In the Shop
As a farm machinery mechanic and writer, Dan brings a hands-on approach that only a pro can muster. Along with his In the Shop blog, Dan writes a column by the same name as well as the Shop Series for Farm Journal magazine. Always providing practical information, he is a master at tackling technical topics and making them easy for all of our readers to understand. He and his wife, Becky, live near Bouton, Iowa.
In The Shop: More Welding Stuff
Nov 09, 2011
I've been writing about welding tricks and techniques in the past few blogs, and want to clarify something: I'm not a great welder. I'm adequate, I'm good at times, but nobody will ever mistake me for a professional welder. I was reminded of that when talking with my friend Ed the other day, when he lamented that he can never get his welds to turn out as good as he would like them.
I'm sometimes as frustrated as Ed, but have learned several strategies that help me create adequate and occasionally nice welds. I've learned to be patient, take my time to grind away paint and rust, and to make certain I have the best ground connection possible to the pieces I'm welding. But sometimes, before I get to those critical steps, if I have time I'll spent a few minutes practicing. I'll dig through the scrap iron pile and find pieces of steel the same thickness as what I'm going to weld, and I'll experiment with various amperage settings and other variables. That way I've already burned through or "chicken-crapped" all over the practice pieces and have a good idea how to set the welder for the "real thing."
Sometimes I'll use my lunch hour to play with either my stick welder or the shop's MIG welder. I'll pillage the scrap iron pile for an assortment of metal, then spend time welding chunks of thin metal to pieces of thick metal, doing vertical welds, and playing with various amperage settings. Just to see what does and doesn't work. Too often, the only time we weld is when we "have to," and for many of us, we don't weld often enough to get truly good at it. The only way to get good is to spend time doing it, without the pressure of "gotta get it done right away" hanging over our shoulder.
Having said all that, there are some people who have a knack for working/welding metal. They can tell by listening if an arc is "right," or if it's too hot or too cold or the ground connection isn't right. Just like some people have a way with working with wood. Heck, even if I used the same fancy woodworking tools that Norm on "This Old House" television show uses, I could never get the cuts and joints he does when he builds furniture. He just has a "feel" for wood, just like some guys have a "feel" for working with metal.
But I can bang 2x4s together good enough to make shelves in my garage, and I can melt metal good enough to repair farm equipment. Thank goodness for thick enamel paint.