Picture of Never Again Weld a Crooked Bead
When I use my wire feed welder I have great difficulty making a straight bead that does not wander off of the seam. I know practice is the key, but I am a hobby welder with no reason to weld everyday for several hours. This Instructable will show how to make a simple guide from an old automobile license plate. It will enable you to produce a straight bead on the joint seam every time.

The photo shows the first weld I did with my new guide. It is the straightest bead I have ever made with my wire feed welder, and it was very easy. This weld bead is about three inches long.

UPDATE: My 2004 Lincoln auto-darkening helmet uses 2 AAA batteries. Because the helmet always darkened as it should, I had not replaced them. I did replace them recently, even though they were far from "dead" and now the lens in my helmet darkens, but not as much as it has until now. I can now see the weld area much better. Many helmets use solar cells and lithium-ion batteries. Check your manual and see if it is possible to replace the batteries in your helmet. That and replacing stained and pitted plastic lenses my make it much easier to see what you are welding. Protective clear lenses that are not stained or pitted can be dirty. A good dust removal can help, too.
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Step 1: Tools and materials

Picture of Tools and materials
  • Hammer
  • Concrete floor
  • Vise
  • Round rod about 3/8 inch in diameter
  • Punch
  • An old automobile license plate made of aluminum
Pound about half of the license plate flat on a hard surface, like an anvil or a concrete floor. The license plate may pucker and buckle, so go back and forth from one side to the other with your pounding to keep it reasonably flat.

I am using aluminum for this welding guide because weld spatter will not stick to it.
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Hi folks. One tip I usually use when teaching new welders how to practice doing straight beads freehand is to simply draw a straight line on the plate with a piece of soapstone or a sharpie. Most of the time, the welder will be able to see it while they weld. No guide required.
marple2002 years ago
Phil, I too am an occasional welder, self-taught with limited skills. I think your Instructable is an interesting idea and could be of use to me in certain future situations. Thanks.
Phil B (author)  marple2002 years ago
I just tried using my guide again and discovered it is still possible to miss the joint because of poor alignment of the guide with the joint, or to move my wrist in a way that moves the gun and the arc to one side. I did also discover the clear plastic lens on the front of my hood is discolored from years of use and should have been changed a long time ago. That has also been restricting my ability to see. Still, I benefit from a guide. At least with welding, we can always grind out a bad weld and try again. That would be very difficult with woodworking. Thanks for looking and for commenting.
Garadin Phil B1 year ago
Gorilla glue + Magnet + Felt or Cork = non-marring, slip-resistant magnet that can be mounted to the guide.
Phil B (author) 2 years ago
My 2004 Lincoln auto-darkening helmet uses 2 AAA batteries. Because the helmet always darkened as it should, I had not replaced them. I did replace them recently, even though they were far from "dead" and now the lens in my helmet darkens, but not as much as it has until now. I can now see the weld area much better. Many helmets use solar cells and lithium-ion batteries. Check your manual and see if it is possible to replace the batteries in your helmet. That and replacing stained and pitted plastic lenses my make it much easier to see what you are welding. Protective clear lenses that are not stained or pitted can be dirty. A good dust removal can help, too.
EvoQ2 years ago
I would suggest spending the time to learn how to MIG the correct way rather than lean heavily on a Prop tool. Nice effort but unfortunately this prop tool can't be used but for a very limited circumstance. If you can NOT SEE where you are welding then work with your lighting and welding helmet sensor or if necessary go down a step in the darkness of the helmet lense. They even make a tiny light that you can put on the end of the MIG Gun to shine more light on the welding area. If for some reason you can't hold the MIG GUN steady then use 2 hands. Whenever you are welding with a MIG Welder you need to be making a Curly "Q" with the tip on the MIG GUN with the wire feeding into the seam of the base metals where you are welding. The correct MIG GUN Angle too plays a very important role in the outcome of the end product. But again I applaud you for your effort, this Prop tool will work in some circumstances on very thing material with a Butt joint. Nice Job, but keep in mind this will not work but for limited circumstances.
Phil B (author)  EvoQ2 years ago
I feel very fortunate to have an auto-darkening hood. But, I bought it in 2004 and it comes with only one lens shade, which is #10. It cannot be reset the lens to a lighter shade, like newer hoods can. The ideal would be spending the necessary time to learn to become more proficient with a wire feed welder, but, as I mentioned, I do not have regular opportunities to weld, only occasional opportunities. The small light added to the gun is an interesting idea. I do have a very bright halogen shop light I could bring near to the joint for more light. Most of my welds are "in position" on a table top so that the guide I described will serve me more regularly than it might someone who welds daily for an income. I could also make variations on this design for other types of welds. As for making a curlyque pattern, I could still twist my wrist left and right as the gun travels. Thank you for looking and for the information you gave.
A light is a good idea, but be aware tha weld spatter will soon ruin any glass cover or will puncture a glass bulb. Plastic over the glass will prevent that, and on some lights you can just use packing tape if it is a cooler light, but on halogen the high temperature would ruin most plastics, I believe.
A bright LED is a good idea as they are epoxy encapsulated.
Phil B (author)  Steelsmith12 years ago
Thank you for the good suggestions.
DIY-Guy Phil B2 years ago
Thank you Phil B, this reminds me of the painters tricks with cardboard straight edges. I have not learned welding yet and am considering purchasing my first welder. Your 'ible has reminded me that it may not be that hard once the basic concepts are learned.
Phil B (author)  DIY-Guy2 years ago
Thank you for looking and commenting. I did an Indtructable on learning to weld. It is linked in the related Instructables and describes the best things I learned from multiple sources. I would never discourage an actual welding course, but my first welder came with a manual that assumed I would learn on my own. You can do that quite well if you are welding mild steel items around your own shop and house. Professionals need to know how to weld different metals in all conditions and make the welds look pretty, too. There are also many good teaching videos on YouTube to guide you. Once you have a welder you will wonder how you ever got by without one.
stoobers Phil B2 years ago
I think the auto-hoods are an LCD filter over top a #10 filter glass. If you take the mask apart, you can swap out the #10 filter for a #9.

But I think the #10 is minimum recommended for safety. I think my mask is a #12 or #14. Its really dark and doesn't auto-darken. I have overcome this by welding outside in the sun, or with a light pointing at it. With a light on the work or out in the sun, you can see pretty much everything. Also, you can get a soap stone and draw white lines parallel to the weld. The white lines reflect the light and you can fill in everything inside the lines.

It seems like welding is not about welding "correctly", it is about finding a trick for the type of weld you are doing, all the while shielding you heart from others telling you how to weld correctly.

Just my 2 cents.
Phil B (author)  stoobers2 years ago
Thanks. I like your comment about others telling a person how to do it correctly. I have enjoyed sharing things at Instructables that are helpful to me. I have enough training and experience with several things to benefit myself and be safe. Yet, I get a number of comments about how I am doing everything wrongly. I am almost 67 years old and have enjoyed my tools since I was in my early teenage years. I have burned nothing down and still have both eyes, all of my fingers, and all of my toes.
stoobers Phil B2 years ago
I believe, when it comes to "making" things, it is never a right or wrong. It is a "it worked" or "it didn't work" issue. I suppose one could say there may be an easier way, but only if that one actually produced something in a similar yet more efficient manner.

Also, few do "hobby" activities the way they do "professional" activities. Professional work is governed by profit, hobby is governed by fun. Professional skills and hobby skills are rarely the same, nor should they be.
jc4548 Phil B2 years ago
you can ghet a auto & shade adjustment helment at harbor freight on sale for $39 , I have used them for years
Phil B (author)  jc45482 years ago
Thank you for the report on the Harbor Freight auto-darkening hoods. My son-in-law bought one recently and it seems to work for him. Mine is a Lincoln powered by alkaline batteries. I once read a post by the wife of a guy who had a Harbor Freight hood fail to darken and he did some damage to his eyes. She was warning people away from them, but that was at least 15 years ago.
tkjtkj2 years ago
Thanks for this suggestion!
Many here might be interested in viewing Jody Collier's web site:
He's a master welder and brings tremendous experience to teaching we inexperienced 'welders' how to do this or that ..
His video's are excellent, really showing the 'hows and 'why's of various techniques. I suggest ya get on his email list which will let yo know when he's put up any new video ..
He's a great asset to the world of welding!
Phil B (author)  tkjtkj2 years ago
Thank you for looking, and thank you for the link. I glanced at his web page. He seems to do a lot with TIG welding. I will try to watch some of his videos to get a better grasp of what he offers.
tkjtkj Phil B2 years ago
im happy maybe it's useful to you ..

Jody really does 'it all' ..mig/tig/stick and some ive never heard of..
He's a very valuable resource indeed.

His offerings also include many valuable comments on various equipment ..shows novel attachments etc that are very helpful not just to the pro ..

Lift-spark vrs Strike-spark, Rotating Tig tips with aux LED lighting ..

but mostly, his ordered and logical analysis of diff projects, his thinking and skills , are superb .. Not many of us can walk around a welding shop and see what the pro's do .. he brings it all to us ..

By the way : I saw today that on " " today i noticed
a DIY "spot welder" you can make for ? $10 !!! and it's GOOD!! :
EvoQ2 years ago
Yes having an Open Mind even at so-called Advanced level makes for a better work environment. Thru the years I have seen so many with the attitude that since they have done this or that for 20+ years then they know everything and don't need to learn anything new. A Newbie is a [person to be scorned and looked down upon. But to me even though I am one of those 20+ years people I always have an open mind. I have worked with so many "Helpers" that had absolutely No experience and I have been able to Learn things from these people. I call it that ability to look at situations out of the box that us skilled experienced people would Never look at solutions in that manner. I can honestly say that I have forgot more than I know since I have been fabricating for so long. But I never look down on the un-experienced as I might learn a new tactic or solution to a problem fro these so-called newbies.
Moreover; as allot of the posters are mentioning that being able to SEE what you are welding can be the hardest obstacle to a welding project. I do Roll Cages and let me tel you, being all cramped up inside a small car in all sorts of positions makes it challenging to say the least. At times I have had to take off the Welding Hood and use Goggles/Glasses, I have even made a custom Screen that I can fasten between me and the weld joint. Whatever it takes but You MUST be able to see or the welding joint will be crap and totally unacceptable, especially in a safety situation like in a roll cage.

My Advice is to take all advice from everyone, have an open mind, listen allot more than speaking. Constantly think of how to make it better. Work Smart not just Hard all the time. We have this incredible Brain but if we waste it we are just like the primates that will never evolve. That's my username Evo - lution - Q
orator2 years ago
This would work out better if you use the 'tool' to rest your hand against instead of the welder nozzle. That way "you" could still control the gun and do a much better job. Dragging the gun in a straight line just doesn't get it. You 'have to' control the penetration and it is not a constant. Also, I would never use a lens less than a #10. I always used either a #12 or #14 depending on the type metal that was being welded. Using less than a #10 is just begging for eye problems sooner than later.
Phil B (author)  orator2 years ago
It would be possible to wiggle one's wrist a little to achieve some weaving even with my guide. I believe I remember reading some instructions for MIG welding which cautioned against weaving and urged pulling (or pushing) the gun in a straight smooth motion. Commenters here have written as if all wire feed welds must be woven by moving the gun in a circular pattern like the letter "e" or a zig zag back and forth across the joint. I looked again at the photo of my weld made by pulling the gun without any weaving. I believe I see heat marks on both sides of the weld, which usually indicates a good weld. i am away until shortly after the New Year. When I return home I will give it a "bend to break" test and see how well my weld does. Thank you.
orator Phil B2 years ago
Just a suggestion from a professional first class welder for many years. Do it however you want.
Phil B (author)  orator2 years ago
I thank you for your suggestion and I respect your experience. I did search for . You could substitute "stringer" for "straight," too. The opinion is almost as varied as the question of whether to pull or push the gun. One fellow had been taught by his instructor always to weave his welds, but a new instructor told him not to weave.
Phil B (author)  Phil B2 years ago
The Instructables site eliminated my search terms because I put them in brackets. "I did a search for 'MIG weave or straight.'" is how it was supposed to read.
bfk2 years ago
Great idea Phil. Someday I'll upgrade to a wire welder, but as of now, I'm using sticks and straightness is probably the least of my problems:)
Phil B (author)  bfk2 years ago
I understand. I think we have all been there, or still are there.
axiesdad2 years ago
Nice concept, especially "re-purposing" the aluminum license plate. The price of weld wire prevents many of us from getting much practice. To make it easier to see where you are going, "Don't watch the arc! Watch the puddle." That is advice I was given almost forty years ago when I first began working as a production welder and it still holds. Keeping the arc out of the center of your vision means you don't get that "flashbulb spot" right where you are trying to see.
Phil B (author)  axiesdad2 years ago
As I mentioned in a response above, I have difficulty identifying anything more than the bright spot that is the arc when using a wire welder. I can see several key parts of the welding area, however, with a stick welder.
al_packer2 years ago
As someone who has some vision challenges, this could be quite helpful. Thanks.
Phil B (author)  al_packer2 years ago
Yes, especially for those situations where you really cannot see what you are doing well. Thanks for looking..
mdj212 years ago
I wouldn't go any lighter than #10.

Have you tried getting your face a little closer to the weld? The farther your head is away from the weld, the harder it is to see the weld.
Phil B (author)  mdj212 years ago
Thanks. I will see about getting closer to the weld. I wear bi-focals and am grateful I do not yet wear tri-focals. Once you enter that phase of life, you find how you move your head and seeing clearly at the same time are not as easy as they once were. I can see quite well when I use my stick welder, but when I use my wire feed welder I see only the bright point of light that is the arc. I have looked for the puddle and the unwelded part of the joint, but have almost no success.
So simple... so easy... a well thought out solution for the casual user..
Phil B (author)  michaelmacnz2 years ago
Thanks. Many of us are casual users. We simply need things to hold together in the intended usage and want them to look moderately good, even if not professionally perfect. This summer I made the poorest, ugliest weld I have probably ever made. It attaches a large splitting knife to an "I" beam on a log splitter. That knife had pulled off of the "I" beam due to a poor weld by whomever first made the log splitter. After my poor weld, I ran the pump up to 3000 psi on a tough piece of wood. The wood finally split, but my poor weld held just fine.Thanks.
Andrewlcox2 years ago
I can appreciate the want for a straight weld but you can try my method. I learned this trick from a master arc welder (my Dad). We always had a small piece a rail from a railroad and it was about 6 inches long. I used it as a fulcrum and rested my wrist with the stick on it. I would strike the arc and then simply rotate my hand and wrist to follow the bead and it allowed me to keep it straight and the pace of the puddle was very manageable. Good instructable on a rare topic.
Phil B (author)  Andrewlcox2 years ago
Thanks. From your comment I am guessing you describe your experience using a stick welder.
Another good idea.. AND... I've got a bit of tram rail.. Yee Ha.
stonewall962 years ago
I'm going to adapt your idea for a guide for my plasma cutter. I am getting back into
professional welding after a 15 year absences and I need all the help I can get to stay steady! Great idea,thanks
Phil B (author)  stonewall962 years ago
Take a look at the comments below by digitalbrad. He mentioned using angle iron as a guide for a cutting torch in the shop where he works. One of the reasons Instructables is great is that we can adapt the ideas of others to fit our own needs.
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