Learn to Weld: Get Paid to Melt and Cut Steel With Fire

At first glance, the act of welding something together seems simple, right? I mean, all you have to do is join two pieces of steel together. But when you learn to weld, you quickly realize that there’s more to it.

learn to weld: man holding welding rod

Image from Pexels

Here's the truth:

While the concept is simple, you need to understand the various types of welding (hint: welders weld more than steel), the different job descriptions, and how to keep safe while welding.

In short, there’s a whole lot to understand about this seemingly simple profession.

Ready to get started?

Let’s dig in.

Image from Giphy

Welding Is...

In its most basic form, welding is joining two pieces of metal together using heat. As the metal cools, the pieces join together. And sometimes, welders apply a filler material to strengthen the joint.

But that's not all:

Just to make things complicated, there are two exceptions to this very simple explanation.

  • You don’t always have to use heat to weld something. When you learn to weld, you will hear about pressure welding and ultrasonic welding — and neither relies on heat to get the job done.
  • Welders don’t always weld metals — they can also join some thermoplastics.

But wait, there’s more.

Did You Know?

Jay Leno has about 100 cars and 90 motorcycles and is so intent on keeping them running and doing restorations that he has a welder on staff.

Jay Leno

What’s the difference between brazing, soldering, and welding?

Many people confuse welding, brazing, and soldering, so we want to clear up the confusion right away.

Here’s a breakdown of how they compare.

Welding

We've covered that.

Brazing

learn to weld: woman brazing

Brazing doesn’t heat and melt the metals to form the joint, but instead uses a filler metal to create it. Using a torch to heat up the filler metal applied to the joint, the filler flows into all the nooks and crannies in the joint to form a strong bond.

This technique is perfect when you want to join two metals together that have different heating points.

Got it?

Soldering

learn to weld: soldering

The process of soldering is similar to brazing in that instead of melting the materials in the joint, it uses fillers to surround and strengthen it. But when you solder something, the temperatures you use aren’t as hot.

Brazing uses temperatures of up to 800 degrees, while soldering melts at 390 degrees. People mostly use soldering to make electronic bonds like when working with circuit boards.

Okay, let’s move on.

The history of welding

You might think welding first began in the bronze ages.

And you’d be right.

The practice dates back to the Bronze Age when people used pressure welding to join lap joints together for circular boxes. People believe these boxes date back 2,000 years.

Then in the Iron Age, Egyptians and people living in the Eastern Mediterranean began welding iron pieces together.

Welding as people practice it today began happening in the nineteenth century.

Now, the specifics.

- - - Did You Know? - - - 

If two pieces of metal touch together in space, they become permanently molded together. That doesn’t happen on Earth because there is a layer of oxidized material between the two surfaces.

Why You Should Get into Welding

If you’re looking for a career where you can earn a good living and enjoy job security, you should learn to weld. The outcome for this profession is good, and those who can do it are in demand.

But here’s what you need to know:

Personal skills needed to become a welder

learn to weld: aluminum welding torch

Image from Pexels

When you want to learn to weld, you need to consider whether or not you have the personal skills you need to succeed.

Here are 10 of them that will make it easier to succeed on the job:

  • 1
    You need to read blueprints to understand how to approach a job
  • 2
    An understanding of how to keep yourself and others stay safe while welding
  • 3
    The ability to focus and con​centrate while welding until you finish the job
  • 4
    Ability to work well with customers and provide excellent service
  • 5
    You should have a great for detail and not overlook any small details that could negatively affect the job
  • 6
    Welders need great eyesight to spot all those details
  • 7
    In-depth knowledge of metals and how to work with them to get the desired finished product
  • 8
    A deep understanding of the tools used to perform welding jobs
  • 9
    Welding requires that you perform complicated physical maneuvers and you need the dexterity to do this
  • 10
    You need to have a lot of knowledge about the various techniques of welding

The 5 Types of Welding

Welding is more than just holding a flame to metal and welding the pieces together. There are five types of welding you need to know about.

Oxy-fuel welding

Oxy-fuel welding is sometimes called gas welding, and it dates back to 1903.

Here's how to do it:

Welders connect a torch to two gas tanks. One of the tanks contains pure oxygen, and the other contains gas fuel such as acetylene. This fuel is what creates the flame that melts the metal.

Because the process also involves 100 percent oxygen, the temperature of the flame is about 6,332 degrees.

That’s a lot of heat.

And it melts the metal into a pool and creates the weld.

As simple as this sounds, most welders don’t use it anymore. But small business owners, hobbyists, or others who weld for their own purposes do.

- - - Did You Know? - - - 

You want to talk about job security? Over 50 percent of the products sold in the US require welding. Some of those products are bridges, cell phones, computers, farm equipment, medical devices, MP3 players, ships, scooters, and race cars.

Pros of oxy-fuel welding

  • You don’t need electricity because you rely on the gas and oxygen to create the flame
  • You can use this method anyplace
  • It’s easy and great for beginners
  • You can find cheap equipment
  • You can not only join metals using this method but also cut them

Cons of oxy-fuel welding

  • The finished product isn’t neat or aesthetically pleasing
  • You can only use it on low to mild steel
  • The heat from this method affects areas outside of the arc, which may compromise the metal’s integrity

Shielded Metal Arc Welding (SMAW)

Shielded Metal Arc Welding is also called Flux Shielded Arc Welding (FSAW)), Manual Metal Arc Welding (MMAW), or just plain old stick welding.

Yeah, we'll go with that one.

When performing stick welding, you won’t use a welding torch, but an electrode. This electrode is called a stick, which is how the method gets its nickname.

The electrode, which connects to a power supply, is covered by a shield, which is consumable. As you weld, the stick will get shorter and eventually, you will have to replace it.

learn to weld: welding process

Image from Pexels

You create an arc by touching the tock to the metal you want to weld, and then you withdraw it. You control the amperage via a foot pedal.

When you form the arc, the areas melts into a pool. Then, drops of the stick melt off and drop into the weld pool. This is your filler. Next, the shield coating starts to break down and forms a gas.

Here's the breakdown:

So, the first two steps create the weld, and the last one protects it. (It doesn’t allow the oxygen to hit the weld, which would oxidize it.)

At one time, this was the most popular method of welding, but welders are beginning to use other techniques instead. Welders use this method on iron, aluminum, steel, and copper alloys.

- - - Did You Know? - - - 

You want to talk about job security? Over 50 percent of the products sold in the US require welding. Some of those products are bridges, cell phones, computers, farm equipment, medical devices, MP3 players, ships, scooters, and race cars.

Pros of SMAW welding

  • Is perfect for welding tight or narrow areas
  • It’s inexpensive to do
  • The electrode provides all the shielding gases

Cons of SMAW welding

  • It can’t be easily mechanized because of the dipping action
  • ​You must have the skill to perform this technique
  • It takes longer to perform than other methods
  • ​You have to clean the finished product because a lot of splatter occurs during the process

Gas Tungsten Arc Welding (TIG)

When performing TIG, the welder has to hold a welding torch that has a tungsten tip. This tip can withstand high temperatures, so it is not consumable.

The torch does two jobs:

  • 1
    It connects to the welding machine
  • 2
    And it feels an inert gas to the weld

Once the arc is created, you move the torch in a circular pattern, making the weld pool. Then using a rod dipped into the weld, you add the filler material. Continue this alternating pattern of putting the weld torch in and the filler rod out.

But beware:

Don’t withdraw the filler rod completely or you will take away the necessary gas shield. Otherwise, you will have oxidation.

- - - Did You Know? - - - 

In the movie “Aliens” the characters protect themselves from the Xenomorphs by welding shut a door with the TIG method.

Pros of TIG welding

  • You will get strong welds with this technique
  • The process is precise
  • The beads are so clean that you can use the end product for display
  • ​You can use this method on steel, aluminum, alloys of copper, and magnesium

Cons of TIG welding

  • It’s not as fast as other methods
  • ​You have to spend some time practicing to perfect the technique
  • ​You have to clean the finished product because a lot of splatter occurs during the process

- - - Did You Know? - - - 

The median age for welders is the mid-fifties, which means within the next 10 years, a lot of them will retire. Will you learn to weld and take over the jobs they leave empty?

Gas Metal Arc Welding (GMAW)

Gas Metal Arc Welding is also known as Metal Inert Gas welding (MIG). If you’re going to learn to weld, this is the best method for beginners because it’s the simplest.

Here’s how it works:

When the nozzle of the welding gun touches the base metal, it forms an arc. And that creates the filler metal for the weld pool. And then a shield gas comes out of the gun nozzle which protects the weld from absorbing water vapor or oxidizing. The welder controls the entire process with the trigger on the welding gun.

This is the most common type of welding, but it does come with pros and cons

learn to weld: construction worker welder

Image by skeeze from Pixabay 

Pros of GMAW welding

  • It’s the easiest and best for beginners
  • This type of welding is the fastest
  • ​The torch provides the shield and flux
  • ​You can create continuous welds
  • ​It’s inexpensive to use this form of welding

Cons of GMAW welding

  • ​Although the equipment is easy to use, its design is complex and things can go wrong with it
  • ​This type of welding can leave deposits which can later rust

Flux-Cored Arc Welding (FCAW)

Flux-Cored Arc welding is similar to GMAW welding in that a continuously fed electrode provides the arc and filler material, but this type of welding creates its own shield gasses to protect the weld.

And that's not all:

The welding machine is smaller and less complicated, which makes it a great choice when you need to transport equipment to a job site.

But don’t use this machine for materials that are thinner than 20 gauge.

man in illuminated rooms

Photo by Terje Sollie from Pexels

​Pros of FCAW

  • You can use it outside
  • ​It’s portable
  • ​Beginners can learn to weld easily on this machine
  • ​It produces its own shield gas

Cons of FCAW

  • ​The machine generates a lot of smoke
  • ​The wire feed mechanism has issues at times

The Welding Process

  • The Arc: To create an arc, you need a welding machine, which acts like the ground, and the welding gun, which serves as the lead. When you touch one to the other, it creates an electric arc, which is about 11,000 degrees.
  • The Melt: When you move the arc in a circular motion, it melts the two pieces of metal together in what’s known as welding fusion. This creates a strong bond between the two pieces, making them one.
  • The Filler: As the melt occurs, you dip a rod into the pool and add the same type of material as the metal. This filling oozes down in the cracks and crevices and forms a stronger bond.
  • The Shield: As you’re creating the melt, a shield forms that protects the weld from hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, and water vapor. If the weld isn’t protected, it can lead to metal splatter and holes forming in the weld, which will make it weaker. The shield forms from gases such as carbon dioxide, helium, and argon.
  • The Cool: After the weld, let the metals cool naturally to allow them to develop into a solid. Some people use quenching, which is putting cool water on the joint to speed up the process, but that could result in a weakened joint. Joints only take a few minutes to cool.
  • The Clean: Finally, welders clean the surface of the weld to make it look smooth and polished.

Learn to Weld: Welding Joint Types

When you learn to weld, you'll need to know how to make certain joint types to fit the project you’re working on.

- - - Did You Know? - - - 

The art of welding advanced so rapidly during World War Two that welders build a ship in 4 days, 15 hours, and 27 minutes. Talk about working hard for your country!

Here are the five most common joints:

The butt joint

When forming a butt joint, you should lie the corners and same plane and join them at their edges.

butt joint

The corner joint

To perform this joint, join the corners in a right angle and weld it at the center of that angle.

corner joint

The lap joint

When forming two overlapping pieces together, it is called a lap joint.

lap joint

The edge joint

You form this joint by ensuring the common edges of the metal are touching and then welding them together at that edge.

edge joint

The T-joint

To create this joint, one joint should be at a right angle of the other one. The final result will look like a T.

t-joint

What Materials Do You Use in Welding?

Depending on the type of job you’re doing, your materials supply list will change. But here is a list of the most commonly used materials on welding jobs.

  • A welding machine
  • Welding wire
  • ​Gas
  • ​Welding cart
  • ​Covered electrode
  • ​TIG welding rod
  • ​GMAW solid wire
  • ​GMAW flux cored wire
  • SAW wire
  • ​SAW flux
  • ​Strip electrode
  • ​Awl or carbide scribe
  • ​Right angle grinder
  • ​Chipping hammer and wire brush
  • ​Miter clamp or magnet square
  • ​Welding pliers
  • ​Auto-darkening helmet

When you learn to weld, it’s important to know whether or not you’ve done it right. If you haven’t, the weld may not hold.

Let’s ensure that it does.

- - - Did You Know? - - - 

The sky is the limit when it comes to welding salaries. Depending on your training, education, and skill, it’s possible to earn as much welding as you can as a doctor or lawyer.

How to Check the Quality of a Weld

learn to weld: adult welding bars

Photo from Pexels

One of the first questions people ask when wanting to learn to weld is how much they expect to make as a welder. After all, the job is dirty, difficult, and a little dangerous. So you would think the pay would be good, right?

And it is.

According to the Bureau of Labor’s most recent report, welders earn on average $40,240 a year. That breaks down to $19.32 an hour.

Not bad for doing something you love.

And growth in the industry looks good, too. The Bureau predicts a 6 percent rate of growth between now and 2026. It says the nation’s aging infrastructure will ensure that welders have work because they need to rebuild highways, buildings, and bridges.

But you have to figure your location into the factor because welders in some areas make more than others. For example, Alaska welders make some of the highest salaries in the nation, but that might be a long way off from friends and family.

Just remember this:

Your salary will depend on what type of welder you are and where you live.

The pre-weld inspection

Before you start welding, you will perform this inspection. You should check that the welding joint preparation is correct, and look at the parameters to ensure that that they’re right. When you do this, you will help prevent defective welding because you will understand the job as a whole before you begin.

This part of the process also includes the pre-weld setup and joint preparation.

For example:

A root opening that is too narrow or tight will cause improper root penetration. And openings that are too big will result in over penetration.

You should also go over and confirm your temperature and heating method, the availability of monitoring devices, and the presence of gas purging equipment.

Inspection while you’re welding

You need to be aware of the requirements and conditions surrounding the weld. Start by paying attention to your surroundings to ensure that wind, rain, or extreme temperatures won’t affect the weld.

When you're done that:

Look to ensure you meet the requirements of the weld. For instance, check the interpass cleaning methods and temperature controls, the settings, travel speed, what type of shielding you’ll use, the flow rate of the gas, and the welding sequence.

Post-weld inspection

Most welds go through non-destructive testing (NDT) method once complete, but it’s a good idea to do a visual test as well.

Here's what to look for:

Keep an eye out for undercut, overlap, undersized welds, cracks, surface pores, incomplete root penetration, underfill, excessive root penetration, burn through, and excessive reinforcement.

Are you convinced you want to learn to weld?

You need more deets.

- - - Did You Know? - - - 

You can travel the world — or other worlds — as a welder. Many welders, known as road warriors, travel from job to job. Others work on the bottom of the ocean floor or at the space station. If you love to travel, learn to weld and travel anyplace you want!

What Do Welders Earn?

person holding coins

Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

One of the first questions people ask when wanting to learn to weld is how much they expect to make as a welder. After all, the job is dirty, difficult, and a little dangerous. So you would think the pay would be good, right?

And it is.

According to the Bureau of Labor’s most recent report, welders earn on average $40,240 a year. That breaks down to $19.32 an hour.

Not bad for doing something you love.

And growth in the industry looks good, too. The Bureau predicts a 6 percent rate of growth between now and 2026. It says the nation’s aging infrastructure will ensure that welders have work because they need to rebuild highways, buildings, and bridges.

But you have to figure your location into the factor because welders in some areas make more than others. For example, Alaska welders make some of the highest salaries in the nation, but that might be a long way off from friends and family.

Just remember this:

Your salary will depend on what type of welder you are and where you live.

How to Become a Welder: A Step-by-Step Guide

Are you ready to learn to weld?

If so, it’s time to take a look at the process. Welding is one of the highest paying blue collar jobs out there, but get this:

It doesn’t take a lot to become certified.

Here’s what you need to know.

Get your high school diploma

diploma

Image by Olichel Adamovich from Pixabay 

Your first step when you want to learn to weld is to get your high school diploma. And the classes you take while in high school can greatly help you as a welder.

For instance, if your high school offers classes in metal fabrication or welding, take them. And don’t sleep during your math and science classes because that knowledge will be crucial to your welding career.

Here's why:

When working as a welder, you will use geometry and algebra as you measure and calculate on the job. And your science will give you insight into how welding works.

School's important, kids.

Get a welder’s certificate or degree

Your next step is to get a welder’s certificate or a degree.

Let’s take a look at both.

You can get a certificate from a welding certificate program in 6 to 18 months. The classes are in person, and you will learn everything you need to know when working in the field. The prices vary, but you can expect to pay $3,500 to $20,000 for the certificate.

On the other hand:

If you would rather get a degree, you can spend two years working toward a welding technology associates degree. You’ll pay a little more for this type of education with costs ranging from $6,000 to $55,000.

And if you’re an overachiever, you can go to school for four years to earn a welding engineering bachelor’s degree.

- - - Did You Know? - - - 

The military always needs welders, and contracting companies supply them. If you want to work with the military, you can. And you may even end up working in another country! (DESIGNER_END)

Become an apprentice

Becoming an apprentice isn’t a requirement when you want to learn to weld, but it will give you a leg up when you begin applying for jobs.

Getting all the on-the-job-training that you can will not only make you a better welder, it could also result in a higher salary once you start looking for a welding job.

To find an apprenticeship, you have a couple of choices:

Some states offer welding apprenticeships, as do many companies who want to hire new welders on the job.

But your best bet is to do a little digging online.

Start by doing to the US Department of Labor’s apprenticeship.gov. There, you can enter your location, and then specify welder to perform a custom search for welding apprenticeships in your area.

If you don’t find any there, head on over to the Department of Labor’s other site, careeronestop.org and do the same thing. That site also lists welding apprenticeships.

Earn your certification

Your next step in the process is to earn your welding certificate. This will show potential employers that you know your way around a torch and arc.

There are several types of certificates you can earn, and most of them come from the American Welding Society (AWS).

Here are your choices:

person holding diploma

Image from Pexels

Certified Welder (CW)

You can take this examination without having to meet any requirements. You will pay $35 to take the exam, and you can take it at an AWS accredited testing facility.

Certified Welding Inspector (CWI)

To take this examination, you will need to meet certain requirements such as having received education and worked in the field. If you are a member of AWS, you will pay $850 to take the exam, but if you’re not, plan on shelling out $1,065 to take it.

- - - Did You Know? - - - 

Feel like taking a cruise? Go onboard as a welder, and you’ll get to travel in style. Cruise ships hire welders to stay onboard, and repair and weld pipes and other things as the ship cruises the ocean. Talk about job benefits!

Senior Certified Welding Inspector (SCWI)

You will also have to meet certain education and work experience requirements to take this exam. The charge is the same as above.

Certified Welding Educator (CWE)

If you want to become a certified welding educator, you need to complete the certified welding educator application form, hold a part-time or full-time job as a teacher in a classroom, have a valid welding certification, and provide a letter that recommends you as being able and qualified to teach.

Not only that:

You will pay $634 for this exam if you’re a member, and $850 if you’re not.

Certified Welding Sales Representative (CWSR)

You'll have to meet a few requirements to take this exam and pay a $275 fee if you’re a member and a $355 fee if you’re not.

How to Stay Safe When Welding

learn to weld: man welding bar

Image from Pexels

Are you ready to learn to weld?

If so, it’s time to take a look at the process. Welding is one of the highest paying blue collar jobs out there, but get this:

It doesn’t take a lot to become certified.

Here’s what you need to know.

- - - Did You Know? - - - 

If you love the rugged life, you can work as a welder on a pipeline. These welders typically work in places like Alaska and Canada. And some welding companies fly the welders back home for holidays and vacations.

​9 Tips to Stay Safe While Welding

Are you ready? Here they are:

1. Know your equipment

It’s important to understand how your welding machine operates to use it safely. Read the instruction manual and then refresh yourself with it every year or so. And if other people use the machine, make sure they have read it, too.

And if you lose the manual, contact the manufacturer or another one or search one out online.

2. Cover exposed skin

You’re working with flames and extreme heat, so it makes sense to cover any exposed skin to avoid becoming burned. In addition, avoid wearing clothing with open pockets or cuffs because sparks can fly in them and then smolder without you realizing it.

And for goodness sakes, don’t keep lighters or matches anywhere near you while you’re welding.

3. Wear the right gear

You must dress properly when welding to prevent accidents. Ideally, you need to wear safety gear such as a helmet, flame-resistant clothing, and gloves.

In the past, welders complained that welding jackets were too hot and cumbersome, but that’s no longer the case. Today’s manufacturers make lightweight clothing that is flame resistant that allows you to move freely while staying safe.

Gloves have come a long way, too. You can buy welding gloves that have ergonomically curved fingers specifically designed for welders.

learn to weld: person welding

Image by Emir Krasnić from Pixabay 

4. Select the right shoes

You need to protect your feet when welding because sparks can fly and burn them. That’s why you should always wear boots or high-top shoes made of leather.

If you wear the wrong kind of footwear, the sparks could land on them, and they will begin to smolder.

Ouch.

5. Ensure that you have fresh air

The last thing you need when you are trying to learn to weld is to breathe in toxic smoke and fumes.

To avoid this:

Make sure you set up an exhaust hood to clear away the shielding gasses and fumes. And know when you should use a respirator.a

6. Protect your eyes

If you weld without protecting your eyes, an arc flash could injure your eyes, causing you a lot of pain.

So get this:

Your helmet should have a filter shade to protect your face and eyes. And you should wear safety glasses, ear protection, and side shields underneath the helmet.

- - - Did You Know? - - - 

Some welders work at the bottom of the ocean’s floor. Underwater welders are in high demand and earn a higher salary than many other types of welders. If you attend an underwater diving school and have a welder certification, you can begin this lucrative career in the U.S. or other parts of the world.

7. Put on the right helmet

Because you'll need to react in a split second during an arc flash, you should invest in a high-quality auto-darkening helmet. These helmets sense the arc electromagnetically and offer protection for your eyes.

Be sure to buy a helmet that meets the ANSI standards.

8. Work in a neat environment

If you weld in an area that is full of clutter, it can lead to accidents.

Instead, clean the area and only keep what is necessary to do the job in it. Your tools and equipment should stay organized in a way that allows you to find them quickly and easily.

9. Use boom-mounted wire feeders

If you want to add efficiency, flexibility, comfort, and a touch of safety to your weld station, think about using boom-mounted wire feeders. These feeders rotate 360 degrees and can move up and down to create a 24 or 32-foot diameter workspace.

That's pretty important.

Now let’s talk about the one question you’ve surely have in the back of your mind:

Will robots take over and eliminate welder jobs in the future?

android

Photo by Matan Segev from Pexels

​A Word About Robots and Welding

For years people have speculated that robots are going to take over the workforce and leave people without jobs.

But the facts just don’t back that up.

In fact, the companies that use the most number of robots in their production lines are actually increasing the number of employees they have.

As it turns out:

Robots need humans to manage and maintain them, and experts say they don’t believe workplaces will run on robot power instead of humans anytime in the near future.

- - - Did You Know? - - - 

The idea of robots in manufacturing has been around a long time. General Motors was the first in history to use one. They called it the Unimate, and it has a motorized arm that weighed two tons.

​Are You Going to Learn to Weld?

man welding beside motorcycle

Photo by Min An from Pexels

Have you read enough that convinces you that when you learn to weld, you will gain a skill that makes you highly employable? While welders work blue collar jobs, they earn salaries that many white-collar employees and other professionals do.

But a welding job isn’t just a job.

Watch some of the videos in our article or talk to a welder you know: they love their jobs and wouldn’t dream of doing anything else.

Are you a welder, or do you want to learn to weld? Why not leave a comment below and start a conversation about this exciting topic?

Leave a Reply