Saturday, October 12, 2013

Construction of the Plain Cactus Tool

Update 7-30-15:  The new website is fully operational.  It has all the information,  photos,  and videos anyone could ever need.  It is a turnkey site for selecting,  customizing,  and purchasing a production tool.  Shipping is available,  so sales of plans have been discontinued.  Some additional parts and labor have been farmed out to appropriate vendors,  to adjust to higher production rates,  so prices posted previously are now obsolete.  Go to

The following illustrates construction of the plain baseline cactus tool, the “Kactus Kicker”, as I have been building and selling them recently, up through S/N-054. From S/N-055 on, they are basically identical, except for a change in the snout braces, and a change to the chain towers. I have indicated these changes as an option on the last few sets of plans that I made to sell. You should have fabricated all of the piece-parts before you ever start this assembly process, of course.

One needs a reasonably well-equipped shop in which to build these tools, because the major parts and the finished tool are so bulky, heavy, and dangerous to handle. I use a set of steel fabrication horses (“fab horses”) made uniformly, and to support 1000+ pound loads anywhere along their spans. See Fig. 1, which illustrates two sets of 3 fab horses, one set of 3 per tool. These photos were taken during the construction of S/N-053 and -054.

Figure 1 – Fab Horses Upon Which Two Tools Will Be Built

Two of the fab horses are placed parallel, centered beneath the overhead hoist, about 5 feet apart. The tool chassis will rest on these. The third is initially out-of-the-way, but will support the snout as it is assembled to the center of the leading edge. Mark the leading (LE) and trailing (TE) edges on the top and bottom of the tool, as shown in Figure 2. I use a soapstone for this. Then flip it upside down for the installation of the crush rail and skids. As it shows in Figure 3, you should have ground the cut ends of the rail “reasonably smooth”. The figure shows what that means.

Figure 2 – Marking the Top Surface

Figure 3 – Rail Cut Ends Need to be Ground “Reasonably Smooth”

You skip-weld the rail to the deck plate 5 places, each side, with the rail flush to the TE, each skip weld about 5 inches long, for a total of 10 welds. If the rail has a wear lip protruding on one side of the head, that lip should face to the TE. I use 7014 rods 5/32 dia for this, DC positive electrode, about 130 amps. You weld down both sides of each skid the same way. I use a piece of ¼ flat as a shim to get the skid overhang “just right”, as shown in Figure 4. Figure 5 shows the bottom welding in progress as an overall view.

Figure 4 – Shimming the Correct Overhang for the Skids

Figure 5 – The “Bottom Welding” of Crush Rail and Skids

Then flip the assembly over for the top welding, shown in Figure 6. The ballast bar is a 1x6 flat 8 feet (96 inches) long, flush to the TE, which places it right over the crushing rail. It is skip-welded 5 places each side, just like the crush rail. This is also the time to assemble the barge front braces and weld them down to deck, although that process is incomplete in the photo. I use 7014 5/32 for all of this, as all the welds are nearly horizontal. The deck with crush rail, ballast bar, and barge front braces is the “common chassis” that I now use for both the plain tool, and for the hydraulic wheeled set of options that is the current version of the “commercial-grade” tool.

Figure 6 – “Top Welding” Begun with Ballast Bar, Barge Front Braces Are Next

Next, you put the 1.5-inch thick shims under the LE on each fab horse (see Figure 6 again, mine are made of 1-inch square tube, 1/2x1 flat, and some 1x1x1/8 angle), and position the third horse out the centerline of the LE. The shims are required to get the correct angle relationship of the deck and the snout assembly.

Figure 7 shows the snout plates, snout tube, and the older-style snout braces being tack-welded in place. These braces made of angle have been replaced by triangular gussets from S/N-055 on. You also tack the chain towers to the ballast bar, as shown in Figure 8. These are the older square tube chain towers with small gusset braces. From S/N-055 on, I have replaced these with a three-piece chain tower made of channel. You also place the barge front plates onto the overhanging skid ends, and tack them in place to the deck and the snout tube.

Figure 7 – Tacking the Snout Assembly In Place for Continuous Welding

Figure 8 – Tacking the Chain Towers In Place for Continuous Welding

Figure 9 shows the angle-type snout braces being welded in place, along with their square-plate gusset braces. This is in-close vertical-weld work. I have been using 6011 rods 1/8 dia for this, at about 90-100 amps, DC positive electrode.

Figure 9 – Welding-In-Place the Snout Braces

If you raise the back edge of the tool as shown in Figure 10, you can do easy horizontal welds of the barge front plates to the deck and to the snout tube, with the 7014 5/32 rods. The barge front is skip-welded to the deck 3 places each side, 5 inches per skip weld. The welds to the snout tube are continuous.

Figure 10 – Tipping the Tool to do the Topside Welding

If you then tip the tool LE-up with the hoist, as in Figure 11, the continuous welds along the barge front plates to the deck become horizontal enough to use the 7014 5/32 rods. So also the weld between the two snout plates becomes a horizontal continuous weld. These welds are not laying flat, but you can still do it, because you are not trying to push your puddle upward (which can be done if you have the room) or downward (which cannot).

Figure 11 – Tipping the Tool to do the Bottom-Front Welding

Update 3-21-16:  I have revised the construction process with a separate jig for plain and hydraulic snout tack-welding,  so that all the plates and gussets can be welded up before installation onto the tool deck.  I also no longer tip the tool snout-up to do the bottom welding.  Instead,  I tip it snout down until I flip it entirely upside down to do the bottom welding,  then flip it through snout-down the other way to turn it right-side up again.  This has proven to be both more effective and safer. This applies to both plain and hydraulic tools. 

From this point, there is just painting, and rigging with the tow chains, which have been covered in another article (see list below). I let the paint dry 3 days before rigging, just to let it get hard enough to handle without scarring the finish. The idea is to cover all welds on the bottom surfaces to prevent corrosion. Then paint all the upper and forward surfaces, just to make it look “pretty”.

Other Related Articles on this Site (date highlighted on this one)

2-9-17....Time Lapse Proof It Works cactus being crushed and composted
7-30-15......New Cactus Tool Website
...................turnkey site for info,  photos,  videos,  purchases
1-8-15……Kactus Kicker Development
………………production prototype & 1st production article
1-8-14……Kactus Kicker: Recent Progress
…………..….testing a revised wheeled design (experimental)
10-12-13..Construction of the Tool
………………building a “Kactus Kicker” (plain tool)
5-19-13…….Loading Steel Safely
……………….transport and storage of materials
12-19-12…Using the Cactus Tool or Tools
…………… the tool is employed (applies to any model)
11-1-12….About the Kactus Kicker
..…………….painting and rigging finished tools (plain tool)
12-28-11..Latest Production Version

………………new bigger snout and barge front (plain tool)

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