6 General Welding Tips for Beginners

A female welder lifting up the guard on her welding mask.

Welding can be an intimidating task. The intense heat and bright light is enough to scare away most. But, if you are brave enough to attempt a welding job and are new to it, there is so much to learn. With an abundance of knowledge about the ancient trade, it's a completely do-able project. Here are some tips for welders who are just getting started.

1. Wear the Right Gear

What you wear is so crucial to the safety of your weld. Wear leather gloves to protect your hands. Also, make sure you wear a cotton shirt or cotton sleeves to protect your arms from the UV rays coming off of the gun. Without sleeves, you can get sunburned from the welding gun. Choose a welding helmet with adjusting lenses so you can clearly see what you are doing without damaging your eyes. Another protection you may not think of is glasses underneath your welding helmet. It may seem excessive, but the materials remain hot for several minutes after you weld them. If a stray piece of hot metal chips off while you are inspecting your weld, protective glasses could possibly save your eye.

2. Prepare for the Weld Before Starting

There are a few things you should do before beginning a weld that will help you succeed.

  • Clean your metal surface. Try to take it down to bare metal. Use sandpaper or a wire brush to clean it up and then use a metal cleaning product.

  • Use a primer on the area you have cleaned. Because you just stripped the metal down, you will want to put a protective barrier back on it. Welding primer protects the area from rusting or corroding.

  • Check for a ball on the end of your wire. This will be a bad start to your weld and something you want to avoid. If you find a ball there, cut it off with wire cutters.

3. Use the Correct Wire for Your Project

A welder using a wire with sparks flying.

Find the correct thickness wire for the metal you are welding. For thin metals, use a thinner diameter wire. For thick metals, use a larger wire. Also, make sure you match the wire type to the metal type. For instance, if you are welding aluminum, use aluminum wire.

4. Practice Good Welding Technique

A welder working on a large pipe.

While welding, you don’t usually want to just make a straight line. Instead, make tiny connecting loops with your welding gun. You basically push the puddle along in sweeping circular motions. This technique will make your weld stronger. Using this method, you will have a nice weld without any gaps in it which could weaken the bond.

5. Know How to Troubleshoot Your Problems

Several different problems can occur when welding. A weld may not always be strong enough to hold the metal together or the weld may not feel right. In these instances, you will need to know what the causes of these problems are so that they can be remedied. Here are a few basic problem indicators you may notice which can help you solve the issue:

The weld is putting holes in your metal.

This probably means that your voltage is too high. As a result, the weld gets overly hot and eats away at the area you are attempting to weld. Another option is that your wire speed may be too low.

The weld won’t puddle or is building up on the tip of your gun.

Again, this can happen when your voltage is overly high or your wire speed is low. If too much of the material fuses onto the end of your gun, this can prove to be a costly mistake.

Your gun is kicking as you weld.

This may indicate that your voltage is too low or your wire speed is too high. Another symptom of this problem is that the weld is just sitting on top of the other metal to the point where you can easily peel it off with your fingers. Each of these problems also means that the weld probably will not hold. A weak weld can be dangerous if not remedied.

6. Listen to Your Weld

A good weld will sound like frying bacon. This strong weld will make a constant noise that doesn’t waver very much. Some welding sounds that you want to avoid are a loud gas sound, popcorn/firecracker sound, and a varied buzzing sound. Each of these noises indicates one of the weak or problematic welds that will not hold. If you pay attention, you may be able to tell a weld is good or bad just by listening. If the weld is bad, troubleshoot (like we mentioned before) to fix your problem.