“Welding tips and tricks” was scribbled across the front of my notebooks. I blew off the dust and found my old welding notebook. As I read through the notes I asked myself, “what are my best tips for welding that I could to someone starting to weld?”
I chose the best welding tips and tricks so you could spend time practicing MIG, TIG or stick welding the right way. Most welders learn the wrong way, and form bad habits. The key to good welding is to learn the right habits and techniques. I’ve listed the best tips tricks and habits right below.
Table of Contents
Let’s say your 100% new to welding and you have no idea where to begin. No problem, I got you covered. Here and some tips and tricks to get you welding fast, even if you don’t know an angle grinder from a clamp.
Ok, I know this sounds like common sense, but let me explain. Throw on your hood and your safety gear , Grab your MIG gun and start to weld, without welding. That’s right. Get the feel, the distance and the motion down before you actually lay a weld. That way you develop a “feel” for the distance, rhythm and speed at which you should move.
If fact, here is a good beginners MIG welder I wrote a review on, check it out.
#2 Have a metalworking space
You want to make sure you have a good work space dedicated to welding – it’s no fun trying to weld and tripping over morris the cat. A garage ( make sure it’s well ventilated) would be a good space to start off in. You’ll have some dedicated space to position your materials and leave your work for a short time without it being disturbed.
#3 Get the right Tools for welding
In order to weld properly and professionally you’ll need some basic tools to get the job done correctly. Of course you’ll need a welder, but some overlooked tools by the new welder are : c clamps, a wire cutter and an angle grinder. With these tools you’ll have the basic setup to professionally line up, tack down your metal – and finished the job.
#4 A good workbench
A sturdy workbench is important because it is the base for all your projects. Now, you don’t need something fancy and over the top – a simple sturdy workbench is fine to start you off. In fact, you can build one pretty easily yourself. Here is a good plan to build one with your spare time.
#5 What’s the best gas setup?
In this discussion a user asked if they can use pure Argon as their only shielding gas. If your just doing TIG work then that would be possible, but for a good fab shop, and someone beginning to weld, then a good recommendation is this :
Pure argon for TIG and C25 for general MIG work.
A good Argon regulator for your tank would be this one
#6 How to run beads for a newbie
This is a great discussion for someone brand new to welding – how to run a good bead.
Now there is a lot of information in this post, but here are some good take aways that you can use right now:
#7 What is the best cart for my welder?
I like this question a lot, but it comes down to this : personal preference. I think a homemade cart is best because you can design one that works exactly the way you want it to, in fact, in this forum discussion they talk about how they built homemade carts to prevent items from crashing into their welders, to support multiple welders and to hold useful welding supplies.. If you didn’t have the time to build a great cart, then you could buy a good one like this.
# 8 Prepare your metal before you weld
When welding metal with the MIG or TIG process especially, you want to make sure you clean your metal before you lay down a weld. This is important because dirt, grime and mill scale can compromise your welds integrity. A smile wipe with some denatured alcohol will clean and prep your metal ( remove the contamination) for welding and ensure you lay a solid bead.
#9 Have good wire loaded in your machine
When MIG welding cheap wire may save a few bucks but good wire will make all the difference. A good wire is produced with high standards and uses good material during the manufacturing process. The result is a high quality wire that be performed consistently. In other words you will have a consistent arc all of the time, resulting in a higher quality bead. Also a good metal delivery system will ensure smooth wire flow. I wrote a comparison of two good welders for beginners, both with high quality wire drives.
#10 Use both hands when MIG welding
When MIG welding a lot of guys tend to use one hand. I’m not saying thats the wrong way to do it, but I am saying there is a better way. When MIG welding it’s best to use two hands : it provides stability for your MIG gun, allowing for a more consistent weld. It also gives your better body positioning, reducing overall fatigue.
See how the welder is positioning his hands to support the gun and reduce fatigue.
And see this article for a good hand position when table welding
#11 Have a lot of the same item to make? Use a JIG!
This is something that may not be obvious when starting out. If you want to produce quality work and are constructing many of the same pieces over and over ( for example : your making 50 steel chairs) then you’ll want to create a jig. This will save you time in the long run and help you create accurate work each and every time.
Here Fabric8tion Nation shows the jig setup and actual uses the jig to produce the same item over and over in an efficient manner.
#12 Starting your own fabrication business
A lot of people want to start their own welding and fabrication business, and it can be very rewarding. Like any business there are many factors to consider, and this discussion goes into some good details. The biggest takeaway: start your business as a side hustle. Let someone else pay your wages and medical insurance while you build that side business during your days off, nights and weekends. Also, here is a good article on starting a water damage restoration business.
Safety is important while on the job. Welding and fabrication can be dangerous, so have the right gear is important for our protection. We want to be building awesome stuff for years to come!
#13 What is the best hood to get?
That’s a good question to ask, and here is the short answer. The most expensive hood isn’t always the best. Sometimes a good value brand hood will get you started until you can upgrade.. It’s comfortable, durable and lightweight. Then once you gain some welding experience you can always upgrade to a better hood. And also, don’t forget the hearing protection, under the hood. Here is a good article that looks at the best hearing protection you can buy.
#14 What are a good pair of gloves to start with?
Good gloves do not have to cost a fortune. You can get a good pair of heavy duty gloves to start out. The most important part is that they are long enough to protect your arms – because sparks are known to travel. I use and recommend these gloves, they are affordable and pretty durable when used with MIG welding and grinding.
#15 Can I use other eye protection instead of a hood
The short answer is no. Sort of. A hood protects your eyes from the extreme UV light and your face from any stray sparks during the welding process. If you hate the hood for whatever reason a good workaround could be glasses like these ( used for plasma cutting) and a face shield.
#16 Why do welders wear hats?
That’s a good question to ask and something that’s not obvious if your brand new to welding. A good hat or headgear will save your head, literally. When welding sparks have a tendency to fly everywhere, so a cotton hat will protect your head where a hood falls short. A good, affordable cap would be this one.
#17 How do I maintain my hood ?
That’s a good question that nobody really asks. Your hood is basically maintenance free. A good wipe down here and there is necessary, and if you have detachable sweatbands, then by all means wash them often. But an overlooked maintenance item is changing your clear lense cover. You can get quality covers cheap, so change them often so you can see… and don’t lay your hood down on the lense side… most newbies do this all the time!
#18 Get yourself good boots
Good boots are something that is overlooked by a lot of welders. A good pair of boots will not only be durable, but will protect your feet and reduce fatigue. When welding you’re on your feet all day long, so any little advantage helps. A good pair of boots like these are a worthy investment, and if you can find an anti fatigue mat for your work space that would be helpful.
#19 Make sure you check wire tension
When welding with MIG wire you’ll want to check your wire tension and your rollers, especially if you work in a fabrication shop and multiple people use the same machine. Slack wire could cause the machine to malfunction, wire to get jammed and excess spatter. So a quick check of the rollers and wire tension is a good way to be safe and have your machine operate optimally.
#20 Always check your consumables
When using MIG, TIG or stick, parts of your torch or gun wear out over time , it’s just part of the welding process. Before you start welding it’s always a good idea to check your gun and torch for excess wear and replace the parts as necessary. A good tungsten rod and TIG kit can be found here and affordable MIG gun parts are here.(Keep in mind these are standard parts, your sizes may vary.)
#21 Check your gas flow before you start to weld
A pretty standard setting for gas flow (MIG) is around 20-25 cph. When your checking your gas flow you may not get the desired flow rate. FIrst check your tank to make sure it’s not empty. If you tank is full and you suspect a gas leak use this old trick : get some soapy water and run along the gas line, if bubbles form you have a leaky hose. Toss it and replace your gas hose with a new one. In fact, I keep one in stock so I always I have backup hose.
#22 Get the proper seat for bench work
We talked about good boots, good hand positions and standing mats to help you fight fatigue all day, but what if your doing bench work all day. In this discussion they talk about a good chair for bench work – so you’re not snoozing at your welding table. This is a good chair that’s similar to the recommended one in the post and is a good investment if you’re working in a fabrication shop or even doing DIY work at home.
#23 Read the user manual
I know you love to weld and want to get your shiny new toys into action as quick as possible. We all do, but the smart thing to do is step back and get familiar with your new tools first. The user manual provides all the safety details, specification and how-to’s necessary to operate your machine safely and efficiently.
#24 Get rid of clutter in your workspace
Everything has its place and a place for everything as the old saying goes. Sometimes we are working on a project and our shop gets a bit messy. It happens, but a slip, trip, burn or worse can be prevented when everything tool, attachment and bit of scrap is put away. Specifically on your workbench make sure it’s free of any tool or item your not immediately using. Speaking of clutter.. We have a small office space next to our fab shop for clients to discuss their projects. We just used a great hardwood floor cleaner there, and we get compliments on the cleanliness of the floor all the time.
Mig welding is the most common form of welding found today. I learned how to MIG after I learned stick, so here are some tips below.
#25 How do I avoid soot buildup when using a MIG machine and spool gun?
Sometimes when welding aluminum you can build up excess soot. This happens for a lot of reasons – some have to do with the temperature at which the wire and the base metal melt, and some soot can be attributed to the push/pull action. To minimize soot buildup the best thing to do is actually push the gun along the material. The full discussion can be found here.
#26 What is the best setup for a beginner to weld Aluminum?
In this discussion a user wants to build an aluminum pop up trailer and is asking should they use TIG or is there a better solution. Now it’s going to depend on your project and needs, but the takeaways here are this : TIG will be super slow process and MIG with a spool gun is the way to go. The duty cycle will be frustrating because you’ll get a 20% DC with a 220 Amp machine. A 250+ AMP will be the way to go for a bigger project. This hobart would be perfect for the original poster.
#27 What is the right wire stick out
A good question I get asked a lot is this : what is the proper wire stick out? Now everyone is going to have their own preference and stick out that suits them. Miller suggests ⅜” stick out is a good rule of thumb and I agree with them. I would also say if your brand new try a small stick out. As you gain some experience your preference might change, and that’s ok.
#28 What is dual shield welding?
A lot of guys know about flux core welding and standard wire welding with C25 gas. ( CO2 and Argon.) Dual shield is running a flux core type wire and using a shielding gas. There are some specific advantages to dual shield…
#29 Circles, weaves and stringer beads, which one?
There is a lot of debate around what motion is the best to use when welding. I’m not going to jump into that debate but I will say this. Welding is like an art in the sense that your weld ( good or bad) will show how proficient you are at your craft. The motion that you’ll use is determined by the material thickness and type of weld you need to lay. I would say a good motion for a beginner is a wiggle (think of a Z on it’s side for the motion) on a stringer bead. You’ll be able to practice your travel speed and get a good feel for your machine.
See what metal man has to say about good beads and bad beads in his video:
#30 What is a good MIG gun travel angle?
Let’s break that question down a bit and see what is behind a good gun angle. You want an angle that is comfortable to maintain, allows you to see your weld pool and minimized spatter. A good angle is somewhere between 5-15 degrees , any more and you’ll increase the spatter on your work piece, resulting in unnecessary clean up. Keep in mind this travel angle is for the perpendicular position.
#31 MIG gun holder, do I need it?
In this discussion a user makes a really nice MIG gun holder for his machine. I like this simple little project for a number of reasons, but the two the jump out are: safety and ease of use. Having your gun in a holder prevents it from falling, accidently going off and potentially flashing you. Ease of use is important because your gun is exactly where you placed it, everytime. If you want to buy one, an affordable option is this one
#32 Push or pull and your weld pool?
When MIG welding there is a huge debate about pushing or pulling your MIG gun and what is better overall. I’ll stick to the facts and share what I do know :
In the end you should learn both techniques because you may be welding out of position and need to change your technique.
See what ChuckE2009 has to say about pushing and pulling the pool, and watch for his sledgehammer break test on the steel plates!
#33 Get some Dip for little spatter clean up
Speaking of pushing and pulling, MIG can and will always produce splatter. Now there are ways to reduce your splatter ( like getting closer to your workpiece) but sometimes the easiest solution is to use some DIP. You literally just dip your nozzle into the gel and splatter is instantly reduced.
#34 Get a hanger, save your hood
This is a nice little invention that I use everyday. I hang it on my C25 tank and I always have a place for my hood ( to reduce scratches) , my wrench, and I hang my gun up when I am done for the day. Sure , you could fab one up, but for a few bucks this is a worthwhile investment.
#35 Replace your ground clamp right away
One of the easiest upgrades you can make to your MIG welder is a good ground clamp. Oftentimes a bad ground clamp will produce a weak circuit and your welder will sputter along anyway… resulting in a inconsistent bead. A heavy duty clamp will ensure a good, closed electrical circuit. Don’t skimp here and buy a cheap clamp like this one.
#36 Replace your contact tips often
Contact tips are cheap. You can find good .035 tips online or .030 if you use those , and I usually have a bunch near my welder at all times. Usually when I have an erratic arc a contact tip is the first thing I replace. It’s a consumable, and the tip widens over time, causing your arc to jump all over. They are cheap enough, so save yourself a headache and replace them often. And, if your looking to save money, here is a great welder for a beginner.
#37 Who loves Bacon?
It’s not just for breakfast anymore! A good welder uses all his senses to product an excellent end product. When you’re MIG welding you want that “bacon “ sizzling sound – which indicates a consistent arc to your workpiece.
Tig welding is probably my favorite type of welding, and it’s the most difficult to master. I have success with the following tips and tricks…
#38 Check the melt point for your metal
In this discussion a user is asking about TIG welding lead for a section of the roof. While this might be possible with a low enough temperature you do not want to melt the lead and vaporize it. ( NOT good to breath this in) So the correct tool to use here is a small handheld torch, similar to brazing. The bigger point here is to check the point at while your metal melts, the best tool may be one you haven’t thought of.
#39 How do I check my Argon flow with my TIG welder?
In this forum the question was asked : how do I check my Argon flow ( Cfh)? While there is no explicit way to do this and it’s not entirely spelled out in the user’s manual, A good way is to simply tap your foot pedal ( or hand switch for those without foot pedals) and test the flow. The flowmeter will engage and you’ll be able to adjust the settings from that point.
#40 Don’t tell your wife you have a cheater lens
Tig is a very precise form of welding – it’s intricate, can be a bit slow moving and your welds have to be good. Why not give yourself every advantage with a cheater lense? You can get one pretty cheap, and the magnification will help you see your workpiece and your bead that much better.
#41 Using a TIG pen
A TIG pen isn’t too well known or used a whole lot.
In fact, in this video from Miller
They are showing you the traditional style of TIG welding. Now, this video is good to show you the basic techniques to TIG weld, but what if you have an issue issues with your hands, like arthritis. There is a better way! A TIG pen takes the filler metal rod and let’s you feed it to the torch with a roll of your index finger. It’s simple to use and it saves my hands.
You can buy one here.
Also, see Daven Corp’s video for a good demonstration of TIG with a pen and see how much easier the hand motion can be.
#42 How to welding thicker and thinner material together
Here is one trick that I learned in the field that might save you some time and grief when welding. When welding thicker and thinner material you can take your arc and run it along your thicker material first as a way to preheat the metal, then turn your amperage down and weld the thinner material to the thicker material. Here is a review of the everlast powerpro, it has a TIG a decent TIG gun… it would be a good choice for welding thicker and thinner metal
#43 Is there one best way to sharpen your tungsten?
Well, there is a big debate about this, so I’ll stick to the basics and what works best in my experience. Always have a dedicated pad or grinding wheel for tungsten, you don’t want to share a wheel or pad because that will create contamination. The second thing I recommend is use a respirator, Tungsten, the thoriated kind is radioactive, and you don’t want those particles in your lungs.
See this video from the fabrication series for a discussion about sharpening techniques:
#44 Can I TIG over MIG welds?
This is a great question, and Yes, you can use a TIG welder to clean up ugly MIG welds.
Remember the main purpose of a TIG machine is to melt metal, so you can easily melt MIG welds, move the metal pool around and add filler metal.
Kevin Caron, an artist, actually has a short video on cleaning up MIG welds with a TIG welder.
which I think is great for TIG welding.
#45 How do I weld super tight angles?
That’s a great question and I have found two good solutions. The first is to change the cup size to a smaller cup. If you’re using a #7, see if you can size down to a # 4 cup. Here is a good set that gives you a range of sizes. The second solution is to to get a micro-torch. This is a great tool to have in your kit and makes welding a tight angles a breeze.
See Kevin Caron weld a tight angle with a Micro torch here.
#46 Know your gases when TIG welding
With TIG welding there are different types of gases that you can use depending on the type of metal your working with. I’ll list the most common from hottest to coolest. Note, the hotter the gas runs, the harder it is to start an arc
Adding helium to the mix makes the gas hotter, therefore you’ll have better penetration. This would be useful for application like thick ( above ¾” aluminum) materials to ensure proper fusion and penetration. A good flow meter is essential. And I also recommend a respirator if working with these welders in a closed space.
#47 Give someone the TIG finger
And get one for yourself too! Different than a TIG pen, the TIG finger is for your torch hand. This will help you run your hand along the weld without burning your pinky finger or whatever finger you choose( especially if your pushing the weld) It’s a good tool to have in your toolkit and can make the job that much easier.
#48 Keeping up your productivity when TIG welding
TIG welding is part art and part science. With every type of art there is a certain flow or rhythm that you become part of when you get down to work. With TIG welding once you dip your tungsten into the pool you have to grind it down to keep a constant arc. Why not keep some spare tungstens on the side, already sharpened, and ready to go? That way when you dip your tungsten you can easily replace it and get back to laying beads. You can buy some quality tungstens from amazon.
Tips and tricks Stick
I always recommend stick welding for the beginner. I think it’s the easiest way to go for the new welder and gets you comfortable actually welding, and sets a solid base to learn MIG and then TIG welding.
# 49 Can I custom made a tip for my flux core welder?
I found a discussion here on this very topic. If the plastic tips that you purchase are not to your liking you can make your own ( if you have access to a laith and threader) A really good tip was made by a user who machined a brass collar that screws into the flux core torch and accepts a TIG ceramic cup. This was you can have a longer nozzle that acts as a guide and can be easily cleaned of flux core splatter built up. Some good (and cheap!) #7 shields can be found here.
#50 Get a good chipping hammer, you’ll thank me
Good tools can make all the difference to the quality of your work. A good chipping hammer will be both durable and easy to use. I would recommend this one, it’s comfortable to use, light enough not to bother you during repeated use and heavy enough to remove built up slag.
#51 Get your hand motion down
Stick welding is different from MIG and TIG in that your rod is continuously getting smaller as your laying a bead. WIth MIG once you get the right travel speed and distance you’re set. With Stick you not only have to get the travel speed down, but also the motion of moving the stick closer to your workpiece as you travel along.
See weld.coms video on how to run a straight bead for a visual demonstration
#52 Watch your arc
One mistake I see over and over that impacts new welders is holding the arc too long. This happens because new stick welders are not used to holding the arc, pushing inward, and traveling along the workpiece. The remedy is this: once you get your hand motion down, keep you eye on the arc and your puddle – if your puddle starts to get too big, move your bead along.
#53 Where is best to strike your arc?
When working with any welder the goal is always to have a nice, clean, professional looking finish. With that goal in mind, the best place to strike your arc is behind where you want to start laying your weld – that way you’ll go over your strike marks and have a clean bead and finished work piece. Remember: arc strikes are areas that can cause stress on the metal, and be a point of failure. And here are some good all purpose rods to buy
#54 What would be a good stick welder to learn with?
That’s a good question and there are many great welders on the market today.
I would recommend the lincoln because it is a tried and true performer. This model does have its downsides for sure, the major one being its stepped amperage ( with jumps of 15-25 amps).However It has been around since the beginning of time, is one of the most durable welders made and will last you forever.
#55 What are the right rods to use with Stick welding?
The right rod is going to be determined by a bunch of factors including the material you’re working with, thickness and environment. For general work on steel some acceptable rods would be 7018, 7024, 6010 and 6011. The 7018 is most common in structural welding and is meant to be dragged along the workpiece. A good discussion of the finer distinctions of these rods can be found here. And if you need to order some 7018, you can click this link.
#56 Knowing the right Amperage settings
When working with a stick welder, different amperage is going to relate to different size rods. Now there are general guidelines to follow (check this answer from Quora, there are two good charts for rules of thumb, just scroll down a bit). Now, with that said the best thing to do is actually start with the rule of thumb and adjust from there. Talk to any stick welder and they will tell you, the rule of thumb may not produce the weld you want, so start with the suggested amperage and move up or down as necessary when you actually drop the weld.
#57 This is not math class, but use a calculator
Let’s say you have a rod and you have no idea what amperage to set you machine. Not a problem, you can use this handy calculator from Miller to give you a baseline to start your machine at. Or if your old school like me you can have a good laminated reference chart in your tool bag.
#58 Even if you hate fish, know your CLAMS
Here is something I heard over and over by stick welders. It’s like a checklist to get you started, keeping your mind on the process and improving your welding technique: CLAMS
You can read more in dept on CLAMS in this full article from Miller.
#59 Push or pull a stick welder?
I am going to take a direct quote here from John Leisner of Miller ; “ If it produces slag, you drag”. This quote means that stick welders and flux core, you drag your rod – MIG you push. I think this is good advice for a beginner, but actually you should learn how to do multiple actions. You never know when you’ll be up against a difficult weld and need a technique to complete the project. You can see the full article I quoted here.
#60 How to fix a wandering Arc
Fixing a wandering arc with a MIG welder may be as simple as changing a tip in your gun, but with Stick it can be tricky to fix this. When you have a wandering arc try this:
Welding Tips and Tricks, flux core
Flux core welding shares many of the same characteristics as wire welding with gas, there are some subtle difference, and we have some general tips that can help you listed down below.
#61 How do I purchase the right wire for flux core welding?
Flux core welding can be a bit confusing at first. The best option is to always have more knowledge about the subject. If you can read the technical details you’ll be one step ahead of other welders and fabricators. First, know how your going to be welding ( in position or out of position) and know the material you’re going to be working with. Then, get familiar with the technical details of your filler metal. A good chart that breaks down the specifications can be found here. And I wrote a review about a entry level flux core welder. It’s good for a beginner who is working out of their garage or small DIY space.
#62 Make sure your joints are consistent
With all welding, make sure your joints are clamped and consistent. Flux produces a lot of smoke, much like stick welding. Inspect your joints to make sure they are no gaps or irregularities. If there are, take not so you can manipulate your weld in those areas.
Also, make sure you have a good bevel so you can lay a consistent bead. A good angle grinder will help you bevel your material in no time.
#63 Dear Porosity, I hate you
Porosity can harm your weld and cause it to fail. While flux can work on dirty material it’s always a good idea to get your metal as clean as possible for a solid weld. If your material if dirty, try to keep the puddle molten for a bit longer than normal. This will allow gases to burn off and not become trapped inside the weld.
We’ve covered welding tips and tricks for TIG welding, MIG welding, Stick and flux core welding. We also learned about the right safety gear for welders, and some good ideas and tools for a home shop. If nothing else the biggest take away should be, practice, practice and practice some more. All the tips and tricks we covered will not help unless you actively practice them while you weld.