Minimalist welding skill and equipment acquisition

What skills to learn, what tools to get
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Minimalist welding skill and equipment acquisition

Post by RusticBohemian »

I'm interested in learning to weld, with an eye toward eventually making a bit of money off of it.

I'm looking for an 80/20 approach to learning enough to be effective in what I want to do and acquiring the minimum amount of equipment to be safe/effective.

I'm not particularly interested in welding pipes for oil/gas, etc. I'm interested in making furniture, railings, gates, etc.

I plan to go into my local high-end fabrication business, which does exactly the type of work I'm interested in, and asking if they can make suggestions for me.

But beyond that, I've considered two options:

1) Go to my local community college, and take the two non-credit courses they offer

- (WLDG 1009) will introduce you to oxyacetylene and arc welding techniques. Safety is an important focus of this class.

- (WLDG 1043) introduces the student to MIG, TIG, and flux-cored welding processes.

2) Look around for low-end welding businesses and try to get a job there to learn enough welding.

Do I have other options? Any suggestions?

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Re: Minimalist welding skill and equipment acquisition

Post by Kriegsspiel »

Do high schools or tech schools have shop class? Maybe find out who the teacher is and have them tutor you directly, instead of paying more to take a standardized class. Or put an ad online asking for a welding tutor.

Gilberto de Piento
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Re: Minimalist welding skill and equipment acquisition

Post by Gilberto de Piento »

I think your ideas are good, especially if you can get someone else to essentially pay for your education. You could also look for a makerspace nearby, they often have welders and lessons.

If none of the other ideas work and you have a place to do it that you won't burn down you could also buy a cheap welder and give it a try. I learned on a used flux core mig welder. I never got enough experience to get good at it but I can weld steel and it isn't too ugly.

George the original one
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Re: Minimalist welding skill and equipment acquisition

Post by George the original one »

The welding classes will give you experience in the broadest range, I think, which will then allow you to choose equipment based on what you like & want to use.

A friend and I taught ourselves with a tank of gas & MIG welder & solar welding mask & welding gloves. Neither of us are very adept at it unless the metal is shiny new and then we're pretty decent. We are both, however, very skilled with grinders and can undo what doesn't get done right.

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Re: Minimalist welding skill and equipment acquis

Post by Sclass »

Really good tips here on how to learn. I acquired my welding skills much this way. No class except a two hour lab in my engineering shop in college on oxyacetylene.

Looking back it was like @Gilberto or @GTOO’s experience.

I watched people weld (actually I didn’t or I’d be blind) from a distance. I think I just hung around while friends welded up trailers, engine mounts, motorcycle frames etc. I got the general idea of what was going on. Basically fusing one piece of metal to another with minimal filler material.

Then one day I went down to Harbor Freight and bought their cheapest stick welder. It was like $50 for everything. Equivalent setups (mask, welder, gloves, sticks) can be had for less now. One afternoon I tacked a bunch of scrap steel together with the set. You figure out what works and what doesn’ not to burn yourself. It was pretty scary but that’s the rub. You can learn a lot if you are brave and stupid if you don’t kill yourself.

In an hour I knew how to weld poorly. $50 + audacity. No lessons. This was thirty years ago. I was young, broke and bold.

Then I watched some VHS tapes on MIG, TIG and arc for trade schools. Got them at my local library. I got a used TIG welder for $2000. Now a similar kit costs $200 online. Thanks China.

Anyhow I stumbled my way through and welded a few scraps together. I think it took one tank of Shield gas 20cf or so to get good enough to weld custom exhaust systems for my cars and motorcycles from there. About two hours of practice. I did a few custom exhaust headers for friends too. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t pretty and I cannot make money doing this. But my stuff was solid and didn’t leak.

Later down the line a buddy showed me how to MIG weld during a bike build project. After gas and TIG I literally picked up his MIG gun and laid down beads in three minutes. It was easy. Again, not aircraft quality but solid farm grade welding.

Now we have cheap equipment on Amazon from China. YouTube. It’s a lot easier to jump in now. I kind of laugh when people say you need a class. Depends on how dumb, brave, resilient to failure, attentive to details, etc. you are.

A little chutzpah goes a long way. You just have to be brave enough to pick up the torch, turn on the gas and hit the power. The rest is details and practice.

I recently gave all my equipment away during a move. I looked at it and realized it was too heavy to pack and cheap to replace given the influx of Chinese welding gear. I only went through three tanks of shield gas so I’m hardly an experienced welder.

Sticking two pieces of metal together is actually easy. Making it strong is the next level. Then making it pretty enough to sell is yet another.

I gave away all my stuff because I used it infrequently. I also remember a fab mentor telling me that you should always let somebody else weld for you “Sclass have you ever met an old welder?” I lost interest after I learned how precious my lungs are.

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Re: Minimalist welding skill and equipment acquisition

Post by aptruncata »

It's a great idea.

Back couple years ago, I needed to spot weld a bull bar on our Suzuki samurai and some spot welding on the exhaust.
The mobil welders quoted $150 for the exhaust and for the bull bar, it was about $200 for 4 sections of 3" welds.

Decided to pickup a Hobart handler 140 and first made the welding cart from abandoned shopping cart then went on to spot weld the exhaust and the bull bar and have the welder to keep for other minor projects. I'd pickup a good helmet and watch for the's pretty toxic.

good luck.

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Re: Minimalist welding skill and equipment acquisition

Post by ducknald_don »

@aptruncata A spot welder is generally used for welding two pieces of sheet metal together. I don't think that is what you are doing.

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Re: Minimalist welding skill and equipment acquisition

Post by aptruncata »

ducknald_don wrote:
Tue Dec 29, 2020 7:08 am
@aptruncata A spot welder is generally used for welding two pieces of sheet metal together. I don't think that is what you are doing.
Thanks for the correction. Meant to weld a small section or a spot; not spot welder or spot weld.

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