So you have decided to weld.
You’ve done your research.
You know the difference between MIG, TIG, and stick welding.
You decided on a good welding machine to practice with…
and now, after unboxing your new welder
Well, as your friendly professional welder, I am here to help.
The best way to start welding… is, well to weld!
And I know that sounds like the obvious answer.
Just stay with me here…
Let’s start using your welder so you get comfortable with it.
You’re going to want to practice many many things
So, let’s tackle them step by step
I am going to suggest some projects for you
I’ve been using these very same projects for many years to train new welders
and they teach you all the basics like :
- proper cutting of stock metal
- proper preparation of the metal to be welded
- correctly fitting joints together
- use of magnets
- use of clamps
- role of a good hammer
- safe welding habits
- essential welding gear
and I promise that you will make some mistakes along the way.
and that’s good!
these projects are designed to challenge you and build your welding skill set.
So let’s dig in!
Let’s start by exploring two questions I am always asked as a professional welder
Q: “ How long will it take me to get good at welding”
and my favorite
Q: “How do I get good at welding”
And these are valid questions every new welder will ask.
we need to clarify them a bit.
What exactly is your definition of becoming a good welder?
If you mean running a beautiful bead most every time, well…
I can teach you that in a month.
If “getting good” means dominating MIG, TIG,
stick, and oxy
and learning the metallurgy theory behind what you’re actually doing….
then that will take a lifetime, and then some.
The first step is to define what it means to be good
Are you seeking to be a DIY welder or weekend warrior?
Do you want to build a career in the welding Industry?
If your content being a weekend warrior then just laying some nice beads
and completing some home projects would be satisfying,
then you can be a “good” welder in 6 months.
If you want to become the consummate professional,
you will always be learning
I would like to offer my advice here
no matter what route you take,
professional or DIY’er,
learn one process first
then move on to the next process.
Make sure you get comfortable with your first choice, then keep moving forward.
I’ve seen many welders get overwhelmed….
and give it all up.
so to prevent overwhelm…
set some clear expectations
and work with that in mind.
Let me give you an example,
just so we are 100% clear.
If you want to learn MIG as your first process, break it down
Specifically, that means :
your overall goal would be to understand MIG welding in 3 months time
and to be able to have clean stringer beads on mild steel up to ½ thick
and complete the Cube project flawlessly. ( more on that in a bit)
with a clear outcome you can :
- practice your stringer beads on the shop floor
- practice with different gauge metals
- research the metallurgy after shop time ( to understand your metal, how the heat effects it, etc)
and this helps block out the “noise” of other processes –
so you can quickly choose what information to study and digest,
and which to ignore because it’s not relevant to you right now.
So to sum that all up…
getting good means :
1) defining what “good” means to you
2) controlling what information you digest – so that it’s immediately relevant to you
3) staying focused and practice, practice and practice some more.
and that’s the long answer to the questions I get asked the most
and the “secret” to getting “good” welding
Now that we answered the most popular questions I get asked
and what a good project will cover
let’s dive into my favorite beginner projects…
and I have two that stand out right away.
The first project I have is the Bowl,
and the second is: The Cube
Let’s talk about the basic beginner project first, the Bowl
The bowl is really an excellent beginners project for several reasons.
It teaches your these basic skills :
- Proper body placement to a stagnant project
- Proper handling and using a MIG gun
- Supporting your hand using a workbench
- Viewing a project through a hood for the first time
- cleaning and prepping your materials
- laying out your project.
- Use of wire snips.
and when you’re done you’ll have a great looking bowl, like this:
Now for this project, you will need:
- Safety gloves
- wire snips
- Metal washers of mild steel of different sizes. I’ve used two sizes in the past for best results.
- A steel mixing bowl
- A workbench
The first step is to plan your workload out.
even before you grab your welder
you want to take your washers and lay them out.
When you unpack your washers you’ll want to
wipe each one down with denatured alcohol.
The DNA ( Denatured Alcohol) clears away all the dirt, dust and grease off the surface of your metal
and you will have a good, clean weld.
I have two sizes for my bowl.
Once you prep your metal…
grab your mixing bowl
and arrange your washers inside the bowl.
Like this :
Make sure they are laying flat on the sides.
Your washers will sit on top of each other without collapsing.
The idea is to get a pattern with the two sizes that you like.
Once you’ve got an arrangement you like
you can go ahead and suit up!
Get your hood, jacket, and gloves on.
Now… turn on your welder!
Make sure you set the ground clamp to your workbench
and you’re ready to begin.
The great part about this project is that
every washer you are going to connect will be with a tack weld.
Many people confuse tack welds and spot welds – I did for a good year!
so here is a good way to remember them.
a good way to start is Top Down.
Because welding metal, in general, makes the metals pull together
as you tack weld your washers
they will want to pull off the wall of the mixing bowl
and you can gently push them back against the mixing bowl
and this will maintain the shape of your project
if you work bottom up you run the risk of the top collapsing
and falling down.
then you’ll have to set up all your rings again.
Consequently, you’ll have to repeat the process.
Tack weld the first Row ( working in a circle)
left to right or right to left – there is no wrong way here.
and focus on creating nice tack welds to hold your rings together.
That is the entire process!!
It’s great because you have all the time you want to focus on nice tack welds.
this is a pretty simple project
and that’s good.
Your new bowl should look something like:
Building your Skillset
I love it for a brand new welder for a few reasons
- It will take about an hour or two tops.
- You have a real project completed when you’re done.
- You focus on two key welding skill sets.
Let’s look at those reasons a bit more.
When you’re just starting out time on the shop floor is important
you want to ease into the process.
I don’t expect you to be on the floor for 10 hours – yet.
so starting off slow is important to build confidence and exposure to the world of fabrication.
If you’re coming right out of an office job where you sit for most of the day…
standing for an extended period could be tough.
So this is a nice project to begin slowly introducing you to the shop floor environment.
limiting your time on the floor is important.
you definitely have limited bandwidth.
what do I mean?
Everything is new and exciting!
From putting on your jacket
to setting your welder…
and getting your project set up.
You want to make sure you are doing everything correctly and with full understanding.
So after a few hours, you’re going to be tired.
This small project is perfect for your first time on the floor.
Now, another important piece of this project is :
It’s fully complete in one session.
When you’re done – you have a great looking bowl.
You’ll be proud to put it on your table…
and show off your new skills.
These small wins are important when building a new skill set.
When you have a visual reminder in your daily space it does three things :
- It demonstrates your commitment to your new skillset.
- It reminds you to practice…
- and it shows that yes, you can weld!
Let’s talk about the skills your using in this project.
The bowl helps you focus on two key skill sets :
- Your body posture and vision ( how you stand holding your MIG gun and see through your hood)
- Completing your tack welds.
Let’s talk about body positioning in relation to a workpiece.
Since everyone is built a little different let’s focus on the welder itself.
You want to position the tip of the MIG gun anywhere from ¼ to ¾ from the workpiece
you want to hold your gun at 90 degrees to your workpiece.
At this distance, you are going to make a short circle to complete your tack weld.
and you are going to be listening for that short ” bacon ” sizzle.
Comfort is important when you weld…
you do not want to unnecessarily fatigue your hands, shoulders or any part of your body.
Remember: fatigue leads to injury.
You’ll want to use two hands to support your MIG gun…
and have yourself positioned in front of your weld.
It might take some time to get comfortable with your positioning to your work
and that’s ok
it’s part of the process.
Now that we talked about being comfortable,
let’s look at this project for the short tack welds and your hood.
As a new welder, it will take some time to get used to the auto dark features of your hood
and focusing on your weld.
The short tack welds will get you used to the hood going dark and light quickly.
Now let’s talk about the weld itself.
I question I get asked a lot is: why are tack welds important?
and that’s a really good question to ask’!
The basic idea of a tack weld is to hold two pieces of metal in place until you can bead weld it.
Your heating the metal and adding filler to a specific point.
when you tack the piece together your basically setting yourself up to bead weld.
Now when working on a larger project…
tack welds hold your project together before final assembly.
So good tack welds will be strong enough to support the project
it will also be easy enough to break!
if the alignment, angle or position of your metal is off
you can easily remove the tack weld and reposition the metal for another tack.
Another way to think of tack welds is like building blocks….
They are the basic weld before beads.
So before learning how to properly bead weld –
learning how to tack weld is the first important step.
A bit about safety here….
A lot of folks want to jump right into welding…
and that’s great.
I can’t think of an industry that’s as fun and rewarding as metalworking.
So making sure you have the right gear will keep you welding for a long time.
Read about protective equipment for welders here!
Let’s talk about each piece.
A good pair of MIG gloves will save your hands from splatter
They are cost-effective, durable and will ensure your hands are protected…
yet flexible enough to hold the MIG gun and handle your project and tools.
You’ll also need a good hood.
Welding emits a UV light can permanently damage your eyes.
This is one area that you need to purchase a quality hood…
and they don’t have to be expensive to be good.
A great hood at a good price can be found right on Amazon for under $50.
You’ll need a jacket and safety glasses too.
A good choice for a jacket is the BSX entry level jacket.
It’s 100% cotton, easily washable, and will protect you from spatter and slag.
Don’t forget the safety glasses. A good entry level pair will do just fine…
and pick up two or three.
Once they get scratched, they are no good.
Moving Forward let’s jump into the next project.
This project can definitely work for a beginner…
However, I like this as my second project.
It builds on all the skills we practiced for the bowl.
In this project you’ll be:
- standing longer
- tack welding
- Bead welding
- fitting together and clamping your pieces
- grinding down your welds…
If your read for The Cube, let’s dive in!
Let’s talk about materials and equipment.
- 8 gauge ½ tube. you’ll need about 9 feet
- a band saw or a Sawzall or, the most basic: a hacksaw.
- a vice
- a belt sander or an angle grinder with 36 grit paper or a cutting stone
- small shop magnets
- ball peen hammer or a lightweight hammer
- clamps, minimum of 2
- and your safety equipment.
let’s plan out your workload on this project.
Once you’ve purchased your 8 gauge metal you’ll want to draw some rough blueprints.
You’ll be cutting (4) 4” posts ( straight cuts)
(8) 45-degree miter cuts @ 6 inches.
So you’ll end up with parts that look like this:
Now you’ll want to bevel the edges on your material…
You’ll take your post and bevel two joining sides.
and you’ll bevel the opposite corners on your miter cuts:
Like this :
Why exactly do you want to bevel these items?
Well, you want to create a groove for your weld to sit in.
So once you tack your piece together
you’ll have a channel for your bead to sit in nicely.
After you cut your material you’ll want to clean them with Denatured alcohol.
Well, Denatured alcohol is used to clean the dust, dirt and mill scale off your material.
and when you have any impurities on your metal it could compromise your weld
and we don’t want that.
So clean metal is the way to go …
You’ll have the best chance at creating a nice solid weld.
Once you have all your parts together
you can then lay them out on your work table.
The first part of our cube we are going to tack weld will be…
the two miter cuts.
So, you want to grab (2) 45-degree pieces and join them together like so:
and make sure they are joined with a magnet.
Now, you’ll want to tack weld then end furthest from the magnet.
Magnets can affect your arc, so you’ll remove it after your first tack weld.
Now, you’ll drop another tack weld on the other side of your joint.
Like this :
Once complete you can place your newly joined angle aside.
Let’s repeat this process three more times.
The next step will be to join our corners together.
We will grab our magnet again –
and use it to join our parts into a square…
Like this :
Again, we will be using tack welds for all of this.
Once complete we will lay some beads to tie it all together.
When we have one square repeated we can repeat this process.
When we are done we should have two sides ( top and bottom) of our cube complete.
It should feel good to see our cube coming together at this point!
Let’s move onto the next stage of assembly.
We will grab one of our completed sides and rest a post on the corner
and a magnet will be helpful for alignment.
Make sure to align the post with the outer plane of our cube
So it will be flush.
Once you feel comfortable with the position you’re going to tack weld the post in two locations.
Repeat this process on the opposite corner of your side…
and we can repeat this process for the other side of your cube.
When complete you’ll have all 4 posts welded
Two on each side of our cube.
The reason for this is so we can fit our cube together easily.
Remember how we talked about metal pulling as it is welded?
Well, our cube will not sit together perfectly when we test fit it.
So we will have to use our clamps…
And we can tighten down our cube as necessary.
On the above cube, I placed a clamp on the left side to get the post nice and tight to the top of our cube.
And if you still need to do some adjustments to the posts
then don’t be afraid to tap your posts with the hammer.
Remember we tack welded this so that we can make these adjustments.
If we laid a bead down right away we would not be able to fit this together.
Once you’re satisfied with the fit…
You guessed it.
Time to tack your posts down so you have a solid cube.
When you’re done you can remove your clamps…
and you’ll have a cube that looks like this :
Looking good so far!
Let’s talk about finishing up our welding on this Cube!
If you’ve built the first project with me, the bowl, and now your completing the cube –
this will be your first time welding beads.
and that’s exciting!
Remember your hand positioning and your MIG gun position.
and also, listen for the sound of that bacon!
If you placed your tack welds at the ends of your pieces you’ll have a good starting and ending position for your welds.
Now it’s a matter of running a bead from tack to tack to complete the joint.
and you’ll repeat the process for each joint you have
and don’t worry about the inside joints.
Remember we didn’t create a channel for them – so no need to weld them.
When you are done, your Cube should look like this :
Once you’ve cleaned your workspace – now it’s time to finish your cube.
The first step will be to secure your cube to your work table.
You’ll be using an angle grinder to knock down your welds.
And these can be super dangerous.
So be sure to use both hands on your angle grinder,
your safety glasses.
An as always, make sure you are in a comfortable position.
I like using the Dewalt because it has a deadman switch for extra safety…
and no lock to keep the angle grinder automatically engaged.
Once your cube is clamped down
you can them begin to knock down your welds.
Now the best way I found to use the angle grinder is :
your right hand will apply the pressure
and your left hand will provide direction.
With a few passes of the angle grinder, your joint should look like a solid piece of steel…
Like this :
and what you’ll do next is repeat this process for each weld you created.
In the end, you’ll have a cube that looks like this :
And this would be a great place to End your first project.
I would spray the entire work with a light coat of clear coat – just to prevent rust.
Or you can finish it a bit further.
You can use an orbital sander and some 40 grit paper to go over your welds.
After you run a 40 grit pad over the entire cube I would then run an 80 or 100 grit Pad
over the cube one more time.
That would really give it a nice rough finish.
It would be perfect at this point for a clear coating
a patina and wax treatment.
Either way, when you finish your cube you’ll have a great project you just completed.
and the most masculine tissue holder ever,
This project is great because you’ll really get comfortable welding here.
You will have practiced cutting down stock and fitting it together…
Laying tack and bead welds…
and now you’ll really see how the heat can pull and warp the metal…
and how to fix it.
Both of these projects: The Bowl and The Cube are a great beginners welding project.
I like them and use them for my new welders because they really get you comfortable …
not only on the fabrication floor…
But actually welding.
The Bowl gives you the confidence of laying good tack welds, body positioning and
welding through a hood for the first time.
And best of all you complete the bowl in under two hours.
The Cube is excellent because you built on the welding skills set.
It should take you about 4 hours to complete the cube and you’ll be laying tacks, laying beads,
fitting together joints and how to grind down your welds.
With the skills you learn on these small projects you’ll be able to tackle larger, more complicated
projects in a short period of time.