Welding is a delicate craft, and it may take years of experience to perfect the art but once learned, it is surprisingly easy to pick up. The process involves joining two pieces of metal together to form a permanent and strong bond than other types of bonds such as soldering which can be easily reversed.
Welding has several applications in the commercial industry, but an average DIY can have multiple uses as well. So whether you want to weld on your 4×4 or just restore a car this step by step guide will help you with any welding project.
Step 1- Select the welding method
There are four primary methods of welding; MIG, TIG, stick, and flux-cored. The process and welding technique you choose will depend on the type of application, the thickness of materials to be welded, the general appearance of the final weld.
MIG welding is the most straightforward welding technique, and it is easy to master, especially if you are a beginner teaching yourself. MIG welder is easy to use and maintain, and it is a reliable option for several applications. Besides, MIG welding yields cleaner and aesthetically appealing welds than other welding processes.
Step 2- Welding equipment
Once you have decided on the method to use, the next step is selecting the proper welding equipment. A welder is the first item you’ll need to get, and it is going to be your most significant investment. The best tip when selecting a welder is choosing one that has the appropriate capabilities depending on you will be welding the most.
Along with the welder, you’ll need;
- i Welding wire- generally you’ll need a thin welding wire for welding thin materials and increase the thickness of the wire as the thickness of the material increases.
- ii Gas- you’ll need to buy the correct shielding gas (inert or semi inert) to protect your welds from contaminants such as oxygen. You can get a recyclable tank of from your supplier depending on your welding requirements. Some welding processes, however, use flux-core wire for protection.
- iii A bench grinder- for surface preparation, flattening and grinding welds.
- iv Carbide scribe for marking cut lines.
- v Miter clamp or any other appropriate clamp for fitting and securing joints.
- vi Welding pliers- for trimming welding wire as well as removing any spatter from the nozzle.
- vii Personal protective equipment (PPE) – you’ll also need to invest in essential protective gear include a welding helmet to protect your face, especially the eyes. You’ll also need sturdy leather shoes and gloves, safety glasses, overalls and aprons, among others.
Step 3- Preparing the weld
One of the key elements to a successful and strong weld is material preparation. First, you’ll want to ensure that the surface of the material to be welded is clean and dry. Any paint or oil coating near or on the weld area should be cleaned off to prevent potential failure points within the metal. This is because as you weld, the paint or the oil coating will melt and burn, and this can create cavities. Depending on the nature of the material, you can use the grinder, wire brush or sandpaper to remove the dirt.
If you require to cut the workpieces, use the carbide scribe to mark a line, then cut along that line using a chop saw or a grinder fitted with a cutoff wheel. When cutting extended lengths of workpieces, it is advisable to use a guide to ensure a straight cut. Also, you should clap the sheet metal, so that it doesn’t wander once you begin cutting. You can then position the workpieces by using your minter clamp to fasten the joints and to keep the metals to be welded in place.
Step 4 – Switch on the welder and adjust the settings
Adjusting the settings on your welder is yet another vital part of your welding project. If you are welding on a fairly thin gauge, the welder should be set at lower wire speed. However, you’ll need to increase the wire speed and voltage as the thickness of the material increases. You can always refer to the user manual if you are unsure about what settings to use for the project at hand.
Step 5- Fixing and tacking
Now that you have all the equipment and material in place, it is time to layer the weld. You’ll want to ensure that everything fits together well; the tighter the joint, the better the penetration. Use your level to ensure all parts are square and if all the pieces fit snugly, then tack the weld. Tacking is using a small weld to hold the material in position temporarily before the final weld. To achieve this, place the tip of the welder about 1-inch from the joint squeeze the trigger for about 2 seconds. The size of the tack will depend on the thickness of your material
It is important to ensure that you are fusing both sides of the metal while paying close attention to the area where you are depositing the weld metal. This is because tacking on one side can lead to lack of fusion, and as such, the metal will not join properly. Generally, tacking will enable your workpiece to take shape and that it is aligned in the right position.
Before you lay the tack, ensure that the metal is secure. Use the appropriate clamps, preferably a miter clamp as it exerts the necessary force required to keep the metal in place. Also, this clamp allows the welder to control the amount of pressure being applied to the work materials.
Step 6- Fill in the remaining areas
After you have tacked everything together, you can now fill the remaining areas for the final. For best results, try to weld in the most controlled conditions as much as possible. Environmental conditions such as moisture and wind can have adverse effects on the final weld.
With the welding gun set at the correct wire speed and gas flow, hold the tip above the parent material and move the gun along the joint to build your weld pool. Begin to spread or drag the weld pool along the joint until it is of the desired size and let it cool. Pay close attention travel speed as this will affect the appearance of your welds.
A good posture will help to ensure that you are comfortable while welding and that the weld doesn’t wander. Hold the welder with both hands if possible, to ensure that you are in total control. Rehearse the movement with the welder shut off to ensure that your positioning is good. Another important thing for you to be able to weld proficiently is to maintain consistency in all aspects.
Step 7- Grind your weld
If aesthetics is not much of concern, then you can ignore this step. However, for a neat appearance, use a bench grinder to remove the outer layers along the weld. For uniformity, avoid grinding across the weld and go slowly. Once done, use the most appropriate flap disc for accurate shaping and smooth finishing, and with that, you are basically done with the weld.