If you’re a DIY enthusiast, chances are you’re into welding. Whether it’s making your own mailbox or fixing a part for your car, read on to find out what you need to know about at-home welding and what welding equipment to buy.
What is welding?
Simply a fabrication process that joins two pieces of metal together, welding is not as complex as it may seem.
When welding, two pieces of material are melted at high temperatures so they become fused together after cooling. Sometimes an additional piece of metal (a filler material) can be used to make the join, and this can often be the strongest part of the weld.
This is different to soldering, where only the filler material is heated up to create a single strong bond.
Types of welding
There are three main welding types, some trickier than others. They include:
For anyone just starting out with welding at home, MIG is typically the type of welding to stick with. Also known as gas metal arc welding (GMAW) it’s one of the easier types of welding to pick up and doesn’t require a huge investment.
It uses a continuous solid wire electrode fed into the weld pool from the welding gun. It first creates the spark and then melts, joining the two materials together. At the same time, gas is diffused from the gun to shield the welding area from contaminants in the air, such as oxygen and nitrogen.
This type of welding is popular when carrying out small projects or home repairs. The centre of the welding wire is a material called flux, which incorporates a cleaning agent, allows the welding to occur without contamination. Flux core welding eliminates the need for a gas bottle and accompanying accessories.
Generally speaking, TIG is the hardest type of welding to learn among the three discussed here. It’s a process that is often used professionally and the margin for error is much smaller than in other welding applications.
This type of welding also goes by the name GTAW (gas tungsten arc welding) and works by using a non-consumable electrode to apply the heat to the target metals. Once these are melted, the bead can be manipulated and centred with a dipper rod.
Mastering TIG may take a lot of time and experience, but it’s very rewarding and the process and final results are aesthetically pleasing.
What equipment do I need to weld?
The first and most important piece of equipment to purchase is, of course, a welding machine. Seeing as it’s the biggest expense for DIY welding, it is best not to go with a cheap and low-quality option that will only frustrate you and make learning more difficult.
Instead, go for a hard-wearing, multi-purpose welding machine that can switch between MIG and TIG easily. This can save you money in the long run if you decide to switch up techniques.
You could even purchase a specialised table to go with your machine, which provides you with a sturdy, reliable and heat-resistant surface to weld on.
As an essential part of the process, welders usually purchase at least two welding wires in varying thicknesses. This is because a thin welding wire is used on thin sheet material, and you need a larger diameter to work with thicker materials.
Most machines are supplied with a manual that tells you what wire thickness it can take.
Buying the right shielding gas is important, so think about the types of jobs you plan to tackle.
The psi will vary depending on the type of torch you’re using and how deep you want your welds, but generally you’ll stick to between 15 and 25.
As for the gas mixture, a home hobbyist with a wire-feed welder can usually get by with 100% CO2 shielding gas. For a cleaner weld, you can use 75% CO2 and 25% argon.
Of course, wearing a safety helmet is required during the welding process and an auto-darkening helmet is the best type to go with. They protect against harmful light emissions by automatically darkening their clear lens to a preselected shade in milliseconds, using LCD technology in their glass.
There are many other pieces of equipment you can purchase and, although they are not necessary for welding, they can make the process easier and more efficient. These include a right-angle grinder, a chipping hammer and wire brush, welding pliers and a magnet square.
What is the best location to weld in?
DIY welding can be a fun process that helps you build or fix things around the house, but it’s important to bear safety and location in mind.
When welding at home, it’s best to use your garage or workshop. Ensure there is adequate ventilation such as a window or fan extractor to protect yourself from the fumes, dust and particles that are created. Always be sure that fumes are being pulled away from your breathing area, never across or through it.
Safety top tips
No matter the type or amount of welding that you are doing, it’s vital to have a correctly set up workstation before you begin. Here are some top tips to follow before you start welding:
- Verify equipment installation and grounding, and be sure the work clamp has a good metal-on-metal connection.
- Ensure your welding equipment is on a flat surface away from any flammable materials including paper, cloth rags, oil and petrol.
- Keep your work area free from clutter and make sure all the necessary tools are easy to find.
- Since water conducts electricity, avoid working in damp or wet conditions.
- Minimise the number of cables and hoses underfoot as they create a trip hazard.
- Always chain gas cylinders securely to a stationary, upright support or cart, and only use gas hoses designed for welding.
- Wear the appropriate, flame-resistant PPE that covers your skin, button your cuffs and pockets, and avoid wearing trousers with turn-ups, as they can catch sparks.
- Always wear proper gloves when welding or handling materials to protect your hands from burns.
Learning how to weld can be both a rewarding and a frustrating process. So whether you are learning how to weld to restore possessions, create unique projects and artwork, or start up your own business, there are plenty of ways to teach yourself.
Books, tutorials, YouTube videos and online classes can help you learn the right welding techniques from the comfort of your own home. Or, if you’re looking for a more hands-on experience, you can always sign up for in-person training courses that will help you become a pro in no time.
Author Bio: First Mats started life as safety matting specialists, but have since expanded to become a complete industrial and commercial supplies company. The focus of First Mats is to provide safety-focused products that improve the wellbeing of staff through quality approved products, backed up by extensive knowledge. www.firstmats.co.uk