There’s that feeling, when you realize that you can pretty much build anything you can dream up. It’s empowering. You’re no longer shackled to what others are selling. Don’t like the look of that outdoor table? You can build your own. Think that fire pit is too expensive? Build your own. You’re more than a welder, you’re a creator.
But, there comes a point for most welders when they feel like they should stop buying altogether and simply build everything they need. Why not? You know what type of quality you’re getting and you’re saving the cost of labor, right? It doesn’t take long to realize not everything is better to build yourself. Experienced welders know when it’s better to buy and when it’s better to build. Here are some critical tips to help you know if you’re really smarter doing it yourself.
Does the item have unique requirements or specifications?
Shelving units are a common first project. You’ve got a bunch of tools or boxes that need a home and you think, “Hey, I can build a shelf. And I can do it cheaper and better too then if I bought it.”
After way more measuring and careful construction then you anticipated, you’ve got yourself some shelves. But then you do the math. The cost of materials alone was almost the same price if you just bought a brand new unit. Plus the shelves you built are five times heavier and lack any protective coating to keep the rust off.
The truth is that manufacturers can buy materials at a fraction of the price by ordering them in bulk. In the end, every welder is immensely proud of the shelves they fabricated themselves, whether it saved money or not. But after the first one, most welders tend to buy shelves rather than build their own (when they don’t need anything special).
The main thing to consider is how custom your project needs to be. A generic shelf that doesn’t require a specific style or shape and just needs to hold boxes can be mass-produced and sold at a cheap price. On the other hand, if you need a custom shelf designed to hold specific tools or fit within exact dimensions, building your own is probably the best option.
The same principal applies to almost any welding project. From worktables to carts for your welding machines, unless you need something customized, the smart move is to do the math and make sure building your own actually saves you dough (because it’ll definitely cost you more time then clicking a few buttons).
Repairs vs. Building from Scratch
Unless you’re customizing your own trailer, it’s generally not cost-effective to build one yourself. But repairing your own equipment can be quite a money saver. The reason is that unlike brand new items, most repairs can’t be massed produced. If you’ve ever worked on a farm, a majority of your efforts might have been geared towards repairs. It’s often not cost-effective to build your own livestock gates from scratch, but it’s generally easier and more cost-effective to repair a broken one yourself.
The trick here is to know your limits. We’re all familiar with that welder who has eyes bigger than their stomach. They’ve got a yard full of projects they’re planning on repairing; they just need the time and the right equipment. A friend bought an aluminum boat with a number of dings and holes. His weathered sea craft was much cheaper than a brand new boat would cost, but he didn’t have the necessary equipment to fix it himself. Luckily, he was smart and bought the machine he needed online, taking advantage of a promotion to get the best price. With the cost of equipment, he ended up not saving too much, but he did end up with a working boat AND a brand new TIG machine.
In some cases, the cost of repairs might be more than it’s worth. For unique items like classic cars or custom items that can’t be easily repurchased, repairs are often still worth the investment. With other items like the aluminum boat we mentioned, it’s important to know what a new one would cost so you can gauge if repairs are really worth your time.
Time is money, but also money is money. You can pay a lot more by going down to your local big box store for your equipment and consumables compared to getting them online. Sure, if you don’t buy online then you get it today, but you also paid a whole lot more. With a little thinking ahead, you can get everything you need delivered to your doorstep for a better price. If you’ve read this far into the article, then you obviously get it. You owe it to yourself to check out the best prices on the web with welding supplies from IOC. When you throw in our free-to-join loyalty program, you’re getting the best deal possible. Click here to see for yourself.