Did you know some of the first examples of welding date all the way back to 3000 BCE? This ancient process involved hammering two pieces of metal together underneath tremendous heat.
However, welding as we know it today only came around in 1836, when an English chemist by the name of Edmund Davy discovered acetylene. This was a game-changer.
But what is welding? It’s a wide and wonderful industry with countless applications, so it’s only natural to feel overwhelmed with all the information out there.
That’s why we’ve put this handy guide together, so keep reading to learn everything you need to know about welding.
What Is Welding, and What Are the Fundamentals?
While welding may seem complicated, it’s actually rather simple. Though there are many methods and processes, it all boils down to a simple concept. Basically, welding is a method of fabrication that uses pressure, heat, or both, to fuse together two or more parts.
Though it’s most commonly used in metal and thermoplastics, we can also use it on wood.
Some materials and styles require very specific processes, and we even consider some materials “unweldable,” which is not a term you’ll find in a dictionary but is exceptionally useful in engineering terms.
There are two base components to welding. That is the base material, the two parts you’re joining, and the filler, which is the material you’ll add to form the joint. We’ll touch on the different filler materials in a moment.
For now, let’s look at why welding is such a useful technique for fabrication and construction.
The Benefits of Welding
There are plenty of advantages to welding, namely that it’s an incredibly fast method and is a process that is relatively economical, considering the costs associated are fairly low, though it can be expensive to initially get set up.
Some of the other benefits include:
- Excellent fusion
- A permanent weld
- Strength and durability
- Versatility and flexibility
- Can be used indoors and outdoors
- Joints look smooth and polished
- We can completely automate it
- It’s easy to add or change existing structures
When done well, welding will not only look excellent but will provide a long-lasting and exceptionally strong joint. In fact, if a part is going to break, it’s more likely to break away from the weld where there is no additional reinforcement.
Welding is a specialist job, and we must remember that. Without training and the right tools, it would be all too easy to injure yourself or damage your tools and materials.
So before we get into what you need to do the work, let’s look at what you need to stay safe:
- Safety goggles
- A welding helmet
- Specialist welding gloves
- A heat-resistant jacket
- Leatherworking shoes
Once you have all the safety equipment sorted out, you’re going to need to understand what a welder actually is.
What Is a Welder?
Now, a welder is usually the person doing the welding, but colloquially, you’ll find people referring to the tools as welders. The primary tool is a torch, which is what the welder will use to manipulate the metal and make the meld.
But it’s about more than that, since there are different torches and tools, and it’s not the only thing you’ll need for the job.
With that in mind, let’s look at some of the necessary equipment. The following are largely case-dependent, though the top materials are completely necessary:
- Welding torch
- Welding gun
- Chipping hammer (for slag)
- Wire brush
- Welding magnets
- Soapstone markers
- Charged electrode and wire feed
Certain tools, like the charged electrode and wire feed, will differ based on the different types of welding, so let’s look at what those entail.
Types of Welding
Different tasks will have different welding requirements. Some processes simply don’t form a strong enough weld for certain jobs. Others, like TIG welding, are complicated and not beginner-friendly.
If you want to understand what type of welding is going to be the most useful for your project, you’ll want to have a look at the top four here.
Shielded Metal Arc Welding
This particular process is one of the most commonly known and basic welding types. It’s also sometimes known as stick welding. This method involves using welding rods or sticks, made of a filler substance and flux.
These are also called electrodes.
Flux is a very important part of this, as it aids the welding process and protects the finished weld. It’s used widely in construction, field repair, mining and manufacturing, shipbuilding, and even aerospace.
Stick welds don’t always produce the highest quality products, however, since they can be prone to cracks, shallow penetration, and porosity. While they’re great for home-shop welders, they may not apply in all situations.
Gas Metal Arc Welding
The gas metal arc welding procedure, also known as Metal Inert Gas, or MIG welding, involves passing an electrode wire through a welding gun. But what is MIG welding, you ask?
Basically, the wire passing through the gun heats as it moves through the welding tool and towards the site. In order to protect the electrode, the welder will use shielding gas to protect the weld from any external and airborne contaminants.
This gas is most often carbon dioxide, but it can also be argon, helium, and even oxygen. This method works best on stainless steel, nickel, carbon steel, copper, and aluminum. Of the various welding methods, this is one of the most popular in the automotive and construction industries.
Gas Tungsten Arc Welding
This method of welding, otherwise known as Tungsten Inert Gas (TIG) welding, is often used to join non-ferrous, thin metals such as aluminum, lead, copper, and nickel. It’s frequently used in the manufacture of bicycles and airplanes.
TIG welding, unlike other forms of welding, produces a weld with a non-consumable tungsten electrode, though you still need an external gas source.
Where other methods pass a piece of metal through the gun, TIG welding requires the welder to feed the metal in by hand. There is also considerably more control over the arc coming from the gun, which is great for precision work but takes a lot more expertise and skill.
However, TIG welds are incredibly strong and worth the effort.
Flux-Cored Arc Welding
Flux-cored arc welding, like MIG welding, is based on a continuous wire feed method. That being said, flux-cored arc welding comprises two distinct techniques.
The first employs shielding gas, while the second relies on self-shielding chemicals created when fluxing agents disintegrate within the wire.
This particular method is brilliant for beginners since it’s easy to learn and is relatively inexpensive. It’s also ideal for welders working outdoors since windy conditions don’t affect the weld.
In most cases, the semi-automatic arc gives a high-speed weld while remaining portable, which means it’s great for accessibility on construction projects.
Choosing a Welding Type
Each welding time is useful in a variety of situations, so it’s important to consider what the most appropriate process is for each job. You’ll want to consider the following few factors:
- The type of material
- The thickness of the material
- The position of the weld
- The welder’s power source and energy needs
- Time constraints
- Working conditions
Once you’ve nailed down your factors, you’ll need to consult your tools to see what’s going to work best. And, when in doubt, it’s always better to speak to those who know best.
Types of Welding Joints
Depending on the work you’re doing and the kind of joint configuration you need, you’ll want to employ one of a few welding joints. The first and most common is the butt joint, where you place two pieces of metal together on the same plane, and weld each side.
The tee joint involved placing your materials at a 90-degree angle, forming a T shape. The corner joint, as the name implies, involves two corners meeting and forming an L shape.
The lap joint, which is used most widely for sheet metal, involves two pieces of metal laid on top of one another, in whatever configuration you need for the project. Finally, the edge joint, which withstands pressure and force better than any other, involves putting two surfaces together along the edge to ensure an even weld.
Types of Weld Styles
We can accomplish all the above joints with various weld styles, and some will suit certain materials better than others. Most weld styles will have a single application, but there are cases where they can be more versatile.
A fillet weld is basically a T-joint, but it would apply to lap joints too. A welder will use a fillet weld when they’re connecting flanges to pipes or reinforcing bolts that can’t bear a heavy load.
They’re also ideal for:
- Bracing connections
- Attaching cover plates
- Seaming and stitching welds
- Shear tabs
- The bases of columns
A groove weld is an opening between two joint parts which allows space for the metal to sit. After a fillet weld, these are the most common. In this process, we put beads or metal into a groove where two parts will be joined.
You’ll get a variety of different weld shapes, including beveled edges, V shapes, J shapes, and U shapes.
A surface weld involves one or more strings or beads of metal that you place on a flat, unbroken surface if you want to alter its dimensions.
This technique is great for adding a strong and resistant layer of metal to various objects’ surfaces and edges. It’s a great, cost-effective way to keep machinery, tools, and equipment in good working order.
A plug weld, or a Rosette weld, is when two metals are fused together via small, circular holes. This usually happens on two overlapping materials. This is a great alternative for welders who have limited access to a specific area.
It’s often used instead of spot welding during DIY vehicle restorations. Rally car builders frequently used this technique, since a plug weld can often be stronger than the original welds.
We also call this technique resistance welding, and you’ll achieve it by applying heat and pressure to an area through an electric current. This joins two or more sheets together.
It works through the electric current (which comes into contact with the alloys and electrodes on the surface) and generates heat, which passes through certain materials.
These are easy and inexpensive to do, which makes them a popular choice for plenty of industries, including the following:
- Metal furnishings
Flash welding is a resistance welding technique that does not require the use of filler metals. Here you will apply a current, which produces resistance between the two surfaces you’re trying to connect.
This electric current flows through and melts the material, which, in turn, bonds the two substances.
Practical Applications for Welding
Welding is widely used in a variety of industries and fabrication processes. Essentially, where there is manufacturing, there is very likely to be welding. Let’s look at some examples:
- Defense industries
- Pipeline and railway laying
- Nuclear installations
- Building physical structures
- Building spacecraft
These are just a few of the examples, and of course, we’ve barely touched on the kind of welding you can do at home. Though its largely used in professional construction industries, welding has a broad scope, which means you can experiment and play, even at home.
However, if you’re looking for something on a bigger scale, we’d recommend working with a professional service.
Precision and Quality for All
So if someone were to ask you, “what is welding?” you could give them an informed and helpful answer. It’s a fascinating process and one that yields incredible results.
But welding can certainly be a difficult and costly enterprise to get into, especially when you consider everything you need to learn to do it. So why not leave it up to the professionals who can guarantee world-class quality and ultimate precision?
Get in touch with us today and let’s see what we can help you build.