Our kin has been sticking pieces of metal together using forms of welding for thousands of years. But since the 19th century, many different techniques have been developed that have their own advantages and disadvantages over each other.
Here, we explore what is actually meant by welding and discuss which types are the best for what purpose. We'll also introduce you a couple of artists who are doing some interesting work using welding.
What is welding, and why it is done?
Welding is a fabrication process that uses high temperatures to melt and fuse parts together. However, it should be noted that pressure can also be used to aid the process or be used exclusively to produce a weld.
According to brighthubengineering.com, "the process of welding doesn't merely bond the two pieces together as in brazing and soldering, instead, it causes the metallic structures of the two pieces to join together and become one through the use of extreme heat and sometimes the addition of other metals or gases."
It is usually distinguished from lower temperature metal fusing techniques like brazing or soldering, which do not usually melt the base metal.
Welding usually also involves the use of something called a filler material, or a consumable. This, as the name suggests, is used to provide a "filler" or pool of molten material that helps facilitate the formation of a strong link between the base metals.
Most welding processes will also require some form of shielding to protect both the main components and filler from being oxidized during the process.
Welding can be performed using various energy sources. Examples include, a gas flame (powered by a chemical like acetylene), an electric arc (electrical), laser, an electron beam, friction, and ultrasound. There are various welding techniques that fit open air, underwater, and even space settings.
What are the types of welding?
Welding has been used in metallurgy for millennia. Although, forge welding, in which blacksmiths join iron and steel by heating and hammering was the only viable technique for a while. This all changed in the 19th century when more advanced methods like arc-welding and oxyfuel welding were developed.
Welding equipment review platform Welder Station lists some of the most common welding processes as:
- MIG Welding - Gas Metal Arc Welding (GMAW)
- TIG Welding - Gas Tungsten Arc Welding (GTAW)
- Stick Welding - Shielded Metal Arc Welding (SMAW)
- Flux Welding - Cored Arc Welding (FCAW)
- Energy Beam Welding (EBW)
- Atomic Hydrogen Welding (AHW)
- Gas Tungsten-Arc Welding
- Plasma Arc Welding
What are the different types of welding machines?
There are quite a few different types of welding machines knocking around. These machines generate heat that melts metal parts so they can be joined. However, there isn't a single welding machine that is suitable for all welding purposes.
Larger welding machines tend to be found in industrial sites like factories, while smaller ones are more ideal for domestic or amateur purposes.
According to Welding Hub, there are five main types of welding machines. These are:
- Mig (metal inert gas) welding machines.
- Thyristor Control Mig welding machines.
- Tig welding machines.
- Spot welding machines.
- Shielded metal arc welding machines.
MIG welding machines are some of the best around for most types of welding purposes whether at home or in a factory. They tend to be able to handle various metals including mild steel, stainless steel, and even aluminum.
MIG welding is an arc welding process where a continuous solid wire electrode is fed through a welding gun into the weld pool, joining the two base materials together. A shielding gas sent through the welding gun protects the weld pool from contamination.
MIG welding is usually pretty fast and provides a long arc time even when the electrodes are not fully charged.
Thyristor Type MIG welding machines are generally best for fixing objects or mounting them on a suitable surface. These machines tend to be of good quality and will last a very long time.
Such welding machines produce a small amount of spark, which makes them easy to control. These machines are best suited for welding solid core and flux materials. They can handle mild steel, low carbon steel, alloy steel, etc.
TIG welding machines are more specialized than the others and provide a clean and pure weld without splatter, sparks, or fumes. These machines can handle stainless steel, brass, gold, magnesium, aluminum, copper, and nickel alloys.
TIG welding machines are generally not suitable for fieldwork but are great for repairing damaging parts.
Spot welding machines tend to be used to join overlaps between things like sheets of steel. To do this, metal sheets are usually protected using a pair of electrodes by passing a current through them.
Spot welders have many great advantages over others like effective power utilization, high manufacture rates, simple automation, etc. These kinds of welding machines tend to be most commonly found in the motor vehicle industry. They are also generally a lot cheaper than their alternatives.
Shielded metal arc welding, also known as stick welding, uses an electric current flowing from a gap between metal and welding stick. In this type of welding, electric current is used to create an arc between the base material and the filler rod (also called an electrode rod). The filler rod is covered with a flux that prevents oxidation and contamination by producing carbon dioxide gas during the welding process.
What is the strongest type of weld?
To answer this question is not as simple as it may first appear. The best weld depends on the base material in question and its intended use. From TIG to plasma arc welding, each technique has its own unique advantages and disadvantages over the others.
According to Crom Weld, the strongest type of weld could be stick welding: "if pure strength that counts and the thickness of the material that can be welded, then stick welding is the winner. As we said, the stick method is the only one capable of welding cast iron, additionally, it also works on dirty materials and under harsh weather conditions."
But that doesn't necessarily mean stick welding is the best choice for all scenarios. MIG can be applied to a wider selection of metals of varying thickness, while TIG welding produces the highest quality welds, especially when it comes to thin metals."
It also depends on the metal you wish to weld. For example, welding aluminum can be tricky as it is a fairly soft metal which can't cope with too much heat. For this reason, there are only two viable welding techniques that can be used with aluminum, MIG welding and TIG welding.
Of these two techniques, TIG welding is widely considered to be the go to technique for best results.
Stainless steel welding, on the other hand, is different, as it's a much beefier metal when compared to aluminum. For this reason, it can take a lot more punishment before compromising its strength. But, which welding technique provides the strongest weld depends on the thickness of the material.
MIG welding is generally considered to be the best technique for most steel applications. When it comes to thicker steel sheets, many bow down before the superiority of stick and flux welding.
If the steel is mild and stainless, TIG welding and MIG welding can be used without any real issue.
How do you choose the right welding gloves?
Apart from a decent quality welding mask and welding machine, another essential piece of welding gear are the gloves. As their job is to protect your precious yet fragile human hands from potentially serious burns, choosing a good quality pair is absolutely essential.
But there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to welding gloves. Factors like the type of welding you'll be using them for and how much dexterity you're going to need are all considerations.
The type of welding you'll be using will produce different amounts of sparks and other hazards. MIG welding, for example, tends to produce a lot of sparks that need to be shielded against and cleaned up afterward.
Gloves also come in a variety of materials too. For most users, leather is the most preferred kind as it is durable, non-conductive, and is great at dissipating heat.
But leather can be made from various types of animal skins. Some common examples include:
- Goatskin - This kind of leather offers unparalleled abrasion and tensile strength while remaining soft and supple. This is ideal for TIG welding where you need the maximum amount of dexterity possible.
- Horsehide - Horsehide is tough a durable, yet remain comfortable. While less popular, as leather gloves go, it is also great for TIG welding.
- Pigskin - Pig leather is tough and performs very well in wet and oily work environments. This kind of leather is great for TIG, MIG, and stick welding, among others.
- Cowhide - Cow leather is one of the most common kinds of leather. It is very durable and comfortable and is usually preferred for stick and MIG welding.
- Deerskin - A soft and flexible leather, the freedom of movement it provides makes it another great choice for TIG welding.
- Elkskin - Elk leather tends to not harden as quickly as cowhide when exposed to heat. Elkskin is another great choice for MIG welding due to the high amount of heat it gives off.
What is the best welder for a beginner?
If you are new to the world of welding, some techniques are much easier to pick up than others. MIG welding, for example, is widely considered to be the easiest to pick up and run with. But why?
MIG welding has a high adjustability of power output. It also produces very clean welds compared to most other techniques. It is also great as it is usually pretty quick, a feature loved by beginners and masters alike.
Other techniques also exist if your budget allows. You could consider getting yourself something called a hybrid welder. This lets you try multiple techniques with one tool. Yet despite this, many practicing welders endorse the simplicity and reliability of MIG welding for learning the ropes.
What non-industrial things can welding be used for?
While welding is of great utility in many industries around the world, it can be used for other things too. One example is in the world of art.
If you ever watched the timeless classic animated film, The Iron Giant, Dean McCoppin did just that.
Tracing our steps back into real world, many artists are using techniques mentioned above to produce magnificent works of art. Of those artists out there who use welding to produce their work, one interesting example is Chain Breaker Welding.
This chap uses old bike chains to produce wonderful aesthetically pleasing sculptures. You should really check out his work on Instagram.
Another great welding artist is David Madero. This chap creates stunning works of art using plasma cutters and spot welding techniques.
View this post on Instagram
I just finished this 26×19 bike chain and sprocket tree commission today. I went back to my old style of placing sprockets on both sides of the chain per the client's request. I placed the darker sprockets behind and shinier ones in front to add some depth to the piece. This piece is destined for @thehandlebardc along the Racoon Trail in Dallas Center, Iowa. I had the pleasure of riding part of the Racoon Trail last year on RAGBRAI between Jefferson and Cooper. The 71 mile ride to Jefferson just wasn't enough riding for me that day. If you would like a custom piece if art for your bar, restaurant, home, office, or wherever, I am open for commissions! Just send me a message. I would love to make some art for you!
They are but two of the many artists around the world creating interesting work using the timeless technique of welding.