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Tools For Welding – Getting Started
There are many tool choices for different welding applications. Fabricators will have vastly different tool selections than field guys or pipeliners. This guide will give you our top picks for tools that will help you when starting to learn fabrication or repair work. Many entry level welding jobs will require a similar set of tools – you must have the essentials when showing up for your first day on the job.
This is a tool that every welder needs; probably one of the most essential tools for welding. You can add cut off wheels, hard wheels, wire wheels and all sorts of sanding pads for finishing work. With practice, they are quite simple to use, and will help you make quick work of many projects.
Cutting steel with an angle grinder and a cut off wheel can often be a great alternative to buying an oxy fuel cutting set, or a plasma cutter. With practice, you can get very accurate cuts – even on thicker material.
Wire wheel attachments are great for removing paint and rust to get down to a clean, weldable surface. They can also remove heavy slag from stick welds and flux core MIG welds.
All high end fabrication jobs use some sort of grinder in the process. Resin fiber discs and flap discs can put super smooth finishes on high end work.
Our favorite grinders come from Makita. They are very well made and they aren’t as expensive as some other brands such as Metabo. They last for years and they are easily reparable.
There are many types of clamps that come in handy on welding projects. When used properly, you can fit up larger projects and tack weld them together without needing an extra helper.
C-clamps, informally known as cowboy clamps, are the most popular in fabrication shops. Irwin Vise Grips make our favorite ones, and they come in a swivel pad model or a regular option. The swivel pad is great for oddly angled pieces, while the regular style is for more standard work.
We love these C clamps because they have never failed on us. Their simple design allows them to last for years and years with zero issues. Irwin hasn’t changed the design for decades because there isn’t any reason to.
Bessey F clamps are another great option. They are quicker to set up than a C clamp, and they are a lot stronger – pound for pound. Using your hand to crank them down, you can put a lot of clamping strength on heavier steel pieces.
Bessey is a trusted German brand, and their clamps are used by welders and carpenters worldwide. They are more expensive than most C clamps, but we find that they are well worth that initial investment.
Speed Square Tool
This handy tool can accomplish a variety of tasks. They are especially useful for laying out larger projects with a marker (i.e. handrails), or laying out where holes need to be drilled in your project. Carpenters use these super frequently, as well as many other tradesmen including welders.
You can also lay out long lines by holding a marker on your desired indent point and sliding the tool along the steel. This is a great way to make long cuts when you need to.
Also, speed squares can measure how square your fit up is on smaller projects. Just hold the square up to your 90 degree angle, and see how correct it is.
These handy tools are used for smaller hobby projects, fabrication work, and larger structural projects. They can measure a variety of angles as well.
Our favorite speed square is the Johnny Square pictured above. It is extremely well made and has special indents for marking perfect lines.
Here is a great video demonstrating some speed square hacks. This video will give you an idea of all the things a speed square is capable of. These carpentry tips apply to steel work as well.
The combo square is an essential welding tool that has many uses. You can measure your project for squareness as well as 45 degree angles, and you can do perfect layouts as well.
Similar to a speed square, you can execute long layout lines on steel pieces. You do this by setting your accurate distance from the square, and holding a sharp marking utensil on the tip of the ruler as you glide it along your piece.
The combo square is an extremely accurate measuring device, as the pin can tighten on the ruler to make precise measurements. A majority of combo squares also come with a built in level, for leveling your projects or making sure they are perfectly plumb.
Our favorite combo square is the “Savage” pictured above. It is built with extreme precision, and is beefy enough to last for years.
Here is a great video showing some combo square uses. Similar to the speed square, there are certain “hacks” that you wouldn’t even know the tool is capable of. Quite remarkable!
These handy magnets are great for fitting up pieces at 90 degree and 45 degree angles. It is a surefire way to know that your angles are correct on your project. However, they aren’t meant for holding much weight; but can be very useful for fabricating on a flat surface i.e. a welding table.
They can also help with tacking steel pieces to a vertical surface when no helper is there to hold the piece for you. Many structural welders will use these for welding angle clips onto beams etc.
They do tend to attract lots of small metal scraps and dust due to the nature of the magnets, so be sure to clean them well if you want to get a true 90 or 45 degree angle.
The welding magnet is an invaluable tool that always has a place in our tool box.
Ball Peen Hammer
Often times when fabricating, we fit the project together properly – but it still needs some minor adjustments before welding. Even with heavy clamping, we can still make adjustments by tapping the steel components with a hammer.
The ball peen style has a rounded back end, so you can decide if you want to use the delicate sphere shape, or the standard styled front end.
At my job, the shop tolerance is 1/16″. My project may look great when eyeballing it, but the hammer can adjust it to perfection. Always use a piece of scrap metal or wood in between the hammer and your project – this ensures that you wont dent your steel by hitting it directly.
Vaughan makes our favorite hammers. They are heavy yet easy to use, and are extremely well made.
Using a wire wheel on a grinder can remove the slag very fast, but tends to shoot it all over your work area. Think of the chipping hammer as a softer way of going about it. You can hang one of these hammers from a belt loop or tool bag, and they don’t take up much space at all.
Virtually all ironworkers and structural welders will have one of these nearby. You may want to dull the tip a bit with a grinder so you don’t put any dents in your finished welds.
For slag removal, we recommend scraping these hammers along the slag when possible, as opposed to hitting your actual weld bead head on. Inspectors hate seeing a bunch of little dents in a weld that they have to approve. That being said, slag should come off relatively easily by scraping, and you shouldn’t have to use much force.
Center Punch Tool
If you have ever tried to drill through steel, you know that the drill bit can wobble and come off center. Even with a drill press, the bit can still have some play.
Center punches are used to make a small indent exactly where you want your hole drilled. The tip of the drill bit starts in this indent, and is much less likely to wobble as it travels through the steel.
Once you have laid out your hole markings, you hit the center punch with a hammer right where the hole should be. This is an invaluable process in instances where the holes must be exact.
The only drilling machine I have seen that doesn’t let the drill bit wobble is the huge milling machine at my job. The drill bit is inserted hydraulically, and has no side to side wobble.
For most of us using a regular drill or a drill press, using a center punch is absolutely essential. They’re pretty affordable, too!