Puddle recognition - The first step to welding successfully
At the beginning, when you are first learning to weld, most major problems are associated with problems with puddle recognition. Some problems can be associated with too light or dark of a shade while welding. Using an autodarkening helmet can help reduce learning time for this reason.
When welding MIG, the process becomes so automatic that most people only see the welding arc and never see the puddle forming underneath and to the rear of the weld. Additionally the large shielding gas nozzles usually blocks the view unless you are leaning into the puddle. This factor alone makes it harder for many welders that have learned on MIG to transfer their skills to other welding disciplines.
For stick welding the puddle is hard to define as you are having to look through the bright arc and try to separate the molten slag from the actual puddle itself. While weaving, the puddle can come in and out of focus as well.
In TIG, it is generally fairly easy, but again you have issues with arc cone which usually covers much of the weld puddle. But even in TIG the nozzle can cover the weld making it difficult to see.
To acquire the puddle in MIG, you should lean into your weld, and slow down your weld. Look behind the point where the MIG wire is breaking off. The bulk of the puddle will trail the weld and the wire will usually be toward the front of the puddle. For stick the puddle will form right under the welding rod, and trail behind. A good view can be obtained by concentrating on the puddle color. Slag will appear similar, but the slag will swirl around the back of the weld and will have darker streaks that run through it. The slag will begin to cool quickly and turn a darker color more rapidly. While welding TIG, the front edge of the puddle is generally very easy to see, but the full extent of the puddle may not be seen. You’ll need to lean into the front edge of the weld. The key in seeing the puddle in all the processes is looking past the arc. Don’t focus on it. The arc of course is important, but more important is what is happening to the puddle. Think of the time learning to drive where you were tempted to take your eyes off the road to focus on other important matters, but the instructor telling you to maintain your focus on the road. It’s a delicate balance, but that is why practice is important to keep the puddle in view at all times.