Learning on the fast track: Budget money for practice material
As a member of the technical support team at Everlast, it seems that every day or so I get a call from a guy learning to weld, just having bought one of our units. Typically he will be desperately looking for some advice on some new way to be an instant welder, after reading all the info he can scarf up and watching videos on line until he feels he should be able to weld competently upon the first arc strike. Of course, upon getting less than spectacular results, I receive a call.
One of the first things I try to assess is the metal that they are working with. More often than not, I hear from them that they have a couple of pieces of rebar, some old bed rails or some old exhaust tubing they got from a muffler shop. To say the least, most times it’s less than less than ideal material. As a professional, it makes me cringe, but I do understand the dilemma. You scrap to save money for a newwelder purchase, and when you get it, you have nothing left for metal. Welding is an expensive hobby. Metal prices have been rapidly going up, and where it will stop, is any one’s guess. But having sufficient quantities of quality metal to begin practice on is important. It’s not necessary to purchase full sheets of metal to practice on, but it does require sufficient amounts to be able to repeat the same weld over and over. My recommendation is to go and purchase flat bar stock from a local steel supplier. Two inch wide pieces in at least 1/8” and ¼” thicknesses are quite adequate. These pieces can be cut up into short 4”-6” pieces and can be arranged in a variety of positions and joint types. A full 20 foot stick can yield lots of experience. The fresh, new steel relatively free of rust will guarantee a more enjoyable learning experience. Quarter inch thick pieces can be beveled as well so that open root welds can be practiced.
Someone new to welding may not realize that there is likely a steel supply house within driving distance to them most places in the United States. Large home stores, and farm supply stores often have short pieces of bar stock or small pieces of plate steel. Unfortunately these prices are the very things that drive people to experiment welding on pieces of rusted, or painted junk steel. Typically, you will find that a full piece of steel, aluminum, or stainless costs as much to buy as does the tiny pre-cut pieces in the local hardware chain. Buying from the steel supplier can be a daunting experience the first time, learning the jargon and short hand used at a fast moving pace, but it will save money in the pocket book. It will also help reduce early learning stresses by offering ideal working, and practice conditions. So if the prices of steel at the local supply house are making you wish you had saved money and looked around for a used welder, then go to the phone book and find you a good local steel supply house.