Never Again Weld a Crooked Bead





Introduction: 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.

Step 1: 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.

Step 2: Bend and Roll

Make a nearly right angle bend across the license plate about 2 inches plus from the flattened end. Then clamp the edge of the license plate and the 3/8 inch rod in a vise and begin to roll the end of the license plate around the rod. Unless your vise is as wide as the license plate, you will need to curl the outer edges of the license plate around the rod with a hammer and a punch so the rolled portion extends the full width of the license plate. Make the roll almost a full circle. 

Step 3: Cut the License Plate and Add a Crease

I left the portion of the license plate where you see the numerals "623" in the photo wide enough for my hand to rest there so I can hold the guide in place while it is in use. At the left edge of the photo you can see a 1/2 inch lip I bent in the guide to help hold the area for my hand flat. This will make it easier to keep the guide stable in use so it does not rock while resting on what I am welding.

Step 4: How to Use This Guide

To use the guide, place the electrode wire over the seam to be welded. Slide the guide toward the welder's gun so it rests against part of the nozzle. Check to be sure the roll on the guide is aligned so it is exactly parallel to the joint seam. Place the hand not holding the gun on the guide with enough pressure to keep the guide and the other half of the joint from moving. Flip your welding hood down and pull the trigger on the welding gun. Advance the gun in a smooth motion slowly enough to produce a good weld. Your results will look like the photo in the Introduction, maybe better. And, it will be almost effortless.

If the roll on the license plate does not ride against a good place on the nozzle, making the bend in the license more oblique rather than a right angle will lower the roll so it is closer to the joint surface. Or, you could also straighten the license plate and bend again. 



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Also the guide may help a bit but things like travel speed and gun angle and many tangibles makes a weld pleasing to the eye and uniform your best bet is sometimes just chalk a straight line down the weld and watch the toe of your weld and just as the toe hits the chalk line move along and keep at that travel speed and you should have a uniform weld with equal reinforcement.



Thank you. It can be very difficult to see when using flux core wire. Now I have a gas shielded welder, and it is much easier to see where the weld seam will be. With thinner materials, especially, it works well to tack both ends of the weld. Then weld back to the tack a distance of about 3/8". Then weld back to that weld about the same distance. Repeat until the bead is complete. It is easier to see and the joint is not as likely to heat up and expand.

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.

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.

Gorilla glue + Magnet + Felt or Cork = non-marring, slip-resistant magnet that can be mounted to the guide.

I so LOVE the Gorilla glue & product line, it is so very versatile, and they keep coming up with more and better products. Thier duct tape is the best on the market, in my opinion. If it sticks to you, good luck not getting a bit of skin taken with it! They have re-defined "sticky"

Very good idea,Thanks again for the MUCH need info

Thanks. Since posting that I have bought a new adjustable helmet with a shade range from 8 to 13. I as cautious about using a setting below 9, but I am now 70 years old, and I can finally see enough at 8 1/2. It is a name brand helmet, too.

I'm glad to hear you upgraded the helmet! Can't go wrong there.