I've bought a cheap reactive welding helmet - a Parweld XR914H. You can see through it normally until you strike up an arc, then the LCD panel in the front instantly darkens to shield your eyes. It's solar powered so you don't need to remember to change the batteries, and you can control how opaque it is when activated by turning a knob on the side. I've welded a few test pieces with it and found that it allows me to see what I'm doing much better, and as a result I can produce significantly neater welds with it. Still not perfect, but I suspect my use of CO2 instead of Argoshield gas might be another part of the problem. I'm planning to try to get hold of a bottle of Argoshield this week to see if that will finally let me make neat welds without needing to spend ages grinding them down afterwards.
I asked my dad to pick up a sheet of 1mm steel last week for me to make my new heater from, as well as some patches for the door bottoms. Unfortunately he has a strong aversion to purchasing new materials even when somebody else is paying, and as a result he's still umming and ahing over maybe possibly being able to buy half a sheet from somebody he knows at some indefinite point in the future if some deal comes off at work... I'm tempted to put the roof-rack on Fenchurch and go pick a sheet up myself, but the weather is very changeable at the moment and I really don't want to risk being caught outside in the rain until after I've sorted out the rustproofing and treated the wood. I know the suppliers often do a delivery service, but they usually charge a large per-delivery fee that's more geared up for people who want half a ton of metal delivering rather than a single sheet. So when on Friday I spotted somebody had dumped a set of steel shelves made from sheets of 1mm steel bolted to lengths of Dexion in the back yard of a boarded-up house near my office, I rushed out and grabbed them. Unfortunately they were covered in years of accumulated food gunge. They were really skanky. I suspect one of the local takeaways dumped them because they were expecting a visit from a health inspector. I hosed them down, and the very loosest of the gunge came off. I unbolted them, covering my hands in slime in the process, wrapped them up in bin bags, and took them home on the bus. I scrubbed them with hot soapy water, which didn't do very much. I pressure washed them, which took off the softer gunge but left the hardened grease behind. It also stencilled five large rectangles into the surface of the algae-covered concrete drive (doh!), so I wound up spending most of Saturday morning pressure-washing the rest of it to match. I finally managed to get them clean by spending a couple of hours scrubbing them with a wire brush and a solution of caustic soda. Oh well, at least I have some metal now, and I'm doing my bit for recycling in the process :)