I have never had the need or opportunity to weld anything. Lately I have
found that there are many items that I can purchase for the yard, arbors and
such that are made out of welded steel. Pretty pricey, I think with a
little practice I could fabricate these types of things myself. I happen to
have access to quite a selection of steel stock, so all I need to do I learn
to use a welder.
Lets start here, what are the differences between MIG, TIG and ARC welding,
seems to me it has something to do with the gas envelope around the "hot"
area of the weld. And how do they actually work?
I am quite mechanically inclined and learn quickly and become quite capable
at whatever I choose to learn in a short period of time.
Any thoughts on where to start? I am guessing that Mig is the most likely
type if welding I would want to do here.
What kind of specs do I need out of a welder for this type use? (amperage)
There may be a welding course offered at your local community college.
There may be information and knowledgeable personnel at a welding supply
shop. Your local library probably has books on welding.
MIG - Metal Inert Gas, a motor fed sacrificial thin wire is fed out of the
gun tip. The current passes through this wire and causes the weld. Inert
Gas (Argon/CO2) is blown out of the end of the gun displacing the air from
TIG - Tungsten Inert Gas - A non sacrificial tungsten electrode belches
electrical fire on to the work, same gas shroud as MIG
ARC - A sacrificial flux coated, fairly heavy rod 1mm - 2mm is electrified.
As the tip melts, the flux coating atomises to produce a gas shroud around
the weld. When you have finished welding you will find a glass like slag on
the weld which you bash off with a pointy hammer.
Oxy Acetylene - Burn oxygen & acetylene together to make one heck of a
blowlamp. Use it to melt the metal and feed in a bit of spare metal from
long thin rods.
MIG is like a hot glue gun for metal. Easy to use but costs a lot for the
gas. Machines aren't particularly cheap.
TIG is like electric oxy acetylene, I like it but gas costs raise their
ARC, cheap to buy, fairly heavy duty but takes a little getting use to as
you have to advance your hand towards the work as the rod shortens.
Oxy Acetylene, not my favourite method of welding. Double gas costs and I
have had problems with heavy work where the metal conducts the heat away as
fast as you are adding it.
Hope this helps
The internet is an excellent source.
Fortunately, you can get your equipment very cheap and weld for as
long as you want and then sell your equipment for about what you paid
I bought a cheap mig welder from Sams and it came with an excellent
instruction manual that really helped. I used mine immediately to
repain a broken clutch lever and it more than paid for itself in 45
minutes. It wasn't a pretty weld but it was hell for stout.
Just about every library has books on welding.
Practice practice practice.
Check out Harbor Freight, they have a 120V gassless wire fed welder. Good
for light gague metal, I built all of my gates with it, up to 2 inch square
tubing, mostly 1 , 3/4 and 1/2 inch material
Gassless wire feed is pretty easy to figure out. The wire is a bit more
pricey but I only go through a spool a year. Ya need to get a full hood,
the hand held mother that comes with it is junk. Get a few of the magnetic
holders and some welding clamps. They also have a Cut off saw for about a
100 bucks that makes short work of tubing and bar stock. Have fun I do,
There you go. You can build all manner of things, including ornamental
metal (incorrectly called wought iron).
All work by the principle of heating the surrounding metal with a heat
source so that the added metal is fluid and makes complete fusion with the
base metal. The base metal is the piece being heated. In all welding, the
surrounding air must be kept out or the molten pool will have properties
such as porosity (foaming) that are bad for the finished weld.
MIG - Metal Inert Gas, proper name Gas Metal Arc Welding GMAW - A wire is
fed into the arc. It is surrounded by gas to shield the molten pool.
TIG - Tungsten Inert Gas, sometime called "Heliarc welding" uses a tungsten
rod to make an arc to heat up the base metal. When a pool is created,
another uncoated rod of the same metal as the base metal is inserted in the
pool and let melt. This is done repeatedly, moving from one puddle to the
next. A gas shield surrounds the tungsten electrode and keeps the air out
of the molten pool.
Stick - SMAW - Shielded Metal Arc Welding - a metal electrode has a coating
that keeps out the air from the pool.
Oxyacetelyne - OA - welding - like TIG, but you use a gas/oxygen heat supply
to make the puddle, then also use a filler rod. A pretty good way to weld,
but you have to heat up a lot of metal to get it hot enough to melt. You
can also use the OA setup for cutting. Mainly, you can cut out figures from
sheet metal and car fenders for your sculptures, another source of cheap
materials, and then sell them for gawdawful high prices like everyone else
does. DO NOT buy anything but Victor OA gear, as it lasts, and is easy to
get repaired. An OA rig will cost you around $250.
Then just get to it. Take classes. Go to the library.
MIG would give you a lot of capabilities for thick and thin metal. An AC/DC
machine would also get you started a little cheaper.
I am a proponent of buying for what you will need two years down the line.
No need of buying something you will outgrow or a piece of junk that will
not be useful in two years of heavy use. I personally like a 220 machine,
although they are not as portable as a 110 MIG. Sometimes you can get a
good used old machine that still has years and years of use on it that has a
high amperage capacity. Unless you are using it to weld heavy metal 3/8" or
thicker, you can get by with a smaller welder that doesn't go over 160 amps.
If you can find a good used stick welder, get it. DO NOT buy one that is AC
only, as this machine burns quite hot, and will not work for the thin stuff.
A good AC/DC machine is the Miller Thunderbolt, ($300) or even an AC/DC
Lincoln Tombstone (sometimes for around $150). Sometimes you can get one of
the old Lincolns or Millers for $200-$400, and
they will last longer than you. They won't be pretty, but were made when
things were made to last.
A good MIG like a Lincoln 135 or 175 is from $300 to $700, but will last a
Don't even worry about TIG until you learn this other stuff.
Now, the skinny .............
If you are serious, try to buy good equipment. Your equipment will make you
money and pay for itself. Charge reasonably for repairs you do and things
you build. Buy the best you can afford, because something that doesn't last
or that you have to upgrade is no deal.
Look around for good NAME BRAND used stuff.
Steve, who has been welding 29 years now.
I've oft thought about buying a welding rig of my own. I've done
a few hours worth of stick welding, and a bit of OA.
The emphasis being on _cheap_ and _occasional_, I don't seem to have
any good choices.
I found OA welding to be the easiest. The equipment is fairly cheap,
but renting/refilling cylinders seems to be _very_ expensive. Like
$100-200/year just to have the cylinders. I wouldn't do anywhere near
enough welding to justify that.
Stick welding gear and supplies is relatively inexpensive. But I have
a tremendous problem getting the arc started, and it sticks on me so much
the result (in a word) sucks. I seem to be using the "right" rods (6018?),
but as they're from a school, they're probably quite old.
A friend (who is a properly trained OA welder) switched from OA to a
wire-feed MIG welder (used without gas) because the OA tanks cost more
than he could justify for occasional use. He reports that "all I've been
able to make is porcupines" - as in, the wire's always sticking, and he
has to keep stopping to clip off the wire.
Another friend (a professionally trained stick welder) spent some considerable
time trying the TIG (in the school) on aluminum, and every few seconds of
operating time, he'd foul the tip and have to disassemble/file/reassemble it.
My other problem with arc welding is that I always have a big problem trying
to actually start the arc where I want the weld. Position the tip, flip
down the helmet, and try to start the arc. Then I found out I'm trying
to start the arc on the _vice_. Yeah, an automatic darkening visor
would _probably_ make things better, but those things cost more than
Chris Lewis, Una confibula non set est
It's not just anyone who gets a Starship Cruiser class named after them.
On 18 Dec 2003 21:12:31 GMT, email@example.com (Chris Lewis)
I've made a few porcupines myself. But I did fix my welding on the
vice. I got my wife's high intensity halogen reading lamp and placed
it about 18 inches from the welld and I can actually see the work
before I strike an arc.
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