How to Weld LIKE A BOSS

Here’s another manly pursuit brought to you by the letter ‘W’, welding.  I think trying to explain why welding is manly is a bit redundant.  (Honestly though, some of the best welders I know are ladies).  Welding refers to the fusing of more than one piece of anything (metal, wood, bone) by using heat and/or compression so that it joins into a single piece. 


Types of Welding:

Pattern Welding – This is the first type of welding humans used.  Basically you take two pieces of steel with a softer metal in between and hit it with a hammer.  A lot. Very carefully.  Eventually, the constant beating on the metal caused the metal to get extremely hot, folding the steel and rewelding.  This type of steel is often referred to as Damascus steel.  It made some of the sharpest and toughest blades of the middle ages.  It’s really not practical anymore, but still makes for some fucking beautiful things.

Explosion Welding – This is the most recent method of welding we’ve developed.  Here you take two different metals, one is usually a sheet and then you just blow up what you want to cover the sheet with.  The process doesn’t melt either metal.  Instead the explosive forces cause them to fuse together sort of like a plastic.  It’s the most extreme type of fusion welding.  The down side is, you have to be pretty good with explosives to even attempt it.  The up side is, you’re blowing shit up.

Gas Welding – This is the type of welding you usually see in the movies and TV, even though it’s still not the most common.  Gas welding uses the same equipment as a cutting torch.  In gas welding, the two pieces are heated by the flame that produces a shared pool of molten metal.  Usually a welder will add a type of metal called ‘flux’ to the pool where a bead is desired.  The flux gives off vapors that serve as a shielding gas and protect the weld from contamination.  This type of welding is extremely easy for a hobbyist to begin and practice with since you can cut up any mistake with the same basic tools.

Arc Welding – The most common type of welding.  This is a type that uses a power supply to create an electric arc between an electrode and the base material to melt the metals together.  It can be DC or AC current, and there are multiple types of arc welding.  I’m going to teach you guys a bit about stick welding because it’s the type I’m most familiar with.

Getting Started:

Here’s the gear you need.

Welding mask – This shit is important.  The sparks and light can easily continue long enough to permanently blind you.  You can get auto-darkening or not.  Don’t cheap out on the hood though, it’ll save your eyes and let you see.  If you go to Harbor Freight and buy one, it won’t last more than a month.

Welding gloves – You can spend a buttload of money or just wear some heavy leather gloves with long sleeves. This shit is important too.  You don’t want your arms to look like Darth Vader’s face do you?

Gas Mask/Ventilation – If you get a good welding hood, it will cover your mouth and protect your face and lungs from the nasty crap that is in the flux.  If you aren’t wearing a good mask, make sure you have good ventilation.

Welder/Rods – You can go to Home Depot and find a small stick welder for about $200 and a box of Lincoln 6011 (for standard steel) rods for about $50.  Please make sure to store your rods in an airtight container in a cool dark place.  Don’t go buy a $2000 Miller welder if you’re beginning.  You will not notice the difference.

Location – Don’t weld next to flammable stuff.  Especially while learning.  There is never a reason to practice your welds next to a full gas tank.  Don’t weld on grass during the middle of a Texas drought.  Make sure to have a fire extinguisher or a bucket of sand around just in case. Please don’t be a fucking moron about it.

Basics of Stick Welds:

Make sure the joint is clean – You can’t weld on rust, paint, oil or water.  This is very important.  I’ve tried to weld onto metal that was rained on then dried on the sun.  The electricity will actually pull the water out of the metal and make your weld look like dogshit, and be extremely porous and weak.   Use a grinder on the surfaces and make sure they’re shiny and bright.

Get yourself comfortable – Get used to holding the rod in all manner of positions to make sure you are comfortable holding the handle.  Control is possibly the biggest factor behind making sure your joint is clean in a good looking weld.

Striking an Arc – Drag the rod across a metal surface.  It’s easier said than done.  Do not strike across the joint you are trying to weld until you can consistently make sure the rod doesn’t stick to the surface of your metal.  It makes the rod extremely hot and starts to melt to the metal, giving you a weld joint.

Fix Chipped Rods – You will chip your rods after getting them stuck.  This happens.  It’s unavoidable.  To fix a some chipped flux, take a piece of scrap metal and strike an arc on it holding the rod close to the metal until it burns to a complete, undamaged part of the rod.  This is the only time you want an extremely long arc.  After this, take the rod out of the clamp and scuff it against something to remove the used flux.  That will give you a good contact to strike a new arc.

There are a few techniques to try and see what you feel comfortable with.  You ‘whip the rod’ or move the rod back in forth across the joint.  Some people prefer circles to keep the rod moving and avoid sticking.  For wider welds you can move the rod in a side to side motion across the joint.  Eventually, you want your weld to look like a stack of dimes.

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