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How did you start in welding - did you have a mentor?

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  • How did you start in welding - did you have a mentor?

    How did you start in welding; Or What made you decide to become a welder?
    Did you have a mentor or was there one person who started you on your career.

    I'll begin by telling how I started and why I still love to weld after 35 years.

    My first job out of college was with a small electronic company.

    Since it was a small company, we wore many hats.
    I soldered circuit boards, assembled, and tested the company's electronic instruments.
    I swept floors and learned how to run a metal lathe for simple operations.
    Later I went out and serviced the instruments in the field when they needed repair and helped our sales reps sell the products to customers.
    All this was ok but I still remember my first week after I started when I was shown around the shop and got to meet the company welder.

    I had seen the smooth TIG welds on the stainless fittings and was delighted to meet the person who had done them.

    The company was great and allowed me to watch him weld when time permitted. I was hooked!

    So 9 months after I started, I went out and bought a used Airco Heliwelder (made by Miller).

    Company was sold in the 90's so I got the boot but I still had my welder.

    I still keep in touch with my mentor and bring him my welded parts (and a duplicate set) to critique.
    He is wonderful in showing me how he would do the same weld and I save his test pieces as an example to strive for.
    For 35 years, his price for this help has been a case of beer. Can't beat that.

    I have added equipment and have gotten a little better in my technique, but I will never get even half as good as my mentor and friend.

    The one thing I will say though, is that it is still fun and I never stop learning.

    I love redintn's comment: "It is fun, till you HAVE to make money at it and there is no work."

    Since I am semi-retired and do not make a living from my welding, (I would starve) it is still fun for me after 35 years.

    My congratulations and admiration goes out to everyone who does this for a living.
    Miller Dynasty 350, Dynasty 210 DX, Hypertherm 1000, Thermal Arc GTSW400, Airco Heliwelder II, oxy-fuel setup, metal cutting bandsaw, air compressor, drill press, large first aid kit, etc.

    Call me the "Clouseau" of welding !

  • #2
    Growing up my best friend's father was a steam fitter for power plants and he was always making us neat stuff and I was always in awe at the welding process, that awe has never left and although i didn't have a "mentor", I would say i had inspiration.

    My only teaching was through trial, error, books, and asking various other weldors as many questions as i could and watching them weld with a spare hood when they were working. (that's how I learned to TIG period), before watching some one i could never get it down, but after one 15 minute session of watching a guy weld a bracket on an aluminum radiator I learned how to get a bead going within a day of borrowing another friends synch 250 and burning up some rods, then through internet, books and more questions i got to where i am today, and that first TIG bead was probably only 5-6 years ago. MIG'ing i just picked up in high school in metal shop, but was never really taught, I just played with the settings until i figured out how to match wire speed to amperage and the required weld.

    Now...O/A welding i suck at! I can braze, cut and shape with one, but my welds are always huge and nasty looking with O/A, even after reading and reading about it, I think if i could watch some one for a bit i could get it down, but i just don't have any idea on the actuall technique other than apply heat, form puddle, add filler, move, & repeat. THe books i have barely touch on O/A, but even with a MIG, TIG and plasma cutter, I love that old O/A setup and still try adn use it as much as i can. I was brazing new carbide tips on some of my home made lathe and mill tooling last night as a matter of fact... It's so cool working, shaping and fusing metals, that i feel very fotunate that i have been able to buy enough machinery over the years enough to start a business and now do what i love for a living, and even happier that it's taking off faster than my home painting business did in it's first 2 years by at least 2 fold!
    Dynasty 200DX
    Hobart Handler 135
    Smith MB55A-510 O/A setup
    Hypertherm Powermax 45
    Just about every other hand tool you can imagine


    • #3
      Seed Has Been Sowed

      Well lets see now. It all started in the summer of 1974 I needed a hitch on my old pickup truck. So I borrowed a welder (smaw) and I fabricated a hitch and installed it. I do not know what it looked like to others but to me it looked great, and it never fell apart or off.
      I have worked at other trades, but I all ways come back to welding. I think God planted the seed of welding in me so many years ago, so who am I to uproot that seed. I have not learned it all, I am still learning and practicing No mentors or teachers. Just my talents that God gives me. As far as I am concerned, God gets all the credit for any good I do. And I look forward to Him showing me even more ..

      Thanks for reading about me...May God show new ways of doing things to all who is willing to ask and to listen....After all it's God almighty who developed welding, so ask the expert of experts when you need help. And if you don't need help, then how about thanks, that's all ways nice to hear that....


      • #4
        Dad had a fitter work weekends welding antenna towers back in 1954 55, I had a great deal of admiration for the guy as he was very good at his trade, he also had a DC hobart pipeliner! I idolized that machine as it made welding a breeze compared to the old ac lincoln tombstone we had.
        I am more or less self taught in welding and machine shop work, I often wondered what I should have done in life and I guess a welder and machinist covers most of it, some guys knew from day one what they wanted to be, I never did.
        In 1997 I bought an engine drive Trailblazer, due to thinking about the guy with the Hobart Pipeliner, took three years to get 30 hours on it, then found a job for it repairing tanks and pipelines using the same type rod the fitter did years ago, 5P or 6010!
        I have tigged in the dairy industry and on my own for the last 40 years, we had the machine in the shop at the dairy, and I made it a point to learn to use it.
        I am retired now and still welding, doing thin gage steel, and thats a challenge as well.
        I guess when I grow up I should be a welder and a machinist maybe ha!
        I will say that this forum is a real learning experience as well, makes a guy realize how little he really knows!!
        mike sr


        • #5
          I picked it up at my tech school...I had wanted to learn for a while, and my dad never got around to showing me. Well I started off on thin stuff...and then moved on to bigger things. 20 ga, 18, 16, 12, 1/8th, and .060 aluminum...for the first part...

          Then moved on to 3/16ths, and ive welded some 1/4 now as well. While I was at school "learning" I sucked pretty badly. I hated continuous welding, and was horrible at it. Stitch welding/pulsing the gun, I made much better welds...and they were just as strong vs the almighty BFH. It wasnt till AFTER I left school and just started doing it on my own, and working at a fab shop, where the boss' motto was "Its not a spaceship, GET IT DONE!" So I picked it up really quickly, and I bugged the **** out of the senior weldor asking questions to pick up on the tricks and technique. Anyone who has looked at pictures of my welding table can see what I have come to be able to do with a mig gun.

          I know the other processes...but I havent ever used a stick welder, just tig, mig, and oxy.

          Id say im self taught, although I had some good critique along the way. I dont think I will ever stop welding...its something that I enjoy far too much to give up. Just like working on my cars. I dont think I'll ever stop learning more about welding either. Regardless of how old you can always pick up something new.
          Precision is only as important as the project...if you're building a rocket ship...1/64" would matter. If you're building a 1/8" probably wont.


          • #6
            I grew up working in Seattle's shipyards. The first three years I worked as a laborer, or shipscaler as that trade is called. As such, being the lowest paid trade, we were the ones asked to do firewatch when a lot of welding was going on and everyone was scared of someone else's sparks catching them on fire. I never did see a fire but I got to watch a ton of highly skilled fitting and welding. One time when I was on light duty for several days I was continually assigned to two old shipfitters who didn't like working much and liked the whiskey they each brought a quart of in their toolbags every day. It was way too boring to sit there with these old goats doing nothing but yakking and sucking down the sauce, so eventually I got them to show me how and I started doing their job for them. Their lead man came around and busted me a few times and then hauled me off to the foreman and said, "This idiot just won't quit fittin' when I tell him. If he wants to fit steel so bad, why don't you put in a call-by-name for him down at the Boilermaker's Union?" and I became a shipfitter. I worked for another eight years and learned a whole lot about fitting and not very much about welding.

            After wising up at age 31, I left the shipyards for good and headed to engineering school. It was always hard for me to not be making something. Pretty soon I found myself collecting metalworking tools and equipment and before long I had a Miller Thunderbolt, a Speedglas helmet, and an oxy-acetylene rig following me around wherever I moved. This continued to progress and eventually I started taking welding classes in technical colleges and got certified and really learned about welding. After 20 years working as an electronics engineer, when my last job went to Bangalore, I started welding out of my (by now considerable) home shop. I've never looked back.



            • #7
              lucky for you guys

              i just wrote a giant reply, my submittion failed, i will condence my thoughts, quickly, im not to good on the pc, how did i start, sorry that was in the lost reply, what is important is us as welders do what ever we can to teach the next generation, i learned, hands on, i really learned by listening and watching the old timers, ive been at this about 35 yrs off and on. what i do know is that most of the trades are being lost by time, most young kids dont want to get dirty, i really like this forum, there is an ol,timer at your fingertips. my line i like to use about welding is " how long does it take to become a doctor" what i say to other welders is" how long did it take for you to do a project from start to finish and have it come out as planned" see the connection. welders are perfectionist, just like surgeons, both trades require eye on contact 100% of the time, we are a lucky bunch, welding skills translates into life skills if followed. thanks kevin


              • #8
                Both of my grandfathers were certifed welders. Neather one of them worked as welders except for them selfs. But I alwase had wanted to get in the the line of welding, so while I was I school I had took 2 years of welding. Well thats when I got hooked. I had found it so rewarding being able to start from a pile of steel and making something that could be used or fixing something that broke that normaly I would have had to replace. But mainly I Just wanted to find my calling and ever sence I have been welding I have never been bord once.


                • #9
                  When I was a pup (6 ish), my Dad was going to solder something. He was using an old electric iron, the handle was probably 5" and the 'iron' was about 7". He cupped his hand around the barrel, to check the 'hotness'. As soon as he pulled his hand back, I grabbed the HOT barrel. I did not know that he never touched the $#@% thing. I blistered up pretty good, but I musta learned something, I'm still using HOT tools. Well, maybe I didn't learn all that much; I still get blistered.
                  Last edited by Craig in Denver; 06-14-2009, 08:04 PM.
                  RETIRED desk jockey.

                  Hobby weldor with a little training.

                  Craftsman O/A---Flat, Vert, Ovhd, Horz.

                  Miller Syncrowave 250.


                  • #10
                    No outside help. I am the dreaded shade tree weldor. Purchased a cheap AC buzz box in the 70s and read the one page "How to Weld" directions that came with it. Got handy with that hunk O junk after melting a fair amount of metal. Much more reading of welding text and hands on doing later I got a MM130 Mig and read the directions that came with it. Much more reading and doing I got OK with little stuff Mig and added on a slightly used MM 251 for real metal.
                    During the MM days and as my welding needs grew I did some more reading and purchased a Syncro 250 with all the boards. Great expence but a great payback. Lots to learn and while I can now make the welds I want/need to make I do not expect to ever Master all that you can do with tig. Welding has always come easy to me. The actual hands on and chemistry of welding makes sense to me and the concept of heat and puddle management has never seemed hard to grasp. I know this is not the case for all as I have exposed a fair number of others to welding and some are just destined to be ham fisted “burners” and not “weldors”.

                    Careful reading, lots of hands on doing using good method both in welding and testing the work can result in very good basic welding abilities IMO. Practice must be carried out as if every weld made matters greatly. Take the time and care to do it right and by the book for repeatable and instructive results.
                    School based training is likely faster track to being a good weldor for most people in the long run. It also gives you a wider knowledge base as well as the ability to earn certifications.
                    Last edited by Vicegrip; 06-15-2009, 07:29 AM.
                    Weekend wannab racer with some welders.


                    • #11
                      I took a welding class at a local vocational school-- it was terrible because the instructor didn't care about the students progress. The class taught me what a welding machine looked like and where the tungsten goes and what an argon tank looked like, but that's about it.

                      Then I bought a book by Larry Jeffus: Welding Principles and Applications. I read it cover to cover and learned a lot of academic information about welding. I could pass written exams on welding, but wasn't very good at actually welding anything.

                      Then I bought a Lincoln Invertec V205 (similar to the Miller Dyn 200). A billion pieces of scrap aluminum later and my welds are decent these days. People who TIG for a living can definitely make prettier welds than I do, but my welds are plenty strong and pretty enough for my needs. But there is always more to learn and a better weld to strive for.

                      So I am 90% self-taught. Today I fabricate dozens of custom motorcycle racing parts for my race bikes, race trailer, etc. I trust my life with my aluminum TIG welds on my bikes.
                      miller dynasty 350
                      miller spectrum 1000


                      • #12
                        I got my start welding in my 9th grade shop class. I really did not have a mentor per se and was mostly self taught through experimentation/trial & error and the projects I worked on.

                        I went on to earn a BS in Welding Engineering Technology. I had several professors that were good mentors in both the theory and practical. One of them worked for NASA on the Apollo projects. I always held him in high regard.

                        After graduation, I was far from knowing it all. My first boss was a strong mentor on equipment interfacing and controls repair, as well as the finer points of spray arc vs. short arc MIG welding, and also multi-wire submerged arc welding.


                        • #13
                          OK here goes. I got out of the Army in April of 1970. I needed a job...not sure I ended up getting a job with a small HVAC company. I'm sure at the time it would have just been a summer position and then I would be let go when business got slow. I was young and strong which was an asset to the work being done. I learned quickly and became a service tech within months
                          and he, the owner, decided to keep me. Story moves on. The guy who was to train me didn't know squat. So, I had to learn on my own. I spent a lot of nights after work to come home and study. We had needs for a welder but I could not convince the owner to buy one. The guy who was to train me had a good gift of gab and convinced the owner to get a stick 225 amp Lincoln to repair some metal tool boxes etc and promptly went to burn holes through the boxes and anything else he attempted. The boss was furious and parked the welder in the back. Finally I convinced him to let me try to correct the
                          projects the other guy had started and and screwed up... he agreed. I had never welded before. After a while and practice, I was welding everything thas was loose and falling apart. I really liked welding and on a sale at Sears
                          bought my own stick welder. Man, I made a bunch of stuff. Loved it. Once I discovered there was the MIG process I purchased a used Miller 90 amp Cricket XL. Wow, how neat is this?. After doing more projects of larger scale, I realized I needed a larger welder. I bought a new MM 150. COOL!!. A few years ago I bought a new Syncro 200 by Miller to learn tig and really wanted to do aluminum. COOL again. Also I sold the Sears stick and the Syncro more than picks up that part. I'm not a bad welder but I'm not a great welder but I'm getting better.
                          What I like about welding is you can take enough small parts, weld them together and come out with a big project.
                          I also like to machine. Take a big part and take away what you don't need to come up with the part. My to have a mode of transportation for every aspect. Cars/ vans, motorcycles for paved roads...........ATV for off road...Heli for the sky, Jet Ski for riding on the water. I think that's it. I don't
                          see a sub in the near future.
                          Last thought. Every weld for me is a mission. Is it good and how can I make it better. That is why I visit this forum every day. Lots of good info.

                          PS the business became mine in 1979 and it's been a lot of work...oh well.
                          I would have a hard time working for someone else
                          Miller 252 Mig
                          Miller Cricket XL
                          Millermatic 150 Mig
                          Miller Syncrowave 200 Tig
                          2-O/A outfits
                          Jet Lathe and Mill
                          Jet 7x12 horz/vert band saw
                          DeWalt Multi Cutter metal saw
                          Century 50 Amp Plasma Cutter
                          20 ton electric/hydraulic vertical press
                          Propane Forge
                          60" X 60" router/plasma table

                          Vist my site:
                          and check out some of my ironwork and other stuff


                          • #14

                            i agree, some are gifted, ive done it for years and still have to earn every inch, the best welds ive seen comes from the ladies, small hands, very flexible ect


                            • #15
                              Theirs a vessal shop about 15 miles from my house were both grandpa's worked. My dad worked there as a welder for about 8 yrs when he was my age. My dad thaught me how to stick weld when I was 14. I worked and saved my money in high school and bought a Syncrowave 180 when I was 17. Grandpa came over and ran one of the slickest tig roots I have yet to see. This amazes me because he had been retired for 8 years. I started welding school 6 day after I graduated HS. I graduated MWI that fall and have never slowed down since. I've work in refineries, eathanal plants, paper mills, chemical plants, fertilizer plants, pipelines, pipeline tank farm/terminals and coal fired power plants as both a tube and pipe welder. I've got a lot of respect for boiler tube welders. I have worked along side some very talented people and enjoy every minute of it.
                              '08 F-350
                              Vantage 400
                              Invertec V350Pro
                              Invertec V205T-AC/DC

                              Miller 12VS suitcase
                              Miller spectrum 2050

                              Pipe beveler's
                              Track torch