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Welding 101: Ultimate Guide to Welding for Beginners


Welding is a very useful skill. It can help us complete DIY projects. It can even save us money, since we don’t need to hire a welder for minor repairs. Some people have made a very good living out of welding. If you are interested in acquiring this handy skill, there are some things that you need to know to ensure your success!   


What is welding?

Welding is a process that joins materials. The materials often welded together are metals or thermoplastics. In this process, high heat is used to melt the parts together. The parts are then allowed to cool so that they can fuse together.


Welding is different from metal joining techniques that use low temperatures like brazing and soldering. Low-temperature techniques do not melt the base metal.


Aside from melting the base metal, a filler is usually added to the joint. This forms a pool of molten material. It then cools to form a joint. This joint can be stronger than the base or parent material.


Pressure can be used together with heat to produce a weld. A form of a shield can also be added to protect the materials. This way, the filler materials or melted materials won’t become contaminated.



What are the common tools and materials used in welding?


Safety Tools

Welding Helmet. Welders use an auto-darkening helmet. This protects the eyes from the light generated by arc welding. And it still allows the user to see when the arc of the torch is not active.


Welding Gloves. These gloves are thin but made with fire-resistant fabric. They allow the user to be more flexible when they weld.


Safety Glasses. These eyeglasses are colorless and not darkened like welding helmets. They are worn to protect your eyes from metal slag or shards.


Grinding Visor. This is a headgear that can protect your face from flying particulates. They are not darkened like welding helmets.



Safety Shoes. You need to use sturdy shoes to protect your feet. Use shoes that don’t have any synthetic materials that could melt. Steel-toe shoes are also ideal to protect your toes.


Coveralls. A coverall can help protect your body while you work. They are usually made from fireproof material. An added bonus is that coveralls have multiple pockets where you can store your tools. This allows you to keep your tools within easy reach while you work.


Ear Plugs. You need to protect your ears while welding and grinding. Grinding can produce loud noises. Prolonged exposure to loud noises can cause pain or temporary deafness.


Power Tools

Welding Machine. This is the machine that you use to weld different materials. There are several types of welding machines. They each have their own advantages and disadvantages.



Sawzall. This is a term generally used for reciprocating saws. They can cut through lumber, metal. Plywood, plastic and cast-iron pipes. They cut in a back and forth motion, just like a handsaw (https://www.familyhandyman.com/tools/diy-dictionary-sawzall/).


Angle Grinders. These are versatile tools that can grind metal. They can be used to cut tile, stucco, and pavers. You can even use them to sand, polish, and sharpen.


Miscellaneous materials

Welding wire. This is the wire that you feed to the welder. The welding wire gets molten to fuse the two materials you want to join.


Welding Cart. A welding cart is used to make your welder mobile. Welders can weigh up to 75 pounds so a cart can increase its portability.



Awl or carbide scribe. These are used to mark cut lines (https://www.popularmechanics.com/home/tools/reviews/a10186/worth-the-money-general-tools-carbide-scriber-16532819/).


Miter clamp. A miter clamp is used to secure joints before welding. This will prevent the two pieces from moving.


Chipping hammer and wire brush. These are used for cleaning up slag and spatter.


Welding pliers. These pliers are used for trimming the welding wire. They are also used to remove spatter from the welding-gun nozzle.



What are the different welding methods?

This is a vital part of the welding process. Before you start welding, you need to understand what you want to accomplish. This is because there are different welding methods. There is not one welding process that you can use for everything.


First of all, you need to know what type of metal you are welding. It is important to know how thick the metals you are welding will be. It is equally important to know how big the job is and whether you’re working indoors or outdoors. This information will help you determine the type of welding you will be using.


Shielded Metal Arc Welding (SMAW). In this type of welding, the welder follows a manual process of stick welding. It uses an electric current to form an arc between the stick and the metals to be welded together. It is often used in the construction of steel structures. SMAW is used in industrial manufacturing to weld iron and steel.  


Gas Metal Arc Welding (GMAW/MIG). Another name for GMAW is Metal Inert Gas (MIG). In this type, the shielding gas is used along the metal electrode. This heats up the two metals that are being welded. Constant voltage and direct-current power source are vital in this method (https://www.haynesintl.com/alloys/fabrication-brochure/welding-and-joining/gas-metal-arc-welding-(gmaw-mig-)).



This is the most common industrial welding process. It can use any of the four methods of metal transfer. It can use globular, short-circuiting, spray, or pulsed-spray.


Flux Cored Arc Welding (FCAW). This is an alternative to shield welding. It is commonly used in construction projects. This process has a high-welding speed and is portable (https://www.keenovens.com/articles/flux-cored-welding.html).


Gas Tungsten Arc Gas Welding (GTAW/TIG). This method is commonly used to weld together thick sections of stainless steel. It can be used to weld non-ferrous metals. This is another type of arc-welding process. It uses a tungsten electrodes to produce the weld. It is more complex and time-consuming compared to other welding methods (https://www.lincolntech.edu/news/skilled-trades/welding-technology/types-of-welding-procedures).


What are the basic steps in welding?

Preparing your weld

Gather your materials

Make sure that all of the tools and materials you need are on hand. Different welds require different materials and tools! You don’t need to take out all of your tools every time you weld.



Envision what you will be doing so you can anticipate the tools you need. Some welds will require the use of power cutting tools. But, if you’re welding materials that are pre-cut to specifications, you might not need your power cutting tools.


Ready the metals you will use

Readying your metals is not just about lining up the metals you will use. You also need to make sure that they are of the exact specifications that you require. It won’t hurt to measure them again just to be on the safe side.


If you have to cut the metal, mark a line using an awl or carbide scribe. You can cut along your marking using a metal-cutting chop saw, a sawzall, or a hacksaw. A grinder with a cutoff wheel is another commonly-used power-cutting tool.


Aside from making sure that the metals are precisely cut, you also need to make sure that they are clean. Use your wire brush to remove any dirt. You can use acetone to remove oils.



Grind the edges

Grinding is a way to ensure that the edges of the metal are smooth. However, you only need to grind the ones you plan to join. Let’s say you have a metal pipe but only one end will be joined. You only need to grind the end that needs welding.


For this step, you can use a right-angle grinder. This process is called chamfering (https://homeguides.sfgate.com/chamfering-deburring-98957.html). A chamfer is a bevel between the adjoining pieces of material. This is typically at 45 degrees. This creates a space for the filler. Chamfering provides greater structural integrity to your weld.


Position your metals

You can use your miter clamp of magnet square to position your metals. You need to secure the pieces of metal in the same plane before welding them. This will ensure that you weld them smoothly. This is a good way of preventing mistakes. You don’t want to have to separate what you have just welded only to weld them back to correct a mistake.


Layering your weld

Proper body and hand position

To be successful at welding, you need to have as few moving parts as possible. And you want your motion to be fluid and repeatable.



Whenever possible, hold the welding gun with both hands. You can use the wrist of your off hand to guide the hand holding the welder. This will help you keep a steady grip while you weld.


If you are unsure of the proper motion to use, you can always practice. Without turning on the welder, do a dry run. This is a simple way of making sure that your positioning is good. It is also a way of ensuring that the cord of your welder is long enough for what you want to do. This is the perfect time to reposition your welder if needed.


Tack welding

Tack welding is a major part of welding. This is a way of temporarily holding the components in the right location. It also ensures the metals you are joining are properly aligned. Tack welding is a way to make sure the metals are the correct distance apart (https://www.thefabricator.com/article/cuttingweldprep/how-to-perform-tack-welding-successfully).


In tack welding, you make several weld points between the two materials. It is a temporary weld so you don’t need to weld the entire length. The tack welds should be just enough to connect the base metals.



Imagine yourself wrapping a gift. You don’t tape the entire wrapper in one go. You first tape small portions to make sure that the wrapper won’t move. This is the equivalent of tack welding.


Before you start tacking, you need to check your welding gun. The wire electrode should stick out. The part that sticks out should be between ¼ and 3/8 of an inch. You need to make sure that the nozzle is clear of spatter. Check that the wire tip is clean.


Make the final bead

After successfully tacking the metals in place, lay down your final weld beads. Keep the weld gun at about a 75-degree angle to the base. You can then move slowly from left to right. Spend one to two seconds laying down each bead.


Make sure that you maintain a constant arc. Look at the edge of the weld puddle. When you reach the end of your weld, pull the electrode back from the metal. Allow it to cool.



Grinding your weld

This is not strictly a part of the welding process. However, this is a way of making your weld look good. You should grind the parts that are rough or have too much weld. Some people skip this step, especially if the welded piece won’t be visible.


If you want to have a smooth finish, you can use a 36-grit grinding wheel. Attach the wheel to your right-angle grinder. Grind along the weld path and not across it. This will ensure uniformity after you’re done.


Take your time as you grind. If you accidentally grind your weld, you will have to repeat the entire process. When you are grinding, you should see orange sparks. If you see blue sparks, it means that you are pushing too hard.


When done with this step, grab a zirconia flap disc. This will help you achieve precision shaping and finishing.



What can I do to make welding safer?

Read up

When it comes to safety, knowledge is the most important tool you can have. Educate yourself on how to properly use the tools that you will handle.


Remember that you will be working with tools that use extremely high heat. Some of the tools can cut you. Knowing how to properly use them will let you minimize the possibility of accidents and injuries.


Your welder comes with an operating manual. I know that most of us just throw those manuals away. However, they contain important safety information. Not only that, they also contain information that helps you to maximize the machine’s potential.


Make sure that everyone who will handle the welder, or any power tool has read the manual beforehand. Some will say that they’ve been welding for years and they know what to do. But each machine is unique.



If you have lost or damaged the manual, you can get in touch with the manufacturer for a replacement. Nowadays, manufacturers also have user manuals online. You can go to the manufacturer’s website and simply download a copy.


Cover Up

When you weld, you want to cover as much of your body as possible. Every inch of skin that is exposed is a weakness. Exposed skin is vulnerable to painful sparks or hot molten metal.


If your coveralls have pockets, make sure you button them up. Although coveralls are often made of fire-resistant material, the insides of pockets are not. A wayward spark can catch in your open pocket or even in your pant cuffs.


It is also best if you don’t keep flammable materials in your pockets when you weld. You’re courting disaster if you keep a box of matches or a cigarette lighter in your pocket while you weld.



Wear your safety gear

As much as possible, you should only wear fire-resistant clothing. This is required even if you’re just tack welding. Do not wear short pants or short-sleeved shirts.


Welding jackets or denim clothing are made from tightly woven material. They offer more protection against sparks or even hot metal.


Some don’t want to wear fire-resistant clothing because they can be heavy and cumbersome. They can also be hot and inflexible. Manufacturers know this. Therefore, most of the safety gear on the market are lightweight and breathable.


You always wear proper gloves while welding! Welding gloves are different from the ones used when riding. Or gloves used at home. Welding gloves are made to protect you from accidental burns. However, these gloves should never be used in picking up hot materials. You should always use pliers to protect yourself from burns when picking up hot materials.



Wear Safety Shoes

When welding, high-top leather shoes or boots are recommended. There are also steel-toed shoes that offer protection from falling metal pieces. Do not wear rubber shoes or shoes made of fabric.


Make a breathable workplace

The fumes and smoke that result from welding pose a threat to your health. When you work in confined spaces, you increase the possibility of toxic fumes or gases accumulating. Make sure that you work in an area where there is proper ventilation. You can even install an exhaust fan to remove the toxic fumes from your workplace (https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA_FS-3647_Welding.pdf).


Protect your eyes

You should wear a welding helmet to protect your face and eyes when welding. The helmet should have a proper filter shade. Remember that it only takes a moment of exposure to a welding arc’s light to damage your eyesight.


Even if you’re wearing a welding helmet, you should still wear safety glasses. Wear one with side shields and ear protectors.



Clean your workplace

You should always maintain cleanliness in your workplace. Dispose of any clutter before you start welding. Paper, plastics, and other combustible materials should never be kept near your welding area.


Keep all of your tools and materials in their designated places. If you won’t use them for a particular project, then they should be in the storage area.


When you’re wearing a welding helmet, your peripheral vision is limited. You might not be able to see everything around you. If you have bolts or pieces of metal lying around, you might accidentally trip on them.












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