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To get started in welding, you’ll obviously need a machine, a power outlet, electrodes, and protective clothing. but what about all the other things you’ll need? This article will cover some basic smaller items that will really help you get started with welding successfully and efficiently.
As you progress your skill set, different accessories will become more useful to you. Like any hobby, there are all sorts of smaller tools that can help you get the job done quicker.
These are some of our favorite items that we use everyday. Take it or leave it, but it’s the little things that make our work days more productive. Some of these accessories will be required by your company, while some are just nice to have.
As you get more into welding, you’ll realize that a lot more goes into a project than just a machine and some electrodes. Having the right tools and gadgets can really increase your productivity. These tools may be different for each welder, but figuring out what works for you is important. Our favorites may be different from yours, but keep an open mind.
#1 – TIG Finger
While this finger shield is most often used with TIG welding, it can also be helpful when MIG or Stick welding as well. It allows you to place one or two fingers on the hot steel without getting burned. This becomes especially important when you are running multiple beads over one another. The metal will heat up quick, and can burn through gloves very easily.
It is much more economical to get a TIG finger than to burn through expensive welding gloves. With TIG welding especially, it is really nice to prop your torch hand to get a steadier weld.
These TIG fingers do wear out eventually, but we think they are still worth the investment.
If you are someone with larger hands and fingers, the TIG Finger XL is a great option. It fits over larger fingers and can even allow for two fingers to be protected.
#2 – Soap Stone
Just as carpenters need to make marks on their wood, welders need to make marks on their steel. Whether this be for cutting, layout, or fit-ups, you’ll need a marking utensil that can get the job done. Soap stone shows up very well on steel, and it won’t fade away when exposed to higher temperatures. However, it can be wiped away super easily if you make an incorrect mark.
For marking aluminum, steel, stainless steel or cast iron – soap stone is the way to go. It is relatively affordable, and should have a place in every welders pocket.
The thinner style shown below can actually be sharpened using a pencil sharpener. We find this much more convenient than the rectangular soap stones.
There are also holders available that can turn these round soap stones into more of a pencil. It will also prevent the soap stone from breaking or cracking.
#3 – A Good Tape Measure
As welders, we tend to be pretty tough on our gear. Harsh working conditions can cause our gear to wear out prematurely. So, when selecting a tape measure, quality is of the utmost importance.
The Stanley Powerlock tapes have held up extremely well for us. Their simple, rugged design allows for welders to use them for years at a time. Although not recommended, they can withstand drops without getting too damaged.
Many newer welders will gravitate towards tape measures with the fractions printed onto them. This is convenient, but any shop manager will require that you can actually read a tape measure. The Stanley tapes do not come with printed fractions, so it will force you to learn to read a tape measure. This is an essential skill for any tradesmen, but for welders – it is a must!
We find that 25 feet is generally sufficient, but if you do larger projects, you may want to think about a longer tape.
#4 – Work Gloves
A good pair of welding gloves is obviously an essential, but you don’t want to wear them out too fast. When working around the shop (moving materials, cutting, etc.) it is nice to have a different pair of gloves that is more affordable.
A good pair of welding gloves can really cost you, so having this second set will be easier on your wallet.
Work gloves are very protective, but they aren’t as heavy as a pair of Millers or Lincolns. Since a lot of work time is spent doing other tasks besides welding, think about adding some work gloves to your collection.
The Tillman drivers are made very rugged, and they are just a slimmer version of some of the larger welding gloves. They are very comfortable and can help you tackle any task.
We have tested lots of work gloves over the years, but the Tillman drivers remain the toughest model.
#5 – Ear plugs
Working in welding shops produces some extremely loud sounds. For this reason, having earplugs is a great idea. However, there is another reason that is equally important. Welding and grinding sparks can cause severe damage to the ear drum if they enter the ear canal.
By wearing earplugs, you can avoid these unwanted sparks and save yourself some serious pain. Any time that we are around a welding area, we have ear plugs in no matter what. It is a quick way to ensure that you won’t get an ear injury while on the job.
These ear injuries can also be quite costly, and some insurance companies won’t cover an ear drum claim. For a few dollars, you can forget about this and stay safe all of the time.
#6 – Sunglasses
Safety glasses are essential on any job site, but for field work – sunglasses are definitely worth considering. There are models that are approved for safety standards, and they also offer UV protection.
If you’re just going to be welding in a shop or a garage, then you probably won’t be super interested in these. However, for field work (ironworking, pipelining), these can really save the day. The Carhartts listed below are very slim and lightweight, while remaining very protective.
You can also wear them under your welding helmet, which is very convenient and will not impact your welds.
#7 – Insulated Water Bottle
As tradesmen, we tend to drink a lot more water than the average person. Long, hot days on the job site can easily dehydrate any welder. Ice tends to melt way too fast in the summer, and can leave us with warm water that is very unappealing.
An insulated double walled water bottle will keep ice all day long, and will help you stay hydrated on those burner days.
We have really been enjoying the Hydroflask, but there are so many good models to choose from. The real key is the double walled insulation. It holds ice like no other. You can also use them for coffee and tea as well.
#8 – Angle Grinder
We have already touched on this quite a bit, but an angle grinder really is one of the best accessories a welder can have. Most welders use them for a good portion of their day, every day.
There are so many different attachments that the options are pretty much endless. Considering the average price of an angle grinder and its longevity, they really are a bargain.
We don’t recommend low end angle grinders. They are usually poor quality and can break easily. The best middle-of-the-road option we have found is the Makita. They last for years, and they are priced in a way that most welders can afford.
4.5 inch grinders are the most popular in todays work force. They take 4.5 inch wheels and can tackle most projects. There are 7 inch grinders as well, which are best for bigger projects, usually involving iron work.
The longevity of the Makita is superb. I have had one of mine since the first day of welding school.
#9 – Welding Sleeves
For heavier duty applications, a good set of sleeves can offer lots of protection. They add an extra layer that prevents the weld spatter from burning through to your skin.
If you wear a leather jacket, chances are that you’ll have enough protection. However, leather jackets can be extremely uncomfortable – especially during the warmer months of the year.
We like to wear flame resistant cotton jackets and then use the sleeves over the jacket (at certain times). When using dual shield flux core MIG, or high amperage stick welding, sleeves can be really beneficial.
We also like to use them when performing overhead welds. Overhead welding spits back all the sparks right on top of you. Extra protection is usually necessary – hence the sleeves.
The pair below are our personal favorites, but you may want to experiment with different sizes and fits.
#10 – Paint Pens
Sometimes you’ll need to mark your steel for labeling purposes. This may be multiple pieces for a project, or simply labeling scrap material.
It is nice to have a marking utensil that is semi-permanent and can be seen easily. Using a high quality paint pen will definitely come in handy throughout the course of your welding days.
When building more complicated projects such as a hand rail, there may be dozens of pieces of steel that need to come together to make the final product. Choosing a system and labeling accordingly can really save you time during the fabrication process.
We prefer red or white, but any color that you can see well is a safe bet. Using an oil based pen will hold up a lot better than a water based one. Although they mark well, the paint can simply be removed with some wd-40 or your favorite solution.
The 12 color set listed below lasts for a long time, and gives you a variety of colors to choose from.
Featured image credit : wannapik.com / wannapik studio