We’re celebrating the release of Chris Hackett & PopSci’s new book, The Big Book of Maker Skills. Today’s excerpt is an overview on welding. – Becky Stern
Weld like a badass
Welders love the aura of instant fierceness that comes with putting on a welding helmet—we cultivate it, but we know that it is mostly unjustified. In reality, all crafts can be dangerous: Sewing needles are sharp, hammers love thumbs, and when the glue-gun label states that “The tip gets very hot,” it sure does mean it. With these crafts, the danger starts at zero and then scales with more advanced use.
But with welding, the scale starts a lot higher. Even the most casual of toe dipping (watching someone weld) requires special equipment. Watch someone shape wood with a bandsaw and you get to see the technique—the worst thing you risk is a little irritating sawdust. Watch someone weld, and you get a vague, dazzled idea of what they are doing, followed by the deep, unique pain of retinal burns and (usually) temporary blindness. Get a little closer and the spray of sparks can nail you.
Welders learn quickly to be prepared and to work within the envelope of risk. But it’s worth it, because welders do things that are impossible in other maker disciplines. For example: At the core, welding is profoundly different from all other types of joining. Solder, bolt, glue, sew—pick a process, any process, and what you are doing is taking three items (the two things being joined and the joining agent, such as thread, solder, or hardware) and linking them together. The link could be at the molecular level or the arm-size-bolt level, but the key thing is that three items entered, three closer items leave. But with welding, you put in three items (stuff to be welded together, filler metal, and a rod, wire, or stick), and you get one item out. At the most basic level the things are now one—in fact, a common inspection process for critical welds is to x-ray the joint. Inspectors look deeply into the internal structure of the weld—if they can see where one thing starts and another ends, the welder did it wrong.
Welding can be hard. It can take a long time to get good at it. It can be dangerous. These things are true of anything worth knowing. Take care when setting up your work space, keep some basic rules in mind while working, and know the risks to those around you, and you will see welding is no more dangerous than a glue gun, less of a risk to your life than a table saw.
Makers, get ready: This is your ultimate, must-have, tip-packed guide for taking your DIY projects to the next level—from basic wood- and metalworking skills to 3D printing and laser-cutting wizardry, plus the entrepreneurial and crowd-sourcing tactics needed to transform your back-of-the-envelope idea into a gleaming finished product.
In The Big Book of Maker Skills: 334 Tools and Techniques for Building Great Tech Projects, readers learn classic, tried-and-true techniques from the shop class of yore—how to use a metal lathe, or pick the perfect drill bit or saw—and get introduced to a whole new world of modern manufacturing technologies, like using CAD software, printing circuits, and more. Step-by-step illustrations, helpful diagrams, and exceptional photography make this book an easy-to-follow and easy-on-the-eyes guide to getting your project done.
Images courtesy Weldon Owen