How to Make Custom Exhaust Tips
How hard can it be? An exhaust tip looks to be such a simple thing to make. Take some sheetmetal, roll it into a cone, weld it up, and you’re done, right? Well, it’s not quite that easy, as we learned from observing Jeff Johnson of Accurate Mobile Welding in Upland, California. We watched as he rolled up some stainless cones for Larry Jacinto’s ’41 Willys pickup being built at the Veazie Brothers’ fabrication shop in Pomona, California.
Although it is possible to purchase exhaust tip—or “cone”—components from a supplier such as Cone Engineering in Los Alamitos, California, the Veazies thought it would be better to make them from scratch and add a rolled edge in the process.
Making exhaust tips is a task that almost anybody can attempt in their own shop or garage, but it does require some experience, skill, and quite obviously access to specialized equipment such as slip rollers, hand tools, and of course the ability to TIG-weld. It may not be a job for everybody.
Larry Jacinto is having this rad, Jimmy-blown, LS-powered ’41 Willys pickup built by Veazie Brothers Fabrication in Pomona, California, but Jeff Johnson of Accurate Mobile Welding came in to build some stainless steel exhaust tips—here’s how.
Trust Your Template!
Jeff began his task of making two identical exhaust tips for Larry Jacinto’s ’41 Willys pickup where most of us start: on the floor with a sheet of cardboard making a template of the cones.
The template’s shape was transferred to 18-gauge stainless sheet then cut out with a die grinder. Be sure to wear gloves and glasses and retain the material’s protective film.
Using a flat file, Jeff made certain the edges of his pieces were perfectly straight; this will save him time later when welding the joint.
Jeff double-checks his work by holding one piece of metal against the other.
Starting the Exhaust Tip Coning Process
The coning process was begun on the larger of the Veazies’ two slip rollers. This Birmingham brand with 3-inch rollers is made by Penn Tool Co., in Maplewood, New Jersey.
Because of the way the slip roller works, it tends to roll the metal out of square, and here Jeff used a lead hammer to keep the metal square within the rollers.
Here you can see how the sheet can get out of square if you do not constantly pay attention and knock it back into shape.
Here, the two exhaust tip cones are coming together, but you can see there is still a long way to go. Notice that the protective film is still in place.
To roll the cones ever tighter, Jeff moved over to the small Roper Whitney Pexto bench-top slip roller that has 2-inch rollers.
Once Jeff determined that the exhaust tips were rolled about as tight as they would go, he dropped some hose clamps over them and began to tighten them down.
Hose clamps, cable ties, Jeff used whatever was on hand to get the cone closed down before pulling back the protective film prior to tack-welding.
Tack-Welding the Exhaust Tips
You can clearly see here that the seam of one exhaust tip has been tacked every inch or so while the other cone is almost ready to tack—the cone just needs to be closed down.
Being very careful not to distort the shape, Jeff TIG-welded the seam every inch or so.
Once the two exhaust tips had been welded along the seam, Jeff began work on the rings for the ends using 3/16-inch stainless steel bar.
Moving to the Slip Roller
At one end of the slip roller, there are small grooves designed just for the task of rolling bar stock. Again, care is needed to keep the job square.
Jeff used a tape measure to keep track of the diameter of his rings. In this case the cones were just under 4 inches in diameter at the big end.
Put a Ring on It
Here, the ring has been slipped over the cone to make sure it’s a good fit. Because the ends of the bar remain flat after rolling, Jeff overlaps them before making the final cut.
After carefully welding the rings together, Jeff drew around them and adjusted them until they were perfectly round.
Jeff slipped the rings over the exhaust tip cones and checked for roundness again.
Jeff tends to use whatever is at hand to get the job done, and in this case, he used the counterweight of the metal brake to make sure the cone was perfectly round.
In short order, Jeff had two perfectly round exhaust tips and two perfectly round rings positioned so that he would only need the smallest bead of weld to seal the joint.
Welding, Sanding, and Blending
After tacking the rings into position, Jeff welded them in place using the metal of the cones as the filler.
After the rings had been welded onto the ends of the cones, Jeff used a disc sander to make sure the ends were flat and uniform. Any imperfections were filled.
Jeff then used a small air-powered wheel sander to knock off the sharp edge left by the disc sander.
Next, Jeff used a 3-inch-diameter wheel mounted in an electric drill to blend the joint.
Once the cone ring had been nicely cleaned and blended, Jeff worked on cleaning up the longitudinal weld while giving thought as to where to position it to be inconspicuous.
Working On the Other Side of the Exhaust Tip
Moving to the other end of the exhaust tip, Jeff used a ball expander in the hydraulic press to slightly flare the end of the tube to exactly 3 inches.
The end of the cone was flared slightly using the ball expander so that it could be easily welded to the 3-inch exhaust.
Here’s one of the finished exhaust tips with the ring on the exit end and a short length of 3-inch tube welded on the inlet end.
Connecting to the Exhaust System
Before the cones were welded to the existing exhaust system, Jeff was very careful to make sure the existing pipework was correctly located either side of the quick-change axle.
Using some angle iron and clamps, Jeff checked the exit end of the exhaust tips to make sure they were correctly located, too.
Once he had checked and double-checked that the exhaust system and the cones were in exactly the right location, Jeff welded the cones to the existing pipe.
This worm’s-eye view shows just how rad the cone-shaped exhaust tips look when welded into position.
From the top side, the finish is just as clean with the lip on the exhaust tips matching the lip of the rolled pan—something we will cover in another story.
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