Blame should be placed on Chris
The last post in this series was the easy part of our creation, and probably the most boring part, hence the relative shortage of pictures. The following was not the easy part:
This was the point at which I decided that because I access to a welder, welding stainless steel was within our grasp. See, not only did we need to cut into the kegs to, you know, put stuff in ’em, but we also needed to be able to drain them and measure temperatures, etc. Plus, welding is probably the most masculine thing you can do (ever) and I feel a need to prove myself as such from time to time. So, we bought a roll of stainless welding wire along with a couple of valves and a screw-in thermometer to mount to the hot-liquor tank and mashtun. We then drilled mounting holes in the sides of the vessels, and I commenced to weld bulkheads (short pieces of pipe with threads inside) into the holes:
Yeah, I know, this looks really cool. It’s daylight outside in this pic, by the way.
The welds that resulted weren’t quite as cool-looking though:
That one’s in there small, but if you really must see the ugliness in detail, click on it. Yes, I’ve welded steel before, but never stainless, and as mentioned in the previous post, stainless acts funny when you heat it up. I learned later that one trick to welding stainless is to keep the heat of the welder up as high it will go without blowing a hole through the material, and feed the welding wire more quickly (thus moving across the weld surface faster) than you would with mild steel. This minimizes the slag and makes the welds look prettier than these did.
Still, no matter how pretty you can weld, stainless steel still needs grinding and polishing afterwards, with a brush made of stainless, to remove impurities so the welds won’t rust. Once again, we learned this later, and after about three days of the outdoor elements, they were rusty. I fixed that though…don’t worry, potential imbibers, about getting tetanus from our beer…and now they look like this:
What you’re seeing, then, are the cleaned and polished bulkheads, inside and out. It only took about three hours. That last one of the thermometer should illustrate the improvement! The welds still aren’t the best, and I think that the one on the mashtun leaks a little, but they’ve served us well so far. A quick thought comes to mind though: the welding wire, hole saws, and brushes used to complete this little part of the project set us back about $80, which is close to the same as an hour of labor at our local metal shop, Gem City Steel. They probably could’ve done all this work in about that amount of time. So, unless you already have a welder and really want to try your hand at this, I recommend paying to have it done, at least from a time, money, and headache standpoint. Which sounds to me, upon further rumination, like enough standpoints to sway any practical person. This is my problem sometimes.