Hello to the group. I have a question. I need to build a small steel frame. It will be aprox like a lopsided cube, 17" wide. I am fabricating it from from standard home depot 1/8 inch thick X several feet long steel pieces. These are the ones with an L shapped cross section aprox3/4" wide. I am quite good with various tools, but I have never welded. Rather than going to a welder and tryin to explain what I have in mind, is it worht learning to MIG weld? Any suggestions. Would this involve hunderds of hours/dollars of equipment and time? Joe
I guess the smart-ass answer is that you should learn to sketch and dimension a drawing, preferably with tolerances, before you take your idea to a welder or learn to weld.
Generally, I won't make the most trivial part without first doing a drawing. It's important that I separate the creative part of design from the fabrication.
That said, consider these points in your decision:
Will you be doing more fabrication in the future and are you prepaired to spend enough time and money on the welder and supplies to do it right? I don't do MIG so I can't give you a good estimate. If this is a one-shot deal, you're probably better off taking it to a pro.
Are there structural issues with your design that require *good* welds. Note that there are home-shop welders and there are pro welders. The pro welders build stuff that people trust their lives with, like roll cages, overhead structures, etc. Stuff that home-shop welders should stay away from.
Once you've learned to weld, you'll wonder how you ever did without this skill. You'll see applications for welding every day. The project you describe sounds simple enough that you don't need any expensive equipment. Pick up a $150 buzz box, gloves, helmet and rods and go to work. You'll have a few disappointments, but it will come to you with a little practice. As far as how long to learn, I started learning when I was 14, and I'm still learning (now 500).
You can also go the oxy-acetylene route. A little different technique, but still useful. This setup will allow you also to braze, silver braze, solder, pre-heat and cut steel.
If this is a one-time project, I'd just find a welder and have it done. Explaining what you want may be easier than you think, especially if you can draw an acurate drawing of what you want, and are willing to take his or her advice on structural details.
If you're going to be doing this a lot, it might be worth finding a used stick welder, these can sometimes be found for less than $100. There is very little to go wrong on a Lincoln AC225 "tombstone" or on a Miller Thunderbolt, they're simple transformer machines with very few moving parts. Try craigslist.com for your area and search on "welder", or eBay. Avoid the 120V stick machines if at all possible, you'll probably find them more frustrating than helpful. Don't be afraid to ask about individual machines either here or on news:sci.engineering.joining.welding
Another option would be to go to an all bolted construction, with braces or triangular plates at the corners to keep it from racking (going from square to parallelogram). Actually not a bad idea if you're welding it, either.
Learning to weld is a lot of fun and will really expand your range of fab capabilities. You should do it! If your local community college offers a class, take it!
I suggest you go take a look at the $200 ish Lincoln arc welder, the classic tombstone welder. You will have to arrange a 220 volt connection - electric drier outlet? I think it comes with a decent helmet, gloves, a chipping hammer, a video and a some sample welding rods. Some people say spend the extra for the DC capable one but the price about doubles. You can easily do 1/8" angle with this welder.
If you really have the knack you could be putting out decent welds in an afternoon, especially if you have someone who knows how to show you. I'd give it a couple of days of practice on scrap metal.
Oh yeah, you'll need an angle grinder, 4 1/3 incher. I think the dewalt 402 is the best all around. Go metabo if you want super nice/solid. A harbor freight $20 one will get you started though.
You'll probably get the welding bug and want to get a MIG and then an Oxy-fuel and then a TIG. Most TIGs can also do stick, AC or DC so I say just get the $200 Lincoln to start. Oh yeah, you'll be wanting a plasma cutter too. :-)
Learning to weld was the best thing i ever did from a building stuff perspective. I can form an electronics background and had decent hanyman skills and was ok in woodworking projects Welding has made all sorts of new things possible
Mind you it opended new doors and depleted the pocketbook more by opening Pandoras toolbox =)
the chopsaw and portable bandsaw have been added in as has a half decent angle grinder. the rolling chest all are metalwork related additions.
I DIdnt take the MIG route i learned arc tig and gas I"m form an electronics background so the Gas and tig method of the heat controlled in 1 hand and the filler in the other was "Normal" to me
As for buying a welder it WILL be a few hundred to buy new
Mig is easier apparently than Stick Gas or TIG (But i hv enever doen mig so this is not firsthand info)
I personally Overbought at the right price
I have a retired machine form a structural steel company (Miller XMT
304) its WAY bigger than i need but had all the features to do Arc and TIG and especially criticalin my limited shop space is it only weighs MAYBE 80 pounds an easy pick up and carry.
I want to swap/sell it and get a smaller AC/DC TIG machine but i'm in no rush because it works great.
Either buy small and upgrade if youre serious about welding lots or buy something proper to keep for decades (I went with option 2 in "retired" industrial equipment)
In general, yes. Not cheap though - as well as the welder itself, there are things like hats (preferably automatic), grinders, filler wire/rods, gas cylinders etc.
If you can build this out of thicker gauge angle from a real steel stockist rather than Home Despot, then it will be cheaper to buy the steel and it will also let you weld it with a small cheap stick welder. This is a bit harder to work than MIG, but the equipment is cheaper.
For either welding technique, you can learn the basics from web searching or a good book like Gibson's "Practical Welding". Then you need to do some practice (a wheelbarrow full of scrap steel, welded into a lump). You don;t _need_ a course, but you really do need to do some "guided practice", not just hope.
Can you borrow time on a welder ? Or even go on a course? It's cheaper than having to own your own machine, you can borrow the rest of the equipment, and it'll give you some hands-on practice to see if you like it.
Where are you located? I'll weld it up for you if you are in Austin ,Tx. and let you watch and learn. We will do one corner with MIG, then one corner with TIG, then one with Oxy-fuel, then one with brazing, then start all over again...
Joe-get a welder and learn to weld. If you are the do-it-yourself type then it will come in handy. Not only that, all your family and neighbors will be happy to give you projects to practice on. It may look like a broken lawnmower handle, but it's really a training piece. ERS
Around $1,000 to jump into it right, but only if you are serious about learning to weld.
This is a multi faceted question, Joe.
First off, if you are doing it with Home Depot steel, you are paying about
10x the going rate for steel as opposed to your local steel supplier. And, if you just fill out a credit app, you will get % off of that price.
Learning to weld is worth it if you deal with metal at all. With being able to buy metals cheaply, you can save big bucks by doing it yourself.
Now down to the actual practice of welding. Welding is like playing the piano. Almost anyone can learn to do it, but those with a talent will go light years ahead of someone who just learns how. Still, the person who just learns how will reap lots of benefits, and be able to perform when required. The best way is to learn from someone else, either a one on one teacher, or in classes. Money for classes is well spent, as all you have to do is take hood and gloves. They provide all the rest of the stuff that would cost you thousands if you went and bought it.
For a first time project, it would all depend on how reliable/safe/strong it has to be. You could probably gorilla weld something together, but if it needs to be nice, you would be farther ahead to have a real welder do it.
I started welding in 1974. I have welded underwater. I have 2g, 3g, 6g,
6gTig, and 2g FCAW 1.5" wall caisson certifications. Oh, they are all expired, since I haven't done it in years, and most jobs require a test anyway. But, I DO have welding experience. I was a steel erection contractor in the State of Nevada for nine years.
Bottom line - I learn something every time I weld. If you don't, you aren't paying attention. There is no learning how to weld, there's just different chapters. You will never learn it all, and it is a skill that will waver if not practiced regularly. Like piano playing.
It is a great hobby/job/career/craft, whatever you want to call it. When you want stuff put together, there's nothing like just going out to the shop, flipping a few switches, and getting instant results. And, the more you do it, the more you have predictable repeatable results.
What you describe is about the easiest form of welding. MIG was called here by someone I can't recall (but noticeably not me, therefore I can't take credit) as a metal hot glue gun. That really took my fancy. Yep, if you can use a hot glue gun, you can MIG weld. I have said for years that I though a monkey could be taught to MIG weld.
Check it out. Look around, and find a welder in your area that will give you a crash course. Or look at the local community college. Pretty reasonable. Find a friend. Now that you are interested, someone will turn up.
It isn't worth it for one job. It would definitely involve hundreds of dollars worth of equipment and several hours of your time. The fact that you ask suggests that you don't contemplate doing other such projects in future.
A welder can tell you where to get angle iron a lot cheaper than Home Depot, though he'll very probably has some on hand.
A minimum setup for this sort of job to be enjoyable would be:
- a wirefeed welder -- fluxcore because 1/8" steel is on the hairy edge for 110-volt MIG but they do OK with fluxcore on 1/8" angle --or-- an inexpensive used 220-volt arcwelder capable of 120 amps or more. Either machine can do the job, either will require several hours of practice to make consistently servicable (if not always pretty) welds. A good but ugly weld can be fixed up with the angle grinder-- see below.
- a decent helmet. Autodark is a huge help and they don't cost much at HF
- an anglegrinder. See other posts for recommendations on the "good" cheap HF anglegrinder
- a chopsaw or HF horizontal bandsaw. Cutting angleiron with a hacksaw gets old very very fast! (Been there, done that.) However, you can also cut angle with an abrasive blade (metal cutting, not the ones for masonry) in a circular saw that you don't mind risking. The risk is wrecking the bearings with grit but it definitely works.