If you’re looking for the easiest welding process to learn…
If you’d like to shortcut your welding learning curve…
Or if you’d like to discover why some welding processes can make a beginner want to throw their welder against the wall in frustration, then what I’m about to reveal is the truth about which welding process is the easiest to learn for beginners.
The 4 Main Welding Processes
- Oxy Acetylene (Gas Welding)
- Arc Welding (aka. Stick welding)
- MIG Welding
- TIG Welding
If you’re a beginner then choosing the wrong welding process can mean the difference between you enjoying this as a hobby, or being just plain frustrated.
Let’s briefly talk about each process, and then I’ll reveal the easiest process for you to start with.
Welding process #1: Oxy Acetylene Welding
This welding process uses 2 cylinders of gas mixed together at the torch, and then ignited into an extremely hot flame. Most times it’s acetylene mixed with oxygen, but sometimes it’s propane mixed with oxygen.
Either way, a fuel gas is always mixed with oxygen to attain the high temperature needed to melt steel.
The temperature of an oxy acetylene flame burns at about 6,632℉. That’s freaking hot!
The flame is used to heat the metal until a molten weld puddle is formed. At this point you move the puddle by manipulating the travel direction of the torch while simultaneously dipping a filler rod.
A filler rod is simply a rod of metal that is dipped into the weld puddle that becomes the weld bead.
An oxy-fuel setup like this is very versatile. You can not only weld steel, aluminum, copper, stainless steel, and more…
You can also use it as a cutting torch, to bend metal, and even to do metal brazing (where you join 2 pieces of metal together with a bronze filler metal).
It’s important that you wear shade 5 goggles when using an oxy fuel setup. Whether you’re cutting or welding, you will experience “torch pop” or pieces of metal flying around. You don’t want one of these hitting you in the eyes.
But, as versatile as an oxy fuel setup can be, it’s a very slow and clumsy process to actually be efficient at welding. In other words, it takes a long time to lay a weld bead, and even longer to get good at it.
While learning this process first (as they do in many welding schools) will allow you to learn how to manipulate the molten weld puddle, it isn’t necessary.
This welding process fell out of favor with the advent of electricity, but it was commonly used in the mid 1800’s all the way up to the turn of the 20th Century.
Welding Process #2: Arc Welding
Arc welding is also known as stick welding. It was the first electric welding process to be invented, and it’s still very commonly used today.
The image of a stick welder is probably what you think of today when you imagine someone welding.There’s the long electrode (stick) attached to a stinger which runs an electric current through the electrode, causing a short circuit at the workpiece.
You can weld almost any metal, and even cut using an arc welder.
See, you can buy stick electrodes in any metal you wish to weld. So, if you have an aluminum boat you want to weld on, simply buy some aluminum electrodes. Same for mild steel, stainless, etc.
Stick welding is known for its ability to get deep penetration in metal. So, it’s often used when welding in shipyards, boilers, and other fields where the deepest weld penetration is needed.
The stick electrodes used in arc welding actually burn down in length as you weld. This is why they’re called consumables. And when you look at a finished weld, the weld bead you see is that electrode actually burned down to present a weld bead.
However, this does mean that you have to stop pretty often to discard your old electrode, and add a new one.
Trying to learn stick welding for a beginner can be pretty frustrating. Another reason it’s called stick welding is because your electrode often sticks to the metal when starting your arc. It can be frustrating to say the least.
It’s not uncommon to spend at least the first 30 minutes to an hour just learning how to get a scratch start going.
Stick electrodes come with a flux coating on the outside of the rod. This coating is an absolute essential, and without it your welds would be very weak. That’s because in order for a weld to be solid all the way through, you have to keep the atmospheric gases away from the puddle.
Otherwise, gases like nitrogen and oxygen will “contaminate” the weld, causing small pinholes. So, we use a flux coating that creates a purge of these gases at the weld. This helps maintain a proper weld.
Welding Process #3: MIG Welding
If you’re a beginner to welding, MIG welding is without a doubt the process that will get you up and running quickly and smoothly.
With MIG (aka. GMAW Welding) the electrode comes on a roll of continuously fed wire, rather than a “stick”.
And with MIG you have a handheld gun. You just pull the trigger and the machine starts to feed out the wire. It’s essentially an endless supply of welding wire since you don’t have to change out the roll of wire very often. At least not for the home hobbyist or weekend warrior.
You have 2 options with a MIG welder.
You can choose to weld with either flux core wire, or with solid wire. If you’re using flux core wire, the flux (protective agent) is on the inside of the wire. Opposite to that of stick welding.
But if you’re using solid wire then you need to use a shielding gas. Typically you’d use C25 gas which is a combination of 25% carbon dioxide and 75% Argon. This shielding gas does the same thing as flux. It purges the weld area of any oxygen or nitrogen that could contaminate the weld.
If you’re new to buying a MIG welder, be careful. I recommend buying one that has the ability to use it with gas and with flux core. Some only offer a flux core option. You’ll be disappointed if you go this route.
You can weld pretty much any metal with a MIG welder. Aluminum welding does require that you use an aluminum spool gun.
Once you get your MIG welder tuned in correctly, you’ll be able to create strong, smooth welds every time. Tuning your MIG welder (ie. setting the wire speed and voltage correctly) will make or break your welds.
Many newbies turn out welds that look like bird poop simply because they haven’t got this part right. But, once it’s setup and tuned you just pull the trigger and you’re welding.
However, I did simplify that a bit.
To successfully learn to weld with a MIG welder you need to master not only a flat position weld, but also, horizontal welds, vertical welds, and overhead welds. On top of that, you need to master the welding joints.
Don’t start a project before doing this. You’ll need to know how to weld fillet joints, lap joints, corner joints, t joints, and more. Believe me, you can throw a lot of money away by starting a project too soon before you really know what you’re doing.
I teach all of these MIG welding techniques and more in my course 90 Minute MIG Mastery.
If you want the easiest, most stress free, and funnest way to learn welding, start with a MIG welder. I promise you won’t regret it.
Welding Process #4: TIG Welding
TIG welding is an advanced welding process, but can be learned at home.
It’s used mainly in industrial applications where the welds need to be very accurate. I refer to TIG welding as the cadillac of welding processes. If you’ve ever seen a flawless weld that looks like a stack of dimes fell over, that’s probably TIG.
TIG is very accurate. While welding 2 soda cans together with a stick welder would no doubt destroy the cans, the heat can be adjusted so you can weld this with a TIG.
You can even TIG weld 2 razor blades together it’s so accurate.
The personal TIG machines are going to run more than MIG or stick machines. $1,000+.
See, TIG could be compared to oxy acetylene welding in that you have a heating torch along with a dipping rod. So, it’s 2 handed.
The difference is that with TIG you’re heating the metal with an electric arc while dipping the filler rod. And the way the TIG is so clean and so accurate is that it doesn’t use a short circuit welding process.
In other words, there are not sparks flying everywhere. Just you, the heat of the torch, and the filler rod. There are foot control pedals to increase the voltage, so it will be tricky, and not recommend for any beginner to learn welding this way.
Just like with MIG welding, there is a shielding gas you must use with TIG welding. The molten weld puddle always has to be protected.
If you’re a beginner, like I said I recommend starting with a MIG welder. If you’d like to learn more about MIG welding, or you just want an instructor to take you by the hand and reveal all the step-by-step secrets to mastering the art of MIG welding, checkout 90 Minute MIG Mastery.