'Sooner or later you'll need to have something welded. Our hobby requires it. As musclecars get older, as parts break or rust out, and as replacement parts vanish, you'll long for welding skills. The good news is that it's easier and cheaper to buy a welder now than it ever has been in the past. All the name brands make quality, entry-level MIG machines that run on household voltage and will meet the demands of the average weekend enthusiast. There's never been a better time to buy a welder and get good at using it.
There's a saying in the industry: "Weld-ing holds the world together." While it seems that everything-every business, institution, city department, you name it-has a slogan, this is one that is absolutely true. Think about it: Nearly everything we use every day is held together by welds. To put a new twist on the old saw: Teach a man to weld and he'll fix things for a lifetime.
Of course, it is possible to teach yourself how to weld, but the process is time-consuming and can be frustrating. It can also be difficult to know if your technique is correct. It's pretty easy to get a decent-looking weld with the newer MIG machines, but just because a weld looks nice doesn't mean that it's structurally sound. As with anything else, it is best to learn from a pro. A person wanting to gain welding skills has many options-learn from a professional welder, take classes at a vo-tech school, or go to one of the manufacturers. Both Lincoln Electric and Hobart offer welding classes in their own dedicated training facilities.
Lincoln Electric has been making welders since the turn of the century (last century, that is) and has been teaching welding classes since 1917. It offers a variety of instruction, from plate and pipe welding for industrial applications to dedicated MIG and TIG classes. The one that appealed most to us was the Basic Motorsports class. It's a five-day intensive course covering MIG and TIG welding, plus a little oxyacetylene and plasma cutting on the last day. There's a lot to learn, from basic metallurgy in the classroom to developing and honing your technique in the workshop. We packed our bags and flew to Lincoln's headquarters in Cleveland, Ohio, ready to burn some metal. Here's what we learned.
Lincoln's Basic Motorsports Welding class is a five-day course combining classroom time an
A definite bonus from learning at a place like Lincoln is the students' access to resource
Gas tungsten arc welding is a process in which a nonconsumable tungsten electrode is used to channel a high-amperage current through the workpiece. It's more commonly known as TIG, or tungsten inert gas welding, and is sometimes called Heliarc welding. Tungsten is used as the electrode because of its high melting point. The arc struck between the electrode and the work is blanketed with an inert, or nonreactive, gas, usually argon, helium (the "heli" in Heliarc), or a mixture of the two. The gas flows through the power cable and exits from a nozzle near the electrode. It shields the arc and weld puddle from contaminants in the atmosphere, specifically oxygen and nitrogen, that would react with the molten metal and possibly weaken the joint. Filler rod is fed manually into the weld puddle to help bridge the gap between the two pieces of metal being joined together.
The TIG welding process was developed in the '30s but became commercially viable during WWII when it was used to join magnesium airplane parts. It produces the best welds both structurally and aesthetically, but the process is very slow and requires a lot of practice to nail down the technique. In contrast to other forms of welding, all types and thicknesses of metal can be welded with the GTA process. The operator has a tremendous amount of control over all aspects of the weld: the amount of current, the rate of travel, and the amount of filler material used. GTA welding can also be performed in any position-vertically or overhead-so it lends itself nicely to structural automotive work such as making rollcages.
TIG welding in DC straight polarity (normal operating polarity) sees the work as positive
Hold the torch similar to the way you'd hold a pencil, at about a 15-degree angle to the w
Here's the progression you can expect in a few days of practice. With our having never TIG