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Beginning welding

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fritz_monroe:
So I've been interested in learning to weld for several years.  So I'm to the point where it's time to start learning some additional skills.  I have a need to learn welding, so that's where I'm starting.

But now comes the confusion.  Mig, tig, oxy-acetelene.  What type of welding should I start with?  I will likely start at the local community college, but they have "beginners mig", "beginners Tig" and "Beginners oxy-acetelene" classes available.

I'm not going to do welding as a career.  So what type of welding is most versatile and useful for the homesteader that just has the occasional need to fix a tool, or build something?

FreeLancer:
I think most agree that stick has the lowest cost of entry in terms of equipment and is the most versatile, but it's more difficult to learn than MIG.  TIG is the hardest to master and the most expensive.

atl:
Welding is definitely a very useful skill to have. It is one of those skills you need to practice to get good at but once you have it you have it forever. Equipment can get expensive but often times you can pick up a decent welder at a pawn shop or any of the usual suspects online. ( I bought a nice Miller suit case welder on ebay for a significant discount a few years ago).

Mig (wire welding) is the easiest to master and very versatile. The Bobcat is entirely built with wire welders, both robotic and by people. Your instructor will be able to point you in the right direction for equipment. One of the downsides is you will either have to run flux cored wire which in my opinion is not a very nice looking weld or you will need a tank of CO for regular wire.

Stick welding has the lowest cost to enter the field and you will have plenty of range to weld thick metal. Stick welding is the hardest of the disiplines to master but if you can stick weld the rest comes pretty easy. Welding thinner metals can be more difficult.

Oxy-acetelene is good for light metals such as sheet metal or brazing but I have found little practical use for it as it is not a very strong weld. (disclaimer: used in the right applications brazing can be useful) It does teach you about puddle control and heat. It is not a very far leap from this to Tig.

Tig welding is good for many things. Especially thin metals. It is used heavily in the food and beverage industry for sanitary welds on thin wall tubing. It can also weld aluminum but that is a whole other skill set and not all Tig welders can weld aluminum.

With all that said I would research welders first to see how much the cost will be for equipment to help making an informed decision. My opinion would be MIG. If you have any more questions I will try to help.

One more thing. How is your eyesight? Good vision (seeing up close) is critical. You can put cheater lenses in your hood, but I find bifocals hard to use. 

Stwood:
I recommend getting a torch setup first. Learn to cut and braze.
Then move to a welder. I've always stick welded. Bought my Lincoln in 72 or so and still use it. And the trk shops I worked in, we always welded and fabricated a lot.

I've never went with wire welding here at home, always wanted to for thin metals, but hasn't been a necessity.

fritz_monroe:
So I've done a little research and the gist of things is that MIG is the easiest to learn.  It's a bit more expensive than some others.  It's also great for steel, stainless and aluminum, the main things that I'd want to weld.

So that's what I'm probably going to look at learning, MIG welding.

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