Types of Welders

I have written before about 13skills.com in a previous post.  I will update the blog when I have something that I am working on that fits with in here.  In this case, I am learning more about welding so I have some idea of what is going on when I learn how to weld.  In this case, I thought I would start with looking at what types of welders there are.

A welder works by running enough electric current through the metal being welded that it melts together.  Most welders also add metal to the weld.  However, there are different ways they can do that.  One other thing they have in common is that the weld needs to be shielded from air to make a stronger weld.  There are different ways to do that also.

The most basic is a stick welder.  It works by attaching a clamp to what you are welding, then holding an electrode in another clamp, and when you touch the electrode to the metal, the circuit is complete and the metal and electrode melt and bond together.

The drawback for automotive use is that it requires thicker material, in isn’t able to weld sheet metal.  The other drawback is that going back to the shielding gas, in this case it comes from a coating on the electrode that turns to a gas when the electrode is used.  It doesn’t make for as clean of a weld.  There is nothing wrong with the strength, but it does look a little messy.

The next type is a wire welder, also known as a MIG, or Metal Inert Gas welder.  Actually they are more accurately known as Gas Metal Arc Welding (GMAW), but most people would recognize them as MIG or wire welders.

They use a shielding gas to keep the weld clean and strong, and that gives a cleaner weld.  They are also supposed to be the easiest type to learn, so that is a plus in this case.

There is a variant that uses flux core wire rather than shielding gas.  That uses a flux in the wire that turns to a gas when the welder is in use, similar to a stick welder.  The advantage to that is if you are outside when it is windy you can still get a good weld,  The drawbacks are the same as a stick welder, with welds that need to be cleaned up after you are done if you are concerned with their appearance.

The third type of welder is a TIG welder.  Once again, it is more properly called Gas Tungsten Arc Welding (GTAW), but much more commonly known as TIG.  With wire and stick welding, the electrode is used up as you weld.  With TIG welding, a carbide tip is used to transfer the current and it is not used up.  Instead, you use a rod that is melted with the material being welded.

The advantage is flexibility, you can weld just about any type of metal.  The drawbacks are that they are more expensive, take more skill and are slower.

Since I am probably going to be welding a variety of thicknesses of metal, and have not welded before, it seems a MIG welder is the best place to start.

I know I can learn to weld without owning a welder, but I think it would be good to have one to be able to practice with, otherwise it really isn’t developing much of a skill if I am not at least a little proficient with it.  And the only way to do that is to practice.

Since I have a limited budget, I will probably look for a name brand welder used instead of new.  I also know I would like one that has the ability to be set to any speed and amperage, rather than one that you can only set to to set stops along the way.  That way if I need it set to 2.5 to make it work better, I can, rather than setting it to 2 or 3 and trying to make it work.


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