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Welding Basics - Melting Metal
Buy your first welder and start building your next project
11. At the gun, the nozzle unscrews and the tip can then be changed. A pair of welding pliers makes quick work of this, and they can be used to clean the tip—something you’ll need to do often when you first start out.
12. One of the key features of the Lincoln 180 Dual is the ability to run on either a 120- or 230-volt power source. It’s as simple as using the appropriate cable. With most breaker panels located in the garage, where you’ll most likely be working, it’s fairly easy to call an electrician and have a 230 service installed in a convenient location if that’s the way you want to go.
13. With power to the welder, you can now squeeze the trigger to advance the wire. Once it comes out of the gun, you can install and tighten the contact tip and install the nozzle. When welding, you’ll want to start with the wire protruding approximately 3⁄8-inch from the tip.
14. Unless you’re in a rural area, welding gas supply companies are usually pretty easy to find via the Yellow Pages or the Internet. Companies like AirGas and Praxair regularly stock the CO2/Argon mix gas you’ll need to get started. There are generally two to three sizes of bottles available: You’ll likely have to pay a bottle fee up front and then just have to pay for a refill beyond that.
15. Once you have your shielding gas bottle, you can install the included regulator and supply line. Our Lincoln welder requires 30-40 cubic feet per hour under normal conditions, with higher pressures used for out-of-position welding. Make sure you set the pressure while squeezing the gun trigger to get the right setting.
16. Suit up, as Barney Stinson likes to say. Proper welding coats have collars and cuffs that tighten up to prevent errant embers from getting in and burning you. You’ll especially appreciate this when welding upside down or above your head.
17. For most auto enthusiasts, these are likely the three most common thicknesses of metal that you’ll be handling. Standard sheetmetal such as body panels like the one of the left are usually 18-24 gauge, while framerails and such are a bit thicker. Rollbar material is thicker still, but the Lincoln 180 can handle all of this—perfect for what we are looking to use it for.
18. Inside the machine’s lid you’ll find the wire feed speed and voltage chart, among a bunch of other information that includes a metal thickness guide, and basic welding technique diagrams. Find the type of wire you are using, then the wire thickness, and go down the chart to find the metal thickness. The chart will then give you the recommended wire feed speed and voltage setting, which is set on the front of the machine.
19. One of the keys to great welding is clean material, and cleaning the material is done both chemically and mechanically. New metal often comes coated with an anti-rust chemical that must be cleaned prior to welding. Acetone or similar organic solvents are the best, and soapy water can be used as well. Never use brake cleaner, as it can decompose into poisonous and corrosive gasses when the arc hits it. In addition to chemical cleaning, any oxidation, paint, powdercoat, or other finish needs to be removed via sanding disc or wire brush.
20. With your material clean and ready to be welded, connect the work cable clamp and make sure it has a good, solid, and clean connection. A bad connection will make for a poor weld or none at all. Be sure you are in a well-ventilated area with no flammable items in the immediate area.
21. If you’ve never welded before or have done very little of it, it’s best to start out with some scrap metal. This will allow you to spend time watching the weld puddle, practice your wire speed and gun movement, and generally find your technique. You can assess your weld penetration and quality without worrying about ruining the body panel that you just spent money on and waited a week for it to show up on the brown truck. Don’t limit yourself to just laying beads on a flat piece of metal either. Grab a couple of pieces and practice your technique on different types of joints as well.