How to learn to weld by yourself. Part 8

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Practice makes perfect

Videos, tutors, books, pamphlets and even welding classes are not a full substitute for actually getting out and welding in the shop. Lincoln and some other companies have come out with “virtual” welders. These virtual welders are supposed to teach you how to weld without welding. Having tried using one of these myself, after they came out to find out what all the hub-bub was about, I can say that it is still a far cry from being able to weld. While it can offer you good insight into technique and chart data for you, it does not give you an accurate feel of what it is like to weld. It is clumsy, clunky and delayed in reaction. So, don’t worry if you don’t have a VR welder to learn on. You don’t need one. You simply need a welder and a place to weld with a bit of scrap material and some free time to learn to weld.

Practice, practice practice. Don’t give up. Try to problem solve as you weld. Don’t be afraid to stop and go over your weld with a magnifying glass if necessary. Use the texts and materials to compare. You don’t need to buy a lot of metal to weld on. Start laying welding beads in a piece of angle iron cut to about 6-10” long. Weld one on top of the other. Lap them from side to side, on top of each other, starting in the bottom of the “V”. This will help you develop consistency. As you progress, change the position of the angle iron and gradually incline it to vertical as you weld different beads. Then weld some beads horizontal before turning it upside down to weld overhead.

You can also create a welding pad from a piece of 6 or 8” square plate, running bead after bead, turning 90 degrees after a complete course of beads has been run all the way across. But in my opinion, this is less effective than angle iron. As a final way to judge, cut the angle iron in half running inline with the welds, and then cut each “halved” section at a 90 degree angle into little 1 or 2 inch pieces. You’ll be able to see any voids, slag, or other inclusions in the metal this way. The goal is to be completely free of any.