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Welding Basics - Section 2

Section 1   | Section 2

 

Keep laying beads of weld from along the top of your work in a smooth straight line from one end to the other, and then start a new line along the last one, until you have created a raised surface on your practice piece. Have you noticed that the more you weld, the hotter the metal gets? Donít touch it to find out, just trust me here! Once you are able to weld the thin bicycle tubing together, you will have to make frequent starts and stops in order to stop from burning a hole through the steel, this is because the tubing is so thin that it gets red hot in just a few seconds. Keep practicing on your heavier metal until you can lay down rows of beads, as shown in Photo 10.
 
Donít get discouraged if it takes awhile to get good at striking an arc. The hardest part is learning to set your amperage properly and getting that arc going without sticking. This may take you all day.


Photo 10 - Practice is the key to success.

Once you are able to strike up an arc and lay some weld for an inch or two, itís time to move on and actually try to make two pieces stick together. Find two flat pieces of metal of equal thickness, and clamp them together so there is a gap in between each piece about equal to the thickness of a welding rod (Photo 11).


Photo 11 - Setting up two pieces for welding.

Make sure the ground clamp is connected either to one of the plates or to the clamp, or you will be striking all day with no arc starting. Also, donít weld too close to your clamp ó you may hit it with the electrode or weld the work to it. Strike an arc anywhere on the work, and then bring the electrode into the joint between the plates, laying a slow, steady bead as you hold the electrode at a 45 degree angle from the work.
 
Keep your eye on the arc as you move along the joint, and watch if it is connecting to both plates. You may need to manipulate the welding rods back and forth slightly to get the arc to travel to both plates if it seems to favor only one side. Donít travel too fast along the joint, or the final weld will be lacking sufficient filler metal from the rod. If you travel too slow, a large crater will form between the plates similar to the many holes you burnt through the metal as you were practicing laying beads.

When you are done welding the entire length of the joint, remove the work, and chip the flux. You may also want to use a wire brush to clean the weld and surrounding area to get a better look at it (Photo 12).

The weld on the left is clean and solid, with adequate metal filling the joint. The weld on the right is lumpy, and full of gaps where the arc stayed to only one side of the joint due to lack of heat or improper electrode angle. Keep trying this exercise until you can make a smooth and solid weld between the two plates without gaps or holes. Remember, the key to making a good weld is to learn to control your heat by setting the amperage, and dragging the electrode at the appropriate speed. Are you running out of welding rods yet?


Photo 12 - Proper heat and speed makes a good weld.

If you have learned to strike an arc and weld two plates together, then itís time to take the final step, and join some thin walled bicycle tubing together. This exercise will require some patience and practice to get it right. Not only is round tubing the hardest joint to weld, it is also very thin, and this only adds to the complexity. Once you have mastered this next step, you will be a fairly good welder, but donít expect to get it right on your first attempt, or even on the first day.

Find a length of 1Ē thin walled round tube without rust or paint covering it. A length of electrical conduit would be perfect, but any clean steel tube will do. Using a pipe cutter, or grinder disk, cut the tube into several two or three inch lengths. Donít be too critical about measuring each cut, as you are just going to be using the metal for practice welding here.
 
Take two sections of tube, and grind the end of one of them, so they will fit together, as shown in Photo 13. Again, donít be too critical about making a perfect fit with the two pieces, as this will not always be possible, and a good welder can fill in the odd small gap. Remember to set up your ground clamp on either on one of the tube sections before you try to strike up.


Photo 13 - A clean joint makes welding much easier.

Start with a lower heat setting to avoid a burn through, especially if you were welding the heavy practice plate. Bicycle tubing is very thin and it gets red hot in seconds, so donít expect to weld more than a half inch or so at a time. Start from the top, and make a small bead approximately a quarter inch long just to join the two pieces together. Did you burn right through the tube? Even the most experienced welder sometimes blows holes in the work, and filling these holes is another handy skill to learn.

When you have a small bead of weld joining the two sections (Photo 14), flip the work over and do the same thing on the top of the other side. Now the two pieces can be welded all around. Each time, only weld a small section no longer than half an inch, or you will burn through the tubing wall. Also, donít attempt to weld in any other position than from the top just yet, as this is something that takes a lot of skill to do properly. When you weld a small length then stop, it is a good idea to chip the flux, so you can begin your new bead of weld slightly over top of where you last left off to avoid leaving a small hole in between the start and stop. 


Photo 14 - Welding in sections to reduce warping.

Keep turning the work around, welding small lengths at a time until you have made a complete joint, as shown in Photo 15. Donít worry about the appearance of the bead at this point. Try to avoid burning holes and leaving voids where you start and stop. Remember to hold your electrode so that it is at an equal angle between the two sections of tubing, not favoring one side or the other, or you will end up with weld only one side of the joint. Remember, this is the hardest weld you will ever have to make, so take your time and practice until you get it right. If you practice these basic exercises, you will learn to make a strong weld.


Photo 15 - The completed joint.

Once you start welding your projects for real, itís a good idea to get into the habit of grinding finished welds. Not only does this make for a professional looking job, but it reveals areas that may need to be filled due to inadequate weld metal in the joint. Take a look at the two welds in Photo 16. 

Although both are equally as strong, the weld on the left is rough looking due to many starts and stops and holes that needed to be filled. The one on the right was done very smoothly on the first attempt.


Photo 16 - Two welds before grinding..

Now refer to Photo 17. Can you tell them apart? A weld does not have to be pretty to be strong, and once cleaned up with a grinder, even the roughest-looking weld looks good. When grinding a weld, avoid taking too much off the material off or you will weaken the joint. A ground weld should be flush or slightly higher than the material around it, and if you accidentally take too much off, add more weld to the joint.


Photo 17 - Grinding does wonders for weld appearance.

If you would like to explore welding beyond the very basics I have covered here, check with your local college about the courses available. A welding course will teach you many other aspects of welding such as ďall positionĒ welding, welding specialized metals such as chromyl, cast iron and aluminum, TIG welding, MIG welding to name a few.
 
With patience and practice you will learn to make a good weld, even if you know very little about the technology and terminology, so get at it, and burn some rod!

 

Section 1   | Section 2

 

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