Last Updated on May 2022
The American Welding Society predicts that the U.S. will need more than 400,000 welders by the year 2025 for a straightforward reason: The work of welders plays a considerable role in creating more than half of the country’s products, from cars to computers to cell phones
Welders are the trusted experts when it comes to anything metal; they join metals together by applying intense heat. The role played by them is vital in the manufacturing and construction processes. Unlike many professions, welding does not have strict educational requirements, and most welders have simply kick-started their careers by entering an apprenticeship and training program.
Like any other trade, welding requires a passion for the work, dedication, and commitment. You must be willing to grow your knowledge base continuously to master the skills that can provide a foundation for a stable career.
Welding is not hard, but the only way to perfect the art of and make a decent living out of it is to practice continuously.
Tips and Tricks to Becoming a Better Welder
Understand the Trade
Immerse yourself in the welding world to learn and understand the fundamentals of welding thoroughly. This will help you navigate and pick the type of welding that taps into your interests and career aspirations. There exist several welding disciplines from which to choose if you are looking to start a career as a welder. Always go for the subject that interests you the most. Here is an overview of the commonly available options:
- MIG Welding
MIG welding or metal inert gas welding is a type of gas metal arc welding. It is widely used to fabricate stainless steel metals or aluminum that requires fusing.
The automotive and shipping industries commonly use MIG welding.
- TIG Welding
TIG welding, or tungsten inert gas welding, is a slow process that requires clean metal to create fusion through the use of inert tungsten gas. It is considered a high skill discipline that requires the most expertise due to the superior standards of finishing that it creates.
It is applicable in locations that hinder proper grinding as well as when you require where a high-quality fusion.
- Arc Welding
Also referred to as stick welding, this is a simple, low cost and popular field of welding tasked with providing a primary fusion. Arc welding is useful when dealing with heavy metal welding needs that are 4 millimeters and above in thickness and applicable in various aspects of the construction and manufacturing industries.
However, its most popular use is in home welding projects.
- Oxy-Acetylene Welding
This type of welding is used to melt steel by combining oxygen and acetylene gas. Oxy-Acetylene welding is largely applied in metal cutting or maintenance welds and brazing soft metals like bronze and copper.
This is not an exhaustive list and has covered only the most common disciplines. There are other more specialized forms, such as Gas Tungsten-Arc Welding, which are only applicable in a few fields, such as airplane manufacturing.
Understand the Tools and Equipment
The tools used in welding work are vital to the success of the project. A great welder is one who understands what is needed to get the job done and is aware of the different tools and equipment and their functions in the market.
Always buy the right welder for your job skill level and welding style. It is crucial to go through reviews to learn the best available options, touch, and test them in-store before making the final purchase decision.
Consider the settings on your welder. Do you need positive or negative electrons? Which gas will you use? How will you set the welder for the job? Additionally, check out the wire materials and size and only pick the right type that your welder can handle effectively.
A great welder does not take any short cuts when shopping around for the most suitable tools for their welding service.
Pre-Welding Preparation (Dry Run)
Get to know your weld gun beforehand. Practice different positions of holding the gun. Imagine an actual welding position then familiarize yourself with holding its barrel in one hand, while supporting it on the table and at the same time. Meanwhile, allow your other hand to work with the trigger of the gun.
Ensure that your posture is comfortable then slowly but steadily move the gun back and forth across the work area to test the angles. Practice the gun movements and posture while adjusting accordingly until it becomes as natural as possible to you.
Pre-welding prep also involves clearing paint, dirt, rust, and other surface impurities as well as grinding out any fractures. Cleaning removes the impurities that could get absorbed into the metal during the weld, thereby compromising the work. Clean metal free of contaminants avoids imperfections and enables your weld to penetrate deeply, producing a clean and robust finish.
If you prepare the materials, you will be welding; you will become an expert almost instantly.
Keen Eye for Safety
Ensure the safety standards as outlined in the industry requirements are adhered to. A great welder is one who not only cares about his safety but the safety of everyone else around him.
Always wear a proper face shield, closed-toe shoes, non-flammable materials on your clothing, long sleeves and pants, welding gloves, ear protection (like earplugs or muffs), and goggles to protect your eyes from sparks. Masks protect your eyes from the light and sparks and your lungs from fumes or gasses produced.
Always weld in a ventilated area because during the welding process, you are going to produce some hazardous fumes; therefore a well-ventilated area will limit your inhalation of these harmful fumes.
Using the proper modern recommended tools of the trade can also go a long way to guarantee safety.
Welding out of Position/Fight Gravity at Every Opportunity
Gravity is always your enemy when welding. Strive to hold materials in the position best for the welds to form and not necessarily the way gravity pushes you to hold them.
With wire welding, you can fight the effect of gravity by using a little less voltage and a lower wire feed speed to create a smaller puddle. You can also reverse polarity to concentrate the heat at the electrode tip results in cooler welding, which lets the weld puddle cool faster to prevent dripping.
In a nutshell, try to really zero in on high-stress areas for your weld project and then reinforce them. This helps you think critically and in-depth about the overall project and perform better welding jobs.
Guidelines for Speed, Angle, and Direction
The beauty of welding is its inclusivity, such that even beginners have a chance at success. However, here are some standard guidelines to help you achieve long lasting results:
- To Push or to pull
The recommendation here is to pull the wire when welding with a flux-core wire welder.
Rule of thumb: If it produces slag, you drag.
- Work angle
When you are wire welding, hold the gun at a 10° to 15° angle in the same bearing that the weld is being pushed.
When you are stick welding, uphold a 20° to 30° angle in the same direction you are dragging it.
When it is a tee or fillet weld, hold the wire at a 45° angle between the metal pieces.
- Arc spacing
Simply adjust the speed of movement in a way that ensures the welding arc retains the leading 1/3 of the pool of the weld.
When wire welding, the work distance should be between ⅜ to ½ inch.
When stick welding, the work distance should be ⅛ inch in the middle of the workpiece and rod tip.
Rule of thumb: The arc length should not exceed the diameter of the core of the electrode.
Closely monitor the surface where molten metal solidifies (also called the welding puddles and ridge).
The ridge in wire welding should be ⅜ inches at the back of the wire electrode. Of importance to note is that the average travel speeds for various joints are below 40 inches a minute.
If the travel speed is too slow, it leads to the production of a thick, convex bead with superficial permeation with too much metal residue. When the travel speed is too high, it leads to the creation of a thin weld, which creates a narrow and overly crowned bead.
When you can control your angles, the direction of your welds, and the pace at which you perform, you gain the upper hand in the welding business.
Keep Building your Knowledge, Skills, and Experience
Do not stop learning. There is no level of pure satisfaction in your skills or experience.
The majority of welders undergo education and training in a welding school, after which practical experience allows them to practice what they have learned and gained expertise to take on larger or more complex projects. Your job duty heavily depends on your area of industry specialization.
Remember to practice your welding continuously. There is a wide range of techniques within the industry, each with its own set of rules, pros, and cons. If you are keen on becoming a welding master, you have no choice but to practice tirelessly in your selected discipline of welding until you ace it.
Once you have become a master of your chosen welding discipline, keep doing it, and engaging in those projects daily. As a value add to your resume, work towards gaining additional skills by familiarizing yourself with the other fields of welding.
Being an all-rounded welder will open up an endless pool of opportunities to make money and be a force to reckon within the industry. Nevertheless, you do not stop there; to keep moving forward and upward, you must continue to expand your skill sets, certifications, and knowledge base.
Post Weld Cleanup
Upon completion of the weld, below are the steps to ensure reflects a clean finish:
- Gently chip away the slag using a welding hammer.
- The secret for an evenly flat surface is to shift your grinder along the weld instead of across it. Use a 60-grit zirconia flap disc to remove any marks that may remain on the surface.
- Finish clean by priming and painting the steel, and then polish it by spraying a finishing coat of clear acrylic immediately you finish preventing a rust layer from developing.
Bonus Tips and Tricks
Glob on for thick steel jobs
When dealing with flat and horizontal fillet welds and welding material that is 1/8 inch thick or more, you can achieve a high-quality finish by merely adjusting the voltage, temperature, and wire-speed on your welder.
Shoot for globular transfer on a short arc
If you are dealing with a shorter arc, and need to provide a much deeper penetration, go for the large globs of wire coming off the end of your welder. Be cautious, as this will cause a bit more splatter.
Choose the right gases for your MIG welder
Carbon dioxide is usually the right gas for MIG welds. If you are dealing with a more complicated project, select the gas combination best suited for that specific project.
Have plenty of electrodes to tackle any kind of job
Welders need electrodes, as their coatings are essential for protecting the metal and improving the weld. Have these at your disposal to ensure the smooth continuity of your project.
Master welding aluminum and you can weld almost anything
Universally, aluminum is the most challenging metal to weld, so if you master it, every other project will come easily.
Mend high-strength steel with this tip
To ease the process of mending heavy duty steel, the secret is to reheat the material for an extended amount of time. If the steel contains large amounts of carbon, your preheating process becomes longer.
Every welding job or project is an opportunity to learn and grow. The trick to becoming a pro is always practice, continuously improve and learn from mistakes, so they never recur.