Learn How to Weld

See how to set up a welding shop in your home and begin working with metal.

| January/February 1982

In his article "Weld It Yourself . . . and Make a Few Bucks to Boot," Adrian B. DeBee gave readers an admirably thorough explanation of the basic tools and materials required to perform simple arc welding. He also suggested a number of ways to make money with the skill, too.
Well, now that you know the what and the why of the subject, it's time to get to the heart of the matter: how to weld. Even though it's true that professional tradespeople spend years honing their skills to a high degree of technical proficiency, it's just as true that you — as an everyday do-it-yourselfer — can pick up all the fundamental techniques you're ever likely to need in just a couple of afternoons!

The Basics of Welding 

OK, let's say you've followed Adrian's advice pretty much to the letter. You've bought yourself a good 230-volt AC "buzz box" (or a comparable machine), you've gathered together all the other necessities (a head shield and goggles to wear underneath, to protect your eyes from sparks and chips even when your face plate is raised, gauntlet gloves, a heavy natural-fiber or leather jacket and cap and rubber-soled boots) and you've prepared a clean, well-ventilated, dry work area.

While we're at it, let's assume that you've also bought a supply of E6011 and/or E6013 all-purpose mild-steel electrodes — probably a few pounds each of 1/8-inch and 5/32-inch-diameter rods, for use with metal 1/8 inches thick or more, will be all you'll need for now. (It's important to prevent the rods from absorbing humidity, so keep them dry.)

Finally, we'll figure that — to round out your materials supply — you've gone to a local metals outlet and bought a pile of flat steel scrap in varying thicknesses (anything from 1/8 inches to 3/8 inches is good for practice) for about a nickel a pound. (When you're done with the material, you should be able to sell it back to a salvage dealer for about 3¢ a pound!)

Start Welding at Home

Position a piece of steel plate on your work surface and — since you'll be practicing with metal of around 1/4 inches in thickness — place a 1/8-inch rod in the grooves of the electrode holder and set your machine's amperage to around 90 or 100. Connect the ground cable to the work piece, but be sure it's positioned far enough away so that it won't interfere with your weld. Or, if the steel is on a conductive surface, simply clamp the wire close to the work. Then — keeping the electrode well away from any metal — turn the machine on.

Now, you're ready to strike the arc. Put your face shield down and warn others around you not to stare at the bright light no matter what. Go ahead and start the arc by holding the rod about 20 degrees from vertical and lightly scratching the tip of the electrode across about an inch of the area to be welded, drawing the rod toward you and then quickly raising its tip to about 1/4 inch above the metal.

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