Is welding something I could learn on my own?

Every once in a while I wish I knew how to weld, but I always figured you needed special training or even a license, as it looks pretty dangerous. But I saw a welding starter kit at Harbor Freight for a hundred bucks; it came with gloves and a mask etc…

So is welding something I could do safely after checking out a book or doing a little googling? I am pretty handy and good with power tools.

If you want to glue one bit of metal to another, you can do it yourself. If you want to weld nuclear sub hulls, however…

I did, and I’m now pretty good.

But, if you are talking about torch welding, don’t bother. I’ve had a welding / cutting torch for years, and I’ve never welded with it* - it requires a lot of practice and skill, and isn’t very useful. Get yourself a used stick welder or a small MIG unit and have at it!

*excepting brazing, which is still useful.

Why not take a welding class somewhere? They aren’t expensive and often are available at convenient hours for people who work.

You can learn it yourself, and safely, although it’s better getting someone to teach you or take a short class - lots of times, a couple lessons come free with the equipment. But today’s auto-feeder MIG welders are cheap. Really, the key is practice, practice.

I’d suggest reading a book to grasp the safety issues, which include:

-electrical shock
-UV light exposure
-fume inhalation

You’ll want to address these issues before starting for the first time.

As far as the learning goes, well, you’ll probably get some of that from the same book, and the rest of it as you go. You should be able to do useful welding in fairly short order, but if you plan to do safety-critical things - say, welding on a vehicle chassis or a pressure vessel - you really ought to get some professional instruction.

I work in an engine research lab with a staffed machine shop. I watched the shop guys now and then over a period of several years. I hadn’t really done any welding there, but after watching them work and asking lots of questions, in '05 a need arose for welding at home, and I felt comfortable buying my own equipment and going at it without any classroom instruction. If I hadn’t had exposure to welding by those pro’s, I probably would have considered a class at the local community college. If you have zero exposure to welding, you might consider that route.

The UV is the most obvious hazard, and probably the easiest to defend against (you should always wear polycarb safety glasses underneath your welding mask). Electrical shock isn’t usually that big a hazard; a welder moves a lot of current, but the voltage isn’t usually very high (except for TIG welders when they are striking the initial arc). Fumes are probably the biggest problem, especially with stick welders: the flux fumes, metal vapors (all sorts of additives in most alloys, including lead), plus whatever crap you left on your parts that gets cooked off, you don’t want any of that stuff in your lungs. Get a big fan, and put it where you can be assured of bringing in plenty of fresh air. Welding in your garage is fine with all the doors open, but don’t try to weld in your basement!

If you’re getting a stick welder, don’t cheap out by getting the 110-volt model; you will make yourself miserable trying to weld without constantly sticking the rod to your part.

In addition to those risks, don’t forget the risk of big droplets of molten metal flying around and setting things on fire. You’ll need a safe place without any flammables around.

I did an evening course at a local college. It was very useful. Interestingly it took us though brazing, torch, oxy-cutting, and MIG. I actually feel most comorftable with a torch. Once you get the hang of it, it is not difficult at all, and has some advantages in utility. But most people go for either a stick or a MIG welder. The big downside with an oxy-acetelene welder is the cost of renting cylinders. Unless you make reasonably frequent use of the setup it just isn’t cost effective. Also, like anything else in life, you get what you pay for. Cheap kits will not work as well as better quality ones. Under no circumstances skimp on safety equipment. UV burns from a welder can be bad. Spattering molten metal really bad.

I’m with the above posters. Look around for a community college course. There are sure to be some.

Here’s something that you can learn right now…

DO NOT EVER and I mean EVER weld or cut with nylon topped tennis shoes on your feet.


Leather boots my man, leather boots.

Almost every community college will have welding classes and they are generally pretty cheap.
I now see that by reading the rest of the posts this has been mentioned before.

Let’s paraphrase the question:

Can I learn demolition with dynamite on my own?

Well yes, (somebody did it) but is that really a good way to go about it?

Taking a basic class will accelerate your learning curve tremendously and possibly avoid a serious accident. As with any trade, there are a lot of subtle tricks and skills that an instructor can teach without having to learn the hard way or through a lot of trial and error.

hint: Cold metal looks exactly the same as REALLY REALLY HOT METAL.

And when you burn the fingerprints off your fingers you can’t use the biometric locks at work.

Learning basic welding skills isn’t that hard, provided you’re doing very basic stuff. If you want to stick two peices of steel together it’s not hard to learn it, but two bits:

  1. Safety first. Learn the safety issues first. Safety first, safety first, safety first.

  2. To actually get paid to be a welder you’d probably have to take courses. You’re not going to get a welder’s ticket just slapping things together; you have to have reasonably good proficiency. I’ve seen EXPERIENCED welders fail basic tests becaus their technique wasn’t up to snuff. And to really make bux as a welder you need to be able to do it without a lot of supervision, which means knowing how to set and adjust machines, how to read welding drawings, and probably knowing how to weld things other than simple mild steel.

Frankly, a course is worth it because it helps to understand the theory and science behind welding. Welding is really quite fascinating.

Yes any idiot can learn to weld. I am proof of that. I am not however very good at it so in most cases leave it to the people with more experience. Like most trades it is pretty simple in concept but takes years to be good at.

Yes, I did. Get yourself a welder, an auto-darkening helmet, some supplies, some scrap metal and a how-to manual from the library. Have fun. It’s one of the most useful skills I’ve ever acquired.

Are you considering a stick welder or a wire-feed? I’m not impressed with Harbor Freight’s low priced wire-feed welders.

I only have one thing to add about welders.

NEVER, Never, never catch anything a welder tosses in your direction.

Another safety tip: Never wear raggedy jeans with loose threads. They will catch on fire.

Hm, seems I forgot to note the burn hazard. While severe burns are possible, I generally haven’t had a problem, as I’m wearing heavy leather gloves pretty much the whole time I’m welding. It’s still possible to get burned through the gloves, but it happens more slowly; you generally have a chance to drop the metal and yank your gloves off before you get a second-degree burn.

My worst burns to date haven’t been from welding, but from accidentally touching a part just after aggressively grinding it against a belt sander.

In the “stupid” department, I once burned my lip with the hot end of a filler rod (I have a TIG welder, so the filler rod is hand-held). I had just finished a weld and went to raise my mask with my right hand, which was still holding the hot-as-hell filler rod. Poked my lip with the rod, got a nice spot burn. Dumbass.

Every time I tried the class was full and overflowing. Students were persons who were part of two year programs. No one would consider another student.

Yep. I taught myself oxy-acetylene welding by reading a few books, and practicing for a few hours on scraps. I won’t claim to be anything better than vaguely competent, but I have welded together a few things that have stood up to a great deal of abuse. My dad has done similar (it was his equipment that I borrowed), and over many years has made a lot of things for his shop from scrap mostly picked up off the curb – custom carts and jigs and the like.

I’ll try to find the books I used, to post a link…