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learn how to weld - beginners


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Old 12-17-2007, 03:03 AM   #1
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lots of guys wish they could do their own welding...well here is your chance to learn! If you have any questions, please ask!

General safety note: Have at least 1 fire extinguisher in very short reach when welding. Sparks can get where you wouldn't think and can start a fire. You are also making a lot of heat. This heat can start something close to here you are welding. Be safe, don't destroy your ride, business or house!

Stick welding (smaw)
I am going to start with Stick welding Though it is regarded as messy and unpopular, it is still the most widely used and cost effective method of welding in the industrial sector.

Equipment Needed: Welder capable of stick welding, safety glasses, gloves, welding mask (I recommend self darkening but a conventional is ok), wire brush, chipping hammer, welding rods (6011 3/32"), grinder.

First things first. You are not going to lay perfect beads for a little while, don't get discouraged. This is something that is learned with practice. and... READ THE INSTRUCTIONS ON THE WELDER AND THE BOX OF RODS!! I cannot stress this enough. By reading this it will tell you the capability of the machine and the rods. It also tells you what material the rod can fuse and what heat settings it can be used at. Most manufacturers display this info right on their website, or you can call their info number.

Getting started: get some old steel and practice striking an arc. This is usually the hardest thing to overcome when starting stick welding. The easiest way to start is to hold the electrode off the edge of the steel so the flux is touching the metal (don't worry it wont arc through the flux). Move the stick up and in the direction of the work that you are looking to run a bead on. 9 out of 10 times if you don't completely spaz you will start an arc and be able to hold it. Now that your arc is started push the stick down gently until it sounds like bacon frying. If it sounds like electricity (buzzing) you are too far away. If you stick the electrode you are too close. It may take a few times to get used to this. That is ok, its part of learning. There are other methods of starting an arc like scratch or tap. You will figure them out as you learn. Once you have your arc started and the electrode burning properly it is time to start running beads.

Get some steel plate, 1/4" thick 4" x 4" usually works pretty well. Clamp it down well to prevent it from warping all to hell because you are going to put a ton of heat into it. Strike your arc, holding the electrode holder 30 or so degrees off vertical towards the direction you are welding, and move your puddle making small c's, remember, as you progress you have to move your hand down towards the work to compensate for the electrode getting shorter. Your beads are going to look pretty horrible at first and that ok, don't expect to be a master welder right out of the box. Run this bead all the way to the end of the metal. Chip the flux with the chipping hammer and then run the wire brush over it to get all the crap left over. Go to the beginning again and start an arc half way over the first bead. Repeat this until the surface is completely covered, making sure that your bead is even in width (the bead really shouldn't be more than double the width of the electrode) and in height. Now rotate it 90 and do the same thing. Your goal is to make that 1/4" piece 1" thick! Get inventive, put the piece vertical and try welding that way. If you really want to learn, rig it so that you are welding overhead, this is the most difficult way to weld. Rods are cheap, so this is not expensive. I guarantee when you are done with this you will be able to run a bead like a pro. And, you will be able to see improvement as you go.

Take your new found ability and try welding stuff together. Recycling centers are usually good places to find scrap steel. Who cares if its rusty, grind that sukka!

Wire Feed Welding (MIG or GMAW, Flux-core or FCAW)

Mig welding is very popular because of its relative ease of learning and operating. Its like a computer really, point and click! Here are a few tips to get you started with that machine you just bought or borrowed.

Equipment needed: Welder capable of wire feed welding, safety glasses, gloves, welding mask (again I recommend self darkening but a conventional is ok), wire brush, wire spool 0.03" or 0.035", grinder.

Starting an arc: Hold the tip of the torch about 1/4" away from where yo are going to lay your bead or tack. Pull the trigger and BAM you are welding. Wait a second or two so that you get a puddle going.

Setting heat and wire feed speed: Look on the inside panel of the welder. There are usually charts that show what wire size to use and what heat and feed setting to use depending on the material thickness. THESE ARE GENERAL GUIDELINES, you may have to adjust the feed speed to the speed that you weld at, at first you will want to keep it a little slower. As you get better you can mess with the settings. Its all trial and error in the beginning. Don't worry, everyone starts out the same.

Basically to learn how to run a bead do the same thing as I explained in the stick welding part with the piece of steel and running multiple beads. There are some differences depending if you are using flux-core (gas-less) or MIG (with gas).

Flux-core:
When welding with flux-core you want to "drag" the puddle. This means you want the torch angled in the direction that you are welding. Start your arc and advance at a pace so that the bead is fairly even in height and width. If you feel the gun trying to kick back your feed is too fast, turn it down a tad. If you hear the arc sputtering your feed is too slow, turn it up a tad. if there is excessive spatter (little balls of metal) you are running too hot, turn it down some. The flux deposit from a flux-core wire is way different than stick welding. It looks like a whitish/yellowish powder where as stick flux looks like a hard shell. Brush it all off before you start welding another bead, this will ensure the next bead is contaminant free!

Gas Welding:
First off, set your gas regulator to about 15 SCFM, if there is a good amount of air movement go to about 20 SCFM. If you are welding outside and it is windy, use flux-core. When welding with gas and solid wire you want to "push" the puddle. This means you want the torch angled away from the direction that you are welding. Start your arc and advance at a pace so that the bead is fairly even in height and width. If you feel the gun trying to kick back your feed is too fast, turn it down a tad. If you hear the arc sputtering your feed is too slow, turn it up a tad. Again, with spatter. If you are seeing a large amount of it, turn the heat down. There is no flux with this process so no special attention is really needed for the bead. It is good practice to hit it with a wire brush just to make sure there are no contaminants.

Now, here is the fun part. Get some scrap material, like 16 gauge or 1/8" steel. Something that is less than the max thickness weldable by your machine/wire. Run some beads on it and BURN SOME HOLES IN IT. Yep you read right, burn some holes in there. Then, practice filling them back in. It is inevitable that when you are welding something occasionally you will blow through (burn a hole through). This is a pain in the ass but is easily fixed. Let the piece cool down, then reduce your heat a bit and make tacks around the hole until it is closed. Grind it smooth and get back to the task at hand. This is a handy thing to learn because then you wont spaz when it happens, believe me, it WILL happen.

Welding thin metal: Welding on this metal is a bit difficult at first. The easiest way is to use a light gauge wire and low heat/feed. A trick to not making a mess is to use a backing plate. Get some brass, bronze, or aluminum. at least 1/4" thick. Clamp it the the backside of your work, directly under when you are going to lay your bead. This will dissipate the heat faster and allow you to weld a little bit longer. The key to welding thin material is to use tacks, don't run a bead. When you run a bead you store heat in the puddle and this aids in the penetration. This is what causes blow through. Also, keep a damp rag around. This is handy not only to cool the weld area, but also you can wrap it around heat sensitive parts, such as wires, fuel lines, plastic parts, airline, and whatever else isn't good friends with heat.

Here are a few other pieces of info:

You can weld 1" thick steel with a 110v welder. Granted you cant weld it in 1 pass, but you can in multiple passes. The same goes for thicker or thinner material.

You DON'T need a 220v machine to weld on your frame. Yes, its a lot easier because you can get more penetration out of it, but even a cheapo harbor freight flux-core 110 machine will weld 1/8" steel in a single pass.

You CAN weld dissimilar materials together, as long as they are in the same material family. You can weld carbon steel to stainless steel, but welding aluminum to carbon steel is pretty impossible without some really expensive equipment. If you do this, use a filler material that is equal to the higher grade of material being welded. For example: if you are welding 304 stainless to 316 stainless, use a filler for 316 stainless.

NOTE: I did not cover TIG welding. There is a separate thread for that...

If you have any questions pm me or hit me on aim. Ask, don't assume. Its easier and could save you a bunch of time!

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Old 12-17-2007, 04:56 AM   #2
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wow... awesome thread. great info. Stickied.

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Old 12-17-2007, 05:53 AM   #3
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FTR lincolinmetal = teh man

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Old 05-08-2008, 06:30 PM   #4
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just a question, for the smaw, why not start out practicing with 6013 3/16 or 1/8th in. especially if you're on a flat surface then move up to 6011?
in class thats what the instructor has us do, thought the 6013 was easier to learn good bead formation with and then moving to 6011 was much easier.

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Old 05-08-2008, 10:01 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Old_Skool_Noma View Post
just a question, for the smaw, why not start out practicing with 6013 3/16 or 1/8th in. especially if you're on a flat surface then move up to 6011?
in class thats what the instructor has us do, thought the 6013 was easier to learn good bead formation with and then moving to 6011 was much easier.
a 6011 is harder to learn with, if you master that they will all be easier.

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