It’s a great time to be a welder
If you’re already a welder, you know this to be true. If you are considering it as a profession, we can assure you it’s true, and will explain why. Even if you are considering welding as a hobby or side-gig, the resources to help you be successful are plentiful, the gear has evolved to become highly functional (and even fashionable!) , and the money is great. Where else can you earn doctor pay on your high school diploma…?
If you’ve been welding awhile, you’ll undoubtedly have your specialties and favorites – for the beginning welder, there are a wide variety of fields and specialties to work in. You may end up choosing one to build a career on but more likely you’ll dabble in many over the first couple of years and eventually settle into a preferred field or specialty area where you feel you can do the best work with an acceptable level of travel and pay.
Did I say travel? Yes, as a welder, your option to travel are extensive and the more agreeable you are to traveling, the more options you’ll have and the higher pay you can command. But, you don’t have to travel if you don’t want. Stay in your home town, work in a welding shop or fabrication shop, and still make good money.
We talk a lot about welding gear on this site as what you wear when you are welding, and the tools and accessories you have at your disposal, will enable you to be safer and more comfortable while doing your job. Welding helmets, shirts, jackets, sleeves, boots, pants, gloves, aprons, beanies, hats, backpacks, accessory bags, helmet bibs, doo rags, safety glasses and goggles are all necessary parts of your welding attire, and that’s not even discussing the accessories (you need something to put in that accessory bag!). Wire brushes, welding curtains, magnetic fixtures, chipping hammers, welpers, pliers, stingers, welding calculator, rod holders, reference manuals, etc…all part and parcel of the welder’s tool kit.
For sure, the above will depend heavily on what type of work you are doing and you won’t start with all of it. But, it will accumulate over the years and you will find the brands and items you trust and are comfortable with more than others. After time, you’ll find yourself debating with other welders about why one is better than the other. Just like anything else.
We’ll talk a bit about it here but cannot do any of these justice with just a few sentences. We’ll link out to more detailed articles for more detailed explanations. There are four basic welding processes you need to understand. Which you end up doing most of will depend entirely on the type of work you are doing.
Also call GMAW, or Gas Metal Arc Welding, MIG welding joins metal by creating an arc between them, thereby heating them up to the point where the metal can fuse. The arc is created between the welder’s electrode, which consists of filler metal, and the metal that is being welded, resulting in a strong bead between the two surfaces being welded. It is important to note that in MIG welding, the welder’s electrode supplies the metal that fuses the two metals together, so the metals themselves are not fused. For this reason, MIG is useful when you need to weld two different types of metal. Also, important to understand, MIG welding uses a consumable electrode so you will need a supply of them.
TIG stands for Tungsten Inert Gas and is a process to heat two metals with a tungsten electrode to the point where the two metals fuse. The important point to understand here is that the tungsten does not become a part of the weld..the tungsten electrode is non-consumable. You can use another rod in TIG welding to join different materials.
Stick welding is also called “Shielded Metal Arc Welding”, or SMAW. We’ll just say Stick Welding. It is the oldest type of welding processes and is the processes that most immediately comes to mind for most folks when they think about welding. Using a consumable rod, stick welding heats the rod and the two metals together to the point where all three are fused, creating a very strong weld.
Arc Welding, also called Flux-Core Welding, is similar to MIG in that a consumable wire is fed into the weld. However, unlike MIG welding, this wire has flux that generates a gas shield around the weld so there is no need for an external gas source as there is with MIG.
The Strongest Weld?
This will, as always, depend on the situation but overall Stick welding is considered to provide the strongest weld and also allows for welding thick and heavy metal, cast iron even, and doing so in unclean environments as well as inclement weather.