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      With the help of Mar-K Quality Parts, we held a "virtual clinic" in our forms on " Making a Stovebolt Bed." Irwin Arnstein did just that -- a flat bed complete with a nice utility box. Click on the pictures to get a larger view. ~~ Editor

Irwin's fight song: "Where’s the fun in that?"
By Irwin "arnswine" Arnstein
1959 Chevy 1-Ton
Bolter # 2139
Garland, Texas
<< click images for larger views >> January 2006

      When I got my '59 1-ton, I had intended to retain the utility body and make a motorcycle race rig out of it. However, fate intervened and after a few broken bones, I decided I was too old, fat and stupid to race bikes. (Or maybe I am not that stupid after all!) So my needs with the truck changed. The box was in really bad condition with most of the floors in the tool cribs rotted out and all the chassis mounts were broken from the truck being shoved about by bulldozers in its previous life. At a penny a pound, I got $18.00 for the old box. So, I was glad to loose the excess weight.

      I soon settled on a flatbed of my own design with a few hints and suggestions from Stovebolters R Us.  Because of the wheel height (and despite the stiff one-ton springs), I knew I wanted to raise the deck up off the frame to clear the tires, and I wanted it to be the maximum useable size.  One-ton trucks have room for a nine foot bed, so that’s the length I used.  I also didn’t want it to stick way out past the sides of the truck, so I settled on a six foot width.  Once you get the basic dimensions down, you’re just about there.  You could just as easily go 7 x 10 or even more. 

      My main concern was to build this thing with off-the-shelf-steel using my little Century 125 GL Flux Core wire welder.  I am sure you could use an Arc or Gas rig, and maybe even bolt it together, but the wire welders are so easy to use that a chimp can weld these days.  (And it looks like it if you look at my rig.)  My local supplier (Garland Steel) had 6” structural C rails that are really heavy and probably can hold thousands of pounds. I had two cut to a 9 foot length.  I decided to use these on top of the frame rails to get the bed height that I wanted.  You could also use Box Tubing but I wanted something that would still be there "when they drop the big one."

      Don’t be surprised if the frame dips and bends a bit away from perfectly straight C rails.  That was the case with mine and I filled the gaps with 1/8 and 1/4 plate shims.  After I had the C rails sitting pretty on the frame, I could work on the stringers.

      To set the width, I had the shop cut me 10 box tubing "stringers" -- seven of which that would be laid across the 6” structurals.  These were 3/16” thick 2 x 2's.  I also had the shop cut me two 9 foot  3” wide 1/4" thick side plates that would be welded on to finish off the sides of the bed and provide universal anchoring points for tie downs.  One box tube defined the front of the bed and one box tube defined the end of the bed.  The other five were laid out evenly spaced (I think) with the spacing ending up at about 18” of space between each tube.

      Once the stringers were attached to the C rails and welded down, I then gusseted the stringers with 1/4 ” plate cut into triangles.  You can use a good 4.5” grinder to cut the plate and even the box tubing, but the C rails might be a bit much.  Chop saws are cheap at Harbor Freight and I have been using the same saw for years with no problems.  A good chop saw will save you a lot of time.  Now, for the price of materials and if you have to buy the chop saw (I already had one) might put you over what you could just buy and have dropped on to your frame. However, as my 89 year old Uncle Fred would say: “Where’s the fun in that?”  I also have a henrob 2000 majickq cutting torch that will cut almost as good as a plasma cutter and that was only $300.  I used that as well, but its not quite as clean as a chop saw. 

      By using 6” plate I only needed one Gusset on each side of each stringer to stabilize the rig.   The truck frame already had various 1/2 inch holes in it so I welded on side attachment plates from that 3” stock and drilled through them to secure the bed.  However, most commercial trucks use big U-bolts. I went to the local semi truck place, told them what I needed and had four big U-bolts punched up custom.  Didn’t cost much and now I have eight attachment points for my bed.  Remember what I said about the big one….?

      Once the skeleton was laid out, I then protected the cab and laid some Zero Rust black on the whole schmear while it was easy to get to.  I used my remote head tank paint gun which allows you to snake the head all around the bed to paint it.  Another cheapo from Harbor Freight that has served me well.  It’s a two quart cup and about a 2.5 foot dual hose to the spray head with one hose carrying air, and the other carrying material.  Use a liner and cleanup will be that much faster.

      I then built the header by cutting one of my extra stringers into two 3 foot lengths and welded them on to the front stringer by the cab.  I laid another 6 foot stringer on top of that and welded two 6” wide 1/4" thick 6’ long plates at the bottom and midway up on the flat bed header to protect the cab from shifting loads.   At that point, I also took those 3” wide 9 foot side plates and welded them on.  With all that welded together, it has to be really strong.

      For the rear of the deck, I welded on a 10” wide 1/4 plate cut six feet long and welded that to the rear stringer and to the C structurals along their outside straight edges.  I have the C’s facing the inside of the truck.  That big plate gives me great security while driving down the road, and serves as a billboard for my crank booger-eat bumper stickers.   To pull trailers, I measured the height of the standard trailer hitch off the deck and cut down the last stringer to make a U frame coming down from the structurals.  I have those welded to the 10” plate and to the structurals to make the lower bumper and hitch strong.  I also cut another pair of 3” wide 1/4 ” plate stock to make buttresses from the mid stringers to that bumper hitch. I welded a standard class three receiver to it.  I also welded on a 3” wide bottom plate with a few 1/2 ” holes drilled into it for safety chains.  My only crap weld was putting that receiver on when I tried to pull my jeep out of the mud and the receiver popped off.  I put a couple of massive welds on it the next time and did a better job of cleaning off the powder coat.  I then tested it by loading the truck up with 1000 lbs of wheels. I put in the trailer hitch and then jacked up the whole rear end by the end of that trailer hitch.  Bring on the Big One now!

      That only thing left was how to cover the deck and we've be ready for service.  At first, I bought a bunch of 3/16” thick steel diamond plate but it was hideously expensive and very heavy. Cutting it down from 4 x 8 sheets to make a 6 x 9 deck would be tough.  Plus it would be heavy.  Instead, I decided to use pressure treated wooden 2 x 12's (six of them) at 9 foot lengths to make the bed.  They are light and strong.  When I attached mine, I used carriage bolts around a stringer and then a bottom plate to secure them.  A better method would have been to use the same system as used on most Chevy trucks by holding down the ends of the boards with metal strips so the boards don’t warp. But I wasn’t that smart.  I’ll do that next time.

      Since 2 x 12's are really 1 ¾ x 11.5, you get gaps on the sides. But this turned out to be a good thing for two reasons.  First of all, you have space to run tie downs and hook them on the 3” side rails. You can weld in stake pockets. I did that (later on) and made myself some removable tongue and groove cedar sides topped with cedar 2 x 4's for hauling dirt, hay, garbage, whatever.  Side support 2 x 4's go into the stake pockets and the whole thing is deck-screwed together.  I have a removable tailgate as well which is held down by screen door hooks, but secured in 1 x 2 rails, making a groove for the gate to slide down.

      The deck has proven its strength a number of times by hauling over 3000 lbs of scrap iron.   My last modification was to move my brake lights by putting one on the front of the box as a bed light, and the other on the lower bumper stringer to serve as a back up light.  I might add some "ears" to the front of the bed on the headache rack to hold the cedar sides in a bit more.

The Tool Box

      As I said before, you could buy and mount a tool box to your bed. But (here it comes) where’s the fun in that?  A tool box can be made from a bunch of old angle iron, a cut up flat, a bit of 1/8” plate for a mounting surface and some 16 gauge sheet metal.  You’ll also need a bit of piano cover hinge for the front of it and a simple tab lock to hold the thing closed.  The tool box is very useful. I carry tools, my jack, tie downs, cargo net, and a big trucker’s chain to handle just about any situation. 

        I custom cut my secondary (read scrap) angle iron down to a size that would fit from my cab to the rear tire with about 6” clearance.  I cut the width to keep it about 2” off the frame and flush with the outside of the truck.  So I can’t tell you (because I don’t remember) what those dimensions are.   You’ll need four identical rails for width, height and depth.  Whatever turns your tires bro.  Just be sure to figure in ground and service clearances. 
        Once those are cut, weld them together into a box and put a few stringers across the bottom to prevent it from bulging.   The 1/8” plate should be welded in the top where your tool box will straddle a mid deck stringer.  The front of the tool box will have a couple of holes drilled through the frame into the stringers. You can then thread the bolts up into the stringer to secure it.  For the 1/8” plate, I used existing carriage bolts already holding down a bit of the deck.  Kills two birds with one stone. 
        When the frame was made and mounted, I then removed it and welded on the 16 gauge sheet metal sides and top.  The only bit laid inside the frame rails was the bottom.  The front was not welded on. Instead, I welded it to the piano hinge which was then welded to the front of the tool box.  Last bit on was the lock which secures the door in the closed position.  I have it so the door swings down and hangs under the tool box to be completely out of the way while you are accessing your tools.  

      Of course the first day out, a Dodge dually in the lane next to me hit a piece of rebar and blew a tire out. I heard a WHAM on the side of my truck. When I got out to look, I found a big gouge in the new tool box! Oh well, these things don’t drive right without at least one dent in there.

Thank you,

Irwin Arnstein
Bolter # 2139
Garland, Texas (Dalls)

v. January 2006

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