If you’re looking for ways to take your welding skills to the next level, here are a few helpful tips:
Keep it clean
Many welders fail to understand the importance of a work surface that’s as clean as possible. While it isn’t necessary (or even always possible) to have a truly pristine work surface, using a wire brush or steel wool to knock off as much rust and surface dirt as possible is critical to making the weld as strong as possible. If you don’t start with a reasonably clean surface, too many impurities could get absorbed into your repair, which could compromise that repair later. If you can’t get a surface as clean as you’d like, slowing your speed can help by allowing time for impurity-filled gas bubbles to boil out of the weld before those impurities become trapped.
Many manufacturers, especially in the world of agricultural equipment, are using more high-strength steel. High-strength steel weighs less, but can be more difficult to weld solidly. The key to making repairs on high-strength steel and other high-carbon content materials is to preheat the metal first. Preheating is the best, and sometimes only, way to prevent your repair from cracking. Using a low-hydrogen, small-diameter electrode will also help. This is another instance when going slowly helps, as this will give the hydrogen gas time to bubble out of the repair.
Another way to prevent cracks is to be sure that your beads are always convex (beaded) rather than concave (sunken). You also have to be sure that your weld is always more wide than deep, ensuring the greatest coverage of the area being repaired.
Know your gases
Hydrogen is one of welding’s greatest enemies. Keeping your work area as clean and dry as possible helps reduce the buildup of hydrogen, ensuring a stronger repair.
When it comes to MIG welding, 100% CO2 is the preferred gas for most jobs even though it does produce quite a bit of spatter, but there are some instances when another gas might be more appropriate, even if it is more expensive:
- For the nicest-looking welds and for welding at high amperages, consider a mix of 25% CO2 and 75% argon.
- If you’re welding heavier plated steel or welding on metal that has more scale or rust than you can clean off, 15% CO2 and 85% argon is a good choice.
- A mix of 10% CO2 and 90% argon is ideal for thick or heavy sections of metal and for spray transfer welds.
- Use 100% argon or a helium/argon mix for aluminum.
- Stainless steel welding does best with a 2.5% CO2, 7.5% helium, and 90% argon blend.
Understand when to reinforce
- If your repair is in a spot where you can’t properly prep the surface, you’ll want to make multiple passes.
- Always reinforce repairs on hinges and other high-stress points.
- Reinforce any repair that is in the same place or very near a previous repair.
- If your material is more than 1/4 inch thick, reinforcement is recommended.
Following the above tips won’t make you a master welder, but can get you one step closer!