Welding 101: Getting Familiar with the Basics
Welding can be an exciting hobby and very rewarding profession. The applications in which welding can be used are endless and there are a great deal of opportunities for proficient welders no matter what the state of the economy. With advancements in welding technology, welding can be done in just about any environment, including under water and in outer space.
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As a refresher, welding is the process of joining two or more metal parts by melting the pieces and adding filler material. The filler is melted and pools between the other pieces. The end result after the materials cool is a strong joint or weld.
When it comes to traditional welding techniques, there are three basic types. They are stick welding, metal inert gas (MIG), and tungsten inert gas (TIG). These three welding types make up 90% of all welding done in the world. Although there are more advanced welding processes, such as plasma arc and laser welding, this is the right place to start for the beginning welder.
For the hobbyist or home shop welder, stick welding is the most popular welding technique. An electric current passes between the metal and an electrode (stick). The electrode melts and combines with the metal to form the joint. Stick welding is easy to learn and the equipment required is relatively inexpensive compared to other forms of welding. You can purchase an AC welding machine for under $300 at most home improvement stores. There are three types of stick welding machines: AC, DC, and AC/DC. As mentioned, the AC welder is going to be the most economical and is ideal for metals thicker than 1/16th of an inch. The DC welders are more expensive, but they also produce cleaner welds and are more versatile when it comes to working with thinner metals.
Metal inert gas welding (MIG) is also fairly easy to learn. Here, the filler wire is fed through the welding torch. The welder selects the speed at which he wants the wire to come off the spool. The arc that is created melts the wire directly to the joint forming a clean strong weld. Additionally, there is gas that is sent through the welding torch that prevents oxidization of the work pieces. With a MIG welder, your investment will likely be double the cost of the traditional stick welder. However, the welds will be much cleaner, stronger, and more professional looking.
The third type of traditional welding is tungsten inert gas (TIG). Of the three welding processes mentioned here, TIG is by far the most difficult to master and is mostly employed by professional welders. It is similar to MIG welding in that there is a shielding gas introduced at the site of the weld to prevent contamination of the weld puddle. What makes TIG welding different is the superior arc and weld control. By being able to control the heat of the weld puddle, the welder is to have precision control over his weld bead. The results are clean, refined welds that are extremely strong and cosmetically appealing. TIG welding can be used on thinner metals, such as stainless steel and aluminum alloys.
No matter what type of welding you choose to pursue, it will be an invaluable skill and one that will give you a means to earn a living or a way to enjoy a fascinating hobby. One of the greatest aspects about welding is that you are creating something that didn't exist before you started. When you complete a project, you will be able to stand back and view the finished product knowing it was done by your hands. Just that feeling of satisfaction will be worth all the time and effort that you have invested.