Which welding method is best for new, metal artists?

Metal art takes many forms and has become a quite popular form of expression for artists. From beautiful custom designed gates to western styled napkin holders, the artist is limited only by his own imagination. Steel is a great medium to work since it is so forgiving. If something needs to be added, removed or changed, just do it. Wood, which if cut too short or shaved too thin becomes scrap heap material. On the other hand, steel can easily be added in order lengthen or thicken to taste.

There is a never-ending supply of material to use for metal art.

From used brake discs to old gears, artists have found ways to put these things together in an eye-pleasing fashion. In addition, some art is actually created to be functional. In my opinion, all finished welding projects can be considered art. I think that is what I like most about it.

Of course, steel is not the only metal that can be used in metal art. But since steel is the most widely used, that’s the one we will discuss here, today.

How big will your metal art projects be?

The best welding method for a future metal artist to learn is dependant on the size of the largest projects he or she is interested in creating. If you already know exactly what type of projects you want to create the choice should be fairly easy. If you are not sure, the decision becomes a little more difficult.

For starters, let’s look closer at a few scenarios.

Oxy/Acetylene Welding

For the beginner, this may be the best place to start for a couple of reasons. When you purchase a good welding/cutting torch kit it should come with all the hardware (less bottles**) necessary. Necessary to not only gas weld, but by attaching the cutting torch you can then cut steel for your projects. The cutting torch can also be used for heating up steel, red hot, in order to bend and shape it. You will not be able to weld large, thick pieces of metal together but you can weld, smaller, thinner items all day long.

Moving on to bigger projects

If you decide you would like to move into creating larger art pieces, you will already be set up. The cutting torch will readily work on larger projects. The torch kit on our Recommended Equipment page will do just about everything a metal artist will ever need it to. You can take a look at it by clicking here.

**Note: Kits that come with the small bottles will be too small and limited on gas volumes. It is typically best to simply rent larger bottles from a nearby welding supply store. The larger bottles will cut down on the number of times per year you will need to carry them back to be exchanged for full ones.

MIG Welders

MIG welders are now the number one type of machine for industrial welding. The continuous wire feed and clean, slag-free welds save time in the welding shop. MIG welders come in 115v and 230v options.

If all of your welding is expected to take place indoors on metals 1/16″ to 1/8″ thick, I suggest a 115v MIG welder using shield gas with .025 diameter wire. The smaller wire will make it easier to weld the thinner material. .030 wire will have a higher deposition rate and could also be used.

If all of your welding is expected to take place indoors on metals 1/8″ to 1/4″ thick, I suggest you step up to a higher capacity 230v machine using .035 diameter wire. This upgrade in amperage and wire diameter will allow you to make fewer passes on thicker metals.

In reality, since most art projects do not require that the weld be as strong as the base metals, you can get by with, “Sticking together,” even thicker pieces as long as, if the weld fails, it can do no physical harm to anyone.

For additional information on MIG welding, click here.

Electrode Welding

Unless, as an artist, your desire is to weld large sculptures for front yards or parks, you probably can get by with a MIG welder. However, you may need to switch over to flux-core wire to weld thicker metals when outdoors. And, that is another feature that makes a MIG welder a great choice for artists.

Personally, for larger projects that need to be welded with strength, I prefer electrode or stick welding as it is also called. It may just be that I cut my teeth stick welding, but given the choice, that is what I will choose every time. The welding machine I would use would be an AC/DC machine.

Having said that, for a beginner, an AC only electrode welding machine is very economical. The Lincoln AC 225 is Lincoln’s best selling arc welder of all time. The downside to using an electrode welder for typical artwork is that much of time the smaller pieces are actually just tacked together. And, in my opinion, a wire welder or MIG welder is a little better at getting the arc started in exactly the right spot than a stick welder.

TIG Welders

While more expensive, a TIG welder may be exactly what you need for your art pieces. TIG welding allows for spatter free, visually appealing welds. Art is visually appealing by definition and pretty welds are themselves an art form to many of us. The TIG bead if done well will not need grinding.

If you are working in non-ferrous metals such as copper, aluminum or magnesium you need a TIG welder. A MIG welder can weld aluminum and do a great job but for copper and magnesium, TIG is the option for you.

For additional information for the beginner welder, click here.

Marry some metal today!