Welding is a skill unlike any other. Although intended for craftsmen, it can be a rewarding craft for hobbyists. Elsewhere, keen auto enthusiasts like to weld, maybe so they can do their own bodywork repairs. Even artists have been known to pick up arc welding. They turn hunks of scrap into beautiful metal sculptures with their own welding equipment. Amazingly, paint brush or welding guns, they’re just different mediums to an accomplished artist. Clearly, then, welding equipment isn’t reserved for industrial types. Literally, anyone can pick up this skill.
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Beginners have to start somewhere, though. This raises a question, one that should be answered before this article goes any further. Should a beginner teach themselves to weld? It’s possible. Practically anyone can learn to weld by buying an inexpensive but fully-featured welding machine. Something like the Tooliom MIG TL-135M would suit a beginner. It offers an easy-to-learn MIG mode, then there’s a TIG mode as well. Should the student feel the need to expand their skills, the equipment gives them the room to grow.
Risks Associated with Self-Taught Welding
There are step-by-step videos to watch, online courses, etc. However, there are safety risks to consider. Imagine someone who is learning to play guitar by themselves from an online video. A poorly strummed chord won’t cause any damage. The same can’t be said about a poor welding technique.
Even plugged into a household 110v power supply, there are high currents to be wary of when welding. Electrical shocks are one concern, then there’s the arc itself, which is powerful enough to generate a burst of radiation. Infrared and ultraviolet light will affect a welder’s eyes and skin. The result is sunburn-like skin damage. Likewise, hot metal slag and sparks can fly off the weld zone, leading to nasty skin burns. In short, it’s entirely possible to be a self-taught welder, but beginners don’t always work safely. A properly administered set of safety guidelines must be incorporated when learning to weld. This is why it’s better to employ someone else, an educator of some kind.
Experience The Sparks of Inspiration: Welding for Beginners
Please understand, no one wants to discourage potential welders. There’s simply a need to emphasize certain dangers. If a beginner is outfitted with safety gear and has initiated all relevant safety protocols, then this skill becomes an incredibly rewarding one. So, with practice, hobbyists and professionals alike can gain the capacity to work with different kinds of metal, again, assuming they own decent equipment.
Hobbyists fuse and repair damaged car parts. If repair work doesn’t interest an enthusiastic beginner, how about a vehicle customization job instead? If cars and motorbikes aren’t exciting, art-inspired metalwork could be. Indeed, many beginners work on artsy metal sculptures. Cars, motorbikes, metal fences, metal sculptures, there’s no limit to the amount of work a motivated hobbyist can find.
Then there are the semi-pros, craftsmen who work on underground pipework and structural steel projects. Their work is so essential, so structurally important, that it needs to be checked by a second pair of eyes. Welding inspectors are trained for this role. They sometimes even use electronic instruments to inspect the interior makeup of a weld, all the way down to its core. Special ultrasonic and radiographic tools test weld internals for mechanical soundness.
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As substantial a profession as these welding pros have taken on, they still started out as beginners. The question then becomes; which career pathways did they take to get where they are today?
Discovering Career Pathways: A better Path for Welding Beginners
Like most job postings advertise, skilled welders are always in demand. For someone who needs an affordable car body repair service, a skilled welder working out of his garage undertakes the work. Is someone’s motorbike frame cracked? A visit to the same garage soon repairs the crack. However, this is an amateur operation. True, the work might be done well, but there’s no certifications to back up any promises made by the garage owner. In fact, many insurance companies now require this certification. They’ll only send their clients to a garage that has a certified welder.
The above example proves one thing: Beginners can have fun with recreational welding, and they can make a living with a little training and the right equipment available. However, for a more professional career pathway, beginners need to use long-term thinking. They need to have trade school accredited training, a quality-assured welding machine, and lots of practice. Only when they’ve reached a certain standard of welding proficiency can they be granted the required certification. Then the job market opens wide.
Hobbyist Welders Learn by Doing
To get started, a beginner buys equipment and safety gear. Step-by-step videos are watched and some kind of tutoring is carried out. This could be at a night school or a trade college.
Of course, the reading of coursework and books on welding is valuable, but a beginner can’t learn this skill through books alone. To employ that guitar learning example again, players can’t learn the instrument by reading a book. At some point, they have to pick up the instrument and start strumming, as painful as the sound coming from the strings might be. Beginner hobbyist welders follow the same rule. They have their self-taught materials, their books and courses, too. Eventually, though, they need to go out and buy the welding machine, pick up a few scraps of metal, and practice what’s been learned.
Here’s a basic list of the equipment options a beginner will research:
MIG Welding: Metal Inert Gas, also known as Gas Metal Arc Welding (GMAW), employs a machine-generated arc. Electrically induced, the arc burns between a consumable wire electrode and a metal workpiece.
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TIG Welding: Tungsten Inert Gas, also known as Gas Tungsten Arc Welding (GTAW), replaces the consumable wire with a tungsten rod. Harder to learn, but the equipment does create a more precise seam.
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Stick Welding (SMAW): Shielded Metal Arc Welding uses a flux-coated electrode as the consumable rod. The flux contains powdered metals, binders, and a chemical compound. This compound vaporizes to create an oxidization-protecting gas cloud.
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Welding Machine Architectures: The equipment essentially generates arc-inducing electrical power. There’s a transformer and inverter module inside. It’s controlled by settings on the front panel of the equipment housing. Finely tuned voltage and current settings direct AC or DC energy through equipment cables to an electrode, where an arc “jumps” the gap between the rod and the metal workpiece. To complete this circuit, a ground clamp is fixed to the source metal.
Shield Gas: An inert cloud of gas, typically argon, protects the weld puddle from atmospheric contamination. These bottled gases are generally sold separately.
Filler Rods: The consumable electrodes affixed to the equipment gun. The filler melts and melds with the base metal to form a strengthened bond. The filler adds material to the weld so that it improves the final quality of the weld. Numerous filler stick types are available. Dependent on the weld alloy, special filler composites can add everything from strength and rust protection to added ductility.
Again, this is freely available information. A beginner hobbyist need only navigate to a handful of step-by-step guides in their search for welding inspiration. One important point, however, is that there’s a ladder of difficulty attached to the three aforementioned welding methods. A complete beginner would start with stick welding. It’s an easy-to-master method that yields satisfactory results. A Tooliom Stick Welding Machine, model number TL-135S TOOLIOM, would serve well here. MIG welding is the next easiest technique, which leaves Tungsten welding a tougher skill to master. TIG techniques create precise seams and clean welds. That applies to stainless steel, too. Still, TIG might be a little out of reach for beginners. Pickup stick welding and TIG as well, then transition to a TIG machine like the TL-200T. Newcomers to the field can hardly go wrong with this approach.
By the way, the Tooliom TL-200T is a 2-in-1 welding machine, which means users can graduate from stick welding to TIG without investing in a new piece of equipment.
Deeper Learning Pathways for Beginner Welders
The hobbyists mentioned above might someday transition to a full career in welding. Meanwhile, the motivated newcomer is learning all there is to know about metalworking. Step one, they enter vocational training. A traditional apprenticeship in a welding shop or an auto body repair facility works well, as does a trade college or institute of technology. Oftentimes, the names for these training facilities are interchangeable, so it’s a good idea at this early point in proceedings to read through their course literature.
An apprenticeship is a popular means of training future welders. They apply staggered training schedules, which means equal periods of hands-on experience and in-class training are both guaranteed. At enrolment, a basic high school diploma should be enough to gain entry into the course. From here, class lessons teach safety protocols and basic engineering principles. That means picking up the ability to read blueprints and master all welding equipment basics, too.
Additional class lessons likely cover metallurgical studies, all the better to ensure the correct welding techniques are applied to a specified alloy. Filler metals and shield gas compositions apply here as well. Arguably, the hands-on portion of the training is even more important. It’s out in the field that real-world challenges take place. Those challenges are assessed and overcome by the application of a practiced hand, and that practice is at first overseen by a seasoned professional. Soon enough, though, beginners gain enough experience to stand and work unaided by others.
The challenges are many. Hobbyists might cope with cracks and some weld area contamination, but they know their work is essentially sound. Back with the beginner-now-intermediate welder, this individual is responsible for creating numerous mechanically sound weld joints in some of the most hazardous areas imaginable. Different weld positions have been mastered, on-the-fly problems are seamlessly addressed, and a long-term career in industrial/construction-certified welding has been kick-started.
The gap between beginner welding and intermediate to pro-level work is significant. Nevertheless, every welding technician has to start somewhere. For hobbyists, a few night classes, some of which have a heavy focus on safety, might be enough to get started. Talk to a professional, get a welding machine recommendation, and prepare for some recreational metalwork fusing fun. To get the best results, consider selecting a Tooliom 2-in-1 welding machine. That way, a beginner can transition to a higher level on the welding ladder without buying more gear.
Back to motivated beginners, to the welding newcomers who’re looking for a kick start in their career. A sound foundation is important. These inspired individuals will need training on and off the work site. Their schooling prepares them by educating them on all the principal components of a welding operation. The equipment, the cables, and hoses, the TIG/MIG/Stick modes, the shielding gas and fillers, all of these parts of the welding work are covered. Certifications are issued to prove comprehension.
Outside, on some dreary worksite or in a dirty garage, those same trainees are put through their paces on a real job. They’re monitored by an experienced welder. As the weeks go by, practice hones their craft. Mistakes that wouldn’t be anticipated in a class are met and overcome. Slowly, the trainee becomes an intermediate welder, someone who knows the ins and outs of a TIG welding project every bit as well as he knows a less detailed stick welding job.
Ultimately, beginner hobbyists and beginner techs aren’t that different. They both begin with a few lessons and a decent welding machine. That journey takes those beginners into a well-ventilated garage or shed. From here, their pathways diverge somewhat, with the hobbyist focusing on recreational welding while the future welding technician focuses on a longer career pathway, one that includes classes, onsite training, and much professional mentoring. Someday, that trainee may even become the mentor, someone who has journeyman-level experience in all welding positions and every joint type, from fillet to Tee joint and beyond.
Welding for Beginners - FAQ
What are the risks of welding？
- High currents
- Electrical shocks
- Arc welding
- Infrared and ultraviolet light will affect a welder's eyes and skin.
- Hot metal slag and sparks can cause skin burns.
Whether it is recommended to enter a welding school for beginners?
It is up to you. However, it is important to learn systematically. Maybe, Getting into a school to train is a good choice.
What should be prepared for beginners?
You should begin with a few lessons, prepare decent equipment, including welding machine, welding helmet, gloves and so on. And the most important thing is your state of mind.