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Welding is a process of joining two or more pieces or sheets of metal using heat. This is achieved in various ways. Hence, you hear of metal inert gas, gas metal arc, shielded metal arc, tungsten inert gas, and flux-core arc welding. Different techniques are employed for different types of welding. These techniques should be done correctly to avoid mistakes (1).
We cannot overemphasize why welders, beginners and professionals alike, should try to avoid mistakes. Errors can lead to injuries. Injuries keep people out of commission for some time, thereby reducing productivity. Mistakes can also lead to fatal consequences.
Safety concerns aren’t the only reason precautions should be observed in fabrication shops. When you follow precautionary measures and use the right techniques, you’re less likely to waste raw materials and energy. Efficiency reduces welding costs.
The major consequence of a welding failure is damage to property or infrastructure. The last thing you need is poor weld that leads to a pipeline leak and a lawsuit.
So without further ado, let’s talk about 5 of the most common welding mistakes that should be avoided!
There’s no other welding mistake that leads to the most common errors than poor preparation. Beginners are prone to not doing ample prep work, but even professionals are guilty of this. Untrained welders may make the mistake of proceeding to the obvious task right away, because they don’t understand the importance of preparing the workpiece first.
Part of the preparation involves removing dirt, rust, or paint on the weld metal. You also need to grind the metal to get rid of cracks that will compromise the quality of the weld. Some materials demand more prep work than others. One example is aluminum, which should be cleaned more thoroughly than steel. Thorough cleaning of metals before welding may entail degreasing the surface and removing the oxide film.
Welding is one of the most hazardous jobs, so it’s important that you do safety measures to avoid accidents. Neglecting precautions result in material wastage and injuries. The latter could be a devastating outcome of negligence. You can fix a crack on the weld, but burn scars can be permanent. A number of injuries are waiting for anyone who isn’t careful enough. Flash burns and skin burns are minor. The more unfortunate guys suffer from blindness, hearing loss, or permanent disability.
Part of safety precautions is wearing safety gear. Welding PPE includes a helmet with the right shade, earmuffs, a flame-resistant jacket, chaps, and boots. Some welders forgo a welding helmet and wear goggles or glasses instead. Welding goggles offer only eye protection and don’t protect your facial skin from hot debris or damaging radiation. Welding glasses that don’t fit properly can allow a random spark to injure your eye.
Ever seen hobbyists in their garages wearing hearing protection? Most welders, including professionals, dismiss the dangers of chronic loud noise exposure. Hearing loss from loud noise generated by welding machines doesn’t happen overnight. It takes years for you to notice a change in your hearing.
In some cases, you may also need to wear a respirator. It can be in a form of a mask that filters fumes. Stick welding, for instance, produces a lot of fumes. These fumes are toxic. They can lead to various health problems down the road. Did you know welders are 43% more likely to develop lung cancer?
For many people, wearing a full PPE is over the top, but erring on the side of caution has never hurt anyone.
Aside from wearing protective equipment, precautionary measures include decluttering your workshop and your work area.
Mishandling filler metal
Filler metals don’t get the attention they need. If you find them in a dirty corner of a garage or on a dusty shelf, you’re not storing them the right way. Exposing filler metal to dirt, grease, and humidity contaminates it. Contaminated rods create poor welds as you might have thought. Store filler rods in a clean and dry place.
The same thing is true for wire coils and spools. Keep them on the wire feeder. Better yet, cover them with a plastic bag if you’re not going to use them for a long time. In fact, if you don’t see yourself doing MIG for quite some time, you should consider taking them off the feeder and storing them back in their packaging.
Choosing the wrong gun or electrode
Many welding machines come with guns that work only at a certain amperage range. That means you have to read the fine print whenever you’re buying new equipment to make sure what the accessories are for. Using a welding gun with amperage that’s too low or too high for the task compromises the quality of your welds.
If you’re doing small fabrication tasks in your backyard, you most likely need a low amperage gun. Even professionals don’t spend the whole day welding. In many cases, a 200-amp gun suffices and may even minimize downtime caused by fatigue and allow more mobility. Also, low amperage guns consume less power, thus reducing your overhead.
However, higher amperage welding operations require a high-amp gun as well. So, again, you have to keep the kind of task you’re doing. Using a lower-amp gun for a high-amp application leads to poor welds that in turn result in costly repairs down the road.
A related issue has something to do with electrodes and wires. Just as you can choose the wrong gun, you might also wind up with the wrong electrode or wire. Different rods and wires are made for different applications. Seasoned welders know this.
No maintenance checks
Aside from poor preparation the other task many welders refuse or forget to do is maintenance. Welding machines require regular maintenance just as most machines do to stay in shape. The more you use a tool, the more it needs to be checked and maintained. Welding machine maintenance is better discussed separately. But in a nutshell, you want to remove dust that has built up inside the machine and inspect cables and guns once in a while.
Mistakes are inevitable. But while we’re human and prone to committing errors, we have to exert more effort to be more mindful to minimize mistakes. Being aware of these shortcomings makes us all a little more careful. What we want is to be efficient and productive — and safe at work!
If you are getting started with welding read more on the Best MIG welder for Home Use & Beginners.