Doing It The Hard Way - JL Steering Box and a Front Stretch

Alright finally another update. I've had a pretty serious cold for the past two weeks but have been trying to keep making slow and steady progress regardless.

I got the section of the frame behind where the steering box mounts cut out. I think I have pictures of what I had before earlier in the thread somewhere but I just wasn't happy with how I did the reinforcements, nor the welds. This was kind of a pain but the finger sander really helped in the tight quarters.

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No wasting cutoff wheels here
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As you can see in this pic (and the first one), I made slits in the top part of the frame and bent the top face up 1.25". After doing so, I cut out 11ga/.120" internal fish plates to help fill in the gap and retain strength. The plates were then fully welded all the way around on the inside of the frame. I had to do them in multiple pieces to actually be able to fit the welding torch in there though.
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I wasn't really taking a lot of progress pics but you can see here how more plates were added to extend into the front frame section, and the pie cut was filled in with 3/16" steel then fully welded and ground smooth.
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Closer look at the smooth welds, and a peek at how the fish plates attach to the front part of the frame.
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On the steering box side, I filled in that section with a 1/4" plate, a 3/16" step to meet the frame, and a 11ga piece behind. Each piece was fully welded on both sides with lap joints, so it should be pretty strong.
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And here is the frame piece welded back on. I had to stop here because my welder was hitting its duty cycle and wouldn't let me keep going. Tomorrow will be lots of grinding, probably.
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There is a lot riding on my welds at this point, but I think I've done a decent job making sure to get good penetration and have each joint reinforced by backing plates on top of the fully chamfered butt welds, all while not being too excessive with adding huge amounts of material.

I mean here are some welds the factory considers acceptable. I think mine will be fine.
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I think my Jeep was the last one to roll through the factory on a Friday
 
Got all the welding finished and got the passenger side fully ground smooth. I'd say it looks pretty decent. Not perfect, but you'd have to know what you were looking for to tell it was modified.
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I was able to weld about half of the edges of the fish plates to the front of the frame by accessing it through the bottom that is still open. Not pretty though, I was upside down and couldn't see. Probably wasn't necessary but I feel even better about the strength now.

I might do something similar for the rear if I do the butt crack delete.
 
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Made little filler gusset pieces to go between the shock towers and coil buckets. Should help support the coil bucket and makes it look a little nicer.
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Spent a while cleaning up welds today and filling in any gouges on the underside of the frame. Never much fun grinding and welding upside down.

I went ahead and cut the tacks holding on the driver side frame control arm mount. It had been getting brake fluid dripping into the seam for the past year and was collecting gobs of grinding dust too. I noticed some rust so I wanted to clean it up before welding it on permanently. Used the C clamp as a positioning stop so I put it back in the right spot.

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