There are plenty of things that can go wrong when you’re just starting to weld. From too long an arc to welding with too much power, the quality of your finished weld depends on avoiding some common mistakes. While it’s best to take a welding class and learn from an expert, here are some important welding tips to keep in mind when you strike your arc.
Welding with the Wrong Current
The type of metal and electrode you’re using will determine which current to use (AC or DC) and how much to use. Check your welder’s guidelines for how much current to use, but if you’re welding a particular kind of metal for the first time, cut off some scraps and test your settings on some practice pieces to make sure you have it dialed in correctly so that your weld is strong enough or doesn’t burn through the metal.
Brad Hemmert at the Fabricator suggests the following guidelines for stick welding: “Electrode positive provides about 10 percent more penetration at a given amperage than AC, while DC straight polarity, electrode negative, welds thinner metals better.”
Striking the Arc Outside the Weld Joint
Striking an arc can be extremely difficult for beginners who often hit the metal too hard and sometimes strike the arc on metal different from or at least far from the weld joint. The best way to strike an arc is to begin right where you plan on welding so that you can get right to work rather than risking damage to other parts of the metal work piece.
Losing Your Place on the Weld
If you have an old-fashioned face shield that you flip down, it can be easy to lose your spot on your weld joint. Position your hands where they need to go in order to strike your arc and to start welding; flip your face shield down with a head nod, and then strike your arc right by the weld joint.
If you’re using an auto-darkening helmet, make sure you have enough sensors (4 sensors are best) to pick up the sparks and flashes that happen while welding. The advantage of an auto-darkening helmet is that you can get your torch into position and strike your arc without having to mess with your helmet and risk losing your spot.
Using Damaged Electrodes
A moist electrode for stick welding or a MIG wire with rust or oil can cause major problems while welding. 7018 electrodes for stick welding need to be kept warm and dry in a specially designed electrode oven in order to keep them dry enough to use. If you don’t have an oven for storage, heat up your 7018 electrodes before you start welding with them.
Failing to Clean Your Metal Correctly
Though stick welding can often handle grease or other impurities, your weld will be much stronger and cleaner if you take the time to grind impurities out of the weld joint. If you’re TIG welding, make sure you use the right kind of solvent, such as acetone. Paint thinner and other kinds of solvents can cause just as many problems with weld imperfections.
Learning how to weld is a process that can take time, but if you address these common mistakes, you’ll solve many of the most common welding problems right from the start.