Never Again Weld a Crooked Bead

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Introduction: Never Again Weld a Crooked Bead

About: I miss the days when magazines like Popular Mechanics had all sorts of DIY projects for making and repairing just about everything. I am enjoying posting things I have learned and done since I got my first ...

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

Tools 
  • Hammer
  • Concrete floor
  • Vise
  • Round rod about 3/8 inch in diameter
  • Punch
Materials
  • 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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    77 Discussions

    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.

    3 replies

    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"

    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.

    Brilliant solution to a problem we all need to address! Very good idea, and since weld splatter won't stick to the aluminum plate, you can use it again and again.

    I would suggest a nice edge (ALL edges, even the ones left by the DMV they can be razor sharp) sanding by hand or with a slow flapper disc to avoid cuts from the freshly cut aluminum edge, it can get quite sharp as many metals can when cutting them. I'd also suggest using an angle grinder to prepare your surfaces to be welded, the rust on them or factory scale will impede a good weld pool from forming. You might not even be able to get a good scratch start on the arc.

    And (no commentary intended on your work bench Phil B sir) but keep your work area clean and orderly. If you are so fortunate as to tour the shop of a place like NASCAR which I have toured, the darned place looks as clean as (or CLEANER) than a lot of surgical suites I have also seen. I got the $10.00 tour since I was there to do some work for them on their computer systems. They are careful, I had to sign non-disclosure agreements that were quite thorough. Their welding quality is superb! You can't very well have a weld break loose at around 200 MPH and expect GOOD things to happen. Cleanliness wasn't on the NDA. I'm sure they'd be happy about the complements.

    And don't skimp on the safety equipment. Your vision won't magically return if you have a defective welder's eye shield. The helmet's lens may also not be up to standards for impact resistance, so (call me over cautious) I also wear OSHA rated clear lens protection glasses inside the helmet - just in case. You get one shot at vision and breathing. Sure you get two eyes and two lungs, but that's The Creator's little redundancy plan, not protection from the crap we get into ourselves. And stay away from galvanized stuff. Grind off all the zinc and go a little further. Burning zinc fumes are nasty, and though some ay they can kill you, I've never heard of a documented case of that. You can get sick as a dog and feel horrible until you recover.

    And I also wear the 3M breather mask (mine was only $10.00 and a few more bucks for my choice of filters - the filters won't stop toxic fumes but will stop particulates) to avoid particulates in the lungs and try to have ventilation to carry toxic welding fumes away from me and my work area. You can't LOOK at those fumes and KNOW if they are toxic, so if you err, err on the side of caution. (NO, I don't work for 3M, but they make an excellent breather mask for a decent price. Some say they will stop odors if you get the best filter. Some cops I know say they can keep you from smelling a "ripe" crime victim. Those paper pleated surgical masks that you can get for cheap, are no good for protection at all. I don't know why surgeons use them, they could stand to update their safety standards!

    If your choice of welding mask is on the inexpensive side (beginners are always budget conscious) and the batteries can't be replaced, plan on saving for a unit that is built to last (Lincoln and some of the better-known brand names are quite good and DO last. You can get replacement parts for them as well.) Don't rely on some cheap bit of crap equipment made in China for safety for long, they are NOT made to last. They want to keep selling you replacements again anad again. One $125.00 unit will outlast ten $45.00 Chinese made units, and you can replace the batteries. $125.00 is way cheaper than $450.00 for ten "cheap" units.

    Excellent ideas, I plan to use it in my shop. Keep creating!

    Very good idea,Thanks again for the MUCH need info

    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.

    2 replies

    I have an auto darkening variable shade hood. There is a knob on the side to adjust from #9 to #13. I would highly recomend one.

    Thank you for your comment. Since that Instructable I do have a nice Miller hood with adjustable darkening between 9 and 13. It helps a lot. Having plenty of light on the weld joint also helps.

    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.

    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.

    3 replies

    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.