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Tech - The Basics Of Welding
Tackle your own metal repairs on your vintage Mustang project
Besides the electrical danger, the most important safety aspect is the proper protective gear. We’ve all seen the television shows where somebody is restoring a car or building a motorcycle and they’re welding away in a t-shirt and no welding helmet. As the saying goes, “Don’t do as I do, do as I say.” Whether it’s four hours of hard-time welding on a floor pan or just a few minutes to tack together some brackets, you need to be using all of the required safety equipment.
Protecting your body begins with a full-length sleeve shirt or jacket made from treated cotton or other non-flammable material. Stay away from synthetics, as they can easily melt by sparks or molten slag and burn you. Also be sure to wear heavy work gloves made of leather or other suitable material, and of course a welding helmet. Many welders also wear a “doo rag,” or even an old baseball cap, under the helmet to protect their heads and necks from hot metal. You’ll be surprised how much flies around when welding and it is easy for a bit of slag or a spark to bounce around inside the helmet, so many companies recommend safety glasses to be worn along with the helmet. Arc rays can easily burn your skin (think sunburn, not contact burn), which is why a full-face helmet along with arm and hand protection is so important. Without them, the exposure of your skin to these rays can cause all sorts of long-term issues.
Welding gives off gases/fumes that can be dangerous too. Never weld on a piece of coated metal unless the coating has been ground away. Coatings like cadmium, galvanizing, and others give off toxic fumes. While it is important to maintain the flow of shielding gas for a quality weld, the gas itself can cause problems if allowed to build up in a work area, so always ensure there is proper ventilation when welding.
While not as serious as electrical or arc ray damage, hearing damage is also something to be considered. Long-term effects are the issue here, as the constant “sizzle” of the welding arc can take its toll when welding constantly over the years. Of course, when welding on sheetmetal during a restoration project, you’ll often encounter hammering, cutting, grinding, and other noisy jobs, so we always stress to “put your ears on” and wear protective ear muffs, or at the least in-ear protection, during your time when working on your project in your home garage or shop.
One last thing to consider is the electrical and magnetic field (EMF) produced by the welder in use. Anytime an arc is struck, an EMF field is created around the welding equipment and metal being welded. Any person wearing an implanted medical device, like a pacemaker, should seek consultation with their doctor before using the welder. Things you can do to limit your risk include ensuring the welding cables are to the side of you and not one on each side. It is also best to tape or tie-wrap the cables together as well. Do not coil or hang the welding cables on your body. Secure the work piece clamp as close to the welding area as possible. Finally, do not sit or lean on the welder while using it.