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considering welding as second career

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  • considering welding as second career

    As I approach retirement I am considering welding as a means of subsidizing my retirement income. I have about 6 years before I retire. I want to have my own shop as well as have a portable shop. There are colleges in my area that have welding classes and plan on taking all available classes. I realize that I will find out the answers to the following questions as I attend classes but would like input from experienced welders verses a teacher.

    What would be the capital necessary to begin a basic welding operation? How long to become certified? Why wouldn't I want to consider welding at this point in my life?

    Last edited by cjsvirginia; 02-16-2009, 01:01 PM.

  • #2
    Some things to think about.
    1 why do you want to do this? Is this a hobbie? a or new job?
    2. are you going to be able to get a return on your investmet? like spend thousands of dollars to set up shop, Welders, rod ovens, ventalation, liability, jack stands, tools, ect.
    3 how are you going to compete with people that have 30 plus years of welding under their belts when you are just now starting at 60 plus years?
    not saying old dogs can't learn new tricks.
    4 it can take any were from three weeks of welding to a lifetime to get any certs. Some people pick it right up some never do. there are no born welders only those who learn to do it.
    I think one should take the time to mull these questions over. But by all means take a welding class as you think about this. get to see what's it like
    and best of luck to you.


    • #3
      you should take a welding class asap to find out your aptitude level and how well you like it.

      welding aptitude from one person to the next varies enormously. some people can pick up TIG in a couple weeks, other people practice for months and never get it. it's a function of genetic hand-eye coordination, genetic mental aptitude, ambition levels, etc. there's no way to predict the outcome for a person until you get under the hood and try making welds under the guidance of a good teacher.

      another thing is how much you like welding. there is a strong possibility that welding is not what you think-- there are a lot of misconceptions people have and it is easy to have a glorified image in your head. you see yourself designing and welding all kinds of interesting structural components to solve all kinds of interesting problems. the reality is that you are going to spend a lot of time talking with customers, a lot of time doing boring metal prep, a lot of time calculating quotes for potential customers. and oh yeah every once in a while you get to run a bead. just when you think you're having fun running a bead, you realize you have to run 300 of the same bead. after about piece #25/300, it gets to be a chore real quick.

      i love welding as a hobby. i would not want to do it for profit.
      miller dynasty 350
      miller spectrum 1000


      • #4
        North west has brought up some good points.

        I would think that the real answer will come once you start the welding class. You will find out if you even enjoy it.

        Alas welding is the easy part. you will find that the way to make money as an independent (a side from pipeliners) is to know fabrication.

        You can make money as just a welder for hire, but ...


        • #5
          Another thing to keep in mind is this: low end, easy to do work will be abundant, but pays poorly and you are competing with every guy who has a welding machine in his garage. Top end, hard to do work will be less common (and might involve travel depending on where you live), have much greater potential for profit and you will be competing with very competent professionals. Of course there is a range in the middle.
          Not to be discouraging but just some realistic things to consider.

          A lot of welding work is directly related to construction so it can be very cyclical. Every recession we see welding companies selling out, every boom we see guys sprouting up.
          The fact that you only intend to supplement your existing income is a big plus over having to make a living year in and year out.

          Some days you eat the bear. And some days the bear eats you.


          • #6
            can i ask maybe a dumb question? how do you know if your born a welder? welding is my life and what i wanted to be since i was young, and if i can make it as a welder i dont know what i will do with my life. ive always dreamed of doing pipeline welding or welding on heavy equipment like fixing buckets and all that.

            RED BIRD WELDING

            "Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes"

            Crappy stick welder
            Victor supper range II
            Makita grinder
            more stuff i don't feel like listing.


            • #7
              My two cents: Taking "a class" won't necessarily tell you whether you want to do this.

              You'll gas-weld and braze for a while, which will be useful, and probably you'll stick-weld for a while, which we old guys think is still useful. At some point they'll let you start into the wire-feed processes, and you'll learn to run good beads and reliably get penetration (they'll have you bend-test lots of welds). Even before they let you try TIG welding, you'll probably get to run a spool gun or push-pull gun, which is what you need to weld aluminum with a wire-feed welder. At some point, you'll start feeling pretty good about your ability to weld.

              But the thing you probably don't realize (and very few customers can grasp this) is that the ability to run beads is about 10% of this job. It's fine for when you go to work in a factory for $12/hr. with a foreman who tells you how he wants the job done. Self-employed fixed-base and mobile welders charge a lot of money per hour because of all the OTHER things they also know besides running beads. And even if you are an outstanding student and learn everything the school can teach you about metallurgy and consumables (also power supply and print-reading), and even if you have or learn the vast array of metal-forming and fitting and mechanical skills, you'll have addressed most of the rest of the "welding" part of it, but you still don't know how to run a welding business.

              Finally, if you aren't middle-aged anymore, you need to be in better-than-average physical shape, or else get in shape, because most of this work will wear you out faster than it builds you up. Too much of your competition is young, energetic, and tough, have steadier hands, and can see better than you. Personally, I need to work my way into something else fairly soon . . . .


              • #8
                It never hurts to learn a new skill. I learned the basics in high school 3X years ago. Since then Ive used those skills more off than on. Im good enough to repair most of my own stuff although Im not yet equipped to do some of those repairs. Since Im already self employed I will sometimes do something for the neighbor or a farmer or another racer or trucker.

                Ive got a list of projects to do for myself. Once done I will offer those up for sale. If it sells, great. If not, oh well I needed it anyway.

                I would wonder if its a great idea to invest a lot on only a retirement income. I do applaud you for wanting to keep busy after the clock punching exercise is done. That will help you live longer.
                Who do you call when the lawmakers ignore the law?

                Miller AC/DC Thunderbolt 225
                Miller 180 w/Autoset
                Old cutting torch on LPG


                • #9
                  Where in VA. are you located.


                  • #10
                    Now I'm feeling guilty about maybe pouring cold water on your dream!! With six years before retirement, you could learn a great deal if you can dedicate yourself to it. For starters, it is most probable that you'll be the best, or one of the best, students in welding school, because most of the others will be young guys whose minds are largely occupied with getting laid (ah, those were the days!!).


                    • #11
                      I say go for it. Start small

                      You have the right idea, learn everything you can and start small. In six years you should be able to get some equipment and ideas put together. There are lots of little niches out there you can work in as a welder, part time during your retirement, from your garage. You don't necessarily need to compete with Welding shops and Mobile Professionals. Create a product or two and get really good at building them, and find the market for them. For example: Window well covers, Ornamental railings, or gates, or yard art, metal Street numbers for houses, the list goes on. Start with something that someones life is not in danger if it fails. (Meaning don't start building utility trailers, or welding on tow hitches the first day)

                      Oh ya and don't forget ebay as a sales outlet. I have been buying tools and and building a good part time business doing just this. Now I have a pretty complete fabrication shop.


                      • #12
                        First, I agree with all of the preceeding posts. However, there is one point that none of these has addressed. You do not need to be certified to open your own shop and make a fairly good living. You do not need a certification to build a garden gate or to repair a broken snowblower handle.

                        I struck my first arc in 1961, went on to be certified, worked lots of BIG structural jobs, then let my cert lapse. Opened my own shop 4 years ago and in that time have only had 2 jobs that required cert. Been meaning to renew it but have had so much business that I have not had time or reason to.

                        As far as capital for startup, there are as many answers to that question as there are welders in the US. There is no short or easy answer to that question.
                        Theoretically, you could open a shop with as little as a Lincoln AC for about $250. But that would be all you would be able to do. Then you would find that you need an O/A, drill press, grinders, clamps, band saw, MIG, maybe a plasma cutter, and the list goes on. In short, the more equipment you have, the more money you will make.