Been thinking about getting into welding this year? Maybe you’ve had a run-in or two with a repair job where you thought a welder would be just the ticket. Or maybe a buddy recently modded a grill or trailer– or made a cool metal rack on the cheap– with his handy-dandy welder, and you thought, ‘Dang… I’d like to do something like that.” Well, join the club. But before you go out and get the coolest, top-of-the-line welder, you first need to understand a few things.
Welding–like any craft– is a skill . It takes a lot of practice to get even close to being competent. When you first take hold of that welder, for heaven’s sake, don’t use it on something you don’t want ruined. Practice on LOTS of scrap metal– preferably around the same thickness as what your first project is going to be. You should be able to find some good stuff at your local metal or welding shop. Get used to the action and the way the metal reacts. Work on avoiding “bird poops” (the unsightly metal globs you sometimes see on rough welding jobs), and start feeling comfortable with your developing “technique.” Then, use some scrap to make something you don’t care about, like a homemade grill for a fire pit, or bookends out of 350 engine pistons. Only after you’ve gotten a handle on that kind of stuff should you attempt a project that does matter.
- Start Small
You wouldn’t learn how to ride a motorcycle on a Harley Fat Boy or start target shooting with a Desert Eagle .50. The same goes with your first welder. Welding is not a low-cost activity, so before you know you it’s something you want to get into, start smaller and cheaper. An ideal model with which to “get your feet wet” is the popular Chicago Electric 90 Amp Flux Wire Welder. It’s easy to set up, can weld metal up to 3/16″ thick and is perfect for small projects around the house and garage. A quick browse through the 90 amp’s customer reviews will give you an idea of what it’s capable of. Here are a few comments:
“I’m a former auto technician and have welded hundreds of times over the years using various machines. I was hesitant to purchase this item… but after doing so I am thoroughly pleased. It’s was very easy to set up. Made numerous repairs to an existing metal decorative fence. It handled the 12 ga metal without hesitation and I decided to attempt it on another project that was heavier metal. It worked flawlessly producing strong welds on 3/16 metal… Overall a great machine at a great price. I’m completely pleased!” DennisF – Temple, TX
“Very easy and fun to use. Fabricate anything I need to my (on) trucks and machinery. Very happy!” Landscape Designer – NJ
“Wow, this is nice. How could you go wrong with the price, well worth the money. I’m going to buy one for my boy who has never welded before. Thanks for a great product.” Boonie – Mt. Vernon, IL
“I needed to do some light welding on my car. I figured it was either hire someone or get my own welder and teach myself. I bought this with a 25′ #12 gauge extension cord and an auto dark helmet. I had never used a welder before, I don’t even have a book except the book that came with this welder.” Mike – Hollywood, FL
“I run this welder for tons of different jobs. Its best for minor projects, although I have put mine to the test. I was on a budget so I bought this welder to get me from town to town for on-the-move jobs. I worked 12-hour days for about a month-and-a-half, the welder was in use for 6-8 hours most of the time. It ran great, ran beautiful beads with lincoln wire and never quit on me. I use it strictly on tubing as I build fences and doors, but with a little practice you can get good heat control on thin metals, and good penetration on thicker materials. Those that say u cant run nice beads with flux core are liars. I can run beads just as nice as my lincoln mig welders. Get some good wire and practice, practice, practice. Great little shop welder, perfect little learners welder! Garcia Welding – New Mexico
Once you’ve mastered your 90 Amp Flux Wire Welder, you can expand to bigger projects and maybe move up to a Chicago Electric 170 Amp MIG/Flux Wire Welder or 180 Amp MIG/Flux Wire Feed Welder for more power and thicker metal.
Obviously, the foremost thing to keep in mind about welding is safety first. Most of it is common sense, but for the sake of health and property, keep in mind that welding can be dangerous. Welders throw sparks, they can cause fire. Be sure to remove anything flammable from the area you’re working in, and if you’re welding on the grass or near bushes, it’s probably a good idea to wet down the ground. Also, wear a long-sleeve shirt, pants without cuffs, and long Welders Gloves. Of course, also get yourself face and eye protection. I particularly like the Chicago Electric Auto-Darkening Helmet with Blue Flame Design.
Once you get the hang of it, working on welding projects can be a blast– for the home, the car and all kinds of hobby projects. And Harbor Freight’s got the perfect, low-cost way to start!