Welding is not, by any stretch of the imagination, an easy trade. Even the most experienced and disciplined welding professionals will get stuck in a rut forget skills because they’ve forgotten a piece of training pivotal in executing quality welds. All it can take to drastically improve (or damage) the quality or productivity of a weld procedure is a minor tweak of technique.
WeldCraft Tutorials: 22 General Welding Tips For Inexperienced Welders
The general welding tips traced below won’t help to weld the crack of dawn or fuse a broken heart. Most of these general welding tips focus on small yet significant things that will drastically improve the safety, quality and productivity of your welding craft and skills. Rookies, intermediates and experts alike will find the following general welding tips a valuable education, a relevant re-education, or a worthwhile reminder of the instincts that produce the best of the best, respectively.
Part One: Philosophies and Customs of Welders
“Tips For New Welders Entering the Workforce”
Tip 1) Do not “fake it ‘till you make it.” Ask questions!
The culture of pride among welders often gets the best of us. This misconception deceives especially those new to the trade. Obviously not all welders can be the best. Sadly, every once in awhile, this attitude causes an incident. Inevitably, ignorance is found to be the culprit as someone admits that they don’t know.
These incidents may revolve around quality issues like improperly sequencing a multi-pass weld and failing nondestructive examination. They Àaffect productivity when someone thinks they know best and deviates from procedure, causing rework and schedule delays.
Ignorance shows it’s ugly face when safety protocol is neglected. This is when incidents have their worst effects ranging from near-misses, cuts and bruises to life-altering injury and death.
Honesty is the always the best policy! Although it stings to admit we don’t know, it is the first step toward becoming an effective welder or team member. Lastly, if you are among the informed; It is your duty to impart the knowledge you’ve been given to those who have the bravery to admit their ignorance and willingness to abandon it.
This is one of the most important welding tips to remember! Knowledge is power so ask questions!
Tip 2) Foster a spirit of safety
Safety is not something that comes naturally for welders. We profile as a unique breed; Fiercely independent and stubborn. Most welders will contribute extra effort with the knowledge that, eventually, that effort pays off.
When offered the opportunity to work overtime, most jump at the chance, content in the knowledge that the paycheck will swell. They take the time to prepare a perfect weld joint because it improves the quality of a weld. This saves having to remove and reweld a joint, which is a nightmare.
Why then do some protest wearing a respirator? We certainly don’t avoid using the welding helmet. This double standard is as useful as an ashtray on a motorcycle.
To foster a spirit of safety, welders should encourage one another to work safely and to champion efforts which improve the safety culture of the workplace. Leaving these efforts in the hands of management allows those who don’t face the hazards to make dangerous and uninformed decisions in which you suffer the consequences.
Tip 3) Cleanliness is paramount
Consider two scenarios: 1) You arrive tomorrow to a clean shop. 2) You arrive tomorrow to a messy shop.
It is no secret that the first scenario promotes not only higher levels of productivity but also allows for better quality control and safety management. A messy shop will cause the exact opposite.
The messy shop is evidence of a staff who have little to no pride in their undertaking. Often caused by a loss of motivation, the disorganization hampers productivity followed by a decline in quality.
Safety cannot be managed in an unpredictable environment. Therefore, tackling untidiness is the perfect first step toward keeping a shop ticking like a clock or getting it back on time.
Most shops employ just a few simple rules to maintain a tidy workspace: 1) When finished with a tool, immediately return it to where it belongs. 2) Before leaving a workspace, sweep up the mess. 3) Take 10-15 minutes at the end of each day to thoroughly clean-up from the day’s tasks.
Tip 4) Never borrow a tool without asking permission
For those of you who need this tip explained, kindly follow these steps:
Step one: With two hands, firmly grip a 9lb. hammer and widen your stance.
Step two: Drive the hammer into your forehead until some common sense and respect become present.
Step three: Return the hammer to its owner and employ the common sense you’ve just obtained and apologize for not asking permission.
Step four: Read the remainder of the General Welding Tips and keep your tool box next to you at all times.
Tip 5) Be ready and willing to pay your dues
Paying dues does not just mean being called “rookie” and undergoing a gauntlet of strange, ritualistic hazing and pranks. Often, dues include a month or more of work beside a welder without ever striking an arc yourself. It can mean the jobs nobody else wants to do will become your bread and butter.
The wise path is to keep calm and count yourself lucky to have the job. Accept these tasks with enthusiasm and accomplish them to the best of your ability. The real reason rookies are pushed toward tedious tasks is because the employer and the veteran employees need to be able to trust the people they work with. They use these tasks as tests to measure ability under stress, pressure to perform, and bravery in the face of adversity.
The best things in life are earned. Earning the trust of those who would mentor you in your trade are indeed among the best. Just don’t spend any time under a desk.
Tip 6) Assume it is flammable
A tip in the same family as, “Don’t put your finger where you wouldn’t put your _______.” Ask yourself, “Is truly worth the consequences to find out the hard way?”
Tip 7) Work smarter, not harder!
If something is worth doing, that something is worth doing right. Welders are, what is appropriately named, skilled labour. This means the bureaucratic elect acknowledge the welding trade requires a marriage of intelligence, technique and experience. This isn’t digging ditches, hanging drywall or laying shingles. Society depends on welders to primarily utilize their brains. Their brawn, if the primary is properly utilized, is for the event something does not go according to plan.
So if the sweat on your brow is out of exertion or frustration, the next step ought to be “Stop.” Spend five minutes in thought. Five minutes is often all it takes to overcome a problem, and save time and frustration. Especially if the task is repeated.
Tip 8) Measure twice, cut once
This old adage saves many tradespeople from ruin. We all suffer at least once in a lifetime from mild onset dyslexia or just plain lack of attention.
Using a cut list and working with a limited stock requires each cut to be made correctly. A double check (always done by a second person for more critical cuts) is all it takes to avoid rework, maintain a schedule, and guarantee quality. You do not want to be the one to cut a 500 dollar sheet of aluminum plate in the wrong spot.
Tip 9) Don’t write off a tool or machine just because it’s old
The fact is simple and understated, “They just don’t make’em’ like they used to.” Old tools were made to go the distance. Most shops will have an “Ol’ faithful” that sits in a position of prominence. Funny how it purrs away while its newer counterparts are sent away for warranty. Whether it is a bastard file or a welding transformer, the older tool will always be of superior craftsmanship.
Similarly, this can be said be said for your co-workers. Although a new generation is energetic and ambitious, the saying, “Youth is wasted on the young” is yet another philosophy that still rings true today. The senior tradesman and welders in the shop are the lynchpin of an entire operation most often.
Pull them and an organization falls to its doom. Respect the elders. Their philosophies and customs are passed down for a reason; They work!
Part Two: Welding Tips That Will Improve Fabrication and Welding Techniques
“Learn to be more efficient, calculated and knowledgeable”
Tip 10) Triangular Cut-offs make great gussets and strongbacks
If part of paying your dues is to clean out behind the shear, you’ve most likely seen the triangular cutoffs that come from shearing something like a baffle. Tossing these in the scrap bin seems almost natural. Hold onto a stack of these to use as gussets or strongbacks. The time and material they consume when made new Justify soring this scrap.
Tip 11) Use a scribe or paint marker for marking and layout
Another motto, this one made popular by lawyers, is “If it’s not written down, it never happened.” Actually excellent advice for everyone, not just welders and fabricators; Those who have ever had a rain shower wash away a morning’s worth of soapstone layout, will understand why.
A scribe scratches a permanent etching onto the steel. A grinder can remove it but its permanence is what fitters use to prove, long after they have finished, that they have properly laid out their project according to a blueprint.
Tip 12) A capped tube needs to have a drain hole
A drain hole (not for water) allows a tube to be capped on both ends. On smaller tubing, a piece capped on both ends encounters a problem as the welder finishes his last pass. As hot air expands in the tube (due to the welds are being performed) it escapes through the keyhole of the last weld, contaminating the inert atmosphere, and causing porosity. This is more likely to occur if the material is aluminum.
Avoid this pitfall by drilling a drain hole somewhere inconspicuous. It allows for the hot air to escape and the final weld to be performed without compromise.
Tip 13) Structural steel cutouts require a round profile
Pretend a large I-beam being prepared for installation has a blueprint which requires a mouse hole around the bottom of the web to allow for welding. The mousehole isn’t detailed and the profile is left up to the discretion of the welder. The shape in which you cut must possess rounded corners. 90 degree corners are against code and are more likely to result in cracking than rounded ones. This is common practice with all structural steel and always must be followed unless specified by a welding engineer. Think of this as a rule rather than one of the general welding tips!
Tip 14) Avoid rework through practice runs
Few understand how harmful rework is and how it renders an undertaking basically pointless. Assume you have just finished a complete penetration joint weld and it has failed an ultrasound test. Rework includes: 1) Removing the initial weld. 2) Welding the joint for a second time. 3) Scheduling and performing the ultrasound test. 4) Fit and weld the joint.
Assuming the weld passes, rework has not just set the schedule back the extra time it took the perform those tasks. The damage is at least twice that amount since the time and consumables spent on rework are resources that could have been pushing the project forward. The harsh reality is, it would have been more profitable to have done nothing.
That is why building mock-ups from discarded material when considering a difficult weld is a wise choice. Create a replica of the situation in which the weld is to be performed and create a strategy to ensure the weld is done right… The first time.
Tip 15) An adjustable wrench is a perfect fitting and tacking tool
The adjustable jaws of a crescent wrench allow for it to be used as versatile pry tool. A pipe wrench can be used if additional leverage is needed.
Tip 16) Plan tack locations that are conducive to your weld sequence
Nothing looks more out of place than the solitary tack weld on a completed assembly. Isolated and unprofessional. When an assembly is fit together, special attention should be given to the location of the welds in order for the tack welds to denote where welds ought to be; At the natural end of a pass.
That way, when the weld is nearly complete, and at its hottest, the weld puddle will have the extra material in the tack to help it quench and prevent cratering. This may also tells the welder where to stop in the event of a stitch pattern. Properly laid out and tacked, there is a very low risk of the welder not staying within the parameters of the procedure if the instruction is to weld 100mm to the right of each tack and 500mm on each end.
Tip 17) Clamp your workpiece
Securing the workpiece with a clamp has a few valuable benefits. First and foremost, there are potential hazards relating to a workpiece falling from a workstation and harming people or property. Clamping the workpiece to something secure eliminates this hazard.
From a quality assurance perspective, clamping the workpiece ensures the electrical circuit remains uninterrupted while welding. Interrupting the electrical circuit during a weld causes arc strikes and weld defects, as well as stops the weld before it is completed.
Guaranteeing the integrity of the circuit is important in properly setting the voltage/amperage and feed rate of your machine. An interrupted circuit can make it difficult to produce consistent, quality welds.
Tip 18) Use expansion and contraction as an ally
Heating metal causes it to expand. Cooling metal causes it to contract. Rapid cooling causes metal to harden and become brittle. Slow cooling metal will cause the material to become ductile.
Maintain dimensional integrity or achieve it by planning a proper weld sequence. Structures that have already been welded can still be moved through applying heat to reverse the effects of expansion and contraction caused by the initial welds. It is just requires far more heat and by the principle of rework, ought to have been done the first time.
This one of the general welding tips that could fall in line with the “work smarter, not harder” advice.
Tip 19) Get comfortable
When it comes to running the best welds, this is the best general welding tip. Comfort is the reason factories, in an effort to maintain the highest quality standard, have all their welding performed in either the flat or horizontal position.
Before striking an arc, ask yourself if there is an easier way of performing the weld. If you are ready to weld, do a dry run by following through the entire range of motion the weld requires. Then, adjust for any discomfort. Remember to work smart, not hard.
Part Three: General Welding Tips Regarding Safety
“Take these welding safety tips to heart”
Tip 20) Tape the angle grinder wrench to the END of its cord
Too often the grinder wrench and drill chuck are nowhere to be found. Too often discs and bits are changed with the power tool still plugged into the wall; Ready to jump to life the moment somebody isn’t paying attention and potentially causes serious injury.
The solution to both these dilemmas is quite simple. Fasten the wrench and chuck to the plug end of their appropriate cords with about a mile of electric tape. Next, watch as those who want to change out consumables are required to follow the safety procedure by unplugging the power tool to access the wrench and chuck.
Tip 21) Non-disposable, high quality safety equipment is worth the money
Calculate the amount of time a welder will spend in their welding boots and you’ll find that those boots will get more use than their bed. The welding boot is where a welder spends most of their working life. As a rule of thumb, spending anything less than $200 on them is evidence of misplaced priorities and sore feet. I actually have an article about the best welding boots that offers some great options.
Other safety gear worth the expenditure is an auto-darkening welding shield/hood made by one of the leading brands (Miller, Jackson, Lincoln, Speedglas, Optrel…)($200-$500). Add a pair of anti-fog scratch-proof safety glasses by 3M ($50). They are so comfortable, people forget they are wearing them. Cut-proof tight fitting gloves dipped in rubber (Traffi) ($25) may not be any good for welding but are indispensable for handling material and performing machine maintenance. Having the best pair of welding gloves will also go allow way in comfort, safety and weld quality.
Reusable custom-made earplugs ($200) purchased from an audiologist are the most obscure items on this list of general welding tips but offer the best value. These earplugs are unique in that they isolate the frequencies your ear is exposed to. High-pitched, high decibel sounds such as hammer strikes, impact wrenches and air-arc gougers are completely inaudible while a Foreman’s instructions are able to be heard clear as a bell.
Personal safety is paramount. Personal protective equipment (PPE) is the first and last line of defense against bodily harm. Spare no expense.
Tip 22) Work hard and stay humble
The last of the general welding tips is a recap of the first. Whatever it is you are tasked to accomplish, be sure to do it to the best of your ability. If this becomes habit, success is inevitable. Once success has rewarded you, though, it is important to remain humble as you teach others the trade. Maintain patience with those who may not learn as easy as you have and try not to be too harsh when reminding a rookie that for the first three to six months they are paid from the neck down and that thinking is forbidden pre-probation due to the hightened risk of stupidity.
We may be humble but welders are a tough breed and teaching the rookies that shred of humility is lesson #1.
Happy puddles, comrades… Get to making sparks and breaking hearts.