Welding is an incredible pastime, but unfortunately it can also be an intimidating one for newbies, which makes sense. After all, welding unleashes an incredible amount of power, with the heat and light of a welding flame able to top that of the surface of the sun. Naturally, if you are a newbie to the whole process, handling that much power in the palm of your hands can be more than a little intimidating!
However, it can also be intoxicating! Who wouldn’t find the idea of controlling that much power or being able to bend metal to your will exciting?
The fact of the matter is that, yes, there are a lot of rules that go into making welding work, and you need to keep track of them to stay safe, lest something catastrophic happen. That said, learning those rules and getting started in welding can actually be a lot easier than you think.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at a few tips and tricks you as a newbie can take to heart to make your entry into welding that much easier.
Pick the Right Type of Welding
Did you ever play an instrument when you were very young? If so, chances are you started off with a recorder or some similarly inexpensive and easy to use instrument. Most children don’t start off playing the violin like Paganini, and similarly, most new welders don’t begin their careers with the craft by taking up the hardest forms.
For most people, that is stick welding, or TIG welding. There are many reasons why this is harder and more expensive, from the proximity to the intricacy.
What’s important for our purposes, however, is the fact that you need to make sure that you start your welding career with a technique that is easier to manage. After all, part of the reason we start children off in recorders in music is that they’re pretty easy. The last thing you want for someone new to a practice is for them to get frustrated and quit. (You probably don’t want to spend a fortune on something you aren’t sure they’ll like or stick with, either.)
The same principles hold true here, which is why instead of stick or TIG welding you will instead want to look to no-gas or MIG welding. Both of these are far easier than the other types and can be great for beginners in their own way. For example, MIG welding is much easier and more accessible for newcomers than TIG welding, while no-gas welding allows you to eschew gas ratios and all the other intricacies and expenses and just get right down to the welding itself.
Related reading: What’s the Difference Between TIG and MIG Welding?
Learn the Fundamentals
You don’t start off your musical career by playing Beethoven and the Beatles. Instead, you start with tiny scales, exercises, and very simple songs, all designed to help teach you the fundamentals of music.
The same holds true for welding. You won’t want to start off welding complex joints or massive projects, and chances are you won’t be able to do so anyway. Instead, you want to start off with simple projects that reinforce the basics of welding and let you build up your skills.
Related reading: Is Welding Easy to Learn? A Beginner’s Introduction
This also means learning techniques such as how to weld a pool of metal. There is a lot more to this than simply heating metal into a puddle. For example, you need to learn how to shape it, cut into metal, and then let everything cool. You also need to make sure that you are doing this in such a way as to make sure that the metal does not become porous.
Different welding techniques require different approaches, and also necessitate different mixtures of metals. Some make use of more filler than others, though many welds make use of a combination of at least two different kinds of metals, a primary and filler metal.
Related reading: How Much do MIG Welders Make? Average MIG Welder Salary
This is the third thing on our list, but only because it is so basic. In terms of importance, nothing is greater – you need to make sure you protect yourself at all times. Given how much heat and light you are unleashing with the flash of your welding arc, you don’t want to play around with that, and certainly don’t want to take chances or expose yourself to it.
That’s why it is so important to wear protective gear.
For starters, you’ll want to make sure that you don’t have any exposed skin. Your arms and legs should be completely covered with multiple layers of loose, but not baggy, clothing. The topmost layer of this clothing should also be fire retardant. You’ll also want to make sure that you have a good pair of insulating gloves – leather, thick rubber, or both.
Just as important as all of this a welding helmet. Not only is this important for blocking flying sparks from singing your face, helmets are essential for protecting your eyes from the bright flashes that are part of welding.
As extremely important as proper welding gear and a welding helmet is, however, it is just as important to protect yourself in terms of remaining vigilant while welding. You cannot let your guard down for a second. Stay focused on your work, and make sure to check your welding equipment beforehand. If you detect any imperfections (cracks, scratches, pinches, punctures, and so on) swap out the damaged equipment for a replacement immediately.
Practice Proper Fundamental Techniques
Welding is a two-handed process. Make sure you have two hands on the welder at all times, especially when you are just starting out. You also want to make sure that you are the proper distance from the metal you are welding. You should be at least 1” from the item you are welding, though ideally you should be about 1/2” to 3/4″. You also want to make sure that you are holding your welding torch at a proper angle, ideally at least 15 degrees.
Find a Mentor
Nobody is born a master at any craft – even a child prodigy like Mozart. Haydn mentored Mozart, and you too need a teacher.
You can either do this in person or with welding tutorials on YouTube. Either way, you want to make sure you find a mentor who is using similar tools to the one you are using – that is, MIG or no-gas welders. It won’t do you any good to have someone teaching you on the piano while you learn the recorder, and it likewise won’t help if you’re learning how to use a MIG welder but you’re watching a video on TIG welding.
Related reading: How To Become A Certified Welder In California? – All Facts
Work to Minimize Interference
One of the most frustrating aspects of welding for newcomers is how a tiny bit of interference can wreck their whole project. You don’t want to work that long for that hard only to see your metal become weak and porous, or see the thing you are trying to weld become splattered with ugly spots.
One of the best ways you can guard against all of that (and the frustration which can ensue) is by minimizing interference.
For that reason, if you are a beginner, chances are you’ll want to do your first welding indoors in a climate-controlled room. While people do weld outside, this is often for more complicated jobs. You’re just starting out, and don’t have the technique and quite possibly the tools to deal with the porosity and other problems caused by interference.
In addition, you’ll want to make sure that you clean the metal before welding it, as failing to do so can lead to dirt and debris getting into the weld, which once again can cause porosity and other problems.
Finally, you want to try and do whatever possible to reduce excess slag and splatter. This means making sure that you are using high-quality products which are in good condition and following splatter-reducing techniques.
Scrap Metal Is Your Friend
One of the biggest complaints newcomers to the world of welding have is that it can all be too expensive – which is true. If you don’t mitigate factors, expenses can start to add up pretty quickly. That’s why you want to make sure you do whatever possible to bring these costs down, and one of the best ways you can do so is by reusing scrap metal.
“But wait!” you cry, “Didn’t you say high-quality materials are important?” Yes, but for beginner purposes especially, scrap metal should do the trick. Obviously if you are planning on welding fine cutlery or high-strength beams you’ll want something a bit better and nicer, but for Welding 101, scrap metal should often do just fine. Just make sure that you clean the metals beforehand and that they are not porous and you should be good to go.
Welding is a wonderful hobby and job, albeit one that can be a bit hard for newcomers to get into, which is why these tips are so important. By following them, you can gain easy access into the incredible world of welding.