Professor Hammer’s Metalworking Tips

Q. I have a 1967 Chevrolet C10 shortbed and I want to clean up the look of the rear bumper and tailgate area. My tailpipes hang down below the bumper and I plan to radically lower the truck, so in their present location they will be too low to the ground.

I’m looking for ideas on rerouting the exhaust to get a cleaner look. Any suggestions will be appreciated!
Mark Lawrence
Via email

A. You have a lot of choices for rerouting your exhaust pipes. Some people end the pipes in front of the rear wheels, and you can even make an opening in the bed side to keep the entire exhaust system tucked up high, giving a very clean look from a sideview.

It’s more common to have the exhaust exit behind the rear wheel, and again, there are several options for this. The exhaust outlet can be tucked up tightly against the bottom of the bed side, or it can be raised up so it is concealed with a round or oval hole in the lower bed side for the tip of the exhaust to exit.

One of my favorite ways to integrate the exhaust outlets with the style of the truck is to have them go THROUGH the rear bumper rather than hang below. Exhaust pipes are round, of course, but you can buy or fabricate tips of any size and shape you like. The accompanying photo shows a unique solution, with trapezoidal exhaust tips that are integrated into a custom-fabricated panel. This panel is recessed into the rear bumper, and painted with a contrasting color.

I saw this truck at the Detroit Autorama earlier this year, but didn’t get the owner’s name. Nevertheless, there are lots of ideas here that could be used to make a real statement with the styling on the rear of any pickup truck. Check out the trim with the Chevrolet lettering in the middle of the tailgate. Another unique touch that helps to give the truck a very contemporary look.

Q. What should you look for in an auto-darkening welding helmet? I see there is a wide price range. Are the expensive/brand name ones really worth double the cost of the offshore ones? How can the lens darken fast enough to protect your eyes from burns when nothing travels faster than light?
Peter Lutz
Via email

A. I don’t know how to rate all of the auto-darkening welding helmets on the market. The problem with anything imported from Asia it that there is a wide range of quality (from quite good to very poor), and it’s difficult to sort the good products from the bad ones. If you buy a “name brand” helmet you can be assured it has passed through extensive quality-control testing. With something as vital as my eyesight, I wouldn’t want to take a chance on ANYTHING that might compromise my vision!

The better helmets darken within a few milliseconds, which experts say is fast enough to prevent any eye damage. I’ve been using an auto-darken helmet for over a decade with no negative effects, and I’ll never go back to a “standard” one because of the tremendous advantage of not having to “snap” my neck to lower the helmet each time I start welding.

Many newer welding helmets have a lens that transmits color in a much more natural way, avoiding the green tint that was characteristic of the older lenses. Many people report this gives them less eyestrain, and having more natural color enhances the contrast of everything seen through the lens, making it easier to see the weld seam even in situations where the lighting may not be ideal.

You can email your questions to Professor Hammer [email protected] or mail a letter to Covell Creative Metalworking, 106 Airport Blvd., Suite 105, Freedom CA 95019. You will receive a personal reply. Ron Covell has made many videos on metalworking, and they can now be STREAMED or DOWNLOADED from his website! Check these out at, along with his ongoing series of workshops held across the nation, or call for a current schedule of workshops and a free catalog of DVDs. Phone (831) 768-0705. Also, check out Ron’s YouTube channel:

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