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Old 11-06-2013, 21:33   #16
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Re: SS Welding for Dummies

I guess it really depends on what kind of quality you want. Do you want the result to look like repaired farm equipment or a beautiful pulpit with a polished factory-like finish that you would be proud to have on your boat? After stick welding as a hobby for years, I purchased a high quality TIG welder and over the last several years have slowly mastered the fine art of TIG welding. (I don't do it full time, just a hobby and for my own boat). High quality TIG welding takes alot of practice. You constantly work a foot pedal to continuously fine tune the amperage as you progress down the weld in order to keep the weld pool at a precise temperature which is always trying to change due to thickness variations in the metal. At the same time, one hand is varying the rate at which it pushes a metal filler rod into the molten pool while the other hand scribes the torch in small loops at a precise couple of millimeters off the molten pool at a precise angle which can also vary greatly as you progress down the weld. Positioning is sometimes very awkward because of the precise angles and distances of the torch and rod that must be kept while welding around curved tubing. TIG welding is all about the science and art of heat distribution and control. But, heat works against you when it comes to warping of the rest of the tubing in your project. Without jigs and temporary welds and alot of prior planning, your projects will end up warped, assymmetrical and unusable no matter how precisely you cut and laid out the original pieces. I'm not trying to discourage you from learning. TIG welding is very rewarding when you master it. You can produce flawless mirror finish hardware on your boat that will look like OEM equipment. If I had to rate difficulty of metals with TIG welding, I would say hot and cold rolled steel are easiest. Aluminum is the most difficult because of the unforgiving narrow temperature range ( narrow difference between not hot enough to weld and then a few degrees hotter it will boil and burn up). Also, zero tolerance for contamination during the weld. Stainless steel is intermediate as long as you control the environment well, have adequate Argon flow not only over the weld pool but also, preferably on the back side of the weld as well. You will also have to "pickle" your stainless welds with acid or they will corrode. And if the welds aren't near perfect, you could have water intrusion causing "crevice corrosion".
Don't forget to buy a quality hydraulic tubing bender because thin wall stainless steel tubing loves to kink and collapse at the bends. For each specific radius of bend and for each tube diameter, you will need to purchase a separate set of expensive rollers to go into your hydraulic bender.
$2500 for a decent TIG welder
$2000 for a decent hydraulic tube bender
Lots of practice and patience.

Cheers
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Old 11-06-2013, 21:58   #17
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Re: SS Welding for Dummies

Funny this conversation just came up. I just came from the welding shop. I'm replacing all the corroded z-mack fittings on the boat, polishing and tightening all the railings and ladders. The bonehead previous owner couldn't get the setscrews tight on the swim platform ladder to the aft deck (he stripped the setscrews), so he kept drilling holes in the fittings and screwing -- I'm not kidding -- pan-head mild-steel sheet metal screws into the fittings and rails. So now I have all new heavy stainless fittings but the ends of the tubes are swiss cheese and the new set screws would just meet thin air. The tubing is very long and custom-bent to fit the boat so they're not easy to replace -- and what a pain it would be to replace seven feet of custom-curved tubing because the last inch is swiss cheese. Therefore, I took the tubing to the local welding shop and they filled twelve holes in that tubing and polished the welds until I can hardly see where the work was done -- all for $10.

I've done some mild steel welding in my life and it's good enough for say a picnic table bracket -- but for $10 I'll let the pro's do the stainless work, I'll save a ton of money, and if I live to 100 I still won't have enough time in life to squeeze in enough welding practice to be as good as those guys. After welding I-beams and all kinds of other industrial stuff, the relatively little jobs we bring them are probably an interesting break and they don't mind a little extra cash.
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Old 11-06-2013, 22:24   #18
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Re: SS Welding for Dummies

Not even I can stick weld thin wall tubeing of any material! No one said railings, But Ive made a bunch of tanks with a stick in 1/8th
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Old 11-06-2013, 22:41   #19
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Re: SS Welding for Dummies

I've welded quite a bit on the farm, originally with stick and now mostly with MIG. Oh there was that entire hog house I used Oxy/Acet to weld new pens -tried to forget that....We compete on farm for the nicest beads but true enough what we really care about is getting repaired equipment back in the field and getting sh#* done

James Baldwin of s/v Atom taught me to weld stainless with TIG a few years ago, I didn't find it to be that easy on thin walled tubing. I think to do a decent job of it you'll burn through some work (and money) but maybe it's worth the investment. You really dont want to heat the work up too much, and need to do a good job polishing in the end. You'll have to really apply yourself to be proficient, take note that the ones that have the most success here have been doing it for a long time. Not so much like sewing where you have some more flexibility, and can always cut some stitches out and redo it.

If you want to pursue it you should, but temper your expectations. It takes practice to get good.. If you haven't ever welded, not a bad idea to try the community college where they will teach you basic principles used in all welding, whether they have a TIG class you can take or not. Get an auto darkening hood. They make it very easy to see your work as a beginner.
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Old 11-06-2013, 22:55   #20
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An experienced welder can show you how to weld one specific material like s/s tubing and then a few days of practice has a good chance of producing reasonable results. The likelihood of discovering how on your own is slim.

Learning how to weld anything in any situation is what makes a pro.

S/s boat stuff is pretty easy for a patient person. Actually, like painting and fiberglass, the tricks are all in the preparation and jigging. Don't be surprised if a good tubing joint takes an hour of fitting and jigging and then only a few minutes of welding.
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Old 11-06-2013, 22:58   #21
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Re: SS Welding for Dummies

This is a header I fabricated in SS. You might notice how I cheated and ground down the welds. This was done using MIG.
(btw, the entire exhaust in this car is all custom made SS tubing,
made my own SS mufflers also)

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Old 11-06-2013, 23:35   #22
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Re: SS Welding for Dummies

Sorry Cheoah, I wasn't dissing welders of farm equipment. Just used that as an example of a project where some would care a little less about the aesthetics of the weld and more about getting the job done quickly.
Its kinda funny I can't walk past a piece of metal any more without looking at its its welds. Drives my wife crazy.
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Old 11-06-2013, 23:42   #23
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Re: SS Welding for Dummies

Look...It really depends on the individual. I started out welding with stick and built a Roberts 34 with 6011 stick. I built a Van Da Stat 29 with MIG. I learned TIG while repair Plastic Injection Molds when I became a Tool Maker. Even though the tools were S-7 and P-20, we used SS rod during TIG. I did pick it up within a week. For edges of a cavity, I could fuse the Stainless on an edge with no sink after awhile. For me, it wasn't that difficult. To me, the hardest part is finding a helmet that works well...I'm still looking. My current mac=hine is a Miller Syncrowave with a pulser. .065 wall is easy really. I fuse .020 though.
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Old 12-06-2013, 02:15   #24
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Re: SS Welding for Dummies

Sticking 2 bits of metal together with a bit of filler is no big deal, but doing it with some structural integrity is a whole different league.

I run a team that weld s/s in the Nuclear industry, the Welders we have are time-served Welders with years of experience in high quality work.
Despite knowing that their welds will be 100% inspected with Dye-pen, Ultrasonic, phased array and sometimes radiography, and they have to follow very strict procedures, we still get (very rarely) welds that require reworking.
We tested several time-served Welders to find ones of the right quality to do our job.

There is a world of difference between a Welder and someone who can stick some metal together.

p.s. I worked with a Welder who's "party trick" was welding aluminium foil sweet wrappers together.
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Old 12-06-2013, 05:59   #25
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Re: SS Welding for Dummies

Now THAT is neat.

I call what I do "torturing metal."

Self taught, as far as it goes, not far.

My aesthetics are a pretty love bar, and the Wife has bad eyes, that helps. I suck but am getting better.

So I may not be good, but it does give me some sense of satisfaction and accomplishment to learn something new.

An early job I did was a chimney for a bulkhead mount kero heater made of four pieces. MIG. I burned through, ground down, burned through, cussed, and so on. But in the end it held pressure, fit and looked great with the lights off. I'm fairly proud of it, not because it is great, it isn't. But because it was my first SS work.
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Old 12-06-2013, 09:02   #26
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Re: SS Welding for Dummies

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Originally Posted by VChild View Post
Sorry Cheoah, I wasn't dissing welders of farm equipment. Just used that as an example of a project where some would care a little less about the aesthetics of the weld and more about getting the job done quickly.
Its kinda funny I can't walk past a piece of metal any more without looking at its its welds. Drives my wife crazy.
No worries VChild! I'm guilty as charged. My welds are not the prettiest but I'm pretty good about prep and penetration and they stay together. I just think it is way more satisfying to have them look nice without having to grind them, but I struggle on the upside down stuff - where nobody can see it anyway I pay a guy to weld aluminum and cast
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Old 12-06-2013, 09:14   #27
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Re: SS Welding for Dummies

To those who weld stainless, what do you use to polish the weld?

Thanks in advance,
Chuck
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Old 12-06-2013, 09:23   #28
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Re: SS Welding for Dummies

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To those who weld stainless, what do you use to polish the weld?

Thanks in advance,
Chuck
We used jewelers rouge and buffing wheel. As with other abrasives, can use a couple of grits with the final being finer, usually the red stuff.
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Old 12-06-2013, 09:26   #29
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Re: SS Welding for Dummies

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To those who weld stainless, what do you use to polish the weld?

Thanks in advance,
Chuck
Great question. If you are removing weld material then you start sanding and work you way up to at least 120 but even that will leave scratches after some vigorous buffing Best practice is not skip any grade up to 400 and use Scotch Brite wheels. I've gone to 1000 but if you skipped any grade the scratches will show unless you can really get after it with the buffer If you are not removing weld material and just buffing a nice weld you you might just use Scotch Brite pads then buff.
I have been doing a new Bow roller and suffering over scratches untill saw a picture of a Hinkley bow roller covered with fine scratches. I feel much better about everything now and I am going to give up.
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Old 12-06-2013, 10:28   #30
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Re: SS Welding for Dummies

It's no more ridiculous to buy an entry level TIG machine and learn enough to make your own stern railing than it is to buy a Sailrite machine and sew your own dodger. And in the end it's a fun new hobby.

There's a lot of online machismo around welding. So what if someone will never be a virtuoso who can weld on a nuclear reactor. Welding stainless tubing on a pulpit is well within the capabilities of a self taught hobyist. With a few days of 1 on 1 instruction, and then a few more days of practice, I think he could pick it up well enough to make what he wants.

I think TIG is pretty easy for some people, who have a certain kind of artistic coordinated hand. My wife paints, and immediately got the hard part of TIG, for me, which is moving and rotating the torch while keeping the tip a precise distance from the surface. I guess you have to do the same thing with a paint brush. I'm not coordinated like that, but brute forced learning in a Karate Kid 'wax on, wax off' way. So that's what I suggest for someone making a pulpit: buy extra tubing and practice making a few dozen of every kind of joint that will need to be made, in the same orientation and body position. Then, when it's time to weld on the actual pulpit, it'll be the couple dozenth time doing that particular weld, and it'll look good.
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