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A friend expressed an interest in learning to weld. I am writing this to give an introduction to welding for people like her. It is also a place to catalog some very useful things that required quite a bit of time and reading for me to learn them.

I weld mild steel at home to make things I want and to repair things I need.I do not weld aluminum or stainless steel. I make very little artwork with my welder. I am largely self-taught. I am aware of Tim Anderson's Instructable: Cheap Welding for Punks. He included some information I will not cover. I think I have some information he did not cover.

If terms in the next paragraph are new to you, see the Definitions paragraph that follows it. The italicized words are defined there.

Most of my experience is with electric stick welders. They cost less than other welding systems, but require more practice and skill to learn well. Many of the things one must do to get a good weld with a stick welder are not much different from a similar situation using a wire feed welder (penetration, weaving, preventing sag), and I will discuss both at the same time when possible. I will mention a little about oxy-acetylene (gas) welding. But, for the beginning, occasional welder; a wire feed welder makes learning to weld much easier. MIG is generally preferred and more expensive than flux core wire feed welding. Both have their place. People who want to begin welding are often short on cash, and may well choose to begin with a stick welder before possibly moving up to a wire feed welder after a few years, so some attention will be given to stick welding. I have no experience with TIG welding and will not discuss it.

Definitions:

Stickwelders have this name because the coated wire welding electrode resembles a stick you might pick up from your lawn.
Wire feed welders use a continuous wire electrode on a spool. Rollers in the welder driven by a motor feed the wire at a steady rate through an electrode holder usually called a gun. Wire feed welders were invented to increase production rates by removing the need to stop and replace a burned electrode.
Penetration means the welder did not merely lay a bead of welding material over the top of a joint, but some of the parent metal melted and fused together below the weld, too.
Weaving is moving the arc from one side of the joint to the other in order to make certain the weld penetrates into both sides of the joint. A weaving pattern is also used to prevent sag when welding in an upward direction on a vertical joint. Watch some videos of people welding. When weaving, especially with a wire feed welder, it is important to "hold the corners." That is, when the arc is to one side of the joint or the other, pause for most of a second, then move across the joint and pause for about a second on that side, too. Molten weld material is drawn toward heat. "Holding the corners" insures that the corners of the weld became hot enough for the metal to flow into them and not just lay over them. The center of the bead will be beautiful when you give attention to the corners.
Sag is molten metal that flows out of the joint while welding due to the effects of gravity. This can be a problem when the weld is vertical, overhead, or horizontally along the side of a vertical surface. Avoiding excess heat, electrodes designed to harden quickly, the angle at which the arc is directed, and general manipulation of the arc are used to control the weld and counteract sag.
Oxy-acetylene welders use two tanks, one filled with oxygen and the other with acetylene. Both gases flow through hoses at controlled pressures to mix and burn with a very hot pointed flame in a torch.
MIG refers to a wire feed welder that protects the fresh weld from mixing with oxygen in the air by continuously covering the weld area with an inert gas. If oxygen comes into contact with the hot, fresh weld; the weld becomes porous and is weakened.
Flux core welders use a thin wire electrode that has a chemical powder in its center. This powder melts and flows over the weld to protect the fresh weld from oxygen. This hardened coating is called slag. After the weld cools, chip or brush it off, depending on how thick it is.
TIG welders use a torch with a sharp tungsten tip to make a pool of molten metal with an arc. The operator dabs metal from a thin wire rod into the pool. At the same time the operator increases or decreases current to the arc with a foot pedal control. TIG welding makes beautiful welds on aluminum and various special metals. It requires much skill and practice to learn.

Other terms you may see in welding literature (Do not worry about these, unless you encounter them):

SMAW - shielded metal arc welding - stick welding
FCAW - flux cored arc welding
GMAW - gas metal arc welding - MIG welding
GTAW - tungsten inert gas welding - TIG welding

(The photo is from Bing Images.)

Step 1: Educational resources

If you buy a new welder, it will come with a thin manual that covers safety, some mechanical information about the welder, and a few basic welding procedures to get you started. The best weldors* weld almost daily. If you learned to weld, but have not welded for a while, it is a good idea to make some practice welds before you weld anything that needs to be done well.

If you buy a used welder, but no manual comes with it, you can probably download a manual for it or a manual for a machine that is sufficiently similar. There are many helps available for the person who wants to learn to weld. Some are in text (either electronic or on paper) while others are videos.

Miller has some excellent videos for learning to weld or for improving your skills. My favorite is a video on flux core wire welding that was linked in their DIY electronic newsletter for October 2010. Many of the techniques in it are similar to techniques used in stick welding. Text and photos from the video are also at the link. Just scroll down to see the text and photos. Miller's DIY newsletter and some other newsletters from Miller are available free to anyone who wishes to sign up for them. (Archival copies of the electronic newsletters are also available for viewing on-line.) Go to the Miller page linked at the beginning of this paragraph and check the links under Resources for other videos and articles. Manuals for Miller welders and basic welding guides are also available.

Lincoln has various educational materials for learning to do stick or MIG welding, some of which you can download for free. Their book: New Lessons in Arc Welding is very good and is newly updated. For other LIncoln books, go to this link. (Pull down Education Center and go to James F. Lincoln Foundation for Educational Materials.) Also, pull down Support and go to Resources for useful free literature.

Hobart also has several resources under the E-Learning tab and a forum for welders at the Weld Talk forum. (Miller also has a forum on its Resources page.) At the E-Learning tab scroll down to see examples of good and bad welds for MIG and for stick. The second photo also shows a drawn chart of a good stick welding bead compared to various problem weld beads. These photos can help you diagnose what you are doing wrongly and correct it. Photos like these are often available elsewhere, too. Some basic guides to welding can be downloaded, too.

Another good book for the beginning stick weldor is the Forney Welding Manual. It is also out of print. Some used copies are available. Among books currently available, this book is similar in scope and approach to the Lincoln book, except that it gives a dominant treatment to MIG welders.

There are numerous video tutorials on all aspects of welding at YouTube. Some are done well, others are rather poor.

*Technically, a welder is the equipment used to make welds. A weldor is the individual who uses a welder to make welds. Often "welder" is used for both.

(The second image is from Bing Images.)

<p>Hi, great post - thank you. I've just bought a stick welder and am trying to learn a bit about what to do before I switch it on! One silly question I've got is about inserting the stick and taking it out again. I assume you have to switch the machine off while doing this, right? It seems obvious, but it's hard to tell from some of the videos I've watched. If you touch the stick (with gloves of course) while the machine is on, is there a risk of electric shock?<br><br>Another unrelated question: my machine has a hotstart button, which lasts for about 1 second before switching back to regular &quot;current&quot; mode. I haven't figured out what this is for and how to use it. As it's only 1 second, do you press the button and then immediately start the arc? It means having the welder immediately within reach while using it, which doesn't seem feasible... ?</p><p>Thanks</p>
HOT START is a feature developed primarily for achieving good wetting at the toe and penetration when first starting a weld. This is almost exclusively intended to eliminate cold roll on highly conductive metals like aluminum. Due to the high conductivity of aluminum, roughly twice the amount of voltage is required to initiate a weld as steel - because aluminum rapidly conducts heat away from the arc, starving the puddle for heat. Hot Start is a short boost in voltage for 0.5-2.0 seconds (average range, often adjustable), which overcomes the conductivity of the metal, resulting in a wet-in and flatter start to your weld bead, rather than a taller, cold-rolled one.<br>It should be noted, that there are techniques which experienced welders employ to ensure a good weld start, without the benefit of hot start. <br>
Welcome to Instructables and thank you for your comment. I have a friend who held the coated electrode flat in the palm of his hand while he placed it into the &quot;stinger&quot; with the machine on. He said it is perfectly safe. I replace electrodes with the machine on, but hold the electrode in my gloved hand. <br><br>I am not familiar with the hot start button. I know a little extra current is sometimes needed to strike the arc without sticking the rod without sticking it. My welder does not have that feature. Once I was welding thin square tubing with 1/16 inch rod. I kept the current low to avoid burning through, but then had a difficult time starting the arc. If I increased the current for an easier arc start, there was a tendency to burn through the metal from too much current. I suspect your hot start button is designed to give you more current for starting the arc, but then quickly reducing the current to lessen the chance of burn through.<br>It is a good feeling the first time you turn on your welder and can join two pieces of metal without screws or rivets.
GMAW and GTAW processes were both originally developed for joining aluminum. Only after the production value of GMAW was realized did it become a popular alternative to SMAW.
<p>Awesome article!</p><p>Here's a question for Phil or anyone in the know. I am hoping to get into hobby welding, just small fix it jobs, perhaps give a couple of creative garden pieces a go... have a small wirefed flux welder, but have been leary to pull the &quot;trigger&quot; as it were. I have an intense fear of things that can put out that kind of electricity and yet, have read many things about safety (my wife sometimes criticizes me for over researching things to death, although here, she is on board). I am fairly confident I can practice and give this a go. Question, for small items, if I have them on a metal welding table, with the ground clamp on the table, like the picture in step 8, and I touch the table, am I susceptible to a shock myself? How does the piece become grounded and not me? Not sure if I am asking this correctly, as I have tried googling the question, but again, with the way I word the request, am not finding the information I seek!</p>
<p>Electricity follows the path of least resistance, and it wants to go to the ground connection. The grounded metal table provides a much easier path than your fairly high resistance flesh and bone. Add to that, the soles on your shoes and a concrete floor are not very good conductors. It is a little like a bird sitting on a power line, as long as the bird does not become part of the circuit, it's body can be charged with thousands of volts without injury. Wear enough clothing to protect you from spatter and from touching very hot metal, and you will be fine, </p><p>Still, a poor ground connection makes it difficult to weld well, if at all. A metal table makes getting a ground easy, but I always like a direct clamped connection to make certain there is frosting on the cake. If there is the least doubt about the quality of the ground connection, have a single conductor from something light and flexible, like even lamp cord, and have an alligator clip on each end. Use that cord to give a little added connection insurance, in case the metal is dirty or not resting firmly connected to the metal table. Yes, lamp cord is too small for a solo grounding cable, but it is enough to give a little supplemental insurance. </p><p>I weld with flux core rather than gas shielded MIG. The welds are not as pretty and there is more mess to clean up. But, flux core works in windy conditions where the shielding gas might be blown away before the weld can cool a little, and flux core wire can dig through dirt and paint better than solid wire with gas shielding. There is one caution. Flux core welders like you get at Harbor Freight usually give you alternating current at the weld. Flux core wire really needs direct current set to the proper polarity to work well. Those inexpensive welders are cheaper because they do not include the cost of rectifying diodes. See if you can find someone in a YouTube video demonstrating your welder and evaluating its performance. Also, brand name flux core wire performs better than no-name economy wire. </p>
hello<br>I cannot find anywhere on my instructible app to ask a question.<br>so I chose you.<br>how can I remove spot welds from my stainless steel kitchen colander without using a drill?<br>the colander has a/an oval pedestal base &amp; food stuffs get caught between the base &amp; colander.<br>my toothbrush works some, however, the bristles then get caught.<br>there are six spot welds..... I want the pedestal gone.<br>No drilling. thank you for your time and any suggestions.
I looked on YouTube to see what I could find. One video removed a piece of automobile sheet metal without harming the piece behind it. The guy in the video used a narrow belt sander powered by compressed air. He ground through the spot weld in the piece he no longer wanted, but without touching the metal behind he wanted to keep.<br><br>https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=hvHiJQL7_9s
<p>awesome Phil!</p><p>thanks!!</p>
Thanks. Avoid the temptation to pick up a piece of steel without tongs or gloves, It is probably hot and will burn you. Have fun and experiment. Practice, practice, practice. Prepare the work well so the welds go deep, and you will probably be fine. I probably should have taken some classes, but now there is a guy who pays me to weld some things for him. With wood you can make little ones out of big ones. With welding you can make big ones out of little ones. As soon as you can, get an auto darkening hood.
I already have it! eheh! bought two years ago and never used :(
<p>Auto-darkening helmets, even those that are solar powered, do contain batteries. In my experience, old batteries are weaker and the lens will be darker in use than it is supposed to be, making it more difficult to see properly while welding. Some helmets are made so the user can easily replace the batteries as needed. For those sealed with batteries inside there are videos and other items on the Internet that show how to open the sealed area and replace the batteries. Some add a battery holder for the more common and easily replaceable AAA or AA batteries rather than the 2025 or 2032 &quot;coin&quot; batteries.</p>
<p>I'm quite sure that my helmet only use &quot;solar&quot; power from the welding spark :-)</p>
<p>Thank You for educating new people! </p>
I am not at all advanced, myself. It is good to help those who are starting. Maybe it will be easier for them than it was the rest of us. Thank you for looking.
thank u sir<br>
Thank you for looking. In part, I share things like this so I can remember everything later when I forget something.
could you post next about to make our own circuits or design our own circuit.(only if you like)
<p>Falstad has a circuit applet anyone can use online. With it you can try various circuits to see how different components change them, and whether they work or not. The applet does not include integrated circuit chips, but regular discrete components. Go to falstad (dot) com/circuit.</p><p>The U.S. Navy has a course on electronics. A 1995 version is available for downloading on-line, and is not difficult to find. There are lots of electronics blogs and pages. Learn about basic circuits, like amplifiers. Combine them with other circuits and adapt them to see what you can do with them. </p><p>I know only a very little about electronics. </p>
thanks for your replying my question
what things are used for gas welding
<p>You need a good torch set with gauges, hose, and tanks. Many an arc welder costs less money to get started. A pair of goggles is sufficient and less costly than the nice self-darkening hoods needed for arc welding.</p>
<p>Thank you for taking the time to post this. I have been welding for about a year plus: self-taught from reading books, talking with real weldors, youtube videos and online articles like this and of course the best practice - actually welding. This is an excellent article. I really liked your heat warping diagram and the way you explained that. I knew there was a better way to approach this problem and I will implement some principles you made clear. I noticed you are in Vancouver - I'm not far, just over the Glenn Jackson Bridge in Portland. Thanks again!</p>
Ben,<br><br>Thank you for your comment. My welding education has been very much like yours. I wanted both to catalog what I had learned for my own record to consult later, and to share it with those who might find it helpful. More welding would certainly help me. But, I do not have unlimited supplies of steel for practice, nor do I have regular projects. <br><br>A few years ago we had purchased our present house not too far from where I-5 and I-205 join together again in the north end of Vancouver. I was attending meetings about four times a year at The Clarion on Airport Way. I rode my bicycle down from our house and got onto the bicycle lanes down the middle of the Glenn-Jackson Bridge. Since we actually moved to Vancouver, an encounter with skin cancer has caused me to cut back on exposure to sunlight and bicycling. <br><br>It might be fun to meet sometime.
This is welding of mild steel. Could you please comment on its quality? Thanks.
<p>I am not qualified to comment. Perhaps some others with more experience can comment more accurately.</p>
<p>Hello every one, I have a welder that gets hot and stop passing current (stop welding) after less than a minute of welding what should I do to fix it ? !!</p>
For starters, I would put an appropriate meter on the cord that pugs into the outlet and check the current draw. How does that compare with the rating on the label? If the actual current draw is considerably higher than the rated current draw, you will need to determine why. At the least something could be frayed and shorting. At the worst the transformer windings could be shorted, and that could require a replacement. Unless the problem is something simple and easy to fix, you probably need to take it to someone who repairs that make.
<p>Ok Phil, once I am home I will try and open it, and try to figure what's the problem with it, maybe as you said it's the transformer winding I think ! <br>Thanks a lot!</p>
<p>if you can check against a working copy of your welder, you can make a precise measurement of the resistance in each winding and compare the two welders. I doubt you can do much other than replace the transformer, if that is truly the problem. What type and make of welder is it?</p>
Invaluable!<br> <br> Found this via your new &quot;<a href="http://www.instructables.com/id/Never-Again-Weld-a-Crooked-Bead/" rel="nofollow">Never Weld a crooked Bead</a>&quot; instructable. Keep up the good work! And Thanks again!
<p>Thank you for your comment. I am sorry I missed it until now. If you have ever seen The Red Green Show on PBS, you know the expression, &quot;We're all in this together!&quot;</p>
In all reality limiting welds to &lt;=3in would be ideal to prevent warping
Yes.
I've heard you should not put the cable over your shoulder because of the magnetic field or something. I think I read it in some other 'ible and a welding safety guide too.
its not so much emf as if your cable has a nick in the insulation and you bump up against a grounded piece of metal it will give you quite a shock. most dc welders (as far as i know, i could be wrong) don't put out that much emf.
I suppose that could be. I do not know. I probably do that five times a year and then for only a few minutes each time. I probably have more to worry about from my cell phone, which I do not use very often, either. Perhaps some others will be able to add something on this. Thank you for looking and for commenting.
I did find a<a href="http://www.millerwelds.com/resources/communities/mboard/archive/index.php/t-21949.html"> forum discussion</a> on hanging the welding cable over an arm or a shoulder. Most of the concern related to becoming tangled in the cables as a tripping hazard. There was some concern related to electromagnetic fields and heart pacemakers. There was also a concern for possible yet unknown health effects. One person posting quoted some guidelines from Lincoln that discouraged hanging cables over one's shoulder, but no explanation or reason was given.
I'm not too concerned about all the hype over long term effects of EMFs in cell phones and microwave ovens yet (the studies are mostly inconclusive or sketchy); what I read said that doing that could stop your heart. It didn't mention pacemakers specifically, so I'm not sure if your heart would be at risk without a pacemaker.
My father had a small electrical business. I was his helper during high school. The danger was always considered to be an electrical current that flowed across the chest cavity and the heart, either from one arm to the other, or from one arm to the other leg. Only a surprisingly few milliamps were needed to be fatal. But, that is much different from a nearby EMF.<br><br>While the heart beats as a result of electrical activity duplicated in a pacemaker, an EMF would, I believe, be unlikely to produce an arresting current flow across the heart. I simply do not know if a heart could be stopped by a close proximity EMF. It would seem the presence of a metal would be required. Perhaps someone reading this has more and better information.
I found <a href="http://www.magnopro-usa.com/research/Electromagnetic-Fields-and-the-Heart.pdf">this article</a> on the effects of EMFs on living tissue. It does not sound like an EMF from a welder operating on 60 Hz alternating current is likely to stop a heart, but it may produce tissue changes over time that result in heart disease. Other hits mentioned type 3 diabetes caused by EMFs.
Phil strikes yet again like a Thunderbolt from on high! Now I have to ask, you do know that you can tap start stick arcs too right? Match dragging is total rookie material. I was done with that stuff by my third bead.<br> <br> What bugs me the most when I weld is a phenomenon I like to call &quot;back lighting&quot;, where reflected light off my lens makes it more difficult for me to see while I am welding. I have an extra leather bib for my summer welding jacket that I throw over the top of my hood to cut it down.<br> <br> Although doing so does tend to make my hood fog up fast. So I should invent the hood awning and retire a multi gazillionare!<br> <br> My spark box:<br> <br> <br>

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