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Old 01-27-2020, 08:36 PM   #11
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Just a few tips from a hobbyist welder of 40yrs:


Use clean rust-free steel whenever you can (not always possible, but it's a goal)


Prep the joint well, grind away scale and rust, paint, powdercoat that will contaminate the weld, disturb the shielding gas, and oxidize your welds, making them ugly and weaker.


Strive for a good pre-weld fit up, employ clamps and magnets, tack welds to hold the work pieces togther.


Avoid filling gaps in so much as possible. The extra heat and filling makes the weld pull that much more.



Pay careful attention to, and anticipate, the weld 'pulling' against the two pieces.
Use opposite side tack welds to combat the above.



Get into as comfortable a position as possible, your welds will always be much better.



The melt pool is molten and liquid, position your work so gravity works for you, not against you.


If you find yourself welding vertical, weld up hill. If you don't, and weld downhill, the molten metal runs ahead of your melt pool, leaving behind a better looking bead, that only masks a very weak cold weld with little penetration.


If you find yourself joining parts with different thicknesses, point the electrode or gun at the thicker piece, and 'dip' into the the thinner one as you advance your bead.


When welding thin material, use the spot weld technique. Employ the 'copper cold block' method to the backside of thin material welds, you'll thank me.



It seems most welding projects are 80% fabricating, and 20% welding, both are important.



Never let anything leave your work are that looks like crap and you know 'isn't right', or strong.



Have the courage to know when you are over your head. For yeas I would do the fitup, and tack welds, but take the real important stuff (roll bar and cages, trailer tongues and hitches, where someone's life may depend on it) to a 40hr a week welder, someone who does this stuff for a day in and day out living)


If at first you aren't a good welder, learn how to be a good grinder (no shame in grinding out and redoing a weld).
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Old 01-28-2020, 01:18 AM   #12
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TomsB: It all sounds like very good advice. I do think this might become my mantra:

ďIf at first you aren't a good welder, learn how to be a good grinder (no shame in grinding out and redoing a weld).Ē
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Old 01-28-2020, 02:42 AM   #13
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I am far from a great welder, but I bought a MIG welder this last year after doing TIG for years. In both cases, I've learned that the quality/features of the welder really can make a difference for a beginner welder. As in, an experienced welder can use a not-so-great welder and still make a good weld, but a beginner welder is at a disadvantage because he/she does not know how to compensate.

For example, my first TIG welder was a Harbor Freight DC unit years ago. Most of my welds were so-so, but on occasion I'd bang out a first-class weld and didn't know what was different. Prep and technique were the same, and I didn't realize until I bought a high-end Miller Dynasty 200DX years later that it was 100% due to limitations of the Harbor Freight welder. (FWIW, the newer/current Harbor Freight Vulcan welders are leagues beyond what I was using.)

Modern welders have vastly improved in recent years, making the latest technology more accessible to hobbyist welders. In the case of MIG, I bought one with "smart MIG" (sMIG) capability, and I've been blown away with how it makes me look like I'm better at welding than I am. When it comes time to purchase a welder, I highly recommend looking for this feature. One can typically disable the sMIG feature and use manual controls if desired, but so far I've only done so to see what the difference is like.

To echo what's already been said, prep and setup are key. Before you start a weld, "dry run" your weld path to make sure you have good visibility and a way to physically support the gun for the entire weld. Plan where you're going to tack things to prevent warping, and when you do final welds plan where you'll start and stop each bead. I highly recommend configuring your setup for horizontal flat welds whenever possible vs. vertical welds, at least when starting, to give you the highest probability of a good weld.

Last but not least, safety first! You don't want to learn the hard way the pitfalls of welding galvanized steel, residual chlorinated brake cleaner used in prep, and umpteen other small mistakes with potentially big consequences. Have fun!
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Old 01-28-2020, 05:35 AM   #14
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Another aspect of working safely while welding or even grinding---sparks flying etc--is do NOT carry any sort of flammable items in your work clothes pockets. Think plastic cigarette lighters---a hot spark can burn through thin clothing and potentially ignite the lighter etc. Having one of those explode or catch fire that close to your skin would NOT be a good experience.
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Old 01-28-2020, 10:23 AM   #15
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On that safety point, consider wearing safety glasses under your welding helmet. I've read that this is advised, but I've never done so--after all, the welding helmet provides full face protection, right?

While welding my bumper, a momentary lapse of concentration led to me clipping the (hot) end of my MIG wire while I had my helmet flipped up to inspect my last weld. The 1/4" piece of molten wire ricocheted off the bumper face, shot towards my face, and landed right next to the inside of my eye.

I kind of wish I had a video of this, as the slow-motion realization of what had just happened followed by frantic brushing with welding gloves only to realize the metal had seared itself to my skin, followed by throwing off my gloves in utter panic while rushing to the nearby sink must have been morbidly funny to watch...

Thankfully all I ended up with was a 1st degree skin burn that healed in a couple of days; but as you can imagine, it could have been much, much worse. I was wearing pretty much all other PPE you can imagine (welding hat, welding jacket, welding gloves, fireproof/metal-capped leather shoes, respirator mask), just not safety glasses under my helmet.
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Old 01-28-2020, 12:12 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kibo View Post
As in, an experienced welder can use a not-so-great welder and still make a good weld, but a beginner welder is at a disadvantage because he/she does not know how to compensate.
The class instructors had us learning about this last night. They set all the controls to zero and had us ďfigure it out.Ē What a mess! The goal was to get the weld decent minus all the popping and zapping. It worked. Eventually.

Iíve found over the years that the hardest part of learning anything new is that you donít know what you donít know. So you prepare as well as you can and then go forward and make mistakes. Iím kind of a safety nut, so I try hard to mitigate that set of problems. And I try to gain as much knowledge as I can up front. So I appreciate all the advice from those who have been there.

(Interesting that you started with TIG. Our machines at the shop are only MIG but I want to learn TIG, especially interested in aluminum. I may just go for a decent TIG machine and dive in.)
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Old 01-28-2020, 12:30 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by JWA View Post
Another aspect of working safely while welding or even grinding---sparks flying etc--is do NOT carry any sort of flammable items in your work clothes or pockets.
Good advice. The new, albeit inexpensive, welding jacket I bought doesnít have any pockets. It seemed like a PITA until I realized that was likely purposeful.

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On that safety point, consider wearing safety glasses under your welding helmet.
Whew! Lucky outcome! I wear prescription glasses and thought that would be enough under my hood but after I saw all the crap flying everywhere I went out and got some over-the-lenses safety glasses. It felt better last night. Iím looking at getting some prescription safety glasses.

This falls into that category of not knowing what you donít know. One of the things I like about YouTube videos is picking up the small tips about things that could happen. Like last night, I started my weld and the piece moved away from me really fast. I was like, wth? It kinda scared me. When I lifted my hood, I saw the wire had advanced with no arc, so it pushed the piece across the table. If this had been in my own shop, Iíd probably have had that piece held down by ten clamps. God only knows where the wire would have gone then.
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Old 01-28-2020, 12:32 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by Otter View Post
The class instructors had us learning about this last night. They set all the controls to zero and had us ďfigure it out.Ē What a mess! The goal was to get the weld decent minus all the popping and zapping. It worked. Eventually.
Sounds like a great way to learn!

Quote:
Iíve found over the years that the hardest part of learning anything new is that you donít know what you donít know.
Well said. The aforementioned TIG inconsistency I mentioned was due to two things:
  1. The Harbor Freight welder I was using was a scratch start, which meant I was contaminating the tungsten more often than not resulting in a "blown out" arc. But I didn't know that. (Ironic that 'HF' is used to abbreviate both Harbor Freight and High Frequency start...)
  2. The Harbor Freight welder did not have a pedal or finger control to adjust torch amperage. With zero experience, I did not realize how necessary this is for making quality TIG welds.

On the bright side, switching to the Dynasty pretty much instantly made me a 10,000x better welder--and I certainly didn't need a top-drawer machine for that (I got a screaming deal). But it sure would have been nice not to deal with the frustration before making the switch!

Quote:
(Interesting that you started with TIG. Our machines at the shop are only MIG but I want to learn TIG, especially interested in aluminum. I may just go for a decent TIG machine and dive in.)
I knew from the start that I wanted to do aluminum eventually, which meant AC TIG for the types of projects I had in mind. Not too long ago you had to spend significantly more for an inverter TIG, let alone AC TIG. Now you can even buy an AC/DC TIG/MIG all-in-one whizbang welder like the ESAB EMP 205ic. Not cheap, but it's only a matter of time before the tech trickles down to lower pricepoints.
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Old 01-28-2020, 02:10 PM   #19
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Wow, that ESAB is something else! So is your Dynasty. I’m in a constant struggle with having one smallish pocket of money to spend at any given time and deciding between buying a new tool or spending it on the van. Right now, most everything’s getting funneled toward the van. So I just drool over ads and think, “someday soon.” Meantime, I’ll keep learning.
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Old 01-28-2020, 02:58 PM   #20
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...Interesting that you started with TIG. Our machines at the shop are only MIG but I want to learn TIG, especially interested in aluminum...

I started welding with a rudimentary brazing set up, that used butane and these oxygen pellets, that you lit on fire with a lighter, and stuffed into a steel canister... OMG what a shit-show that was. Thankfully those POS things left the market about as quick as they came out. Then we got an oxy-acetelyne rig, my good buddy and I learned to weld joining reclaimed steel tube and old bicycle frames, black iron pipe, and reclaimed steel plate, whatever we could get our hands on from someone's scrap pile... we had 1pr of safety glasses to share, and welding goggles, my friend's dad taught us the safety side, but we were mostly unsupervised at age 12 and 13


These days, a neighbor would call child protective services for crying out loud!



As a result, I was the only kid in my junior high metal shop class that ever had a torch in his hands before. A different time, for sure.
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