Welding

Catapult

Well-known member
Brass Subscriber
#1
I've spent more time underneath a helmet then I care to recall. I thought I would offer some general advice to those who may be considering welding machines/supplies in their survival plans. There are more options but for OTG or self reliance considerations I break it down to 3. I will attempt to give you the good and bad of each option.

First - get a certified helmet and plates. Never weld without proper eye protection. You can find cheap helmets and plates for about 25.00. Don't weld in the rain and don't jerry-rig your equipment.

1) SMAW: Also known as stick welding. Cheap to use if you have the electricity bounty and produces incredibly strong welds. Carbon, low carbon, stainless steel and cast iron are all options with the same machine. You don't need more than 150 amps, and realistically, you can get by with 125.

Some of the drawbacks are that it takes finesse to get it right. You'll need someone to give you guidance if you're a newbie. Stick sticking is common for the newbie and quickly remedied if you know what to do. The rods must be kept dry. You cannot allow them to get wet or chipped up. It is vital they remain dry and in good shape. Generally speaking 3/16" and 1/8" rods will handle anything you need to do. Overhead welding takes years to get right; but if you're laying something on a bench you can generally get the job done after practice. So try and position your work to suit a better weld.

You can weld tubing or pipe easily with a stick (if it is really thin you should use a different process such as brazing) . But again, position the work to get the best outcome. Whenever you weld overhead or vertical up you risk "blow through". Meaning, the parent material (what you are welding) just had a hole blown through it from the heat and action of your rod. Avoid this. Don't weld vertical down with a stick. For tube and pipe you can rotate the pipe clockwise with your hand as you weld counterclockwise. Trust me, this works fantastic. Most importantly - the weld does NOT need to be consecutive.

Stick is hard to learn and get right, but when you do, it works well.

2) GMAW: also known as MIG welding. Which stands for metal/inert/gas. These devices are expensive in comparison but are the easiest to learn for newbies. You can get these in many amp ranges but you won't need anything too large. 150 amps should solve most heavy machinery problems (but not all). They make them in small 90 amp units - which are very handy and pull minimal electricty - but "duty cycle" comes in to play. What that means is when you are running hard with a low amp unit .... it will overheat. It goes into an automatic cycle of giving you poor performance while it attempts to cool down. You'll hear the fan rev-up -so just stop. When the fan slows- go back to work.

Keep your stinger lead (amount of wire sticking out of the nozzle) to about 1/4 to 3/8". Generally speaking you'll set the gas tank to about 15 CFH. MIG's use inert gas (a mixture of argon and CO2) to shield your welding from oxygen. In windy conditions that gas flow will need to be increased. If the wind is strong enough - wait for another time. Meaning: if you can see your weld pool or flame moving due to wind - stop.

Gas. You'll have to rent these containers from a welding supply shop. Perhaps you can buy them, I don't know about that. The wire is 70K tensile strength carbon steel. Very strong. The larger units accept wire spools up to 20 lbs, the smaller units can use 5 lb spools. Everything in life is more expensive by pound the smaller you go so consider that. A small 90 amp unit can handle most 1/4 low carbon steel jobs and does well with stainless. Obviously, adding stainless costs more for not only the wire but you'll need a different gas tank. It is called a "tri-mix". So if you're not going to do this often it may not be worth the cost.

With a MIG there is required cleaning and maintenance. Just like a rifle. Keeping it clean is very similar to a rifle. When gummed up it messes with you. Expect that. And lastly, the copper tip. These puppies foul even if you know what you're doing. Answer is to buy a bag of them. You can use wire cleaners and files to clean-up most mishaps, but not all. Most general use tips are 30 or 35 gauge.

Good: easy to use, decent welds. Bad: expensive and consumable intense.

3) Flux core MIG:

Personally I don't like using them but in tough times they would have their role. It's similar to the MIG I just talked about except it doesn't use the gas cylinder. The wire has the shielding component built in. You can get a unit in a variety of amps, including very low amps, which everyone needs to decide how much "power" they will need to get the job done. I cannot predict your needs. A small flux core is okay for fixing up cracked tubing or pipe. The welds typically are "ugly" compared to the previous options - but - the flux core is portable, quick, and likely to get your job done (even if temporarily).

Like a normal MIG you will need to buy spools of wire, tips and expect the associated cleaning. But, I have known folks who didn't care about perfection rave about the simplicity of the flux core. This might be a personal preference thing. Personally I don't recommend it for load bearing structures that humans or pets will be in. But just fine for equipment, bulking steel, or similar tasks. The upside is NO gas containers and compact design.

In full disclosure I've never welded stainless with flux core, so I cannot render an opinion or advice.
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Along the way you'll get spatter down your shirt, "ouch!" with a happy dance, worse case is a slag ball in your boot. Bigtime "ouch!!" and foolish behavior to get your shoe off. I only touched on some basics for OTG living. This wasn't intended to be a deep dive into welding technique or metallurgy.

I will do my best to answer questions.
 
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The Branch Manager

Winter is coming. Forever.
Gold Subscriber
#2
Excellent post. Thank you. Many people that should have a welder and torches don't, IMO because it's one of those 'big scary things' in life that is so fricken awesome cool it seems like magic or voodoo. All my life i've been afraid of automatic transmissions. They are like a thing that should not be. I'm tired of paying 5500$ for 1800 in parts. So I figured it out. First one is going on a year. You CAN do it. Use that fire.
 

GOBLIN X

INVOLUNTARY full time LAB-RAT for MUSC
Brass Subscriber
#3
best small offroad welder i ever bought, is under the hood of my Rover, good for backwoods repairs, came with high out put alternator, batt tray,box leads ect. you can ARC,MIG and TIG with it . should come std with a bugout vehicle as well as a quick air, and a warn winch...... Premier power welder. www.premierpowerwelder.com. didn't mean to interrupt ya Catapult, just want to throw this out there for off road truck welding...... smaller stuff and multipass.

"there is only 2 things a welder cannot fix. a broken heart, and the crack of dawn"