2019 January 7    Metal & Shop     Welding


Here are some welding tips that I've learned, some of them the hard way. 

Welding can be dangerous.  Please read the Disclaimer.

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In This Article

One:  The Respirator

Two:  Dealing With Dampness

Three:  Fatigue Management 

Four:  Efficiency

Five:  More Ventilation

Six:  Consumables

Seven:  Welding Practice



Get A Respirator Now

A respirator that fits under your welding helmet is essential.  The 3M low-profile respirator works well;  I like it better than the Miller, but your results may vary.  These are not 100% effective, meaning you WILL still have some exposure to welding fumes.  However, the particulate matter will be reduced considerably, provided your respirator fits properly.

Someone needs to make an auto-darkening welding helmet that can accommodate a full-sized cartridge respirator.  Something like the MSA Advantage with full-sized cartridges.  (The flat pancake respirators are a lot better than nothing, but the full-sized ones are even better still, in my experience.)

Since you can grind without a welding helmet on, might as well use a full-sized-cartridge respirator there.  Grinding dust may be almost as bad as welding fumes.  I never thought this a big deal until one day I was angle-grinding some steel.  The sunlight was just right, and I could see the cloud of fine particles billow into the air.  It was like this bluish-gray, smoky, lingering cloud of metal dust and fume, probably ten feet across.  And that's only from grinding!  (Now I know why everything would taste like metal sometimes....)

Get a respirator.  Get two.  And if your respirator is all tangly and nasty and worn out like the one in the picture... get a new one!


Bake Out The Moisture

Most consumer-grade welding rods are packaged in cardboard or thin plastic.  They pretty much always have enough moisture to mess up the welding.  (Some WAY more than others.)  With 7018 and 7018 AC that's critical, because these are supposed to be "low-hydrogen" electrodes.  However, your 7014 and 6013 should also be nice and dry. 

For 6013 and 7014, don't heat them above 350 Fahrenheit.  Lincoln Electric recommends 200 to 230 F.

The moisture can be baked out of 7018 / 7018 AC at 650 to 800 Fahrenheit:  faster when hotter, but it doesn't work the other way around.  Below 500 F, I don't think it will reverse the hydration at all.

A propane torch could work for this step, except for one problem:  if you accidentally arc to the canister, it could turn into a serious disaster very quickly.  So, unless you've got some way figured out to avoid that danger with certainty, consider using a dedicated toaster oven that has a broiler.  Then, store them in a welding rod oven until you use them up.

By the way, you're not supposed to bake out 6010 / 6011 rods;  that would just ruin the flux coating, because it's cellulose.

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I Will Not Weld When Tired.

I Will Not Weld When Tired.
I Will Not Weld When Tired.

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Reduce Clutter On Your Welding Table

Anything that's not needed RIGHT NOW in the welding session should be put away.  Perhaps just stow it in a five-gallon plastic pail that's not on the welding table.

Get rid of welding electrode stubs that you don't need right this minute.  Put away all those tools that were only being used in an earlier stage of the build.  Get all that stuff out of the immediate workspace. 

I've found that a couple extra bits of clutter make a welding session much more fatiguing, distracting, and unpleasant.  (That, and it's kind of uncool when your 70 or 80-pound anvil stand project falls over onto the handle of your favorite hammer... which probably shouldn't have been on the table in the first place.)

A little tabletop steel drawer unit is fantastic for storing the small tools commonly used on a welding table.  Get one or two of these for your small hammers, punches, measuring & marking tools, etc.

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Ventilation Is Not Optional

Fume extractors are ridiculously expensive.  Most individual welders simply cannot afford one. 

Many of us opt for a lower-cost solution.  Unlike MIG, it happens that stick welding and flux-core will work in a moderate breeze. 

I don't know if a general-purpose fan company would endorse this use.  So I'll just say, for educational purposes, that I use a fan to supply ventilation.

No one can guarantee safety in anything, even how well a fan works for you.  However, ventilation when you weld is a very smart idea. 

Generally, heavy metals can be excreted slowly over time, and I believe-- with some background and considered thinking on the subject-- that diet has a great effect.  I also believe that if it's tended to early, it may be possible to avoid permanent complications.  If you weld, reduce the amount of fumes you're standing in.

A professional-grade battery-powered fan like this one can be used in a variety of locations-- "let's just say for general fan purposes"-- even outside on a nice clear day.  Such a fan has two settings, high and low.  (Disclaimer, again.)

A fan can cause wind chill if the air is cold;  just remember that when it's 10 degrees Fahrenheit.

I don't know how long it will take for grinding dust to ruin a fan like this.  The moving air should keep it out of the fan.  When it's off, maybe put a welding apron over the fan or something.

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Check Your Consumables

Fresh supply of welding rods?  Check.

Good flap disc on the angle grinder?  Check.

Soapstone pencil handy?  Check.

So you start welding and then........

Whoops, forgot to check the batteries in the welding helmet....  

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Practice On Real Projects

Don't weld up a boat trailer with your new-found welding skills just yet.  With that said, after you've practiced on scrap for a while, try to weld up something that's at least semi-useful.  It doesn't have to be a presentation-quality bookshelf or something, but there are a lot of useful things that you could weld together.  Maybe just a seat, or a tool rack or something like that.

The weld shown above may not be perfect, and wide weave patterns may not form the strongest weldments...  but some projects don't need perfect stringer-bead welds with 7018 to be durable and useful.  (And by the way... I think that's a pretty OK 6013 weld in that picture, considering some of the slaggy moon-crater welds I've made with it.)

To narrow down what's OK to weld and what's not, as a beginner, here's the way I've approached this:  if it would not be hazardous to anyone were it to fall apart, and if you don't mind having to weld it back together again... then perhaps give it a go.

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This was a look some handy arc welding tips.  Be safe, and make some cool stuff.


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