Is welding hard to learn?
Welding is easy if you have acquired proper training for it. There are different demands of welding tasks, and each one is different with varying levels of complexity. For instance, welders who work in shops manufacturing metal furniture have it easy compared to underwater welders tasked to construct oil rigs.
Welding is easy if you have the right tools, too, but the level of complexity may rise depending on the type of welding tool used. For example, welders using inert tungsten gasses need specialised training to use their equipment while stick welders may not require extensive training.
Still, welding is easy if you have a lot of experience with the activity. Newbies may find it too complicated and may fail once, twice or thrice, but it's a guarantee that with time and continued practice, this will be an easy and worthwhile activity.
The difficulty of learning to weld depends on the person, ranging from moderately to very hard. Welding is not easy, and videos and books are insufficient sources for learning this skill, which requires hands-on practice. Some people practice for months and years to attain the desired level of craftsmanship. Basic difficulties include:
- Holding the electrode holder
- Keeping the welding electrode in angle
- Maintaining an arc length
- Local exhaust
- Much practice is required to master the skill of stick welding. Stick electrodes come in a broad range of types, which have different mechanical properties. Specific welding power sources are necessary to operate each type.
Maintaining an arc length requires synchronised holder hand; head screen; and eye, power adjustment, and personal protection. Adjustable and fixed exhaust hood positioning must maintain a 100 ft/sec capture velocity and keep air contaminants below allowable limits.
Welding also takes a toll on the body. The UV radiation can damage eyesight and potentially damage the skin. The welding fumes are often toxic or carcinogenic (Hossain et al., 2015). Positions required to weld cause arthritis and back problems. There are not a lot of "old" welders because welding has the potential to shorten one's lifespan.
There is a welder shortage in the U.S.; therefore, many companies hire welders on the spot who pass the welding test. It is possible to earn a comfortable living with limited technical training, and advanced degrees and certifications are paths to low six-figure yearly incomes.
Welding is a skill that you won't pick up right away, but with practice and application of a few simple techniques, you'll be laying down beads you can be proud of.
So, is welding hard? It depends on the type of welding and the material you intend working with. Stick and Mig are pretty easy to pick up, Tig and Gas welding will require more skill. The type of materials play a part too, and mild steel is easiest to work with, stainless steel and aluminium will require a higher level of skill.
If you're interested in classic car repair, you'll want a Mig. If precision and a super pretty weld are important, you'll need a Tig, and if most of your work is outdoor on heavy gauge steel and aesthetics isn't a concern, a Stick is perfect.
These welders are all different and require particular knowledge and skill, some more than others. In this post I'll outline what it's like to use each of them, the skills and knowledge you'll need, by the end of this article, you'll have a better idea of what type of welder is right for you.
I like to keep things simple, the four most common types of welding are Shielded Metal Arc Welding (SMAW) known as Stick welding, Gas Metal Arc Welding (GMAW) also known as MIG welding, Gas Tungsten Arc Gas Welding (GTAW) also known as TIG welding and Oxygen Acetylene welding also known as Gas welding.
How Hard is Welding School?
Imagine yourself sitting in a harness, hanging from an overhead beam with your welding helmet, gloves and torch. You're hard at work fusing large pieces of metal together to construct or repair a bridge, building or other structure.
Now imagine yourself working in a professional or personal welding shop where you're in the process of creating a beautiful metal sculpture to sell or use.
If either of these scenes sounds exciting to you, welding is probably the right job for you.
To become a professional welder, you need to go through a welding training program and pass a welding certification exam. But how hard is welding school? Are the education and training required for a welding certification going to be too difficult for you?
Some training is required to weld efficiently and safely. Many vocational schools offer introductory welding courses, or you can seek a professional willing to teach enough to get you started.
Professional welders must take part in a welding program and pass a certification exam, putting in the time and effort to learn the skill. The effort and time required in welding school depend on the trainee's background. Students fall into one of four categories:
- Those born with a natural talent
- Those having previous hands-on experience
- Those with a combination of natural skill and expertise
- Those who have neither experience nor talent
Regardless of the type of trainee, those determined and eager to learn and willing to put in practice, hard work, and time compensate for the lack of experience or natural talent. Things that make welding school easier include:
- Hands-on experience
- Knowledgeable instructors
- Time and patience
Welding requires the welder's hands to get dirty, so it is more enjoyable and far easier for students who prefer to learn by doing rather than via traditional classroom learning. The experience gained behind a welding hood is critical. The more time spent learning and experimenting, and the quicker one becomes an expert.
Those who teach need to know what they are doing and how to present the knowledge to those they teach. Look for skilled instructors who are experienced and well-versed in teaching and communicating, which makes learning more enjoyable and easier.
Welding requires repetition of the same task over and over until the skill becomes second nature and consistently produces the desired results. The path to certification requires taking on various welding projects and rehearsing the process over and over until the trainee and instructor find the results to be satisfactory ("How Hard Is Welding," 2017).
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Is Stick Welding Hard?
Shielded Metal Arc Welding (SMAW) The Arc welder, aka Stick welding, is the easiest type welding to master, its strength is its simplicity, it's the most popular type welder worldwide.
When I was a kid, a Stick welder was an impressive looking kit, they were about the size of a car engine and required a special high voltage supply to run them.
But, just like a big mac, they got smaller over time, now you can buy one the size of a shoebox that plugs into your household electric supply.
A basic arc welder consists of a wall plug, an Amp control dial, an earth clamp and an electrode holder.
The process of welding is simple, heat metal to a liquid form and use a filler rod to help fuse the metals together.
To use a stick welder:
- Select and fit stick (electrode)
- Fit earth clamp to a workpiece
- Plugin welder
- Select suitable amperage
- Weld, by touching the workpiece with the stick
A Stick welder works by sending high current down an electrode (stick), which creates an arc between the stick and the base metal. The arc creates the weld pool, and the stick melts into the pool.
An Arc welder will have a dial button to control amperage (Heat).
The sticks come in a range of diameter sizes, and the size is relative to the thickness of metal you're working (base metal), they're also rated by the speed at which they melt.
The sticks are covered in a flux coating, and as it burns, the gases purify the air around the weld pool, without the flux, contaminants in the air would weaken the weld.
So, we know a stick welder is easy to use, but what type of jobs or metals would you use a stick welder for? I own a small portable stick welder, and the last time I used it, I was welding stays on a shooting cabin treehouse.
It's the perfect welder for that type of job, and the base metals were mild steel and pretty substantial, maybe 1/4" plate, I was working on height, outdoors in windy conditions.
Stick welders are more forgiving, and other type welders are very particular about how clean the weld area is, a stick welder less so.
They're favoured by construction and the agricultural industry, and if you have a lot of outdoor projects to take care of, where the base metals are thicker than 12 gauge (.1046", 2.6mm), a stick welder is a perfect fit.
They'll weld steel, alloy steel and cast iron, the thickness will depend on your skill level, and thicker materials are easier to work. When you can weld 16 gauge sheet metals, you can call yourself Sensai.
Stick is not so good for indoor work, and the flux covered electrodes throw off fumes and smoke, making it difficult to breathe and sometimes see the weld pool.
Stick welds may be strong, but they won't win a beauty contest, so bear that in mind, if you're working on a project where you need finesse.
What are the tips in using Stick welding?
Pro tips for better Stick welding:
- Clean the work area
- Fit the ground clamp close to the weld area
- Clean ground clamp area really well
- Use correct size electrode for base material
- Use correct Amp, usually marked on the stick box
- Maintain correct Arc size - about the width of the electrode from the weld pool
- Drag the weld pool and tilt the stick towards the pool at about 10°
- Have test material same size as workpiece
- I make a repeating joined letter c shape when welding heavy materials
- Adjust your speed and Amps as necessary
Is MIG Welding Hard?
Metal Arc Gas Welding (MAGW) also known as Metal Inert Gas (MIG) is a form of electric welding where a spool of wire can be consistently fed through a handheld welding gun.
It's my favourite type of welder, I got my first Mig welder when I was about 19, and I've never been without one since.
Mig welders are really user friendly and are perfect for the occasional user or pro alike. Once you get to know your machine, you'll quickly find the sweet spot for different gauge metals.
It will need more care than a stick welder, and the Mig gun won't tolerate abuse, it carries feed wire, gas, a feed switch, contact tube and tip, all require care.
The wire is held on a spool inside the welder, and it creates an arc as it contacts the grounded base material, the wire is fed through the gun by an electric motor.
Most Mig welders come with a useful chart inside the wire spool door, and it details wire size, amperage and wire-speed for various metal gauges.
Wire sizes vary; it depends on what size material you're working. I use .023" wire because I mostly use it for patch welding body panels, I want to keep heat to a minimum, it wraps body panels. Note: if you're changing wire size, you must also change the wire rollers and copper tip, they are all grouped by size.
For best results a shielding gas should be used, usually C25 (75% Argon 25% Carbon Dioxide), the gas is fed down the welding gun and is directed at the weld pool. The c25 protects the weld from the harmful effects of nitrogen and oxygen in the atmosphere.
A flux-cored wire spool is an option for the occasional user who doesn't want the extra complexity of buying and using the c25 gas. The flux core releases a purifying gas as the wire spool hits the weld pool, similar idea as the stick welder electrodes.
What are the tips in using MIG welding?
Pro tips for using a Mig welder:
- All weld areas need to be really clean, especially if using c25 gas
- Ground clap should be fitted close to the weld area
- Clean ground clamp area really well
- Use correct size wire (Consult chart)
- Use correct Amperage (Consult chart)
- Use correct wire speed (Consult chart)
- Stick-out no more than 3/8" (wire length from the tip)
- Check gas flow
- Have test material same size as workpiece
- Push the weld pool and angle gun about 10° away from the pool (depends on the joint type)
- Spot weld materials to secure
- I make a repeating joined letter c shape when welding heavy materials
- I just spot weld in alternative corners when welding in a patch panel
Is TIG Welding Hard?
Gas Tungsten Arc Welding (GTAW), also known as Tungsten Inert Gas (TIG) is the top of the welding pyramid. Yes, it's more complex, but it offers greater rewards in terms of weld quality.
You won't learn to Tig weld in an afternoon, and realistically it will take months of commitment, and possibly longer.
Tig welding allows for greater control of the heat and filler material, and when done right, the welds are cleaner, stronger and very close to being called art.
TIG welding is commonly used when welding aluminium, thin pipework and in critical operations like aircraft manufacturing, racing car roll cages, motorbike frames and bicycle frames. Tig offers strength, aesthetics, resistance to corrosion and is very flexible in terms of the types of filler rods that can be used.
So how do you use a Tig? Coordination here is the key; the welder strikes an arc and creates a weld pool by moving the arc in a circle. The welder must maintain an arc at all times by holding the tungsten tip no more than .012" from the base material.
When the filler is needed, the torch is tilted backwards about 10° to allow the filler rod to be fed in from the front of the pool at a low angle, without touching and contaminating the tungsten tip.
If the tip touches the filler rod or the base metal, it will likely need to be cleaned by sharpening on a diamond wheel.
When the filler rod isn't needed, it needs to be removed from the pool but stay within the gas shield; otherwise, the rod is contaminated by the atmosphere.
Some metals are susceptible to heat shock damage, to overcome this the welder applies heat gradually at the beginning and the reduced heat at the end of the weld, a foot pedal is used to control amperage.
Tig torch tungsten tips will need to be sharpened like a pencil before using, and different materials will require a slightly different method of sharpening. A diamond sharpening wheel will be needed, and tungsten is tough stuff. Grind the tip so that any grind markings run parallel with the tip.
Tig consumables include:
- Filler rods
- Ceramic cups
- Tungsten tips
- Argon gas
Rods, Cups and Tips all come in different sizes. Filler rods are available in many different materials, which type you use will depend on factors such as, base metal, thickness, application and many other factors.
Walking the cup refers to a technique where the work material is used to guide the torch around the weld.
What are the tips in using TIG welding?
Pro tips for using Tig welder:
- Weld material must be clean
- Ground clamp clean and close to the workpiece
- Tungsten sharp
- Find a comfortable position
- Torch angle at 10°
- Filler rod enters from the front at a low angle
- Keep filler rod in the gas shield
- Push the weld pool
- Have test material same size as workpiece
- Gas welding plant
Is Oxygen Acetylene Welding Hard?
Oxyacetylene, Oxy welding or gas welding all describe the same type of welding. My father ran his own workshop, and when I was growing up, welding to me was Oxygen Acetylene we just called it Oxy or Gas.
Oxyacetylene Gas welding is a process where two gases, oxygen and acetylene, meet in the mixing chamber of a torch.
The tip of the torch focuses the gases to a point where the operator ignites the gases and adjusts the flame using gas valves on the torch, for whichever job is at hand.
Welding tips come in various sizes and are dependent on the proposed use. The gasses are stored in cylinders which come in various sizes and are stored in a mobile trolley.
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At my father's shop, we had a selection of torches. We had a torch for welding, a torch for cutting, it had an oxygen control lever that turbocharged the torch, it was pretty cool to use. Oxygen Acetylene burns hot, over 6000°F.
We also had a heating torch which we used to heat body panels, and it made them easier to manipulate.
Regulators are fitted to the top of each of the cylinders, and this allows the operator control supply and gauge volume.
Supply hoses, up to 25 feet long are used to carry the gases from the regulators to the torch. Colour coded green for oxygen and red for acetylene, they're special hoses and will be labelled with an industry-grade and type marking.
Mostly we used our plant to cut, repair exhausts or heat up frozen bolts, but occasionally my father would teach me about the finer uses for Oxy.
Stuff like Brazing (Brass welding), or lead working or heating a panel to make it more pliable for repair.
Gas welding was once the only way to weld, and when I was growing up, every shop had a welding plant. Today most shops won't have gas, Arc electric welding has taken over, it's more convenient and easier to learn.
Oldtimer garages and classic car shops that specialise in panel work will likely still have a gas plant though.
Welding with gas like Tig is a two-handed job, one for the torch and the other feeds in the filler rod. Filler rods just like other types of arc welding come in many different diameters and material types, all depending on the type of base metal and thickness.
The process is similar to Tig welding in many ways; the operator creates a weld pool and feeds filler into the weld pool, as needed. The pool melts the filler rod, not the torch. When the filler rod isn't needed, it's kept in the outer flame of the torch, and this keeps atmospheric contaminants away.
Some welding jobs won't require a filler rod, and we call this type of welding Fusion welding, it's not as strong as a normal weld, but it has its place.
What are the tips in gas welding?
Pro tips for Gas welding:
- Use correct tip size
- Keep tip clean, buy some tip cleaners
- Turn on Acetylene main valve first, 1/2 turn
- Adjust Acetylene regulator to about six psi
- Turn on main Oxygen valve and adjust the regulator to 8psi
- Adjust your flame cone, about a cm long
- Red heat, ready for brazing
- Yellow heat, ready for welding or Fusion
- Push weld pool
- Keep filler rod in the outer flame when not needed
- Turn off acetylene first, then oxygen
- Purge both valves after use
What are welding safety kits?
Welding creates lots of opportunities for injury, large heavy metal workpieces, heat, sparks, ultraviolet light, dangerous gases and fumes.
Safety gear is serious business, you'll need to be protected no matter how infrequent or brief your welding sessions are.
You need steel caped pull-on boots, and laces create areas for sparks to lodge and burn. Clothes need to be free from tears and holes; otherwise, you know a spark will jump in.
A welder's jacket is an excellent investment; it comes with leather sleeves which prevent spark penetration. Under that, you could wear heat resistant sleeves.
Heavy leather gauntlets come down over the sleeve protecting from sparks when gas or Mig welding.
A welders cap protects the hair and has a rear-facing bill hat directs sparks away from the back of your neck.
Take your time before buying a helmet. A good welder's helmet will have auto-darkening and be suited to the type of welding you're doing, and it protects your eyes and skin from UV light. I especially like the helmets that go the extra mile, fit vents and a leather bib to protect the neck and chest area.
Note To Beginner Welders
If you are new to welding or you are just starting to train for it, don't worry too much. As long as you pay close attention and you follow rules of safety, welding will be easy. You are not expected to learn the task at one time.
But as much as possible, train and work hard. There is a massive demand for welders for local projects as well as abroad. You can get extra training to take welding tasks for different industries like automotive, construction, oil and shipping, and so on.