Can I learn how to weld by myself?

I’m an electrical engineer by trade and I have some experience with typical DIY type projects around the house. I’m interested in taking on a project that will require some basic welding and I’d like to know if it’s reasonable to expect that I could teach myself. Google turns up a bunch of guides for beginners, but I’d appreciate some comments from people with experience. Am I kidding myself here?

Also, assuming this is feasible, can you recommend some beginner level equipment? I don’t currently have access to a 230VAC/50A circuit so I’d prefer something that can run on 120VAC/15A.

I asked exactly this question a while back - and I got some fairly good answers. I can’t link to the thread, as the search function is currently disabled… Grrr…

You might want to check with your local community college, mine had a welding course when I was attending but I never took it. I wished now that I had.

Basic welding isn’t that hard but I would expect some safety issues by teaching yourself. At the very least, get a good book and follow it. However, I am pretty certain you cannot be become a good welder by teaching yourself. If you want to weld anything more than a couple of pieces of iron together, you need someone to teach you. If you want maximum strength from your welds for structural purposes or if you just want the welds to look neat, then you probably need someone to teach you.

I can do basic welding but I learned it in high school. My younger brother went to a real welding school for almost a year before he went into the Marines and there was a lot to it especially when you need to weld metals like aluminum.

Good advice. You don’t want your safety depending on an amateur weld. That said, my brother is self-taught and welds his own towing hitches, etc., and has had no problems that I know of. Anybody who welds for a living carries multiple certifications that must be renewed periodically.

In my opinion, it’s easier for a beginner to learn with a MIG (metal - inert gas) welder than it is to use a traditional arc welder that uses a “stick” that’s surrounded with flux. Instead of a solid flux, carbon dioxide is used to shield the weld from oxygen to limit the amount of “slag” formed. Slag is very porous, and pores have no place in a good weld. You can pick up a Lincon from Sears for around $300, not counting the price for gas and daughter material, which should be about $20 each.

Although it may take a bit of fiddling for an inexperienced person to get the feed and temperature right, it’s not too difficult. Your first few welds may be strong, but I can promise you they won’t be pretty. When I was learning, as I’d finish a bead, the foreman would come over and whack the part with a 10 pound sledgehammer! Quality control at its finest.

If you try to learn solely from reading, any time they talk about the “puddle”, pay real close attention.

I bought a MIG welder from Harbor Freight ten years ago and taught myself to weld with it. I’m still learning, but I’ve been able to do useful things with it since the first day.

Thanks for the tips. For this first project, I’d just need to weld some pieces of 2x2 box steel together at 90 deg angles to make a rectangle. There’d be one or two small pieces welded on to the outside of this frame. How difficult would something like this be for a noob?

Miller and Lincoln (and I’m sure others) make 120V wire welders that use flux-core wire, thus eliminating the need for shielding gas. They’re in the $400-500 price range. I’ve used a Lincoln to weld up to 1/4 thick mild steel, but I wouldn’t rely on it for strength at that thickness.

The main down side to the 120V welders is that they have a short duty cycle. You can weld for about a minute then you have to let the machine cool for about ten minutes.

I don’t know of any stick welders that run on 120V.

If you understand the theory, the rest is just practice, practive, practice. :slight_smile: Personally, I think it’s fun.

Concerning safety - well, you shouldn’t weld a broken handle on a lawnmover that leaks oil and is covered with oily, dry grass. Also, that’s not a good time to find out your fire extinguisher lost its charge. So, in your list of safety gear, include a good fire extinguisher.

I don’t know how to weld, but I’ve mentioned this before. Whatever you do, do NOT get flashburn. My husband, at the time an inside wireman, was working too close to someone welding, and the arc light flash burned his corneas. I cannot even express to you the pain he was in.
Not a real extensive article on Wiki, but that’s the gist of it.
Seriously. Bloody. Painful. Do not mess around. Keep your mask on.

I came in to mention this, too. My (lawyer) father took a welding class and did a couple little welding projects after.

Anyone with a MIG welder can stick two pieces of metal together. How strong that joint will be is a function of training and/or experience.