Consult a structural engineer before welding joints on any load bearing structure. Always wear a welder’s mask and gloves when welding. Do not use a welding machine or propane torch near flammable materials.
Welding 101 Tips
- NUMBER ONE CHALLENGE (besides blow through – see below) will be distortion due to uneven heating in the material. This will be your worse enemy! Plan for the distortion and do everything you can to mitigate it. Clamps, Pre-stressing or pre-positioning the material a little bit in the opposite direction, Pre-heating, etc. How much pre-position is a little bit? – You gotta figure that one out on your first weld of the project!
- Stitch Welding is your friend! It’s the most forgiving, causes the least amount of distortion and can provide the strongest joint because of all of the above. (This was my biggest mistake in the early years – trying to duplicate those long, beautiful, seamless welds that the pros get on stainless steel countertops!)
- To Weave or Not? It depends on the shapes of the objects being welded together and the thickness.
A. Because my hand shakes enough already – For most welds where I’m joining flat stock or square tube at right angles, or butt joints – Little to no weaving action is needed. I just try to run a straight line, it ends up looking like a weave!
B. For solid round rods and other joints that might have a deep “V” groove area to fill – Pause in the root of the “V” while weaving. Care should be used to prevent blow-through when welding hollow tubes.
- Push or Pull the Tip? “When there’s slag – always drag”. Flux Core welding Drag – MIG (gas) welding push.
- MIG or Flux Core: Which type of welding is best? That depends on who you talk to, and your particular setup. For me, I weld exclusively outside (set-up just outside my workshop doors). My workshop is FULL OF WOOD. Danger – Danger – never weld around wood or any combustibles! Plus my workshop is in the basement of our house. I do not want to deal with welding fumes permeating the house! Therefore, I have to use flux core. MIG welding can’t be done outside if there is ANY WIND! Flux core is more forgiving on dirty steel too. Yes, your steel will come with a thick layer of black oil on it. Of course it’s best to clean this off, but for a quick “ugly but functional” welding project, you don’t “have to clean it” with flux core. Of course, MIG welding has its place, especially when you want a pretty, slag-less weld bead, or you are working with really thin metals (which I avoid see below) – you just have to have the perfect indoor setup to do this. Did I mention a ventilation system – and no combustibles in sight??
- Blow Through – the bane of all new welders. I have found that choosing a slightly thicker material mitigates the blow through. I love welding 12 gauge to 1/8″ thick material, whether it’s flat stock or hollow tubes. 14 gauge is kind of a happy medium for lighter weight and less blow through. 16 gauge takes LOTS of practice!
- Best Material To Keep On Hand. Most common carbon steel I find useful to keep one hand:
A. Tubing – I love, love, love 1-1/4″ “cold rolled” square tube 14 or 12 gauge. It comes in handy making just about anything you need around the house or shop. 3/4″ – 14 gauge square tube is my next go to.
B. Flat stock: 2″ and 4″ wide at 1/8″ thick “cold rolled” are awesome.
C. Angle: 3/4 x 1/8″ hot rolled
- My favorite Accessories:
A. BEST WELDING TOOL EVER – Vise Grip style large “C” clamp locking pliers. (Get about 8 pairs!)
B Tip Lube
C. Lineman’s pliers (to snip off the extra weld wire that always seems to be too long from the tip)
D. Right angle magnets
E. Weldables Sawhorses www.weldables.com
F. Leather steel toe shoes (I’ve ruined plenty of tennis shoes welding in my shorts!)
G. To be continued…
Welding Projects: Metal Storage Room Shelving – RV Shelves – Lumber Rack – Landscape Border – Lots of welding – We like welding : )