Could I teach myself to weld?

At my work we often have things that break and we, too often, let them go. As it usually happens, they get worse instead of better. Many of these things need to be welded. Many of these things I look at and think “I don’t know jack about welding, but I bet I could pick up a cheap MIG welder and fix this”. A lot of these things are just a tear in a piece of metal a half inch or inch long, but end up not getting fixed until the tear is feet long and starting to cause problems with the machine. Granted, getting things welded is pretty inexpensive, but it seems like it would be nice if I could just fix them long before they become that big of a problem.

So, could I pick up a cheap (but decent) welder, watch some youtube videos, read some websites and be able to do small welds. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not looking to do big projects, nothing structural, nothing precision, nothing pretty, just ‘hey, the side of this guard is starting to peel back, can you tack it back on?’ kinda stuff.

FTR, back when I was reading, MIG sounding like the most beginner friendly type of welding, especially if you get the kind of welder that allows you to add a gas supply to it if you choose. That’s the only reason I said that, it’s entirely possible that the person writing that was biased.

FTR, I’m perfectly okay with ‘nope, don’t even bother without taking a class or something’, I’d much rather hear that then to have another $300 toy that I can’t use.

Also, I have a potentially silly question but it’s always bothered me. I know the work is grounded, but how come the welder can be touching it while they work on it? The neutral wire of a light (turned on) light socket is grounded as well, but you’ll get a shock if you touch it.

Dunno why not. It isn’t THAT much harder than brazing or soldering, and those are self-teachable.

Is a certification required to purchase the equipment?

Well, I can solder (plumbing), for the most part. But welding doesn’t have to be waterproof and you can go back over the part you missed, so that’s good.

No, you don’t need any kind of certification to buy the equipment. Anyone can buy it at Harbor Freight or Home Depot or Amazon etc. MIG/TIG/OxyAcetlene whatever, it’s all right there.

You can touch the work because the welder is transformer-isolated. If it wasn’t, it would be smaller, lighter, and deadlier.

Also, the voltages used in welding are quite low.

I’m not sure what transformer isolated means, but if the voltage is low, is the amperage higher, not that it takes a whole lotta amps to kill a person?
On the one hand, power goes from the welder to the ground clamp, it seems like it could go though you if you’re holding the work.
OTOH, doing some quick googling says isolation transformers are specifically to prevent shocks, so I’ll take their word for it as not to derail the main question in the thread (even though I don’t understand it. FTR, if anyone is going to go off on that tangent, I do have a basic working knowledge of transformers, but a transformer, in and of itself isn’t going to prevent a shock. I mean, go ahead and stick you finger in a wall outlet and see what happens. That power has been through several. Besides, how does the welder know the difference between the work and your finger?).

I would hope you would be wearing thick gloves, for one. I’m sure there is a more technical reason tho.

Well, yeah, but I’ve still seen people welding without them.

Funny story, a friend of mine accidentally cut off the tip of his finger with a chop saw. He had it put back on, which included a pin set in it. A few days later he was doing some welding and, because of his gloves he didn’t realize how close to his hand he was…he welded the pin in his finger to the work. He said that hurt more than cutting it off.

Well, so far as shock goes, the weldor is not touching the hot side of the circuit so there’s no issue. After all, the circuits in your house go to ground and you can walk outside barefoot, right?

Using a wire feed welder with either gas or flux cored wire is just a matter of practice. They say that if you can run a drill you can weld and it’s somewhat true.

Are you welding on food service equipment or anything where the weld failing is a safety issue? Are you welding stainless steel or aluminium? They take a lot more skill and aluminum particularly is not very forgiving. You can weld mild steel with either flux cored wire or use gas and plain wire. The gas used varies with the material being welded and the desired results. More expensive gases or gas blends can give you cleaner welds with less spatter but plain co2 works for most steels.

It shouldn’t be a problem. Lots of people learn to weld on their own. I didn’t have very much assistance to start. An inexpensive stick welder is an easy way to start. It’s easy to just tack things together that aren’t subject to heavy loads. With practice you can get excellent structural welds in steel. A cheap MIG welder is fine for tacking thin steel but if you need long welds or thick material you’ll need a better quality machine and plenty of practice. Don’t count on welding aluminum right away with MIG or TIG. I’ve never done it but welders tell me it’s not that easy.

Welding is easy to learn but if you could have a welder stop by for some instructions it would save you a lot of time getting started. I would recommend several visits from a welder just for some tips. Once you get started things will come up that you have questions about or could do better with some instruction.

Well, for example, the last thing I ‘needed’ to weld was a cardboard compactor. This one is very similar. The door slides up and down. At the right and left edges of the (steel) door it’s wrapped around a rail on each side (to remove it you lift it all the way up and off the top). Years and years of use is has torn the edges of the door where it wraps around the rail. When it first happened, I kept thinking, 'I could fix this, it needs about an inch of weld, how badly could I screw it up. By the time we finally got it replaced, the door was practically falling off and we paid someone (‘only’ IMO) $80, to totally fabricate new edges for it. Works great, but it would have been nice to fix it right when it happened. It took a few years to get that bad and as it got worse there were sharp edges and the door would come down crooked and and jam so it got more and more difficult to use.
This is also probably 1/16 - 1/8 of an inch thin, but it’s not like it’s a half inch either. Not exactly thin, but it’s pretty heavy duty, it takes a lot of abuse.

And, of course, running a business, there’s little putzy stuff that breaks from time to time. A bracket here, a motor mount there. It would be nice to just fix it myself instead of running it to the welder or buying a new one.

You could probably do that with a small MIG. Just one using flux core wire and no gas would work. I prefer a MIG for thinner metal but a stick welder would work just as well. Don’t forget that quick fixes aren’t that easy all the time. You have to clean the metal before hand, get it clamped together well, then afterwards you have to clean and grind the weld and paint the exposed surfaces. I’m sure your used to doing those things, but quick patches can take longer than you expect sometimes. But with something like that door what you’ll do is extend the life of it by closing up the metal after it starts to tear, it could last for years longer even if you have to patch it up a couple of more times.

ETA: And learning to weld is fun! Get yourself some scrap steel and play. Anybody can be a sculptor.

You want to talk about a quick patch taking longer than expected? See my other thread where I managed to short out a commercial freezer and cooler while trying to replace a few floor tiles.

I recently made my first MIG welds after about 2 minutes of instruction from my friend (whose welder it is). They are not what you’d call elegant, but seem fully serviceable.

Based on this, MIG’s reputation as being easy enough for self instruction seems valid.

C’mon man.

That IS funny. People find new ways to injure themselves is always hilarious!:wink:

Heh. Looks like you already tried your hand with arc welding.

I’ve got a beautiful circular scar on my leg, from a droplet of solder.

Memo: don’t do electronics in short pants.

I’m sure you can definitely teach yourself to weld. Other than 30 minutes of my dad’s time instructing me, and setting up my welder, I was on my own after that. He left me to start on my first metal framed building. It’s still standing. :slight_smile: My dad taught me lots of skills growing up, but welding was the one that I appreciated more than any. But I’m convinced you can teach yourself by what you suggested, youtube and a basic book perhaps. Never went to school for it, or would be considered a professional welder, so take this advice from a hobbyist point of view.

I recommend learning stick first or perhaps just that only. That’s pretty much all I use still today. It’s better for those windier days too, if you plan on doing some welding outside, but MIG can be used here too with no problem. With TIG, and the argon gas used, you’d have to take steps to shield it from the wind. If you can stick weld, you’ll be able to pick up on MIG fairly quick after that too, although beginners tend to shoot out a lot of wasted wire at first. If you’re set on MIG, I think you’ll still be okay, and it’s a little quicker by not having to change a rod every so often. I read an instruction book that said, you can learn stick in about one hour, while TIG was about 40 hours. That sounds about right to me. It didn’t say for MIG, but anyway, just a little bit longer than stick, I guess. TIG is more of a specialty type welding, and especially great for welding up 4130 chromoly tubes on aircraft, and popular with race car enthusiasts too. TIG is top of the line and the most highly skilled.

Just a regular AC welder will be fine on most jobs that you will be doing for yourself. You don’t really need a AC/DC welder, although I have one of those, and the DC helps to get deeper welds that penetrate on heavier gauge metal, but AC works great, and if the welding is never going to be much more than1/8” thick or less, you should do just fine with an AC welder for most home projects. Miller, Lincoln, Hobart, these are very good brand names that I’m most familiar with. Beware of some off-beat brands, if you have a problem with those, some will have zero support on ever having any parts for it. I’ve probably got over a thousand hours on my Lincoln, only had it in the shop once, for something not too serious, I forget now what it was. But anyway, good welders are mostly bullet proof. The factory I used to work at all had Miller’s. I honestly don’t recall ever seeing a repair man in there for any of them after nearly 13 years of working there.

Anyway, back to stick welding. There are many rods to pick from, but I’d recommend one rod only for nearly all of your jobs. You can use a 1/8” thick 6011 rod on just about any job. The numbers all mean something, and there’s a nice little book that explains the significance which I’ll recommend at the bottom of my post. Or you can do a search engine that will probably explain too.

Always get a good ground. If you have metal that has primer or paint, it really helps to grind off and make it shiny where you are going to put your ground onto. It helps to grind where you’re going to be welding too if it has paint or primer on it, you want a good spark to get going, without having to fight it. Nothing is more frustrating than finding a stick that refuses to arc. To get it to arc, you want to strike it like a match, and then keep it close to the metal to continue letting it arc.

To start out, grab you a couple of pieces of scrap metal, and start practicing. Let’s say you have some thin gauge metal, perhaps 14 gauge (which is about 1/16”). Set your welder to 75 amps. That should do it, it could still be slightly hot or cold, you won’t know until you’ve done a few short welds, and then take a good look at it.
Once you’re up and running, you don’t want to be too close or too far away from the weld to maintain the arc to keep things going. If you’re sticking your rod to metal, you may not be hot enough, or it could be you need to back off a little bit more on the rod or both. If you’re blowing holes, you need to move your rod in more, or lose some heat, or both.

One other thing you can do is test the strength of your weld. Take two pieces of scrap metal, weld the pieces together. After you weld, take your chipper, and knock off the weld crust, clean it up more with the wire brush, and visually see what kind of penetration you got. I’ve used other rods before, and there were times, I was shocked after I removed the crust, how little penetration I got. With 6011, you should do just fine with it; never had problems with it. Never mind how ugly the weld is, you’ll be surprised how well ugly welds hold, but you at least want to test it before you get started on your project. Put it in a vise, get a sledge hammer and start beating on it, trying to tear the two pieces of metal apart. If you have a good weld, the metal will tear in another place besides the area you just welded. You want to strive on making your welds look good, but trust me when I say I’ve seen some ugly welds that actually held up quite well, so there is a bit of a safety margin.

You’re going to be blowing holes in thinner metal, even experienced welders still do this on occasion. You’ll need to learn a technique that can repair it. To plug a hole back up, what you do is weld the hole for about two seconds, then back off. Let it cool, to where the bright red goes away, usually about five seconds or so, then weld the hole again for another two seconds or so, then get off of it. This will continue to build up the weld again, and eventually the hole will be plugged. Keep the rod in close, you don’t want it to flare on you, or it will make a bigger hole.

Always learn to tack the pieces of metal in place first, before completing welds, otherwise, you’ll end up having a twisted pretzel.

Best book I found for welding basics that has been out for decades is this little red one put out by Forney. It’s excellent! All welding shops locally probably have it too, besides Amazon. Welding pieces on a table or flat surface are the easiest welds. Welding vertical, or upside down, takes a little more skill, but how you position your stick will make quite a bit of difference. That little book I recommended covers this, and I believe all of the other stuff I mention in this post, but I’m sure will explain it a lot better. I think it will give you plenty of confidence. I learned quite a bit from it even after my dad taught me. My dad covered most of what was in there, but it was also gave me something to reflect on, and go to when I needed some help on a particular aspect. It will show you what a slow, fast, hot, cold, and other welds look like, and once you start recognizing this, you’ll be able to concentrate on making better looking and stronger welds.

Another neat trick I learned is drilling holes with welding rods. This really has come in handy. Do it just right, and you won’t even need to do any grinding or deburring. Sure beats dealing with drills and wearing out bits. The Forney book will show you the right technique on how to do this. It’s one of the easier skills to learn.

I really don’t know and not qualified to answer your last question about how to keep from getting electrocuted, just know welding is actually very safe, and has a great track record for being so. Been around welders all of my life, and I’ve never known any that seriously hurt themselves. Mainly protect your eyes, and try to avoid flash burns. There are times, when welding outside, and when the humidity was very high, and perhaps a slight mist, I could sometimes feel a slight tingle, so I avoid those situations. Even inside on high humidity days, I have felt it.

Well, I think I covered the basics. You’ll never regret learning this skill if you decide to go through with it.

Great post razincaine!

Another way to fill a hole is to back it with a piece of copper. Steel won’t stick to copper.