Weld Like a Pro
Let me put all of my cards on the table: I don't weld.
I wish I welded, but I lack the equipment, facilities, and finances to do it, so I'm not able to get into it at the moment.
That doesn't mean I'm not educated in the subject. I've done a lot of research and I understand the process of welding — and I'm not just book smart. Because I'm unable to get the needed experience, I've also studied lots and lots of welders performing welding. So, I fully grasp the techniques as well, however, all of my knowledge of welding is academic.
With that out of the way, I'm sure you're wondering why I picked up this book if I've done so much research, already — I have a good answer:
Because I'm not able to practice welding.
I find that continuing to go over the subject matter helps to keep the concepts fresh and allows me to pick up further nuances of the art and science of melding metal.
Why am I reading this book, now?
The El Camino is going to need some repair work. I'm hoping to avoid welding as a part of Project: Homage if possible, but, that may not be an option — as an example, it may very well need an exhaust, and if it does, I want to make a very faithful recreation of the custom system my Grandfather had installed. Quite frankly, I doubt an exhaust shop is going to understand just how accurate I'm looking to be and based on my experience dealing with exhaust shops, I also doubt their willingness to entertain what I'm looking to accomplish.
The El Camino isn't the only project car that'll require welding: the 351, the Mustang, the Survivor, and the LX are all in need of exhaust and/or body panel replacements. Of course, the projects for those cars are way off in the future — okay, they're all way off, but those projects are even farther in the future than the El Camino's.
With that out of the way, follow along to see if Weld Like a Pro can help you get things you want done in your hobby:
There are lots of enthusiast-oriented books on welding out there, so why this one?
After doing some careful research, I found that Weld Like a Pro is unique in that its information is presented very similar to professional texts. It also looks at the welding process from the perspective of someone learning to weld rather than as a technical subject. Which is to say, it's arranged so that it takes you through the different methods just like you'd need to learn them in order to become proficient — making this an excellent book for the would-be welder.
Weld Like a Pro is written by Jerry Uttrachi, who happens to have a long list of welding-related accomplishments that gives this book a solid foundation. He was president of the American Welding Society (AWS) in 2007, has run a welding R&D lab, and even worked in management at a welding equipment manufacturer as a vice president. His experience has provided him insight into the best way to present this information for the neophyte, and the layout of the information here, uses a tried and true method for teaching welding skills. The basic sequence used begins with oxyacetylene welding and progresses through TIG welding, stick welding, and finishes with MIG welding. It also includes other basic information needed to get good results: joint types, advanced materials, and metallurgical factors.
Weld Like a Pro is also geared specifically towards — but not limited to — automotive enthusiasts and presents a number of practical automotive-based projects in the "projects and applications" section of Chapters 3, 4 and 6 — as well as one lone project in Chapter 7.
What differentiates the two?
They're both example-focused explanations of welding technology, but "projects" are mostly things the author has worked on and "applications" are mostly practical theory.
I think it's important to inform you before you pick up the book that neither the projects nor the applications are step-by-step instructions for you to follow — merely examples of the technology applied to real world situations or the theory behind the technology as it's used.
Here's a chapter by chapter breakdown of what the book has to offer:
With some books, the introduction is merely an opportunity for the author to say a few words, but, doesn't have a lot to do with the book, itself.
Not so here.
Although it's only three pages long, the introduction actually introduces you to the book and provides some very important background information about modern welding and cutting processes, safety information, and resources available from the AWS.
While there was nothing new for me, here, if you're new to welding — or aren't familiar with the information about it — I don't recommend skipping it.
Chapter 1: Welding Processes and Equipment
Chapter 1 is an overview of welding, the welding process, and the methods taught in this book. It provides a brief but effective introduction to each method, including oxy welding, TIG welding, stick welding, MIG welding, oxy cutting, and plasma cutting. It also introduces you to the basic principles through which each technology works — so that you can better understand and make use of them.
Chapter 2: Joint Types
This is the last prep chapter before it gets into the heart of the book — it's also very important. Here, the author discusses how weld joints work, how to set them up, and their strengths and weaknesses. The types of welds covered are butt welds, structural tubular welds, spot welds, plug welds, and fillet welds. Since much of welding occurs without being able to properly test the finished weld through destruction, understanding how to lay a weld properly is critical.
Chapter 3: Oxyacetylene Welding
Weld Like a Pro starts to teach welding with oxyacetylene and the reason — as it's explained in the book — has to do with learning the manual skills necessary to weld. Because of the nature of oxy welding, it provides a pace that the skills can be learned the easiest and allows you to comprehend the welding process. All the other welding methods build on these fundamental skills.
Chapter 3 takes a detailed look at the equipment used in oxyacetylene welding — including how to go about purchasing it. It then progresses into the safety considerations for this style of welding and finishes with how to use oxy welding to weld plates, tubes, and cast iron — complete with multiple practice exercises.
Chapter 4: TIG Welding
Chapter 4 is a big chapter. We're talking 38 pages — but, it needs to cover a lot of material.
As the title states, this chapter is about TIG welding. It's a process that uses a non-consumable tungsten electrode and separate filler metal, ala oxyacetylene — which is why the author recommends learning it after learning to weld with oxyfuel. It also requires the use of a shielding gas — so there is no integral flux option here like with MIG or stick welding. It also produces the best welds of any manual-welding technology. It's the strongest, cleanest, most easily controlled, and most flexible (it can be used on the broadest selection of materials) — but TIG welding is slower than MIG and requires more skill, so there are drawbacks.
Chapter 4 covers equipment, processes, and materials — which includes a focus on why certain welding rod types and welder settings are used in specific applications like welding chrome-moly or stainless steel, or different types of aluminum alloys. It also has quite a few projects and applications, including making a stainless steel bracket, welding up a stainless steel exhaust, and repairing aluminum cylinder heads — but, to be clear, there isn't enough information here to reproduce these projects on your own, at least in my estimation. On top of those projects, it looks at the concepts behind welding up chrome-moly tubing, a stainless steel fuel tank, stainless steel headers, and the special requirements needed to weld titanium and magnesium.
Chapter 5: Stick Welding
Technically, stick welding can be used in some automotive applications, but, from what I've read and seen, I wouldn't ever use it on a car for anything.
Here's the deal: it creates a very, very messy weld with penetration (that is, the depth the weld goes into the substrate) that's difficult to control and, therefore, is not effective enough for automotive welding. Also, the potential for environmental contamination of the weld aside, the flux on the outside of the consumable electrode also puts contaminants in the weld as a part of the welding process — contamination reduces the strength of the weld, as well as creates points for stress cracks to start.
Personally, even in a building construction capacity, I would only use it if MIG or TIG weren't available or usable. However, it is very economical and I hear — or, rather, read — that it's easy to learn.
All that said, Chapter 5 is about stick welding and it's a short chapter. It briefly covers equipment, processes, and practice tips. It also mentions that there is limited application for effectively using stick welding with automobiles — so, I'm not the only person that thinks that.
Chapter 6: Choosing Abrasive Blasting Materials
You've made it to the biggest chapter of the book at 54 pages. Chapter 6: MIG Welding is the heart of Weld Like a Pro and for good reason. Not only is it the most common welding technology used, it's also the most productive. While TIG welding may be the best manual welding technology for finished results, MIG is the quickest way to create an effective, quality weld. You'll find it used in virtually every facet of automotive repair except for the most challenging materials and situations. It basically combines many of the speed benefits of simple stick welding with a cleaner result closer to a TIG weld — specifically if you use gas to shield your weld rather than go unshielded and use the available self-shielded flux-core wire. Self-shielded flux-core wire is essentially the reverse of a flux-coated stick electrode and many — but not necessarily all — of the same issues with application, cleanliness, and finish quality apply.
Chapter 6 is pretty thorough: it covers equipment, processes, and materials, just like the previous three chapters do for their respective welding methods. It also has a projects and applications section that includes seven projects and nine applications to give you plenty of examples to see the versatility and effectiveness of this welding technology.
Chapter 7: Advanced Materials and Metallurgical Processes
If you've read the rest of the book then you're ready for this fascinating chapter: it goes deeper into the metallurgical factors that impact the welding process and how welds are tested.
It may not sound interesting if you've only read this review, but if you've gone through the rest of the book, you'll be primed to put this information into context — and you'll know that welding is far more complex than gluing two chunks of metal together with yet more hot metal made with a fire stick. It simply isn't enough to use a welder to lay down a molten strip, you need to make good welds and Chapter 7 goes into great detail about what makes a weld bad so that you can better understand what good is.
Chapter 7 — and the book — ends with one last project. This time, it involves arc bending the legs of a roll bar that was the focus of another project in an earlier chapter. In case you're wondering, arc bending is the process of using welds strategically placed on a metal object to bend it.
After reading Weld Like a Pro, I think it may be the best enthusiast-focused introduction to welding out there. Instead of spending its time explaining the capabilities of welding, it focuses on the practical function of the different welding technologies and how to apply them in practice.
As a would-be welding enthusiast, I imagine you're wondering if this book is a good replacement for a professional text and/or training. The answer is no — and author Jerry Uttrachi says as much — but it is a truly excellent introduction to the subject. In fact, I wish I'd read this book when I first started to research welding — it would have saved me a lot of confusion and who knows how much time trying to piece together the basics on my own.
If you've picked yourself up a home improvement store welding setup because you thought it would be fun to learn or you have a little project you need to do, I highly recommend reading this book from cover-to-cover, first.
Even better: pick it up before you buy your welder. It'll help you understand your needs and figure out what you should really be purchasing to achieve the results you're looking for.
While Weld Like a Pro isn't a replacement for a full education on the subject of welding, at the very least, reading it will give you a solid clue about what you need to know before you get started.
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