There is a jig tool that has been sold at least a dozen times on eBay for welding the 9 inch housing. What you do is buy it cut your housings and weld them up and then re-sell the jig. It is a good tool and it has been passed around a lot. It is not up there right now but keep looking and it will be back up soon. I think that there is a post up here somewhere with a fellow hotrodder using a similar (or the same) jig. As far as the 9 inch axles go I have never seen a pair that were a smaller diameter anywhere on the axle then the splined area. The spline area is the smallest diameter on the axle. This is why they are so easy to re-spline. I am not saying that there isn't any out there I'm just saying I haven't seen any and I have converted at least twenty cars to 9 inches. Taller buckets are an option but not so tall that they can bump each other and believe me you will be surprised how far a coil spring will compress. You can also buy a bucket from some of the circle track supply houses that has a threaded ring for adjusting ride height. As far as the cables they are insurance because you still need something to keep the travel from over extending and that is why I use a cable up the center. I don't like to rely on the shock to stop the travel. I have seen even the best ones with 5/8" shafts pull apart. Plenty of European sport cars and even the early corvettes (before IRS) used a strap bolted to the frame and then looped around the axle housing to keep the suspension from over extending. When over extending occurs all kinds of bad things can happen: u-joints bind and snap, drive-shafts can go flying, pinion shafts and yokes are broken, it's not a pretty sight. Oh and while we are on this subject I strongly advise a drive shaft containment loop. Poll vaulting was fun when we were kids but it's an ugly thing when you do it with the drive shaft in your favorite hotrod.