Picture of Learning to Weld
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.


Stick welders 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.
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.)
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This is welding of mild steel. Could you please comment on its quality? Thanks.
Phil B (author)  gauravlakhanpal 1 month ago

I am not qualified to comment. Perhaps some others with more experience can comment more accurately.

BFA.MED.AER1 month ago

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 ? !!

Phil B (author)  BFA.MED.AER1 month ago
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.

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 !
Thanks a lot!

Phil B (author)  BFA.MED.AER1 month ago

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?

james.m.k2 years ago

Found this via your new "Never Weld a crooked Bead" instructable. Keep up the good work! And Thanks again!
Phil B (author)  james.m.k8 months ago

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, "We're all in this together!"

Spudmuffon2 years ago
In all reality limiting welds to <=3in would be ideal to prevent warping
Phil B (author)  Spudmuffon2 years ago
applegeek3 years ago
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.
Phil B (author)  applegeek3 years ago
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.
Phil B (author)  Phil B3 years ago
I did find a forum discussion 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.
Phil B (author)  applegeek3 years ago
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.

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.
Phil B (author)  Phil B3 years ago
I found this article 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.
pfred23 years ago
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.

What bugs me the most when I weld is a phenomenon I like to call "back lighting", 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.

Although doing so does tend to make my hood fog up fast. So I should invent the hood awning and retire a multi gazillionare!

My spark box:

Phil B (author)  pfred23 years ago
Color me a rookie. I tried the tapping method a couple of times and always stuck the rod, so I stayed with what I know. Also, this Instructable is for someone who is just beginning, so the easiest method seems OK.
pfred2 Phil B3 years ago
I've been giving this a bit of thought lately and I have come to the conclusion that my machine just may have a bit better an arc starter in it than most welders usually have due to the fact that is a TIG/Stick welder.

The engineers at Miller looked at each other and said you know if we throw a heavy lead on this puppy it ought to stick weld OK too. The marketers smiled and nodded.

I mean sometimes all I have to do is get the rod close and I'm ignited. But this is the only machine I've ever stick welded with so are they all like that?
most stick tig combos have what is called hot start which jacks up amperage like 15 to 20% to make starting electrodes easier. regardless i still preferred my dialarc to my sycrowave for stick welding until i was given a xmt 350 that does mig tig and stick. match stike technique is the only technique i use in the shop for lighting off my electrodes
Running DC stick weld is very easy to tap start. With AC current you are fighting the POS/NEG 60Hz switching and the rod wants to stick. I think the old Tombstone Lincolns were AC.
Phil B (author)  nowuknowjack3 years ago
Yes, those Lincoln welders are AC. Many guys who want to weld are doing it on a budget and do not feel they can afford or justify the extra cost of a DC welder or DC conversion unit. Right or wrong, a lot of fellows will struggle on with AC. Thank you for your comment.
pfred2 Phil B3 years ago
Welding is a lot like taking a trip, you can travel in luxury first class, or ride in steerage. In the end I suppose we all get to the same place, but perceptions of the experience may differ radically.

With effort one can alter their perspective, but not all are amenable to the techniques involved. Within us all is the power to make our dreams real. What many lack though is the will to persevere. Will don't work cheap either!

My welder must have a decent arc starter in it. I have no problems tapping AC or DC.
Phil B (author)  pfred23 years ago
It is nice that your welder is TIG ready. My Miller is about 1975 vintage. It has a crank wheel on top for infinitely variable amperage settings, unlike the famous Lincoln "tombstone" welder that has a few click settings. I will have to try the tap method again while playing with the amperage output.
Well I sold my first MIG welder, a Tractor Supply Company branded Campbell Hausfeld. It NEVER fed the wire smoothly. I bought a new Hobart Handler 140 (120 VAC) and boy what a difference! TSC brand was $150...Hobart $500 and well worth it! That sucker lays down a smooth bead like warm butter on hot toast. I'm building an anvil out of railroad rail and welded a 3/8" plate on top and it went together very nicely. Yes you do get what you pay for.
Phil B (author)  nowuknowjack2 years ago
Thank you for your comment. That is a lesson I know in my head, but I have to keep on learning it in practice over and over.
Nice job and great info. Now if I can just find the crumgrudgeon who jacked my welder so I can use some if your info!
Phil B (author)  barefootbohemian3 years ago
Ouch! I want to assure you I am not the one who stole your welder. Thank you for your comment. Life is strange. Twice people tried to give me a welder, both legally owned by the giver. Each time I said I had no place to put one or need to use one. Little did I know that one day that would all change and I would buy a Miller Thunderbolt 220 volt stick welder exactly like the one someone tried once to give me. I hope someone you meet soon wants to give you a legally owned welder. Thank you for looking.
Are you sure that wasn't you? Ha ha. I think I obviously need to move to your neighborhood. Better to have them offered than taken away. But I can always wait for the oil fields to bust again and there will be plenty being practically given away by influx of "wanna be" welders flooding the oil fields tryin to make a buck :) I'll keep your instructable in mind for that day :)
Phil B (author)  barefootbohemian3 years ago
I would encourage a move to my neighborhood, except that the first welder offered to me was in Ohio and the second was in Tennessee. I now live in Idaho, but will move to Washington state in a few months when I retire. If you wish to have a good way to remember my Instructable, you can always click on it as a Favorite and it will link on your personal information page at Instructables.

I never actually saw the first welder. A much older friend had used it for years in his shop where he built and repaired truck bodies. He told me it weighed 300 pounds. I made a troubled attempt at using the second welder once, which was my first encounter with an arc welder. It belonged to a school at which my wife taught and the assistant principal was close to a friend. For whatever reason he was looking to get rid of things they did not really use. At the time I did occasionally make use of their oxy-acetylene welder. I was much more familiar with those at the time. Had I known what I know now, I would have jumped at having the second welder for myself.
Oh any of those neighborhoods sounds like a good place to live compared to the crazy climate here. Been wanting to move to Colorado but can't get my hubby to retire and go quite yet. Although selling our house in the boom would be so much better. I have wanted to get out of this sulfur filled desert as long as I van remember and I truly believe my hubby could start up his own business wherever we went. Course we plan on bringing my mother with us, so anywhere there are mountains, trees and a summer under 120° would be good. He was learning to weld some from a friend and I know the guy offered to sell his his welding truck. That would have probably been a great opportunity since there are plenty of fences and cattle guards to be mended or built anywhere there is open land. Just no one out here wants to deal with the summer heat (except maybe the goobers who signed on to that show about rough necks, and they come out here in droves with no clue what they are in for just money). Now I'm just whining about living here between "the land of enchantment" and "a whole other country" - so where does this make this place? Purgatory? Ha ha.
Marking this is a favorite now and hope to learn much more from what you have written. Wish I had the technical writing skills. Would love to apply it to my garbled and jumbled stained glass instructable lol
Phil B (author)  barefootbohemian3 years ago
It sounds like you are living in Arizona. Have you thought about Idaho? There are places where there would be plenty of cattle grates to weld. We can get temps of 105 in the summer, but for only a week or so. I have been to Phoenix in August. The locals were so happy because daytime highs were only 112 instead of 120. I need to look more closely at your stained glass Instructables. I will likely never make anything of stained glass, but would enjoy seeing what you did in detail.

I am not trained in technical writing, but have always enjoyed explaining things to people so they can understand what I am trying to communicate. I have spent the last 40 years as a Lutheran pastor, so I get plenty of practice working on communication. Probably the trouble I have understanding some people comes from them forgetting that I know nothing about what they are trying to tell me and they need to make it real simple with steps that go in a logical order.
No, but close enough. Visited a brother in law once and realized there was at least one place in the US hotter and drier than here lol. I am on the Texas New Mexico Border, right next to where they wer so kind as to build a nuclear waste dump facility (that hasn't followed regulations since day 1). Another reason NOT to live here. My hubby has been at the Kirby factory here as a machinist for the past 30 years, so it has kept us here through the ups and downs of the surrounding oil fields. But my father came out here as a petroleum engineer so one would think I was accustomed to the climate. The past two years of extreme temps and no rain, and visiting back home in the mountains has got be packing my bags for trees and snow. We did break a few records with the two snows this year at 15 and 20 inches though. I like snow and cooler temps are much better for MS so it would be a healthy move.
I should have taken some technical writing in college, but I didn't and looking back regret that. My 1st degree was in nursing (oddly after being a geology major in the beginning). I can explain medical terms and situation well but I think some of the docs I worked with thought I was a bit looney in how I did it. As long as the patient and family understood I would make it work.
Since I am a self taught artist it seems I could explain things in a manner others would understand. However, something about doing it in sections with photos and such just throws off the flow. That and I want to get in all the little tips and tricks I have learned by trial and error.
This instructable is such much easier to understand and I a would love to learn a thing or two from how you have done it. I think I might print mine off and re-write it after critiquing my own. I wish I would get more comments on mine in the form of criticism just so I could learn from them.
I guess I should do that, or get some more of my bathroom remodel done so I have two bathrooms again. Never realize how nice having two is until you are down to just one.
Maybe I will get that stained glass one written better before you read it.... That is if time slows down and I catch up :)
Phil B (author)  barefootbohemian3 years ago
I thought you were referring to California as that whole other country. I will try to look at your Instructables and give you some untrained criticism. Usually people commenting at Instructables follow the request to "be nice." Once in a while someone asks an author to use proper grammar or proper spelling. But, that is about as far as it goes.
kretzlord3 years ago
excellent instructable. This gives me the confidence to try it out for myself. Thank you!!!!
Phil B (author)  kretzlord3 years ago
The little 120 volt Century arc welder I bought before I bought the Miller Thunderbolt came with a really nice little instruction booklet that encouraged home DIY types to try welding themselves. It had the usual things about safety and welding current. It also encouraged practicing the hand movements needed to develop a muscle memory, and encouraged doing it for a few minutes followed by rest so you can come back to it and try again in shorter repeated sessions for the best learning. I have not welded anything on which someone's life would depend. There are many things that just need to stick together. Over time you learn more about what a good weld is and how to make it work for you. It is a very satisfying feeling to have done it yourself.
Maybe I should change my handle to Safety freak HA! HA! Anyway In my basic welding class the instructor emphasized safety in choosing the correct welding rod. His example was a neighbor had a stick welder. He did some welding on a hitch for a trailer and used the wrong rod. He used a brittle rod like a 7018...probably something he had lying around. Long story made short...a few miles down the road and the trailer bouncing on our "smooth" California hwys. the weld broke, the trailer went one way and the truck the other...fortunately no one was injured. So be careful with what you weld and don't do more than you know you can handle.
Phil B (author)  nowuknowjack3 years ago
I seldom use a trailer, but all of the rental trailers I have seen include a safety chain to the tow vehicle. That would have helped the man your welding instructor used as an illustration. You make a good point.
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