DIY Welding 101

5 Tips for Beginner Welders

In the world of welding, there are many options to choose from. But just like with any tool out there, there is a more appropriate option for each job. I do not claim to be an expert welder, but I have developed the skill by learning from others on the internet, as well as from trial and error.

The specific welding I will be talking about is MIG (Metal Inert Gas). This is essentially the universal welding setup that I use, from welding trailers to welding hardware for furniture.

I am currently running a Hobart 140 MIG 115 V. It is a competitor to the Miller and Lincoln Electric 140. I’ve used all of them and I really don’t have a preference as to which one. Whatever deal you can score from your local Craigslist posting wins.

Once you get your welder, here are 5 quick tips that will point you in the right direction to start practicing.

  1. Technique: The whole technique with welding is basically melting wire to mix it with steel. The best theory I’ve come up to explain how to accomplish this is to imagine you put a drop of water on a table and you are handed a tooth pick. Your job is to make that drop of water stretch length wise. So how do you accomplish this? Well, by tapping into the previous wet spot and slowly advancing it. Some people do the “Zig-Zag” approach and others use the “e” approach. The “e” approach is where you basically write lower case letter “e”s that constantly overlap one another. Try it. Take a drop of water and a tooth pick and make “E” overlapping one another.
  2. Movement: Steel moves when it gets hot or cold. When you make contact, even with a tack weld just to basically clamp your work piece, the hot tack weld will pull the plane of the two jointing angles toward itself. There are a few ways to minimize the movement that you will learn as your skill advances. In the mean time though, make it a good practice to clamp your work pieces to the table when tacking.
  3.  Vision: Your vision is one of your greatest tools when laying down great bead welds. One of the best purchases you can make is not just getting a decent welder, but also getting a great weld hood. Buy something that gives good protecting, but also make sure it has auto shading with good control so you can see exactly what that lava looking bead is doing. You want to see where it starts and where it stops.
  4. Gas: There is a whole other level of science behind the gases to be used with the particle metal you are working, and it can be a little much. What I would recommend is to buy a welder that has gas attaching capabilities. As your skill set develops, attach the “shielding gas” to the welder and see the difference.
  5. Settings: There is an algorithm that controls the Amps vs. Wire Speed that takes into consideration the wire and material you are using. I will add another variable to this–your movement speed of the weld gun. The majority of the welders you buy will have a little cheat sheet printed on the machine to get your basic settings started, based off of the thickness of the steel you are working with and the type of wire you are using. Everything after that will be something you only learn with practice. Look up “weld examples” on Google images to help you troubleshoot the weld beads you put down.

Well, thats really it, but it is enough to get you started! Pick up a scrap piece of thick gage steel from your local steel shop and just practice laying down line after line of overlapping lowercase letter “e” and compare them to the examples you googled and make your adjustments from there. Good luck!