Welding as a hobby, passion, or career can be a worthwhile and lucrative pursuit. But, when you are new to the craft, it can be hard to know exactly what you need to start welding.
To help you stock your workspace with all of the equipment, tools, and gear you need, we’ve put together this handy list of all the necessary essentials.
As you grow your skills, you can acquire more equipment. Because welding tools can be expensive, it is not necessary to wholly deck yourself out to start. Just the essentials will do.
Here’s everything you need to start welding today.
Choose a Welder
The most obvious place to start is choosing a welder. It is a good idea to think about the sorts of welding projects you expect to work on. This will help you to determine the type of welder that will work with your plans. The majority of welding plans extend beyond simple home repair and include complex fabrications and projects.
You can pick up a cheap welder for a few hundred dollars but that will only cost you more money in the long run. It is best to pick a welder that will help you grow.
A multi-function welder will allow you to MIG, TIG, and STICK weld. These welders are a little more expensive but as your skills develop, it gives you more options and flexibility compared to a single-function welder.
And, because a multi-function welder is essentially three machines in one, it is a better investment than buying each machine separately.
Choose Welding Tools and Accessories
Welding requires more than just a welding machine. There are several tools and accessories that will support your projects and make your life so much easier. Welding itself is hard work and takes a decent amount of set, so you don’t want to choose tools and accessories that make welding a hassle.
Here are the essential tools you need to start welding:
- Tape Measure: Even in welding, the old adage “measure twice, cut once” applies. Having a tape measure handy can save you many, many headaches. We recommend having a 12 foot tape measure either on your work belt or within reach. Trust us, you’ll be glad you did.
- Grinders: Grinders are a welder’s best friend. And to be honest, you can never have too many. At the very least, you should have an angle grinder. With this versatile tool, you can swap out the disk based on the project needs. A stone disk will allow for hard grinding, a flap disk for finishing, a wire wheel for removing slag and rust, and a cut off wheel for cutting through metal. As your projects go bigger, you can buy multiple grinders and have each one set up to perform each necessary task. You can also consider getting a bench grinder or a table grinder depending on your workshop and your needs.
- Clamps: A good set of clamps will hold materials together while you work. You can find lots of cheap options on the market but we recommend spending a little bit more and getting yourself some high-end clamps. Cheap clamps can fail and put your safety at risk.
- Heavy-Duty Bench Vise: A bench vise will fasten to your workbench keeping objects securely in place while you work. Look for a bench vise that has a 360-degree swivel so you can easily situate the vise to better suit your needs.
- Welding Magnets: Welding magnets can be used to hold pieces of metal together while you weld. Not everything will be appropriate for the clamps so having some welding magnets handy can help you complete your project without too much fiddling or inconvenience.
- Chipping Hammer: A chipping hammer is necessary for removing slag and spatter from a weld. Slag appears in standard arc welding and carefully hitting the weld with the hammer should cause the slag to shatter. Spatter, on the other hand, can occur in all types of welding. The wide, flat end of the chipping hammer can run down the surface to remove spatter.
- MIG Welding Pliers: MIG pliers look a lot like needlenose pliers but they serve many more functions. These pliers can be used to remove spatter, loosen/tighten/remove the gas nozzle on your MIG torch, clip welding wires, and remove/replace contact tips.
- Sheet Metal Gauge: When welding you need to set your welding machine for the metal you are using, this is especially true when using sheet metal. Having a sheet metal gauge on hand will help you quickly determine the gauge of any sheet metal and ensure that your settings are right. This tool can also help you match metal gauges between two pieces when doing patch work or fabrication work.
- Marking Soapstone: With marking soapstone you can mark up your metal pieces so you know where to weld and where to cut. A soapstone marker is heat resistant so it won’t melt like a wax marker and it is water-resistant as well so it will not wash away.
- Wire Brush: A wire brush is an inexpensive tool that can help improve the quality and look of your welds. This brush can be used to remove rust or paint from a surface before welding, and it can be used around a finished weld to give it a cleaner, more polished look.
- Welding Blanket: A welding blanket is great to have around the shop. The blanket itself is made from a material that will not burn up when hit with spatter. It can be used to protect areas around your weld, for example, if you are welding part of a car and don’t want spatter to damage the paint on a nearby section. A welding blanket can also be used to shield the weld when you are working in less than ideal conditions. If you are welding outside, and the wind is likely to blow away the welding gas, you can rig the blanket to protect the area.
Prepare Your Workshop
There are a few essentials you should have in your garage or workshop that will make it much easier to get into welding. As your skills grow, these workshop necessities will support more advanced projects so they are a worthwhile investment in your future.
A work bench is the surface you will use to carry out all of your work. You need a flat, durable surface. A surface strong enough that it won’t fall apart if you are beating on it with a hammer. Look for a workbench that is between ½” and ¾” thick. This welding table will be at the proper height for welding, allow for proper clamping of your work, and give you a clean surface for your ground clamp.
A chop saw, or a portable band saw, is essential for any workshop. A chop saw can be used to cut down metal in a hurry and you don’t necessarily need to break the bank on this one right out of the gate. When you are starting out, a chop saw or a small band saw should be enough. As you move on to larger projects, you can consider investing in a larger, more expensive setup.
Welders, from time to time, will need to drill holes into metal pieces. While a handheld drill can work from some gauges, a drill press is better suited to the situation. A hand drill requires you to apply too much pressure. A drill press applies more pressure and can apply a cleaner and straighter hole. But, this is not necessarily a tool that you need right away. If you have the space and the budget, investing in a drill press is worthwhile as most workshops put them to good use. If it’s not in the cards at this moment, put it on the wish list and start working towards its acquisition.
Get the Proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
One of the most important things you need to start welding is safety equipment. Safety must be your top priority because welding can be dangerous and presents a high risk for injury. Here are the pieces of personal protective equipment (PPE) that you need to weld safely and responsibly.
No matter what kind of shop environment you are in, safety glasses are a must. When working with metal, you are at high risk of getting tiny pieces of metal in your eyes. This is both painful and can cause permanent damage. It is a good idea to have multiple pairs of safety glasses handy as it’s easy to put one down and forget where you left them. And, it is easy for them to get damaged so you want to make sure that you stock up and are never without. They are not expensive to purchase so there are no excuses.
A welding helmet is an absolute must. A helmet will protect your eyes from being burned, your skin from being burned, and will provide additional protection from metal shavings and debris when grinding. There are two types of welding helmets: auto darkening and non-auto darkening.
Auto darkening helmets react to light. There are sensors on the front so that when you start to weld, the helmet goes dark. Non-auto darkening helmets are dark at all times. This means that it is impossible to see out of them until you start welding.
Consider getting a welding beanie as well to protect your head and the back of your neck from welding spatter. These beanies have a brim that is meant to be worn backward, sheiling your neck and back as much as possible.
Welding gloves are necessary for protecting your hands and skin from extremely high temperatures. MIG welders can burn up to 2500 degrees so you do not want to take any chances. Proper welding gloves are made from heavy-duty materials and will come with longer cuffs to help protect the wrists. You will want to find a glove that fights snug against your fingers. If you wear a glove that is too loose, you won’t be able to properly grip, hold, and maneuver items the way you need.
A welding apron, shirt, or jacket will protect your body when welding. Again, extreme heat and metal pieces flying around is risky business so you want to be sure that all of your body parts are safe. These items can be made from leather or heavy-duty fabric. Both are good but the leather can be warm and heavy so consider your own comfort and heat sensitivity when making your choice.
You should also consider getting some welding sleeves. These will protect your arms and your clothing from spatter and burning.
Welding cares about it with an obvious fire risk. Not only do welders have to contend with extreme heat, the work they do often produces sparks. It is possible for things to ignite in a hurry. Having a fire extinguisher in your shop is an absolute must. Do your best to keep your workspace clear of any flammable materials and before you start welding, take a quick look around for any potential hazards or fire risks.
Get Professional Training
Learning from established welders can really help you make sense of the entire process and hone your skills. There are lots of welding techniques that can be tough to grasp on your own and with the proper guidance, you will be able to progress more quickly and move on to the personal projects or the career of your dreams.
But finding someone to mentor you or identifying the right in-person training can be hard. With Welder 101, your search for the right training is over!
Welder 101 is a learn to weld from home program that you can follow in the comfort of your own home, and at your own pace. Enrollment comes with lifetime access to the program materials so you can continue to grow your skills and receive support from the Welder 101 private community. The video tutorials condense over 30 years of experience into an easy-to-digest format. And to further help you grow and develop your workshop, enrollment comes with discounts on essential welding gear.
Make a List and Start Welding
This may seem like a lengthy list of things you need to start welding but the truth is, these things are necessary.
The good news is that many of these items can be considered a long-term investment as they will not only be valuable to beginning welders but will continue to serve you as you move on to bigger and more advanced projects.
Make a list of everything you need, start to purchase and gather the items, and then start welding!