Josh Zaller is the Product Manager for Lincoln Electric’s latest welding machine offering, the Power MIG 210 MP. Growing the welding industry means encouraging more people to get out there and weld! To help toward that end, Josh has supplied the 6 things you absolutely need to know to start welding.
What could be more intimidating than a tool that harnesses enough energy to fuse metal together, and if used improperly, could injure you? While it’s true that welding can be intimidating, like anything else, with a little effort, time and the right tools, you can get good enough to tackle most any project, and you’ll get better the more you practice.
1. Safety: Absolutely NOT optional.
Before you even think about welding, make sure you have the right gear, including fire resistant jacket, safety glasses, welding gloves and an approved welding helmet. Helmets have come a long way in recent years. To make things easier, look for an auto darkening helmet like these Viking helmets from Lincoln Electric. Make sure you have adequate ventilation or make use of a fume extraction system. Also, don’t weld on or near flammable materials; choose a location that will give you plenty of room to let sparks fly.
2. Weld Processes: MIG, Stick Flux-Cored and TIG.
Don’t get buffaloed by these terms. They are explained below, from the easiest to get started with, to the ones that will take more skill and experience to master.
Wire welding uses spools of wire fed through a gun, and the constant feed of wire minimizes starts and stops making it easy for relatively inexperienced welders to create good looking joints. It’s also faster, more economical, and better suited to welding thin sheet metal.
There are two types of wire welding: MIG (metal inert gas) and flux-cored. MIG welding relies on a constant stream of shielding gas to protect the weld from contamination. The gas is plumbed into the welding gun from a gas bottle. The limitations to MIG welding are that it can be difficult to use outdoors (wind can blow away your shielding gas), and you have to cart around the gas bottle. Flux-cored welding uses wire that is specifically designed for use with or without shielding gas depending upon the wire being used. Those designed for use without gas (self-shielded) are often recommended for outdoor work.
Stick (also called SMAW) Stick welding is frequently the best choice for quick repairs and is often the first process that most beginners learn. It’s easy to set up and as the name suggests, it uses a stick electrode like Excalibur 7018, so you don’t need a wire feeder. Stick is slower than MIG welding, but often more forgiving when working with dirty or rusty metal. Stick is not recommended for this sheet metal welding.
TIG (tungsten inert gas) welding is preferred for architectural work or automotive work where the weld has to look good. It’s also a good way to weld thin metal and sheet metal and achieve a seamless look. On the difficulty scale, TIG is usually considered the hardest to learn, but it’s not out of your grasp if you put the effort into it.
3. Input Voltage:Really just two choices here—110v or 230v—both available in most homes or garages.
In general, the lower input voltages are sufficient for thinner materials; higher input voltage will allow you to penetrate thicker materials. Most beginner welders would benefit from a machine that offers dual voltage (both 110v and 230v) that they can “grow into” so that as they get more confident, they won’t be limited.
4. User Interface: Look for one that is intuitive and easy to use.
It can be tricky for a novice to “dial in” welding settings, so look for a machine that does this for you with a logical progression that allows you to select your process, the thickness and material type you’re going to weld and the type of consumable (wire or electrode) that you’re going to weld with. Good machines will automatically know what input voltage you’re plugged into and will adjust settings accordingly (or tell you that your selections are out of range).
5. Material: Some processes and consumables are better for welding certain materials, andvsometimes can require additional tools.
For example, you can weld aluminum with the MIG process, but you will get better results using a spool gun to feed the consumable (aluminum doesn’t feed well through a wire feeder and a long cable). Look for guidance from the manufacturer of the welder you’re considering purchasing and think about the projects you have in mind. Can you weld a variety of materials like aluminum, mild steel and stainless in a variety of thicknesses? If so, you can be pretty sure that you’re getting a machine that will grow with you.
6. Consumables: “Consumable” is the industry term for the wire, electrode or filler material used in welding.
You need to match your consumable with the welding process (see above) as well as the material you’re welding on. As you get more proficient, you’ll begin to recognize the nuances among consumables and will likely gravitate towards a particular brand. Lincoln Electric offers consumables for just about every material or alloy, so they are always a great place to start.
There you have it; nothing to hold you back now. Now get out there and start welding!