Welding has been around for centuries, though not in the forms most commonly used today. One of the first welding processes ever used was known as forge welding. Forge welding attempts to join two metals through a process of heating, and then pounding and striking. It’s what blacksmiths did. But since then, there have been quite a few advancements in the welding world. With these new methods and techniques, welding has left the confines of industrial settings and can now be done practically anywhere – even underwater or in outer space!

As you can guess from the history of welding, the ability to join two or more pieces of metal together in a strong bond has been fundamental in our advancements in all areas of life, from housing to transportation; from manufacturing to repairs. Understanding welding basics can come in handy at work, but it will just as often come in handy around the house, in the workshop or on the farm. Because of this, welding is a skill that almost anyone can benefit from, male or female, young or old.

Why Weld? If you own any equipment or machinery that is metal, welding will certainly serve as a useful skill. Some typical goals of a welding job include:

• Fixing stress cracks • Reinforcing weak joints, and • Cutting/shaping new parts and adapters from raw plating.

For chores like these, many welders rely on a process known as arc welding. Arc welding is a method where during the welding process, an electrical current jumps through an air gap (between a positively charged electrode and a negatively charged steel plate) and produces an enormous amount of heat. This heat is produced at the end of a welding rod, and when it does, metal can be melted. Well, it’s a little more complicated than that, but the concept is the same.

Perhaps the most common and economical welding method used today is AC (alternating current) arc welding. You can locate a simple AC welder just about anywhere, such as your local farm store or home improvement center. This welding process is ideal for most of your simple, routine welding jobs. Therefore, AC arc welding is ideal for those of you just starting out.

Minimize Your Risk While arc welding isn’t incredibly complicated, there are a few risks and hazards that you should be aware of:

1. Exposure to radiation
2. Flying sparks (in the form of globs of molten metal)
3. Electric Shock
4. Fumes
5. Damage to your eyes, and
6. Burns

However, by wearing protective clothing and specialized welding helmets and other gear, you can greatly reduce the inherent risks of welding. Here are a few other tips to help keep you safe while arc welding:

• Make sure to work on a dry floor. Wear thick rubber shoes and dry leather welding gloves.
• Be sure to use insulated electrode holders.
• Check to make sure that your equipment is all properly grounded.
• Keep your work area properly ventilated to avoid inhaling any potentially toxic fumes.
• Be on the look out for flying bits of melted metal.
• Most importantly, be aware of any other people who are around you. If they aren’t wearing the proper gear, then keep them away from your project.

This will get you started welding safely – one of the most important things when learning a new craft.

Welding helmets are the without a doubt the single most valuable item a welder has to protect himself. Welding helmets have been around for a long time and the technology has steadily improved. They are much more user friendly and offer far more protection. Still, there are a lot of misconceptions about how a welding helmet actually protects the welder from environmental hazards of their job.

Your average layperson commonly believes a welding helmet’s primary task is to shield your eyes from the bright lights of a welding arc. Almost like a welding helmet is a pair of super sunglasses. This is only partially true. The lens’ in the helmet primary job is to filter out ultraviolet and infrared light. The lens is designed to filter out 100% of harmful UV and IR rays from your sensitive eyes. Do not confuse this with whether or not the lens is dark or not. An auto darkening lens will protect the welder from ultraviolet light whether the lens is clear or darkened. It is understandable to think the bright light is the problem because it is visible to the naked eye. The bright light is still damaging to the eye, that’s why the welding helmet has a darkened lens or has an auto darkening feature.

On auto darkening welding helmets, the lens will darken within 4/10ths of millisecond to filter out visible light. This is faster than your eyes have time to react to the light. Anything slower than 4/10ths of a millisecond and you shouldn’t purchase the welding helmet. An auto darkening model protects your eyes 100% of the time from ultraviolet and infrared light whether the lens is clear or darkened and protects you from visible light 4/10ths of millisecond after the arc is lit. This arrangement is far safer than older style welding helmets for the simple reason that you can see when the arc is shut off. After you stop welding the auto darkening lens will become clear. Now you can walk around or see your work area without lifting the helmet. This is very important because another function of the welding helmet is to protect your face and eyes from flying objects. Metal debris and other hazards can still damage your eyes.

Auto darkening welding helmets are definitely the way to go and worth the extra cost. Rest assured the technology will completely protect your eyes from the harmful effects of the welding light. The lens will darken in enough time so your irreplaceable eyes are not damaged. A welder will not sacrifice safety for convenience and actually the auto darkening models are far safer because they allow to keep your face and eyes protected even after the welding arc is extinguished.