Close-up photo of one of the welds made by the gas welding kit when building the steel work bench for my model engineering workshop

Close-Up Photo Of One Of The Gas Welds On The Steel Workbench

Painting And Wooden Finish?

I haven’t decided whether or not to paint the bench and whether to add a wooden top to it or not.

Let’s see how I get on with buying the lathe before I make these decisions.

I may buy a big lathe that comes with it’s own stand and then this bench will become a normal workbench with a wooden top.

The Conclusion Of The Test?

Did this exercise prove anything or not?

I think it did.

In addtion to building the lathe bench I bought a few other tools and shelves to put them on.

For the most part I enjoyed the exercise but am disappointed (so not happy) by the qualiity of the welds. For a project like this should have used an arc welder.

By showing that I can overcome the inertia of just “relaxing” and pushing myself (and most importantly getting Kanyah on my side) to go out and do crazy things then that’s a point proven.


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5 Responses to “Model Engineers Workshop In Thailand – Steel Bench”

  • Funk Pucker:

    how much was the steel price per kilo?

    and how much did you pay for the makita tools. I am also planing to built a shop in thailand for my retirement building all sorts of thing to stay busy:)

    [Reply]

    retiringinthailand Reply:

    Hi,

    Sorry I can’t remember the costs of the steel and Makita power tools I bought in Pakchong (Pak Chong). The receipts are in the model engineering workshop at my retirement house and I’m not there right now.

    I’ll dig them out when I’m there over Easter and post them on the website.

    Also a friend of mine in Bangkok has found a shop selling brass and other non-ferrous metals. I do have the price for that and I’ll post it on the website in a short while.

    Alan

    [Reply]

    retiringinthailand Reply:

    Hi,

    Sorry I can’t remember the costs of the steel and Makita power tools I bought in Pakchong (Pak Chong). The receipts are in the model engineering workshop at my retirement house and I’m not there right now.

    I’ll dig them out when I’m there over Easter and post them on the website.

    Also a friend of mine in Bangkok has found a shop selling brass and other non-ferrous metals. I do have the price for that and I’ll post it on the website in a short while.

    Alan

    [Reply]

  • PETE S.:

    Alan,
    This is a bit late. It looks like you have an Oxygen-Propane set up. This is the most common set up I have seen in Thailand.. Propane is cheaper and just about as good for heating and burning. But not for welding. Acetylene gas when it burns will shield the weld. Propane will oxidize the weld, Hot spots, burn through etc, Your welds do not look too bad if you were using Oxygen-Propane.
    Some folks have recommended using a flux when you weld with oxygen-propane
    I have seen a lot of the small tank setups, and have been tempted to get one,, Just not sure how to get the oxygen refilled.
    Pete

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    Hi Pete,

    Yes it’s Oxy-Propane I used for welding the bench. Pretty ugly welds but this was the first gas welding I have ever done since I was a young lad. I’m sure that with practice I could do a lot better. Those copper-coated welding rods really are good to keep the joint ‘fluxed’. I didn’t use a separate flux but it’s worth trying if I ever want to weld with oxy-propane again.

    The oxy-propane setup is good for brazing steel and I have brazed steel up to 9 mm steel with a strong joint. I also ‘unbrazed’ the same joint and remade it in a different orientation. Need a lot of gas though to get enough heat.

    The oxygen tanks are easy to get filled at least where I am in Pakchong (Pak Chong). In fact you don’t fill them you just swap them for a ready filled one. A friend said the small oxy-propane sets (and he has one) are intended for refrigeration engineers installing air-conditioners and the are used all over Thailand.

    I saw a movie on YouTube where the guy demonstrated that acetylene costs eighty (from memory – could be more) times more than propane.

    Now I have the electric arc sorted with the new welding mask this is my strategy:-

    Below 3 mm oxy-propane brazing.
    Over 3 mm electric arc welding.

    Thanks for your comments, Pete, please feel free to reply.

    Best Regards

    Alan Brown

    [Reply]

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