How to Weld Steel: A Beginner’s Guide

Welding steel requires high temperatures from a welding machine, such as a MIG welder or a TIG welder. The welder produces enough heat to melt metal, which fuses as it cools. 

There are also different types of steel, including carbon steel, stainless steel, and alloy steel. The type of steel you need to weld may influence your chosen welding technique. 

Can You Weld Steel?

Steel is one of the easiest metals to weld and the most popular option for many welding applications.

Using common arc welding techniques, you can easily weld steel to other steel parts. Welding steel to other materials is more difficult. 

Steel is an iron-based alloy that contains varying amounts of an element called chromium. Chromium is responsible for the rustproof properties of stainless steel. 

Most types of steel have a much higher melting point than other metal types, including aluminum, copper, brass, zinc, and silver. 

Stainless steel has a melting point between 2550 degrees and 2790 degrees Fahrenheit. Other alloys with similar melting points include:

  • Carbon steel
  • Alloy steel
  • Iron (cast iron and wrought iron)
  • Titanium
  • Nickel

However, titanium and nickel contain different chemical makeups that interfere with the typical welding process. 

Welding steel and titanium together create a brittle weld due to the low solubility of iron in titanium. Vanadium is sometimes used as a filler metal to create a bond between steel and titanium.

Nickel and steel can fuse from welding, but nickel alloys become brittle easily. Welding nickel to steel also requires a very clean surface. Any foreign materials can limit the strength of the weld.

You should plan on using a filler wire if you intend to weld steel to any metal other than steel alloys and iron alloys. 

welding steel

Types of Welding Suitable for Steel

You can use any of the following methods to weld steel:

  • MIG welding
  • Stick welding
  • TIG welding
  • Flux-core welding

Each method has pros and cons when working with certain types of steel. MIG welding is one of the easiest methods. It doesn’t produce slag and can produce a cleaner weld compared to flux-cored welding.

Flux-cored welding is better suited for outdoor use. When working on large equipment or vehicles, you may need to use a flux-core welder. 

You can also weld outdoors when using stick welding. It’s the preferred choice of farmers due to its convenience and affordability. Yet, it’s also easier for beginners to burn through the material.

TIG welding offers the cleanest welds and greatest precision but has a greater learning curve. Here’s a closer look at each option.

How to MIG Weld Steel 

Metal inert gas (MIG) welding is an arc welding process. The MIG welder creates an electric arc between the welding gun and the metals you want to fuse. Shielding gas is used to shield the metals from the environment, as exposure to oxygen can create oxidation and brittle welds. 

A wire electrode is continuously fed through the end of the gun. When the electrode touches metal, it completes a circuit and generates heat. The wire melts, and the surrounding metal turns to molten material. The molten metal fuses as it cools. 

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The process for MIG welding steel includes the following steps:

  1. Clean and secure your workpieces.
  2. Put on your protective gear.
  3. Open the gas cylinder.
  4. Adjust the gas flow rate.
  5. Turn on the welding machine.
  6. Set the voltage.
  7. Set the wire feed speed.
  8. Press the trigger to start welding.

Turn the wire feed speed to the lowest setting when you’re done welding. Close the gas cylinder and depress the regulator until the CFH reading drops. Unscrew the adjusting screw and turn off the welder.

You can now unclamp the ground clamp and put away the wire to your welding machine. Allow the metal to cool before handling.

You may also want to grind the weld to create a cleaner appearance. Use an angle grinder to carefully remove excess material, such as slag, which is the residue that develops when using flux. 

How to Stick Weld Steel

Stick welding, or shield metal arc welding (SMAW), is easy to learn and suited for use outdoors, but it doesn’t always produce the cleanest lines. You need to clean up afterwards and remove the slag using a grinder.

Stick welding involves using a consumable electrode rod instead of a wire. The rod is covered in flux which acts as gas shielding to protect the workpieces from the outside atmosphere. 

The electrodes are classified based on tensile strength, position, and flux coating. The classification E6013 is the most common type of electrode for stick welding. It’s suitable for use with all types of steel and iron.

One of the main settings when using a stick welder is the amperage. Low amperage creates a porous, brittle joint. High amperage discolors the steel and creates a thinner, wider bead.

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How to TIG Weld Steel

Tungsten inert gas (TIG) welding is another type of arc welding. 

Unlike MIG welding, you don’t continuously feed a wire electrode into the weld pool. TIG welding uses a tungsten electrode and a handheld filler that you manually add. 

TIG welding is often used when you need greater precision. You can create cleaner welds with TIG welding compared to MIG welding, but it requires practice.

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How to Flux-Core Weld Steel

Flux-core welding involves the use of a consumable wire, as with MIG welding. However, the wire is covered in a flux coating.

The flux burns and shields the work area from the outside atmosphere, which eliminates the need for shielding gas. As you don’t need shielding gas, flux-cored welding is more straightforward compared to MIG welding.

How to Prepare Steel for Welding

You’ll likely need to prepare the steel before welding to achieve a strong joint. Grease, oil, and other contaminants can create a more porous, brittle joint that is more prone to breaking and cracking.

Use acetone to thoroughly remove contaminants from the surface of the steel. You can also use sandpaper and abrasive cleaners to remove rust and paint. 

A wire brush may be needed to remove rust, paint, and debris from crevices and corners. An angle grinder is also useful for quickly removing buildup and paint.

Rinse the metal using alcohol. Alcohol helps neutralize any remaining contaminants and dries quickly.

Equipment Required

Here are some of the basic items and pieces of equipment needed for welding steel:

  • Welder and power source
  • Consumables
  • Personal protective equipment
  • Fans/ventilation equipment
  • Vices, clamps, and worktable

You need a welding machine (welder) to weld steel. Common choices include a MIG welder, TIG welder, stick welder, or flux-core welder. The consumables you need depend on the type of welder.

For example, MIG welding requires a wire electrode. TIG welding requires tungsten electrodes. You may also need filler metals when welding steel to metals with a much lower melting point, such as aluminum.

Personal protective equipment for welding often includes a welding helmet, heat-resistant gloves, a welding apron, a long-sleeved shirt, and hearing protection.

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You may need fans or ventilation equipment to remove toxic fumes from the air when working in an enclosed space, such as a basement or a small workshop.

Vices and clamps are needed to secure your workpieces to a table. You need something to hold the metal pieces together as you weld. 

Weld on Steel

Conclusion

MIG welding, TIG welding, flux-core welding, and stick welding are suitable for welding steel. Steel is one of the most common types of metal for welders. It’s easy to weld and affordable. 

You can weld steel to steel and iron alloys. Use a filler metal when welding steel to other metals, such as aluminum, copper, or nickel.