1.2 Why You Should Learn MIG Welding

woodsplitter_tongue.jpg

I modified this wood splitter tongue so the machine could be towed by an ATV, instead of just moved by hand. Notice the triangular gussets of 1/4"-thick steel that strengthen both sides of the butt joint. The orange part is originally from the splitter, and the new 2" by 3" rectangular tubing forms the tongue. This is good example of how welding allows you to customize, strengthen and rebuild objects around your home.

Why you should learn MIG welding

The field of welding is large, with many specialized welding processes and systems developed over the decades. But basic welding—especially with a MIG welder—is now more accessible than ever. MIG welding truly is a revolution in small-scale welding technology, one that works in partnership with vast improvements in tools for cutting and shaping metal in the home workshop. 

MIG welding is easy and versatile, sort of like using a hot-melt glue gun, except that you’re joining metal instead of wood or craft materials. The letters M-I-G stand for “metal inert gas.”

MIG welding is one type of GMAW (gas metal arc welding), along with a very similar process, MAG (metal active gas) welding. You’ll often hear those terms used interchangeably, and you’ll hear MIG welders called “wire-feed welders,” which describes how they work. To keep things simple, I’ll use “MIG” in this course.

While there’s a lot more to welding successfully than just buying a welder, another MIG advantage is the equipment you’ll need is affordable, widely available and effective.

All of these benefits are why I built this course around the MIG process: MIG is the best way you can start welding and learn successfully. It’s always good to have the end in mind at the beginning.

Here’s what you’ll get from this course 

Satisfaction: The ability to join pieces of metal quickly, easily and permanently is energizing. It’s fun, useful and amazingly empowering. Once you can weld, you’ll start imagining how to do all kinds of repairs and projects you never thought of before.

Capabilities: This course includes a video tour of some small and medium-sized welding projects I’ve done, plus a bunch of repairs that have made life better for my family. If all the welding beads I’ve done over the years—for my home, vehicles and rural property—were to disappear, a lot of important things in my life would simply fall apart!

Savings: Welding makes it easy to save thousands of dollars, even if you only weld occasionally. You’ll save by repairing equipment you have already and sometimes building your own items instead of buying them.

If you’re an active person, if you have an older vehicle, use your garage workshop, or own a rural property or farm, a high-quality MIG welder can easily pay for itself in less than a year of savings. Even in the city, if you have a garage or backyard space where you can weld, you’ll find lots of opportunity for a MIG welder. And you won’t just be saving cash. By repairing something, rather than replacing it, you’re doing your bit to reduce waste and save resources. You should feel good about that.

Creativity: Metalwork, including welding, can be a way to express yourself, too. You can weld purely sculptural objects or include decorative elements in other projects. Many people weld to create garden ornaments, decorative gates, or metal screens.

I’m not an artist, but I believe I am mechanically creative. Welding projects keep me productively and creatively engaged, even when I’m not actually welding. Simply planning a project and imagining how all the pieces will fit together is deeply satisfying.

I often design and engineer projects when I’m lying in bed. I call this “phase one-ing” an idea, just before the first stage of sleep. I get some of my best ideas then. Does that happen with you?

The video below features items I’ve made or repaired with welding over the years. I hope it sparks some ideas about what you can weld too.

Video: Real-world welding examples

How to use this course

You’ll get the most out of the welding school by carefully studying each lesson, asking me questions by email as they come up, and then putting what you’ve learned into practice with some actual welding. Learning on screen will only take you so far. You’ll also need to use real metal and a real welder, helmet, gloves and steel.

Your welding success in this course will come by following these basic principles:

  • Choose the right MIG equipment and safety gear for your situation. As is so common today in the world of tools, sometimes a MIG welder that’s cheap is not good value. Later in the course, I’ll point you towards specific welders and safety equipment that you can count on.
  • Learn to cut and drill metal and fit the pieces together. Along with welding, cutting and drilling are at the heart of all metal fabrication. My course includes sections that deal specifically with cutting, drilling and fitting steel parts together.
  • Practice your welding techniques. It takes practice to develop the hand-eye coordination you need to make welding second nature. In the case of MIG welding, you’ll learn quickly, but expect to put in some practice before your results are beautiful and reliable. 
  • Ask me for help. Are you struggling to get your welds right? Need help troubleshooting your MIG welder wire feed? Wondering about welder settings? Email me a note and photos or even a short video of the situation, and we’ll work together to figure things out.

A word about safety

Welding poses safety hazards, but you can protect yourself by following the appropriate safety procedures and wearing all necessary safety equipment.

Begin by reading the owner’s manual of any welder you plan to use, paying particular attention to the safety section. There’s good information there.

Buy and use a good welding helmet with proper eye protection.

Wear gloves to protect yourself against burns. Heavy clothing can shield you from sparks. To protect your hair (I don’t have much any more!), wear a welder’s cap or kerchief. Tie back long hair.

You should only weld in a safe space that’s free of combustible material and has lots of ventilation.

Finally, keep an approved fire extinguisher handy and be aware of your surroundings. Always watch for any fires that start. In 40 years of welding, I've never had to extinguish any accidental fires, but you need to be prepared.

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