Starting a welding project the first time
One of the things I remember on one of my first welding projects I was attempting was the fact that I was nervous about making a mistake. I discovered soon into the project, that I had not ordered enough material...or so I thought. I went back over the figures and all the math seemed to add up. However, after the second or third time through, I realized that I had figured my material based off of running feet, not off how many TOTAL pieces I could get out of a single piece. I had not taken into account that the "ends" of the material would be wasted and could not be used. It was a that time, I realized that with each cut, a little bit of metal is lost in each cut as well. I had premarked all the pieces for a cut, and was ready to dive right into cutting. What I failed to take into account with my measurements was the actual kerf of the blade. With each pass, each piece was cut slightly shorter than the rest. I ended up with just a little difference in each piece.
A few more mistakes were made, mostly due to nerves, a miscut here or a miscut there, and it all added up to the simple fact, that I had to go and retrieve more metal from the metal distributor. And then I had to make another trip.
Another lesson I learned was NOT to weld all the components solid together as I went. As I assembled the components, I fully welded each piece as I came to it, instead of lightly tacking the material. By the time all the stresses from each part slightly warping entered the picture, the part would not fit. Each angle was slightly off. If I had waited to just tack everything in place, and then restrain each part with a clamp, I would have had an easy go of it. But, I had to go back and cut the welds apart and reweld the whole assembly to a trued part. I remember vividly having to grind each "over welded" part back down and then "tacking" each piece, and rechecking the dimensional and angle after being tacked. Each part seemed to go a little better.
I learned a key lesson on that first project, that has helped me ever since whether it's an aluminum frame for a dog box, or for a close tolerance assembly for a sawmill. That lesson is to plan ahead, and exercise extreme patience. Mistakes will be made. Mistakes will cost money as well. But careful planning, and trying to visualize each step before you do it, will give you more confidence before proceeding. The old adage "measure twice, and cut once" applies in welding just as it does in carpentry. First projects typically will run over budget just on cutting mistakes alone. Planning to have extra funds available will not hurt. Patience is 100% necessary. Getting in a hurry is a ready made trigger for a mistake. Even when the first mistake is eventually made, patience will work to your favor.