Welding is on the up. In the US alone, the industry is set to grow 6% by 2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, making it a great choice for entrepreneurs looking for a lucrative, in-demand trade.
Much of this work is occurring across industry, construction, and manufacturing, but these aren’t the only welding applications available to those wishing to get started in the welding business. Welding has a long history in the artistic metalworking world too, and with the right approach and an eye for aesthetics, you can turn it into a creative profession. Here’s how you can do so.
What can you create?
There are countless forms that metal artists can specialise in, from functional furnishings to abstract sculptures. For the home, tables, lighting, and ornaments all lend themselves well to metalworking, adding a contemporary aesthetic wherever they’re placed. Outdoors, gating, trellises, and furniture are all great options, as well as larger metal sculptures that serve as brilliant centrepieces for gardens.
It’s worth remembering that any of these ideas could be combined with another material, such as wood. Plus, due to the durability of metal, the only limit to your creations is your imagination.
What equipment do you need?
Before you jump into creating your first work, it’s important you gather the correct equipment. Start by acquiring or building your own strong and sturdy welding bench on which you can safely operate, and purchase several wire brushes, which are ideal for the general cleaning of materials, before and after welding.
Next, get hold of good-quality safety apparatus (arguably the most important equipment). This includes a welding helmet, welding gloves, fireproof apron, long-sleeved fireproof shirt, leather boots, and a fire extinguisher. These items are crucial, so it’s advisable not to economize on them.
Your choice of welding tool should also be seriously considered, as the effectiveness of methods differs, and the choice of which will impact which metals you work:
- Arc – Offering good visibility of the weld and typically costing less than other methods, arc welders are nevertheless not well-suited for working thin metals, and the creation of surface slag does increase the need for cleaning. They can be used to weld most metals.
- Gas – Gas welding is like arc welding, except it allows the weld to be corrected after it has been made and metals to be mixed. The trade-off is a risk of warping the metal and plenty of deposits and spray. Gas welding is suited to steel, copper, brass, lead, bronze, iron, and aluminium alloys, making it very versatile.
- Gas-metal – Spanning MIG (Metal Inert Gas) and MAG (Metal Active Gas) welders, which are used for non-ferrous and ferrous metals, respectively, gas-metal welding methods are good for welding thin materials but are slightly more difficult to use than other approaches.
- TIG – Gas-tungsten arc welding is a very precise and clean method of welding aluminium and steel, on behalf of the inert gas used to protect the weld zone. However, it is time-consuming and more expensive than other methods.
- Electric resistance – This method, usable with most metals, heats the material with an electric current and produces few deposits or warping. Nevertheless, it is a spot-welding method, which may not work for some metal artforms.
You can look more into the differences between each welding method via this helpful Institute of Physics paper.
Get some welding training
Welding doesn’t require a massive amount of training, but any beginner should nevertheless sign up to a training course to be taken through the basics by a qualified professional. In doing so, you’ll be able to start your new profession on the front foot and quickly begin making amazing creative welding projects.