Things to be aware of Before You Start Welding
Welding is one of the easiest ways to join two pieces of steel together but requires a number of safety precautions.
Welding involves heating the steel up to the point it liquefies in small parts. So obviously there are a number of fire hazards . You may use an oxy acetylene torch as a heat source or Electric heat source such as an arc welder. Each of these heat sources have their own precautions.
Gas welding now is almost obsolete with new MIG welders, but it is still a fundamental welding technique. The gas welding torch flame spot heats the metal and melts the two separate pieces and the filler rod at the same time.
The most obvious hazard is the flame of the torch burning you, or setting localized combustibles on fire. Always make sure any thing that can catch fire is well away from your work area. The gas torch if not used properly can cause the metal to pop causing spatter travel quite a distance. This popping hot material can catch things nearby on fire.
A gas torch puts out a fair amount of UV light and a lot of infrared light. This means that you need special welding filters to protect your eyes. For Gas welding you need a shade #5, but you don't need a full face shield.
You should also were leather gloves and possibly a leather jacket.
Electric welding puts out a tremendous amount of UV and a lot of infrared light. You must protect your eyes with a full face welding helmet with at least a shade #10. If you are working with a low amperage perhaps up to 140 amps a shade 10 will be adequate. If you are welding very heavy steel you may need a shade 12 or 14.
Auto darkening welding helmets are all the rage now. They let you look through the lens at a shade 3 then as soon as you strike the arc shift to shade 10 or higher. You don't even have to blink. The lens itself gives you 100% UV protection even when at a shade 3. I have used one for years and really love the convenience of it. Occasionally the sensors will be in the shadow of the arc and it won't go dark until it detects the light. This is annoying but the flash you get is not damaging.
Be sure to buy an auto darkening helmet that has a CSA or UWL certification. These have been tested and confirm to test standards.
Auto darkening welding helmets don't like to get dropped. If any welding helmet that you are going to use has a crack in the lens, get a new lens. The crack will allow the UV light to get to your eyes. You are not protected!
The Ultraviolet light causes skin burns and can increase the risk of skin cancer so protect yourself. Long leather gloves and long sleeved shirt or better a leather welders jacket will protect from both the Infrared and the Ultra violet.
Exposure to the ultraviolet rays and the Infrared rays cause a severe sun burn of the skin. This is easy to get on patches of skin that peak out from protection. V-neck shirts, short sleeves can be the worst culprits.
Electric welding often creates a lot of spatter. This can be a fire hazard but more often it is an annoyance. The spatter (small molten blobs of metal) will find their way into your socks and boots and down your shirt, in your hair, etc. Very exciting and some what unpleasant. Long sleeves and pants, give you the most protection.
Ventilation is very important with welding. As the metal liquefies under the extreme temperatures some of it turns to gas. This is easily inhaled when you are working right over top of what you are welding.
The best solution is to have a welding table with forced exhaust of the fumes to the outside. Fresh air should come in from your back so you are always getting a fresh supply. If you try to weld any metal that is galvanized or zinc plated, these metals turn to gas at much lower temperatures than plain steel. Welding with these heavy metal coated steel need positive ventilation.
You may also release nasty toxins into the air by welding previously painted steel. The paint burns at very low temperatures and can release fumes.
You can also purchase inexpensive filter masks for welding fumes. These should be used with ventilation. Plain dust masks do not filter welding fumes. Buy the ones that are rated for welding fumes!
Welding is the fastest way to join metals securely. With a little practice and a few welding safety precautions it can be very enjoyable skill to master.