Ever wanted to weld from home but didn’t know where to start? Let me tell you everything you need to know.
Without welders, our world would be barely recognizable. From massive buildings to cars and rocket ships, proper welding is the ‘glue’ that holds them together.
Because of the common nature of welded products, (it’s believed welding affects up to 50% of the United States gross national product!), welding is a skill in high demand.
If you are looking to make money welding from home, would like to take a high paying job as a pipeline welder or welding technician, or want to build custom cars as a hobby or career, mastering the weld is necessary.
In plain terms, welding is a strong, versatile, and effective way to bond two metal pieces together. Using heat (often through an electrical arc), the metals are melted and fused together.
To help you sort out where to begin, we’ve put together this guide that walks you through the most common types of welding and offers a list of tools and tips you’ll need to get started.
Common Types of Welding
Welding techniques differ depending on the type of seam and the metals used, but there are four main types that are used most commonly. Before you can really get started, it is important to have a basic understanding of these types of welding.
The most common types of welding are:
- MIG Welding (or GMAW)
Metal Inert Gas (MIG) welding or Gas Metal Arc Welding (GMAW) is the easiest type of welding to learn. It uses a consumable electrode in the form of a solid wire constantly fed through the welding gun.
MIG welding machines are built and designed to accommodate varying gauges and sizes of welding wires.
To prevent oxidation that can weaken welds, MIG welders rely on an inert gas running through the welding gun. Typically, this gas is carbon dioxide or a combination of carbon dioxide and argon.
MIG welding can be used on a number of different metals and with the convenience of portable MIG welders, this type of welding has become a favorite for a variety of jobs and job sites.
- TIG Welding (GTAW)
Tungsten Inert Gas Welding (TIG) is also known as Gas Tungsten Arc Welding (GTAW) and Heliarc Welding.
This welding type does not use a consumable electrode and instead the welder uses an external rod to create the molten metal necessary to forge a weld. TIG Welding requires an inert gas shield, commonly argon or an argon mixture.
Known for clean, high-quality welds, TIG Welding requires a higher level of skill than most.
- Flux-cored Arc Welding (FCAW)
Flux-cored Arc Welding offers a mix of speed and efficiency.
This welding type uses a continuously fed wire, similar to MIG Welding, but the wire (consumable electrode) has a flux core. During the welding process, the flux reacts with the arc to produce carbon dioxide, creating a shield and eliminating the need to add an inert gas shield.
This type of weld is not as clean as MIG Welding but it is perfect for outdoor applications or for metals that are not clean.
There are lots of different kinds of electrodes with different classifications available for FCAW welds; so before you start a project, check the electrodes to make sure you are using the right one for the task.
- STICK Welding (or SMAW)
Shielded Metal Arc Welding (SMAW) is also called STICK welding. This common welding method, often used in construction, steel fabrication, pipeline work, and for repairing heavy equipment, is a type of arc welding where an electric current (like a lightning bolt) runs between the electrode, or welding rod, and the substrate or the metal you are welding.
With this welding method, the welder uses a consumable electrode. This means that the welding rod itself melts to create the weld. The electrode used will have a flux core that prevents oxidation, which can weaken the weld.
STICK welding is one of the most versatile and forgiving types of welding. It can be especially useful when only a basic attachment is required. Unfortunately, STICK Welding provides a bit of a messy finish so if you need a clean weld, as you would when working on a car or sheet metal, you might want to try a different technique.
STICK Welding can be difficult to master and requires the welder to think their way through the technique.
- Current Setting: The electrode you choose will determine the settings for your equipment (DC positive, DC negative, or AC). This amperage setting will depend on the type and diameter of the electrode and is typically indicated by the manufacturer of the electrode.
- Length of Arc: The proper length of arc depends on the application and the electrode. Generally speaking, the arc length should not exceed the diameter of the metal core of the electrode. For new welders, it is common to lengthen the arc to get a better look at the weld pool. Instead of changing the arc, change your body position. This will give you a better view of the puddle and allow you to control the electrode more accurately.
- Angle of Travel: Different applications require a different angle of the electrode. In flat, horizontal, and overhead positions, use a drag or backhand welding technique. This means holding the electrode perpendicular to the joint and then moving the top between 5 and 15 degrees toward the direction of travel. For a vertical weld, use a forehand or push technique. In this case, you would tilt the top of the electrode 0 to 15 degrees away from the direction of travel.
- Manipulation of the Electrode: Each welder will move the electrode in a slightly different way. The best way to figure out what will be most effective for you is to practice and to watch and observe other welders to see what most accurately produces the results you are after.
- Speed of Travel: You will want to move the electrode at a speed that will allow you to keep the arc in the leading one-third of the weld pool. Too slow and you risk shallow penetration and cold-lapping. Too fast and you’ll risk a narrow or crowned bead and creating a recessed area outside of the weld.
Understanding all of these techniques can set you up to grow and develop your skills. You might prefer a particular method of welding but having a grasp of the basics gives you the best foundation to learn and get better at your craft
Tools You’ll Need
To weld from home, you will need the right tools and equipment.
Obviously, you will need a welding machine to generate the electrical current that produces the arc and an electrode. If you are using an electrode that does not have a flux core, you will also need an inert gas, too.
But the tools of the trade don’t end there.
- Welding magnets
- C Camps
- Chipping hammer
- 6-inch vice
- Sheet metal gauge
- Chop saw or portable band saw
- Speed square
- MIG pliers
- Marking soapstone
- Angle grinder
- Metal brush
To weld at home, it is necessary to have the proper safety equipment.
- Welding helmet or mask.
- Welding gloves
- A welding apron, shirt, or jacket
- Fire extinguisher
Things to Consider Before You Get Started
Now that we’ve walked you through basic welding techniques, the tools of the trade, and the science at play, we have a few tips to share with you as a new welder.
- Clean your materials before starting. Give it a good scrub with a grinder, wire brush, or sandpaper. This will remove most of the dirt and rust and will help you get a stronger weld.
- Check the currents. Understanding AC and DC currents will help you find the right settings for your job or project. The required current can vary depending on the materials, tools, and task. So, make sure it is right before you begin.
- Put your helmet down. It’s easy to forget this step when you are thinking about your next steps so make sure safety is front of mind. Trust us—forgetting is common and you don’t want to risk damage to your eyes!
- Position your head to the side, away from the smoke. This will allow you to see what you are doing and help you avoid breathing in things you shouldn’t.
- Practice! Some welds that are great for practice include butt joints, lap joints, T joints, and spot welds.
- Accept that you won’t be perfect right away. It is likely that you will make mistakes. A grinder is a useful tool if you need to cut back.
- Listen. Your weld should sound like bacon frying in a pan. If your settings are too hot or too weak, it will sound more like popcorn. If you hear popcorn, it’s a sign to change your settings.
Getting Started with At-Home Welding
Whether you’re looking for a career change, want to do some renovations around the house, or do some custom work on your car, welding is a useful skill to have.
While this article can help you get a sense of what’s needed to start, it does not teach you HOW to weld. For that, you should seek out proper training and guidance.
That’s where Welder 101 comes in! With over 50 tutorials and 30 years of experience packed into easy to follow lessons, the Welder 101 program has everything you need to become a welder. Enrollment in the program gives you lifetime access to the course material (including any new content added!), private community support, and discounts on the gear you’ll need to do the job right!
If you have a dream of welding from home, why not make it a reality? If you’ve been sitting around trying to figure out where to start, we have the solution. Register for Welder 101 today and bring your goals to life.