So one of the questions that I get asked over and over again is this: “How do you join steel tubing”. Since it’s round, welding two pieces of pipe might seem like it would be super difficult to weld – Well I’m here to break that myth and tell you: it’s not. I’ll show you how, with the right method, of course, it can be super easy to join the steel tube.
When joining steel tubing first, make sure that the two ends are square and beveled. Do this with a chop saw and a bench grinder. Once the edges are cleaned, line up the two pieces of the tube within a good size of angle iron and clamp down. This will ensure your pipe is square and ready to weld.
Now there are two ways you can finish your steel tube: with a nice weld or nice and clean like the steel tube is one solid piece. I like to have my pipe looking clean and fresh personally, but if you want to drop a nice weld, check out this article and it will show you how to set beautiful dime welds with a MIG welder.
Now, we are going to cover, step by step exactly how to join these two pieces of tubing (keep in mind this principle works with steel tubing too!) and I’ll have some links in the article – that way you know exactly what equipment I am using and recommend.
So, let’s get busy and weld some pipe!
Preparation Is Key
When welding and joining steel tubing the biggest mistake I see anyone make is failing to prepare their joints. Could you not bevel the edges and still weld together two pieces of pipe? Sure, and you can also repair your bath tile with duct tape too.
What I’m saying is, not preparing your pipe ends is just a bad idea. You need the ends to line up square and give you some space for filler metal. So how exactly do you do that? Glad you asked!
Square Your Chop Saw
This is a really effective way to ensure your cuts are made a square (90 degrees)
Use a framing square
And line it up flat against the backstop of your chop saw
This will ensure your saw is a true 90 degrees and your cut is true.
Effectively Bevel Your Tubing
Now that your cut is true, lets bevel the tube to accept a weld.
You’ll want to use a bench grinder and just gently rotate your pipe against the abrasive edge at a 45-degree angle.
The result will be a smooth edge.
Now that you’ve prepped your material, you are ready to set up for the weld.
Oh, make sure that you have prepared both ends of your steel tube!
Welding Together Steel Tubing
Have you ever heard the old saying “There are many ways to skin a cat?” Yes, I know it’s a terrible saying but the thought behind it is this: you can do a task correctly in more than one way. It’s the same with welding, and specifically welding pipe. I like the method I am going to show you, but experiment, you might find another method suits you better.
What your going to do here is set up a jig. This one is not overly complicated. In fact, it’s just a piece of thick angle iron set atop two magnets. I like using ½” angle that I have lying around the shop. It ensuring that my pipe is level and not rolling off my work table.
Here is a good picture of the setup:
Make sure you have some good clamps to hold your pipe in place. I like these clamps a lot – they effectively lock the pipe in place to the angle iron because of the “X” in place at the bottom of the clamp.
So when everything is set up, it’s going to look like this:
There are a few ways you can weld your pipe (or steel tubing) together, MIG, TIG or Stick welding. Keep in mind that each process has it’s pro’s and con’s but in this article, we are going to talk about TIG welding our pipe. If you’re looking for some articles and reviews about MIG welding, check out this comparison article I wrote.
If you’re looking for a great TIG welder, check out my baby, The Esab multiprocess machine.
Ok, let’s join this pipe!
You’ll want to set up everything in your jig as we discussed.
And once your steel tube is in place, you’ll want to tack both sides – for two tack welds opposite each other.
So, you’ll have three points holding everything together – the angle iron, the clamps, and the tack welds.
Now, you can drop a tack weld on the top of the pipe for your third tack weld
Then you can remove the clamps and roll over the pipe – it will still be even in the job because you have three solid tracks.
You are ready to drop one more tack weld for your 4th and final tack at the top of the pipe – so you should have a tack at your 12, 3, 6 and 9 positions if we can think of it as a time clock.
Finally, you’ll weld from tack to tack, completing the entire weld. Your finished weld should be continuous and look like this:
Just remember it will not look pretty!
FInishing is quick and easy!
You’ll want to make long, sweeping motions along the pipe, taking down the weld in small layers
Once you have taken down a majority of the weld, switch the grit to an 80 grit pad, this is a finer pad and will remove less metal and proving a smoother finish.
Now, before you finish – double check your pipe with your framing square.
This will show any high points that you may need to hit with the grinder and an 80 grit – or if its really subtle, the scotchbright.
And that’s it – you just learned about joining steel tubing!
In this short article, we talked about welding together some steel tubing. You can use this process when building railings, furniture or fences – really the only limit is what you can imagine. Keep in mind the more time and preparation you take in preparing your weld, the better the end result – which is why I highly recommend setting up a job and taking the time to square away your chop saw.
These are the timeless principles that will turn you into a master craftsman, increasing your metalworking skillsets and make people ask you “How did you learn to do that?”