The 6 Things You Need to Know to Start Welding

Metalworking Workshop
The 6 Things You Need to Know to Start Welding

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. 


Lincoln_125x125_bur2What 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.

David Stremme Racing

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.

Fence repair with Power MIG 210MP

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.

2013 Money Matters Products

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!


15 thoughts on “The 6 Things You Need to Know to Start Welding

  1. Mark L Evans says:

    Post not a total fail but mostly as for the small shop maker Oxyacetylene is the way to go because of its versatility. Weld, braze, cut, heat….. All these electric types do well for different applications but all will require additional tools to do additional tasks. Looking at your bio reminds me, if all you have is a hammer, every problem is a nail.

  2. GeekyMonkey says:

    I don’t know anything about welding. But it seems one of the first choices was completely overlooked in this article. Oxy Acetylene or Electric? Wouldn’t be so bad if the title was changed to indicate this was strictly about electric arc welding. You can still sell everyone your safety gear even if they don’t choose to go with the electric welders you’re selling.

  3. Carol Wilson Reimann says:

    Probably because Lincoln makes electric welders…

  4. Tom Pattison says:

    Three and a half years apprenticeship, and all I needed was ten steps, oh dear what a waste of my time

  5. Jessica Henricks says:

    Thanks for the article. Would you consider rearranging (or captioning) the pictures? The top one is TIG, but kind of reads like it goes with the MIG description. Also, thanks to Lincoln for making women’s welding gear! It was hard to find for a long time.

  6. DaveNathanson says:

    Seems like 6 things you need to know to buy your first welder.

  7. Karl Troll Rosenqvist says:

    I expect the reason for not bringing up Oxyacetylene torch welding is that the author is the Product Manager for a company that sells electric welding machines.

  8. George Carlson says:

    I agree with Mark. Too much is made of the cheap MIG machines. An Oxyacetylene rig is something you will need in any case if you plan to cut. heat and bend, or braze. So why waste money on MIG machines.

  9. Carol Wilson Reimann says:

    If you’re doing thin metal work, you want electric. Why not won both ?

  10. Jacob Knight says:

    Reblogged this on Knight Technical Institute.

  11. Bob says:

    What could be more intimidating than a tool mightier than the sword, and if used improperly could hang Roger Casement? While it’s true that writing can be intimidating, like anything else, with a little effort, time and adequate proofreading, you can get good enough to tackle most any sales pitch, and you’ll get better the more you practice.

    1. Proofreading: Absolutely NOT Optional
    Scan over everything, including the introduction. Look for obvious typos like extra spaces and punctuation. Look for consistency in how you start new paragraphs and sections.

    2. Hearing Voices: Consider Clumsy Phrases with Sound Judgment
    Read what you’ve written aloud and pay attention to what you are saying. Did you find some sentences difficult to understand? Those are the areas that could use some editing.

    3. Get a Second Opinion
    Have someone else read your work before you post it to the blog. Your girlfriend, your grandpa, a stranger at the bar… really anyone with a high school education will suffice. A high school educator, like your sophomore English teacher, is even better. Really, a copy editor is your best friend in this situation. MAKE may even have some on staff, though it would not be surprising if they were laid off to balance the budget.

    4. Look at the Big Picture
    Does your pitch include great photographs of your product in action? Make sure they match what you have written. Likewise, if your writing refers to an image, be sure to include that image and place it appropriately within the text. Calling attention to an image that does not exist is confusing.

    5. A Fitting Title
    If your pitch is about something specific like choosing the right tool for a particular job, use a title that says so. A title implying broader coverage of the subject will leave readers disappointed when they get to the bottom of the page.

    6. Read Up on Writing
    There are countless publications on the practice of writing and you can find them at your local bookstore, public library, and even as digital eBooks online. One indispensable guide every writer should keep close at hand is “The Elelments of Style” by Strunk and White. Read it cover to cover.

    A maker myself, I used to get MAKE magazine and read the blog daily. Then the content became “family oriented.” I dropped the subscription and started visiting the blog weekly. Then fewer and fewer writers were experts in the subjects of their posts, the content went way downhill and I started visiting monthly. I don’t find myself getting excited about the things MAKE has to show me anymore, except maybe Jimmy Diresta nearly cutting off a digit or attempting to nail himself to the workbench. Now I see the drivel in this sales pitch of a blog post and I wonder if I’ll be coming back at all. I miss the good old days, MAKE. You’ve changed, and I think it’s time to say goodbye.

  12. FrankLee11 says:

    Welding Equipment incinerate welding is that the essayist is the Item for consumption Superior for a establishment that shifts electric welding machines.

  13. Abdurrahman Tarun says:

    I am a newbie of welding job. This article is very helpfull for me. I want more article like this to learn a lots of technique. I am ready to purchase a new mig welder. I have taken help from this. http://weldermagazine
    com. Is this relaiable for know details about mig welder.

  14. myhelmetsguide says:

    thank you yes these 6 things really matters a lot specially for the beginner. thanks for the article

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Josh Zaller

Josh Zaller serves as Product Manager, Commercial Products for Lincoln Electric, which has just introduced the Power MIG 210 MP, multi-process welding machine.

View more articles by Josh Zaller


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