I’m not sure what the original steps down into the engine room were made of, but when I found this Roamer 46 they were made of two greasy 2x4s screwed to a couple of mahogany sticks. I have a hard time believing Chris Craft did that, but who knows? I found some leftover aluminum tubing and sheet while cleaning up during the conversion of Tent Model X to Model XXX, and l figured I might as well kill two birds with one stone–make a better set of steps and get some aluminum welding practice. It’s a lot different than welding steel, and I’m a rank amateur at that.
I’ve been really impressed with this Trailblazer. With my Spoolmatic 30a MIG gun, it worked great welding the new propeller shaft strut barrels in and on other projects. Then it sat unused for a year while I focused on other things, including dealing with the aftermath of the bastard thieves who stole all of the parts, materials, and tools on the boat back in 2014. A little solar charger keeps the battery topped up, but I expected it might have trouble starting. But–good news! I hit the starter for 10 seconds and she ran great!
For short welds like this it would be nice to have a TIG machine, but I don’t do enough welding to justify buying one and spending the time learning how to use it. So I’ll just get ‘er done with my spoolgun.
I hit the joint with a flap disk to clean off the mill scale and surface corrosion, then wire brushed the area with my “aluminum only” stainless brush before starting the weld. It would have been better to hit the whole area with the flap disk. I’ve learned that aluminum is very sensitive to contamination in the weld area–way more than steel.
I’ll tie in a second set of side rails and rungs, then add 3/16″ plate for the steps.
A couple of tack welds would have sufficed for the step plate-to-rung weld, but I ran continuous beads to practice my technique. I don’t have the smooth hand that good welder pros do, but this is a non-critical application and the continuous bead should make up for shortcomings in my technique.
Got a bit of undercut on the right side of the weld in the pic above, but it’ll be fine for a set of ER steps.
The piece of wood on the left of the above picture was one of the mahogany stick uprights for the previous steps.
Unfortunately, I ran out of Devoe 235 epoxy primer, which is what I’ve used as a surface coating in the engine room. Worse, the local distributor stopped carrying Devoe, so now I’m trying to find another local source. The cost of shipping from the regional supplier is more than than the gallon kit itself, because it has a government-mandated “HAZARD” sticker on the can. That, and a few other things, got me wondering how many boat refits stall because of the cost added by government regulation? That said, I’m not going to let a gallon kit of epoxy kill this project. I’ll just paint the steps later. For now, they’re a great improvement over what was there before.