Teacher of 1: Benefits and Limitations of Self-taught Welding

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Self-Taught_WeldingYou can teach yourself to change your car’s brakes, modify a computer program and even peel a banana the right way.

All of us live in the Information Age, and no matter what interests we have, we’re confronted with the same message

With enough information, you can teach yourself how to do weld.

Aspiring underwater welders need experience and understanding of topside welding before getting in a wetsuit. Is it possible to obtain this experience and skill as your own teacher?


Understand Learning Styles

Before you fire up your welding machine, you must understand your learning style. Most people have a blend of one or two dominant styles.

  • Visual: Video/Images
  • Aural: Sound/Songs
  • Verbal: Written/Spoken
  • Physical: 5 Senses
  • Logical: Systems
  • Social: Teams
  • Solitary: Alone

Once you understand your learning styles better, you’ll know where to focus your time and effort. Also, realize that learning styles aren’t exclusive, so you can focus, but don’t create tunnel vision. If every minute of your learning is dedicated to online welding videos, you’ll only learn from certain visual angles. Likewise, if you only work in “solitary” mode, you won’t understand safety and advanced techniques from experienced welders.


The Self-Taught Process

Learning_Welding

Image credit: Terry King, Flickr

After finding your learning style, obtain a basic overview of all welding processes. You might want to learn a little about the history of welding too, as you’ll gain an appreciation for the advanced welding technology that we currently have (and old-timers will love you for it).

  • SMAW
  • GTAW
  • GMAW
  • FCAW
  • SAW
  • ESW

Then, start focusing on the welding process that you want to learn first. Underwater wet welders primarily use FCAW due to its versatility, but underwater dry welding can make use of almost any welding type (though SMAW is quite common). Most importantly, find a relatively simple welding process so you can gain experience quickly without major frustration.

Many welders recommend starting off on stick welding like MIG, but what’s easy to one beginner may be extremely difficult to another. Again, find what works for you.


Resources and Availability

There are plenty of places to go to learn welding, but this plays back into your learning style. If you have more of a visual, aural and logical learning style, then these resources will work perfectly for you. If not, you’ll eventually want to practice through a welding school or a local business.

  • Websites
  • Social Media
  • Videos
  • Forums
  • Podcasts
  • Books

With equipment, invest in the tools that fit the welding process you want to learn. For starters, try a stick welder and auto-darkening helmet. Research equipment that will give you the most value and freedom in your practice.


Surroundings to Take Advantage

Look at your environment. Where do you live? Who and what are available to you?

  • Rural (old farm equipment, iron heaps, ranchers with welding supplies)
  • Suburb (small welding businesses)
  • City (large and small welding businesses, technical schools)

Don’t compare yourself to your welding buddies who have it “better” than you, just because their dad owns a welding shop and already has them employed. The best learners are those that have to work for it, and there’s always something or someone in your environment that you can glean welding knowledge from.


Know Your Limitations

Welding_LimitsSafety in Numbers: Prospective welders make a huge mistake when they make puddles without proper safety knowledge. Every welding process requires an understanding of safety techniques, and common sense will only take you so far. You’ll need guidance from welders who care about their fingers (and eyes, and neck, and forearms…)

Stop Being a Perfectionist: Remember that welding is a mix of art and science. Therefore, you’ll never obtain complete perfection in all aspects of your welding. Continue to practice, but don’t get stuck on one characteristic.

Start Small: Self-teaching means you’ll eventually want to use your own tools. You probably won’t have the money to buy a high-grade, commercial welding machine and rods. Since you’ll mostly just be practicing on it, don’t worry about the premium stuff. However, don’t skimp on PPE (personal protective equipment).

Self-Taught Oxymoron: As one welder put it: “There’s no such thing as self-taught.” Authors teach you through books, filmmakers teach you through online videos, bloggers teach you through posts…you get the point. It’s important to understand that all of your welding knowledge comes from someone else – keep that ego small and your hands nimble.


Self-Taught Welding: Hobby or Professional? Evaluate your Future

As you’re engaging in self-taught welding techniques, make sure you know your end-goal. If you’re only in it for a little side-money or to finish up that fencing row in your pasture, than you can continue your self-teaching as long as you’d like.

However, if you eventually want to become an underwater welder or professional topside welder, then you’ll need more than “above-average” skill with the electrode. After you’ve become familiar with some of the weld styles and practiced for a few months, it’s best to find a local weld school or fabricator business to continue your career pursuits.

Cameron Dekker
 

Cameron grew up in Allentown, Pennsylvania, a once-proud steel town on the Lehigh River, where he got a taste of TIG welding in his high school shop class. He holds certificates for Certified WeldingEducator (CWE) and Certified Resistance Welding Technician (CRWT) from the American Welding Institute. His interests include scuba diving, sculpture, and kayaking.