After 37 years working as an executive for a Railcar Repair Company, surrounded by professional welders, carmen and welding equipment of all types, believe it or not, I never learned how to weld, so, now that I am retired, I am considering taking welding classes at the local community college at night. I know many of you weld. Please have a discussion on which type of set up is the best and most versatile set up for the types of welding that is done in our hobby. I would like to learn to braze, fill deep rust pits, heat and straighten bent body parts, weld 1/4” steel, such as angle and channel and cut off and replace body panels that are rusted or damaged beyond repair. Thank you. I look forward to reading your comments. Jim Patrick
Your idea of taking a juco course is excellent. I did that about thirty years ago and what I learned has come in mighty handy over the years. When I had the sign factory I was able to make my own ovens, and I hate to think of what I would have spent to have the work done by someone else.
Many of the jobs you listed can be done best with one particular type of welding or another. For brazing, filling pits, heating and bending things, riveting, cutting, and applying the heat wrench to rusted-together fasteners, you want oxy-acetylene equipment. You can also use it for welding things like channel and angle iron together, but I think that's easier with electric welding. For thin metal like body panels you want MIG or other wire welding. If finances limit you to just one type, I would go with gas to start and add the others later.
I have been into custom metal fabrication, custom body panel making , and the liking for over 40 years. I can not stress enough the foundations of learning the basics of which you are going into. Most will say you don't need all this at your age, BS. You will love teaching yourself as well. All the Best.
A class would be a good start, but picking up a set of torches or a welder and learning on the fly (on scrap parts and non-essential steel) will give you some first-hand experience on what NOT to do!
I couldnt live without a set of torches around here- cutting, brazing, welding, soldering anytime I feel the urge. Throw them in the back of a truck and you can go burn metal and start fires anywhere you please.
I have an ancient Lincoln and a newer Miller stick welders that I still use for deep, heavy welding, but since I bought a companion Miller mig with argon gas 20 years ago I use that for 95% of my repair or fabrication attempts. Good clean welds with no slag chipping!
Here is a list of my welders in order of when I purchased them. 1975 Oxy-acetylene torch welder, 1980 Lincoln stick welder, 1993 Hobart 250 wire welder and 1995 Plasma cutter. You don't need them all but they all have a very good purpose. A stick welder will be horrible on sheet metal. You will use a wire welder the most.
An oxyacetylene gas torch will do those things, but if you find welding panels with a MIG welder easier you can still do some of those things with a MAPP gas torch.
I have a stick welder and a MAPP/propane torch, can braze light things with the torch, but not heavy iron.
I agree with Dean. Bought my tools almost the same years. Torches, 1978. Stick welder, 1986. MIG 1990 and plasma cutter 2007. If was only to have one type, it would be the torches. Yet I use the MIG at least once a week for something. Have not used the stick welder in 20 years..
I would like to try TIG welding at some point.
Well,I have used both torch and mig to chase rust holes. Both have their plus's and minus's.
The torch is handy because it can also be used to heat rusted items for removal along with brazing.
But take my Lincoln 180 mig with gas kit away from me and I would cry. I have saved all kinds of junk with it over the years.
T's are not the only thing welding will be handy for.
Anything you take a notion you want,be it a trailer,a flower pot or whatever,you let your imagination and your wire go free.
My 180 Lincoln was used to build this trailer and the utv in the second pic of it. I built the other trailers you see in the first pic with a older 170.
To learn to weld,you have to have some metal.For example the curved roof of this trailer is made from modified garage door track.
So pick a few pieces here and there of several types.If T's are your main focus, grab that fender somebody chunked because of a big crack. If you fix the crack, a bit of grinding and filling and it is useful again.
I would suggest having a goal of say, a useful floor pot holder or something simple for eye candy and to build confidence.
Don't be afraid to go to Harbor freight and get 1 of those 40 dollar auto change helmets if you mig weld.I love mine and they last for years.
Gloves,that is 1 area i have problems. Tig welding gloves are the thinnest 1's I find and I can use them mig welding but it is not recommended.But thicker gloves,I loose the feel of my tools and my grip. Stick welding gloves are not much more than ball bats to me.
Plasma cutter, If you do alot of work with metal,you will eventually want to get 1. This is 1 thing you shouldn't get at Harbor freight until their consumables are compatible with a major brand or you might get stuck.
There is 2 ratings on them.A Cut thickness rating and a Sever rating. In other words the "cut" rating is what it will cut in 2 clean with little clean up with other tools. "sever" means it will separate the 2 pieces of metal but you will have to clean up after yourself with a grinder and could actually loose a small bit of material needed for the job if cutting close.
Whatever type you use,i would not use leather gloves as they tend to burn you twice! Bud.
Tennis shoes hurt also. They make you want to jump around like a mad man until the hot molten medal has cooled.
Never cut overhead while wearing overalls!
And you will have many brand new friends! "You can weld? Can you take a look at...." lol!
LOL! Great information and some funny anecdotes. Thank you all. Please keep the advise coming. I, and probably a lot of others are learning from your collective experiences. Thanks again. Jim Patrick.
Hot metal rolling around in your ear sizzling ear wax will make you shake your head like a wet dog and howl like one to.
I have flame, stick and wire. Wire is my go to tool. Learning to weld at about 12 years old has saved me countless$$$.
I've begged and pleaded my local Junior College to put on a community welding course, but they just won't. You'd think a city the size of Houston would have something like this.
I'd love to learn to do something other than bugger welding.
To make matters more frustrating, I have my grandfather Oxy/Acetylene rig, complete with a beautiful torch from the 1940's that I have rebuilt by a professional a couple years ago. All I really use it for these days for heating up stuck fasteners and cutting metal. I'd kill to be able to use for brazing and welding.
One of the most important things to learn is how to set the regulators on each bottle and setting the adjustment knobs on the torch to the proper Oxygen to Acetylene to air ratio so as to attain the proper temperature for the type steel you are welding and the type of welding you are doing. I Have seen longtime welders do this simply by looking at the length and color of the flame. That is something I would like to learn. Is there a secret to it? Jim Patrick
I listen to the flame as well. If it sounds angry you are overdoing it.
As a position pipe welder for many years,one thing I would never be without is a welding cap under the hood,especially overhead. Put the cap on sideways,hang the bill over the ear pointing up and that will keep hot balls of molten metal from going into your ear and burning holes in your eardrum. Most welding supply houses sell them or have them custom made with your nickname sewn on the side. Good luck. We all started out as "daubers" but practice make perfect.
If you have an aviation maintenance school near you, see if you can take welding class with them. Oxy/acetylene with a small torch and the correct tips and you will be able to butt weld 20 gauge sheet metal so that it looks like it was done with a TIG. You will have about 30 hours practice running a puddle but you will have the ability to weld what ever you want beyond that. With another 10 hours you can weld .040 aluminum with that same setup.
I have a small “Smith” torch. I think it’s an AW-10. It weighs nothing and makes sheet metal work easy.
Step two would be stick for thick stuff, say 1/8 inch and thicker.
Practice, practice, practice. The classes are a great idea but the only way to get good is to practice, practice, practice. Small pieces of scrap steel and a large recycling bin.
When I was in high school I was in a Ag-Mechanics class for 2 years. I had watched my dad weld but I learned to attach things together there.
1 lesson I learned was not to use a cigarette lighter to light a torch. It works fine,but when you are adjusting the flame and it heats up the lighter on the table it tends to go kaplooy.
My first welding "project" was a soldering iron holder. Made from a 4x4 inch piece of flat iron,a old valve,and a valve spring welded at a angle. Eye candy and a useful tool that I have to this day.
When in college I had to wait to get a class that was only offered once a year and so I took some other stuff to fill in.I took auto-body and learned a little about the mig and torch. I welded the entire trunk and rear quarter panels in a 67 Chrysler convertible while there. Fellow appreciated that 1 as he could work on other stuff.
I took talked way into a vocational school in Opelika 30 years ago to learn for one semester. best thing I did for learning. I tested in gas welding with half my time and either played with all but tig and did all the cutting, fitting for the guys in the 18 month full program. teacher taught a lot about the metal. heat and setup principles. Great basics. safety too. Fuches's theory was to learn on gas and read a puddle because it is slow. When going to arc everything happens quickly. yes there is an art to it, so like said above, practice practice practice. it opens new doors.
Good for you Jim! The way to go around here seems to weld with the 2 part JB weld and call it good, I cringe about this advice and never consider it the best work. When I was a kid I used glue on my plastic model cars, it is not a real repair on a real car made of metal.
I would call a torch first as you can cut, bend, weld and braze. Second, I like my AC DC stick machine and third my AC DC wire machine (that has to do with gas or flux core). An AC "buzz box" from the farm store will get it done but blows sparks all over and harder to work with.
Practice and practice and be prepared to get burned. Protect your eyes, wear boots, don't grab anything and keep a fire extinguisher and hose handy.
Welding is make it stick and not drip. Welding does not come out of a tube of glue.
Thank you all again. While many of you have done so, please expound further on what You consider the best brand of welding equipment. When I did the purchasing for our welders in the Railcar shop, all of the men preferred Hobart welding supplies. Do you all agree? Jim Patrick
Hobart, Lincoln, Miller. I have some from each and theyre all good at what they do. I guess it would come down to who is your local dealer and what brands they service.
The Hobarts I run across all seem to be of a heavier, more industrial grade type of machines than the Lincolns or Millers.
I have a Korean War era Hobart "Portable" welder/generator on a 4 wheeled U.S.A.F. cart that is powered by a Chrysler flathead six. When I dragged it home from the scrap yard I got it running, but it wouldnt weld or generate power so I called Hobart to try and get some info and they asked what the serial number was. I told them, they looked it up and told me the build date (Sept 16, 1952) where it was shipped (Cleveland, Ohio Armory) and then told me to polarize the generating unit to re-energize it and how to do it, and held the line while I tried it (it worked like a charm!).
Then they sent me the operator's manual for it free of charge!
That Hobart is a bit of a pain to haul around as it is as big as a small SUV, but it welds so smooth, it puts my other arc welders to shame, PLUS you can remove the control unit from the welder, plug an extension cord into the back of it and plug the other end into the welder and take the controls with you so you can fine tune your welding without having to walk back to the welder- VERY handy if youre welding up on a scaffold or down in a pit!
When I was in high school I took shops and mechanical drawing.
At noon we walked across our small town to class at the state college.
I was real good at arc welding.we also learned oxy acetylene.
I also learned some welding in ag class.
I welded quite a bit when I was a young mechanic in the U.S. Army.
I have gas welder eauipment with the small tanks so I can haul everything in a car trunk.
I also have a 200amp stick welder.
I would advise anyone to have both gas and mig or tig.
I really wish I had a mig welder. There is so much you can do with mig or tig like welding exhaust systems and body parts.
The stick welder will not do a nice job on exhaust systems.
For a welder,I would stick with a name brand as Lincoln ,miller or Hobart. Harbor freight stuff may catch up eventually but I wouldn't take a chance just yet.
Plasma cutter,I would go with Hypertherm or Esab.I have a older Hypertherm 380.I bought it at the national welders store at a discount because the cabinets had been updated and it was the display unit.
Main thing with either welder or plasma cutter,make sure you can get consumables to fit.Tips,guns, so forth.
As for a torch, Smith used to be the Cadillac of torches with Victor right behind. Names and companies have been bought out and so forth.
The 1 thing I do know is Harbor Freights torches use Victor consumables.
I bought second hand torches and had them rebuilt at a local shop. Not cheap but it allowed me to have quality stuff. I use Marquette. Aluminum frame,very lightweight.BUT can't get parts or service for them any more.
So when both of mine get to far gone,I will use the Victor journey man torch in the cabinet.
Tanks, you buy those in a size you can load and unload. Keep them chained to the wall or in a rack-holder. My high school teacher told of a oxygen cylinder that the valve got knocked off of when it fell.The tank went thru several block walls before it stopped.
Get a cart for the torch tanks,a good 1.
I also love the welding cart I got recently for my mig and plasma cuter to sit on and roll around. It was 300 bucks at harbor freight but my dad kept watching me struggle with the junky rack I had the stuff on and bought it for me. But then,I was under his truck that weekend putting shocks on it.
Tig is something my neighbor did for years for Pelton and Crane.the folks that make dental equipment. Watching him do that is interesting.
I once saw a cooling tower built for a large hit and miss engine that used all copper pipe in the cooling system.It had been tig welded with copper house wire. It was all polished and the seems were not visible. Just looked like it had been cast like it was .
I am ok flame welding and can use a stick if I have too. Even when I was much younger stick welding, my hand shook just enough that it was hard to get a good bead till I was half thru a stick plus I need really bright lights to see the end of the stick to strike an arc with the old style helmets. My brother gave me his extra self darkening one which I have to try out. Now flame welding, I can get more down and personal with the weld if I get the flame set right.
If you are looking at buying older equipment... brand doesn't matter much. They were all good! Miller, Lincoln, Hobart, ESAB, Linde. Hope you have some extra room in your shop too... cuz they were all HUGE! There are 50 pound table top digital models that will replace most of those giant transformer models.
If you are buying new equipment... go blue, buy Miller! Lincoln spends too much effort designing fancy stickers, when they should be making their equipment less toy like. And stay away from the “Lincoln HD” series, “HD” stands for Home Depot and is not supported by Lincoln. As for Hobart, once upon a time was excellent, now is Miller’s economy line.
After doing automotive fabrication and restoration for a good portion of my life (even professionally for a bit), I hate lighting myself on fire!!! I prefer TIG! With no sparks, infinite control, and virtually no material limits, TIG is the way to go! There is a learning curve (go to the J college), and it takes patience, but well worth the effort. Not to mention little or no cleanup, no positional restrictions, and did I mention NO SPARKS!
I have a Miller Dynasty 300 TIG, and a Miller 251 MIG in my shop. I have only used the MIG a few times, compared to hundreds of hours on the TIG. I only bought the MIG cuz it was a hell of a deal
How do you get to Carnegie Hall?
I started with oxy/acetylene. You can do everything with it, including limited blacksmithing. Last year I bought a used Miller 211 mig welder complete with mig gas, argon, and helium from a guy closing up shop. All was like new. I wired the unit up for 240V, and it is my go to rig now. I love it. My first project was building a cart using cut up bed frames and a tool chest bought from Sears for $100. It holds my helmet, power cord, gloves, grinder, clamps, wire spools, etc, etc. Used found materials for everything else.
So between my torch and my wire feeder, I can do anything! I can weld steel, aluminum, and stainless. Welding is great fun. Have a blast, Jim!
Two years ago my wife wanted to learn how to weld. I'm no expert but I gave her basic lessons and a pile of leftover engine parts for her "yard art".
Lesson 1 was: Here's the fire extinguisher and here's how to use it.
Lesson 2 was the acquisition and use of all personal protective equipment and how to wear and use them.
You guys know the rest of the lesson plans.
Dont make hard turns with torches in the trunk of your Mom's Buick Invicta.
The caps on those cylinders sliding to-and-fro will leave "mysterious" dimples in the rear quarter panels!
I remember what Dallas said about the hot metal in your ear,and it's just as he described!! Being high off the ground on a ladder you will find it easy to stick weld with either hand.Watch the puddle! Bud.
Blue is my color of choice. The new Miller TIG machines are really great
Jim, go to your local welding supply store, they are always trading in welders for new ones. That's how I bought my Hobart. I am not talking Harbor Freight, go to the ones that service and supply welding shops and body shops. They are serviced and checked over good before they are sent out the door.
Jim: Take a course and while you are learning you will have an unbiased source of information on equipment specifications , and how to use it safely and effectively. You may prefer vintage production rated equipment, but the new MIG stuff is pretty sweet, generally adequate for home workshop, welds up to 1/2 " material, runs off 120VAC, and is light and takes up little space. Oxy-Acetylene, same deal, learn about it in class and ask their recommendation on what you might purchase. If you plan to straighten a lot of Model t exhaust manifolds, buy the largest tanks available, maybe two of each. I find my coal forge useful at times too, but not essential. Best,jb
Once at Olds we scraped a huge plating line but it was the only time we needed a bank of tanks.We were using a Oxygen Lance and there was a bank of 6 large oxygen tanks on a manifold.I have seen huge gears welded and usually 8' X 8' pans were filled with bags of charcoal.After 50 years i have doubts about needing more than one set of tanks!! Bud.
Maybe a bit of budgetary insight would do this discussion some good. It would seem that some posters above have considered that your budget is in the tens of dollars, while I tried to give a quasi professional opinion. If you would like a specific equipment recommendation, you actually describe several very different machines/practices.
“I would like to learn to braze” —> oxy/acetylene is the primary process here. Typical braze joints require relatively low, evenly distributed heat to produce the sweat type joints that are common for T’s. However, a TIG welder can be used with silicon bronze filler rod to produce a very reliable braze joint, not a sweat type joint, but like a weld without the “fusion”. Very handy for a number of materials, mixed materials, and locations where heat will cause excessive problems.
“fill deep rust pits” —> in my experience... best tool for this is Bondo! Trying to weld or braze will just cause excessive warpage or a tremendous amount of grinding/clean up work. Not worth the effort!
“heat and straighten bent body parts” —> oxy/acetylene is really the only process here. Can use MIG/TIG to do some localized shrinking, but general heating is best left for the torch.
“weld 1/4” steel, such as angle and channel” —> a MIG welder would do good here. 1/4” is easily done with most table top 110 volt models. However, going to a 220 volt model dramatically increases the duty cycle and the welders performance while using larger wire diameters.
“cut off and replace body panels that are rusted or damaged beyond repair” —> to cut off, get a .035” cut off wheel for your 4-1/2” angle grinder. When doing panel work heat is almost always a problem. Many people use MIG welders for splicing panels... until they use a TIG welder. For me there is no going back. With a bit of joint prep and a steady hand, the TIG can produce panel butt splices that can be gently worked and ground smooth with little or no warpage. The oxy/acetylene can also give good results here, however the heat is less localized so warpage is harder to control, and without an inert cover gas care must be given to prevent overheating of the weld puddle and causing a brittle weld
Here's a thought about learning how to weld. Recently I contacted the 2 community colleges that offer welding programs.
I asked the heads of their classes if they had a 2 year student wanting to pick up some extra $$'s. I have interviewed 2 so far and will make my choice in the next couple of weeks.
I purchased an older Miller hi frequency mig, tig with water cooled torch, and also runs stick as well. I got it off of Craig's list for $750.00. It came mounted on nice cart with 2 gas bottles lots of leads and consumables. I printed the owners manual off the net so I know how to fire it up. I want to learn the basics of aluminum welding and basic steel fab as well.
I am willing to pay $50.00 per hour at my shop to learn on my machine. The instructor figured I should be able to do credible fabrication 25 to 40 hours of hands on time depending on how advanced I want to get, how much I practice in between lessons. I have some basic welding experience but no aluminum or sheet metal. Of course it goes without saying the more you practice the better you get. In my opinion its better to learn on your own machine rather than a welding class where the machines are new and not what you have in your own shop.
Brass car guy,
I have taught many welding beginners, kids and adults alike. I actually prefer to teach TIG welding on aluminum. Aluminum requires you to pay attention to all the little details that you could normally let slide when welding steel. With a bit of practice you can get aluminum under control, then switching over to steel/stainless is a breeze and you’ll look like a pro. And you will also carry over all the “optional” good habits that aluminum mandates, these habits will help you make better welds in all materials
Whenever I help a beginner, I always tell them if they're not satisfied with their results, try something different. It's a matter of finding out what works best for you. Different speeds, positions, arc gap, rod angle, heat range etc. all make a difference. You can have a half dozen welders doing the same job in a half dozen different ways and still have good results. JMHO Dave
I've purchased factory refurbished lincoln SP-180T welder from this company. It drop shipped from Lincoln, looked just like new and has the same factory warranty as a new one. I prefer MIGs with a constant variable voltage rather than a tap, but this has done everything I needed for MIG and I save quite a bit this way.
Normally I would not recommend a Harbor Freight welder, but their new Vulcan series are good units. I know a guy that owns a welding shop in Newbury Park, CA, and they were one of the test beds for the Vulcan series. He made a number of recommendations and they incorporated all of them in their production models. The Vulcan series uses factory standard connections for the torch handles and have a bunch of nice features. They also took their input on the programming of the MP series. I don't know about availability of spares long-term (that's not a problem with Lincoln or Miller), but you can buy 2 or 3 of them for the price of a new Lincoln or Miller; they're worth looking at.
Be like my x son-in- law.
Get an plasma cutter, cut a bunch of stuff apart, then never put it back together.
Both of my Grand Dads were Country Blacksmiths, one had a small Shop, other just a shop at Home. They both did what we called Flame Welding, of course they did not have electricity, so everything was done with fire. Some of the stuff they did back then is still holding up, and a lot of cast iron like wash pots. I would have killed to have learned what they knew, but they never had the time to show me. I have given away all my stuff now, but you will learn a lot just by doing. You might look for a welder somewhere around you that will let you set up in a corner, they will do that sometimes and will help you when they have time, most are pretty good folks. The absolute best welders I ever knew were old time oil field welders, those old boys could cut, weld, fabricate, whatever, just seemed to have it in their heads what and how. Get yourself some machines and dive in and get your feet wet.
I got an ox-acetylene setup for $50 a couple years ago, and was very handy. My welds looked like crap, but they held. Brazing was easier. I sold it when we sold our house, and downsized, ... for the same $50, as I didn't want to mess with the gas during and after the move, as I didn't know where or how long, it would need to be in storage until I had a suitable place for it. I have kicked myself several times, since.
Anyway .... good deals can often be had, locally, but I would have a real welder look at them to make sure they aren't crap .. as there junk kits out there!
One of my grandkids is going to a welding 'kamp' put on by a couple local companies for high school kids. Man, I envy him. There might be classes at the local community college .. or find one of your ex employees to me a mentor ....
I have had a long association with an expert welder retired from Lincoln; we go to the same church. While my son was in college, he mentored my son as part of the college’s Formula SAE program. Eventually he convinced me to get a 220v MIG unit reconditioned by Lincoln. Prior to this I used my brother’s stick welder or my gas torches.
I do like the versatility of the MIG. However, for sheet metal work, the weld seems to be significantly harder than the neighboring areas of the repair. For heavier stock like a car frame, the MIG is perfect. If there is a drawback to MIG, it is that you’re feeding wire into the weld for as long as you’re pushing the button.
I wanted to try out TIG so I confess I tried Chinese. Amazon was offering the AHP Alpha TIG unit in the $600+ range and I bought one. I now see it’s two hundred dollars more. I like it, it works, and there are service parts available if I burn it out. I like the fact that it’s dual voltage although I only have used it with 220. It also has a variety of settings to change polarity and pulse. It hides out in my home garage since it’s smaller. It also looks really cool with its nine knobs and four rocker switches. I live in constant fear that someone will ask me what all the settings do.
Recently I purchased a Lincoln Precision TIG 225 that took three of us to extract from my friend’s basement. He sold it in favor of a lighter Lincoln inverter welder that is more portable. When I retire, he promises to spend eight hours with me to make sure I’m not picking up bad habits. This is the welder I used on one side of my Runabout project. I found that there was less grinding needed because I only applied filler wire where I needed to and the weld was softer. I also could feather the heat and play around with the weld where I couldn’t with MIG. From my limited experience, I am seeing TIG as being similar to an oxy-acetylene torch and I think I’m going to like using it for sheet metal. One feature I like is that the welder starts with a high voltage spark to ionize the area prior to actually welding. This means the tungsten electrode never actually touches what I'm welding and it's much easier to get the arc started.