I have seen many blogs about welding and the thing that seems to be common with all of them is, they are way to technical and hard to read. I’m going to try and be different, by offering welding advise and tips as if I were having a normal conversation with someone. I might even try to put in some pictures or drawings when it might be nice to have a visual reference about a topic. As I have written in the about/contact page, I have been welding for a long time. Whenever I wake up on the wrong side of the bed and don’t feel like going to work, it usually means I’m not welding that day. I’m not trying to sound cheesy but, I can’t come up with a better way to make a living, that I wouldn’t get sick of fast.
Over the course of these articles I’m going to assume that you know the basics. There are many “beginning welder” info. sites out there, so I don’t see the need to bother repeating all of that. If you don’t know what an electrode is or what a ground clamp is you might want to check out another site and come back later. Don’t take offense to that statement, I don’t know know anything about car insurance so I wouldn’t expect to soak up all the info on an insurance blog right away either. I also don’t care much about safety. Most of it is common sense anyway. If you like to grind without your safety glasses be my guest. But, I’ve had enough pieces of steel taken out of my eye to realize how dumb it is not to wear them while grinding. Also try not to set yourself on fire. Now that all the B.S. is out of the way, let’s get to it.
In my opinion, stick welding is the best way to really learn how to be a good welder. If you can weld with a 7018, it won’t be a problem to go on to a wire feed. However, the guys that start out with a wire feed seem to have a little more trouble getting the hang of stick welding. Don’t get me wrong, it can be done, that’s just been my experience. It is also cheaper to buy a stick welder than a wire feed. With stick you only need to buy the welder, lead, and some rods. You can buy a good stick welder used or new for less than $400. Wire feeds are a little more expensive (even a 110 volt) considering you will need to lease the gas tank. All in all I don’t think you can go wrong with a stick welder unless you do so much welding you’re worried about production.
The first good tip I will tell you is: stay away from 6013 welding rods. I might catch hell from some of you but hear me out. I know a lot of welding instructors like to use 6013 rods to teach their students with because they strike easily and even a novice can make a good looking bead with them. When I used to fix a lot of farm equipment, the biggest cause of welds cracking from the farmers’ self repairs was because they used 6013. I used to ask them why they used those rods, and mainly it was because that is what they learned to weld with in high school. I would grind the old cracked weld off and re-weld the equipment using 7018, and I would never see the piece again. It wasn’t always that the farmer was a bad welder, it was just not a very strong rod. If you want to learn how to weld with a rod that strikes easy, try 6011 or 7014. Both of these seem to be pretty good rods. But given a choice I will always choose 7018. These are the rods the pros use out in the field. They are a good all around rod, even for vertical and overhead welding. If you need to weld thin metal, 6011 is my choice. The thinner the metal, the less important rod tensile strength is anyway. 6011’s allow you to move fast so you don’t heat up too much of the metal and burn through. They are also good for plowing through rust and paint as well as for thin materials. How to weld thin steel will have to be another topic for another day.