WELDING is often put in the “too-hard” basket by at-home do-it-yourselfers… better to find another way of building what’s necessary, or, if it can’t be done another way, better to buy in the skill.
But, for anybody willing to take the leap and spend a little money purchasing equipment, the rewards are significant, and on-going. Once you gain confidence, you will be amazed at how many welding jobs around your home you can find.
Unlike other DIY skills, it sometimes make good sense to bite off more than you can chew when you’re starting out with a welder.
It’s like cooking. Nobody learnt to cook without burning toast a few times. The trick is to identify where you can afford to mess up, and where you can’t.
It’s also important to begin with equipment that gives the operator a little leeway, and as much help as possible.
MIG welders are generally regarded as a good option for beginners and a little research reading some MIG welder reviews will pay off.
Even as a beginner, you can tackle some pretty big jobs.
Read a lot before you begin, and start on the “cosmetics”, rather than the structural parts of the job.
Begin by welding hasps, and bolts to a gate, or door, for instance.
Once you have gained a little confidence, move onto the construction of parts of the project that need to be strong, but are not integral to the main structure – gates, for instance.
If you’re cutting mitres to make perfect 90 degree corners, it’s the perfect job on which to learn how to “backbone” the metal with which you’re making the gate.
It’s instinctive to check the corners are square, and the whole gate is “in plumb”, but it’s also important to check that the gate is “true” along the span as well.
If you don’t provide a stiff spine for the material, and weld one side before the other, you will end up with a warped gate that fits no opening and is good for nothing.
Clamp two, even three pieces of the pipe, angle or box steel being used to manufacture the gate to the back of the pieces you want to join.
Be sure to clamp them along the full length of steel. Heat travels through conductive material and it is not enough to protect only half the piece of steel being super-heated by the welding process.
With the clamps in place, go ahead and weld the join. Practice will make perfect, but, right from the outset, your goal should be to weld the entire join in one, unbroken bead, or, if the weld is too long, two or three unbroken beads.
Wait until the steel is touch-cool before removing the clamps, turn it over and repeat the process.
Don’t be tempted to shortcut by doing away with the clamps on the reverse side… you will regret it if you do.
When all four corners have been welded front and back, it’s time to weld the inside corners. This is the easy part, and is the pay-off for the hard work you have done so far to protect against warping.
Although the risk of the metal warping during this phase of construction is less than in the early stages, it is still wise to brace the area around the welding site.
Clamp short pieces across the angle, as close as is practical to the intended weld.
With the welding done, it’s time to clean up and protect your work.
Using an angle grinder, and being sure to check first that the grinding disk is spinning away from you, bring your welds and the area around them so they are perfectly flat and smooth.
You may need to re-weld small areas if your first welds were not perfect.
Use a spray-on galvanising paint to protect against rust.
If you’ve done a good job of checking for squareness and preventing warp, you will have a perfect gate, but, just as importantly, a perfect brace for all the other gates you need to manufacture for that project.
Keep “welding hasps and hinges”, then “gates and hooks” until you are confident your welding produces a bead that has melted into each of the bits of steel you want to join.
Then you’re ready to tackle the structural stuff!