You probably have heard of welding before. You know it is the process of attaching two pieces of similar metals together. But do you know which type of welding process you should be using to complete your project successfully?
That’s where if you are a novice welder, you might get confused. There are 30+ types of welding that you will come across while researching this topic. But for a DIYer, there are really only 3 that you will probably encounter. Each one has pros and cons and is unique to the project at hand.
If you are interested in learning about a certain welding process, look for it in the Table of Contents. Otherwise, let’s start with the most common form of welding: MIG Welding.
MIG welding, also known as wire welding, is a flexible solution for almost all your welding needs. Also known as Metal Inert Gas, MIG is an arc welding process that uses a reel of solid wire and a shielding gas to join the two base materials together. The wire is fed through the welding gun and melts the two materials into a weld pool. The shielding gas is fed through the gun at the same time to protect the pool from contamination.
MIG welding is common among hobbyists, as it is a fairly easy process to learn. And MIG welders are more affordable than some of the alternatives. Most MIG welders have the capability to weld materials from 24-gauge up to ½” thick metal.
Another reason MIG welding is so popular is the flexibility it offers. While the best way to use these welders is with solid core wire and a shielding gas, there are other ways you can set these welders up.
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Flux core welding is a process that uses a self-shielding wire, so no shielding gas is required. This process is more suited for farmers and ranchers, or people that are welding outside often. Because there is no shielding gas the weather and wind won’t affect the quality of the weld.
This process is also better suited for people welding with metal that have surface rust and aren’t perfectly clean metal. However, Flux core creates a slag that sticks on the weld, so it isn’t an ideal choice when you are looking for an attractive weld.
The majority of MIG welders are capable of using flex core wire. Setting up the welder is pretty basic. Most welders can be switched to use flux core wiring by switching the polarity in the welder.
Aluminum Spool Gun Welding
While MIG welding Aluminum with a spool gun is not the most ideal way weld aluminum it is a cost-effective solution for someone who already has a MIG welder. Of course there are MIG welders that are designed specifically for aluminum wire. And most people would prefer to have aluminum TIG welded as a more attractive weld can be formed. However, those types of welders tend to be more expensive and not an affordable option for the DIY welder.
Unlike steel, which uses a carbon/argon shielding gas mixture, aluminum welding requires 100% argon for a shielding gas when MIG welding. And to get a proper weld to form, the aluminum must be cleaned with a stainless steel brush to remove any oxidation from the surface. It is also advised to clean the material throughout the welding process, as oxidation will form quickly on bare aluminum.
TIG welding is considered to be one of the most popular welding processes because of the capability to produce such high-quality welds. However, the quality of welds requires a high level of skill that takes years of practice to obtain.
The technical name for TIG welding is gas tungsten arc welding. This is because the welder makes an arc between the base metal and a tungsten electrode. This creates the molten weld pool and a thin wire is slowly fed by hand into the weld pool. Shielding gas is also used to protect the weld from contaminates.
Why is TIG welding so popular?
One reason TIG welding is popular is because of the wide variety of applications it can be used for. When using the appropriate filler rod and polarity, you have the capability to weld steel, stainless steel, titanium, magnesium, aluminum, and copper.
Another big advantage of TIG welding is the high quality and reliability of the weld. This is because defects in TIG welds are extremely rare when done properly.
Another reason TIG welding is so popular is that there is virtually no welding smoke or residue, and welding slag is unheard of, making for very attractive welds. You also have the option to TIG weld without a filler wire. But this is done only on certain applications, such as tack welding.
Downfalls of TIG Welding
So if you could weld almost every type of material with a TIG welder, Why would you ever use anything else?
Well, the short answer to that is the price. TIG welders tend to be more expensive and aren’t an affordable option for most DIYers.
Another reason that many people shy away from TIG welding is the incredible amount of skill required. This process of welding requires an immense amount of hand-eye coordination and focus. Patience is also another virtue that is required as this process is very time consuming, not only with the welding process but also with obtaining the skills required.
Check out this related post: Best AC/DC TIG Welders for the Money
More commonly known as Stick Welding, the process of Arc Welding uses electricity to melt electrodes( filler rods or Sticks). Similar to TIG welding, Arc Welding uses Constant Voltage to weld, whereas other methods, like MIG welding, uses Constant Current.
Welding in its basic form
Arc Welding is one of the most basic welding processes that is used today. However, that doesn’t make it the easiest. It still takes hours of practice to make a decent weld, and it probably still won’t look the greatest.
There are 4 basic components used in Arc Welding:
- Constant Voltage (Arc Welder)
- Electrode Holder
- Grounding clamp
- Welding Electrodes
So why Arc Welding?
You might be asking yourself, If arc welding isn’t any easier to learn than MIG or TIG, and doesn’t produce as nice of welds, why would anyone use it?
Because the electrode sticks have a coating that melts when an arc is made, Arc Welding is perfect for outdoor welding. That coating acts as a shielding gas and protects the weld pool from contamination. So no gas bottle is needed. And by using the correct electrode allows you to weld on different materials without having to change out components on your welder.
Another reason Arc Welding is beneficial is its ability to weld on some “not so clean” material. This allows Farmers, Ranchers, and anyone else that has to make repairs to metal structures that have been exposed to the elements already.
Disadvantages of Arc Welding
So with everything, Arc Welding has some downfalls compared to the other methods.
To start as mentioned before, Arc Welding doesn’t produce a clean looking weld. There is typically a lot of splatter and not ideal when an attractive weld is necessary.
Unlike MIG and TIG welding, Arc Welding is more suited for thicker metals. Because the welding process is so basic, it is hard to control burn throughs. So this process shouldn’t be used on sheet metal projects.
Other things to consider when looking into arc welding are the consumables that you will go through. The process of welding with Electrodes is not very efficient and a lot of waste is generated.
Interested in buying a Stick Welder? Check out The Top 5 Best Stick Welders under $500
With any form of welding, there are certain precautions that you should take. The arc formed when welding contains UV Radiation. Any time you expose your bare skin when welding, you risk getting welders flash. Similar to getting a sunburn, welders flash can be extremely painful and dangerous.
Your safety should be your number one concern and using the PPE that we will talk about next is a step in the right direction.
Protecting your eyes and face when welding is highly important. Welders Flash to the eyes is not to be taken lightly. Imagine having sand glued to your eyelids and every time you blink you scratch your eyes more. That’s what it feels like, and it’s not fun.
To protect yourself from this happening a good quality Welding Helmet or Goggles should be used. And NO, just closing your eyes when tack welding isn’t good enough.
While it is totally a personal preference, I will always recommend getting Auto-Darkening equipment. The convenience of being able to see what you’re looking at with the helmet on will result in you not constantly flipping it up to see your next weld. This will also cut down on the chance of getting welders flash from not having the helmet in place before striking an arc.
Goggles work just as well, but it is important to remember that the rest of your face still needs to be covered to protect from welders flash.
Looking for a Welding Helmet? Check out the 10 Best Welding Helmet Reviews.
Gloves and Jackets
Along with protecting your eyes and face, the rest of your body is equally important to have covered. Getting yourself a good pair of welding gloves will protect you not only from welders flash but also from the excessive heat generated from the welding process. With processes such as MIG and Arc welding, sparks and slag are also present, which can lead to you getting burned. And while most leather gloves will protect you from the risk of getting burned, they typically can’t handle the heat.
Welding Jackets are typically made of flame-resistant material, or in some cases leather. These jackets will protect you from heat, sparks, and slag. It is also common to see welding aprons, which will help protect your legs from getting burnt, but you will still have to get a set of sleeves to cover your arms.
Whenever cutting or welding metal, hazardous fumes are created. This can be controlled through engineered controls, such as ventilation systems or fresh air supplies, safe work practices and proper PPE like welding respirators.
Hopefully, this guide has given you an insight into 3 commonly used welding processes that you might use in DIY projects. Whether you are a farmer fixing metal fencing, or an enthusiast created Metal Art either of these options will suit your needs.
If you are interested in purchasing a welder, stay tuned for a guide on the Best Welders and as always Happy Welding!