Welding is an Art

Welding steel is a process in which two pieces of material are fused together. The process of welding is different from brazing or soldering, which does not melt the base metal. In a perfect weld, the joint should be stronger than the base metal. When forming these joints, in any process, shielding of the weld arc is required. For this article, we’ll use A36 carbon steel for our base metal.

SMAW, or Shielded Metal Arc Welding, most commonly called “stick welding” is essentially a manual arc welding process. We use a consumable electrode covered in flux to form the pool and high amperage to melt the base metal forming the weld joint. The electrodes angle, the rate of speed you “travel”, the amperage and the electrode type and covering are all critical to the weld. 

GMAW, or Gas Metal Arc Welding, most commonly called MIG (metal inert gas) is a process where an electric arc between the base metal and the filler material (small diameter wire). This process injects an inert gas, a filler material, and enough heat to melt the base metal with a pull of the trigger. With the correct amperage, wire speed, gas and pressure, beautiful welds that are a cinch to clean up are formed. 

GTAW, or Gas Tungsten Arc Welding, Most commonly called TIG (Tungsten Inert Gas) is a difficult welding process. It requires the welder manually feed a filler material while maneuvering the torch and using a pedal to vary heat output to the correct amperage. 

When preparing to join two pieces of steel, many factors need to be addressed. 
  Beveling the joint, or the two edges to be welded is required when the welding process cannot be completed in one single pass. A root pass will be completed, cleaned and possible ground, and then a cover pass or even multiple cover passes laid in order to completely fuse the two pieces of steel. 
  Cleaning the joint is extremely important for most welding processes. For instance, TIG welding requires the most tedious preparation. Using chemical cleaners is sometimes necessary to achieve an uncontaminated weld. And sometimes, a stiff wire brush will do. However, some electrodes offered in SMAW welding can weld materials through grease. 

Welding is as much an art as a career. Moving the right direction, with the right angle, at the right speed, with the right filler and material; you can make beautiful welds. While some beads may be beautiful, they may not be structurally sound. So knowledge of metals, filler materials and processes are extremely important, structurally and in order to make beautiful colors with different fillers and base metals. 
Speaking on common energy sources used to weld, the possibilities are almost endless depending on experience level. The common MIG machine for instance can use a very wide range of filler wire. From Flux Core to standard Copper Coated steel in many different sizes. Just remember, The base metal, thickness and process determine your equipment and consumables. Welding A36 carbon steel can mean you’re using a 250 amp MIG machine, running a variety of wire diameter from .020 to .045 (commonly). If you’re not using a shielding gas, a flux cored wire is required. The flux is on the inside of the wire, hence the name, verses the flux being a coating on the outside of the electrode, like in Stick welding. Flux cored wire will leave a hard flux coating on the weld, making it difficult to clean. Using a shielding gas such as 75% Co2/25% Argon allows you to use copper coated wire which produces a much less volatile weld pool, doesn’t have flux to clean, and generally appears more aesthetically pleasing. A good ole stick welder could be anything from the classic “tombstone” shaped machines you plug into your 220v outlet, to engine driven machines producing anywhere from 40 to 350 amps (commonly). The machines can be AC (alternating current) used for materials like Aluminum and Magnesium, or DC (direct current). DC stick welders are the most common. You can weld a wide variety of materials from cast iron, to nickel, to carbon steel with a DC stick welding machine. TIG machines come with a seemingly unlimited amount of options because of the versatility of the process. Your torch electrodes are a non consumable tungsten or tungsten hybrid. The hybrids can include Thorium, Cerium, or lanthanum and are used for different materials. There are also a multitude of gases to choose from. From helium to pure argon and a lot more, choosing your gas will depend on the base material and which TIG process. TIG machines today can weld