How to Set an Auto-Darkening Welding Helmet Properly

One of the most important pieces of safety equipment that a welder uses is their safety helmet.  An auto-darkening welding helmet features a lens that instantly darkens to protect the welder’s eyes from the harmful UV light that is created during the welding process.  Many auto-darkening welding helmets feature settings that can be used to compensate for the different types of welding and the different levels of light created by the welding arc.  Here are some tips on how to properly set an auto-darkening welding helmet to ensure that you receive the highest level of protection available.

The first thing you should do is set the helmet on a clean, clear surface.  Lift the front of the welding helmet up, swinging it over the headband and make sure that your battery is properly in place.  The next thing that you should do is adjust the shield delay time.  This refers to the amount of time that the shield takes to change from a darkened state to a lighter state.  On many of the most popular auto-darkening welding helmets the delay can be adjusted by moving a switch located on the inside of the shield.  Depending on the type of helmet that you have, delay times can be adjusted from .25 to .35 second on a fast setting, and .6 to .8 on a slower setting.  The delay used is more of a personal preference, you should adjust the amount of delay that you feel comfortable with.

welding helmet

Not recommended!

You can adjust the shade setting by using the adjustment knob.  On many auto-darkening helmets this knob can be located on the left side of the welding helmet. It allows the welder to adjust the intensity of darkness depending on the type of welding they are performing.  Welders should always use the darkest shade recommended for the particular type of welding being done.  Once you feel that you have adjusted the welding helmet to your liking, you should put the helmet on and adjust the headband to ensure that the welding helmet still fits properly.  You should also lower the helmet and adjust the angle until you can see through the shield without any obstructions.  Before starting to weld you should test the helmet’s auto-darkening shield to ensure that it is properly set.  If your welding helmet has been properly set the lens will darken even though your head is not facing the arc.  If for any reason your lens doesn’t completely darken you should not use that welding helmet.


Math for Welders

What (and how much) Maths do You Need as a Welder?

If you’re a serious welding student with aspirations of working a professional welding trade, the reality is you need maths knowledge and skills, and the more, the better.

The Basics – Fractions and Decimals

A variety of basic welding applications, whether you’re working in construction or fabrication, require a  rudimentary understanding of measurements to accurately size, cut and fit metal and other materials. And measurements are all based on computational fractions, which may also, in certain situations, need to be converted to decimals.

Reading and understanding blueprints and schematics, which you will probably be called upon to do quite frequently, working in both construction and fabrication, requires a general knowledge of fractions and decimals in order to understand how measurements breakdown and apply to the structures or item you’re building.


Several basic tenets of geometry, including understanding, calculating and measuring angels, measuring and calculating area and volume of a variety of shapes, and calculating radius (distance from the center of a circle to one side), diameter (distance from one side of a circle across to the other) and circumference (distance around the outside of a circle) of round or circular objects are all important skills for any welder.

Obviously forming joints is a huge part of welding, and joints form angles, and angles are prime time in geometry.

The American Welding Society (AWS) offers a highly informative power point presentation on the importance of geometry and calculating angles in the joint welding process.

Understanding how to use drafting tools like angles (usually clear plastic triangular shaped instruments, 90 60 degree angles being the most common) and a compass are both helpful when constructing joints to help make sure they’re square, and determining the radius, diameter and circumference of a circle.

maths for a welder


While we’re getting up into some pretty high math when it comes to Trigonometry, many welders agree that at least a basic understanding of   trig, including sine, cosine and tangent, is an invaluable tool when it comes to problem solving, particularly in calculating angles and the    length of each side in a particular shape you’re trying to replicate.

Additionally, calculating volume and area, calculating degrees and understanding formulas are all important skills for welders, which    happen to be rooted in trigonometry.

 Volume and Area

Calculating area and volume area are components of both geometry and trigonometry.

Important welding related calculations include:

  •   Calculating weld volume – Area of Segment (weld reinforcement) which defines the rounded “reinforcing” cap placed on a join weld
  •   Calculating pounds of steel required to effectively reinforce a joint.
  • Estimating the materials required for a project
  • Determining the volume of materials able to fit in a given size area


A basic understanding of formulas is important for solving geometric equations necessary to replicate certain shapes, in addition to calculating volume and reading formulas related to welding gases –- a seasoned welder can easily determine the effect of temperature changes relative to changes in pressure based on a formula.

A Calculator is a Great Tool, Except When it’s Not

A calculator is undoubtedly an important tool for welders, but what if you’re out in the field doing repairs or on a construction site and you don’t have a calculator handy?

Learning to write out long form computations and equations is an invaluable skill that will not only help you when your calculator is out of reach, but also provides a better illustration of a particular scenario or problem you’re trying to work through. When your seemingly annoying high school math demanded you “show your work,” it’s not because they wanted to be annoying (well maybe not…?), it’s because they wanted you to have the ability to work through a particular problem so you could apply the same process in the future.

Additional Resources

There are a number of excellent books and online resources which can help you bone up on your welding related math skills. A few choice examples include:


welding gas cylinders

How to Choose the Right Size Welding Gas Cylinder

Choosing the correct size of welding gas cylinder is important to ensure that you have the proper amount of gas necessary to finish the welding job you are currently working on.  This is not so much of a problem if all of your welding work is done at your shop; however, if you are a welder who travels from location to location it is important that you always carry enough gas to finish the job you are there to do.  There is nothing worse than having to leave a location in order to purchase more welding gas.

To choose the correct size welding gas cylinder you need to complete your welding job, you will have to calculate how long it will take you to complete the weld.  When calculating time you should only take into consideration the actual time you will spend welding and not the time you need for preparation.  You will need 20 cubic feet of capacity for every hour of welding you will be doing.  Properly estimating how long it will take for you to successfully complete the welding project you are working on will help you ensure that you have enough gas to make it to the end.

gas cylinders

When choosing welding gas cylinders you should also know what the workspace consists of.  Some areas may be smaller than others and will allow you to only carry in smaller size cylinders.  It is important that you always know the size of the area where you will be working.  This rule should also be followed if you are going to be working on scaffolds or other high areas.  These types of areas often require that only “B” sized tanks be used.  If your work area is large and open you may choose to use a larger capacity gas cylinder that will allow you to have room to work and enough gas to complete the job.

The next thing you need to know about determining the proper size gas cylinder to use is to also calculate how much oxygen you will need as well.  If you are using acetylene and oxygen the oxygen will be used at a two-to-one ratio.  This means that you will need to take twice the amount of oxygen to the amount of acetylene that you will need.  If you follow these guidelines, you will be able to properly determine the amount of gas cylinders you will need to complete any welding job you are working on.

Coogee welder

Fire Prevention for Welders

It is easy to take for granted things that you work with everyday. (Have you ever seen someone who works with poisonous snakes, crocodiles, or tigers and thought, “Wow that is stupid”?) It is easy to become complacent, careless, or over confident. It is easy to lose the once held healthy fear of fire when you’re a seasoned welder, but fire prevention is essential. Fires can be started by sparks or drops of hot slag. Before you begin any welding project, you must be aware of potential fire hazards and consider safe practices. Examine the work area, adjacent areas, welding equipment, and materials.

Consider the 2011 fire at a Woonsocket, Rhode Island mill started by a welding torch. The 200,000 square foot building, valued at $900,000 was destroyed, completely burnt to the ground. Fortunately no one was hurt, nor did nearby homes incur damage. Sixty units of a Galveston, Texas condo complex were damaged in June 2009 when a fire started from construction welding. The building was being repaired from damages done by hurricane Ike, many of the residents had already moved back in. One firefighter was briefly hospitalized from heat exhaustion, but all residents were evacuated without harm.

Eastern Suburbs welder

  OSHA Guidelines

The following guidelines are directly from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

When practical, objects to be welded, cut, or heated shall be moved to a designated safe location or, if the    objects to be welded, cut, or heated cannot be readily    moved, all movable fire hazards in the vicinity shall be    taken to a safe place, or otherwise protected.

  •   1926.352(b)

If the object to be welded, cut, or heated cannot be moved and if all the fire hazards cannot be removed, positive   means shall be taken to confine the heat, sparks,   and slag, and to protect the immovable fire hazards from    them.

  •   1926.352(c)

No welding, cutting, or heating shall be done where the application of flammable paints, or the presence of    other flammable compounds, or heavy dust    concentrations creates a hazard.

  •   1926.352(d)

Suitable fire extinguishing equipment shall be immediately available in the work area and shall be maintained in a state of readiness for instant use.

  • 1926.352(e)

When the welding, cutting, or heating operation is such that normal fire prevention precautions are not sufficient, additional personnel shall be assigned to guard against fire while the actual welding, cutting, or heating operation is being performed, and for a sufficient period of time after completion of the work to ensure that no possibility of fire exists. Such personnel shall be instructed as to the specific anticipated fire hazards and how the firefighting equipment provided is to be used.

  • 1926.352(f)

When welding, cutting, or heating is performed on walls, floors, and ceilings, since direct penetration of sparks or heat transfer may introduce a fire hazard to an adjacent area, the same precautions shall be taken on the opposite side as are taken on the side on which the welding is being performed.

  • 1926.352(g)

For the elimination of possible fire in enclosed spaces as a result of gas escaping through leaking or improperly closed torch valves, the gas supply to the torch shall be positively shut off at some point outside the enclosed space whenever the torch is not to be used or whenever the torch is left unattended for a substantial period of time, such as during the lunch period. Overnight and at the change of shifts, the torch and hose shall be removed from the confined space. Open end fuel gas and oxygen hoses shall be immediately removed from enclosed spaces when they are disconnected from the torch or other gas-consuming device.

  • 1926.352(h)

Except when the contents are being removed or transferred, drums, pails, and other containers which contain or have contained flammable liquids shall be kept closed. Empty containers shall be removed to a safe area apart from hot work operations or open flames.

  • 1926.352(i)

Drums containers, or hollow structures which have contained toxic or flammable substances shall, before welding, cutting, or heating is undertaken on them, either be filled with water or thoroughly cleaned of such substances and ventilated and tested. For welding, cutting and heating on steel pipelines containing natural gas, the pertinent portions of regulations issued by the Department of Transportation, Office of Pipeline Safety, 49 CFR Part 192, Minimum Federal Safety Standards for Gas Pipelines, shall apply.

  • 1926.352(j)

Before heat is applied to a drum, container, or hollow structure, a vent or opening shall be provided for the release of any built-up pressure during the application of heat.

National Fire Protection Association

View NFPA 51B online here: http://www.nfpa.org/aboutthecodes/AboutTheCodes.asp?DocNum=51B.


The American Welding Society’s safety guidelines can be found in PDF format here: http://www.aws.org/technical/facts/Z49.1-2005-all.pdf. Information specific to fire and explosion prevention can be found in PDF version here: http://www.aws.org/technical/facts/fs6-806.pdf.


Additionally, please periodically review the safety information that came with your welder and any other equipment you use. You may also wish to read these welding safety articles on weldmyworld.com.

Picture Source: artperspective.wordpress.com

How to Buy a MIG Welder with Enough Power

A MIG welder is an ideal machine for a wide variety of fabricating jobs at home or in a welding shop. The typical hobby welder who gets to work on his projects on the weekends may not want to shell out the $1700 for a premier MIG welder that provides a wide range of options for welding materials, but then again, no one wants to buy a welder at half the cost if it doesn’t have enough power for a typical weekend project. When should you spring for the expensive MIG welder that offers 230V and when is 115V/120V good enough?

 Millermatic MIG welder
Image Source: Baker’s Gas and Welding

Using some specs from Miller’s Millermatic MIG welders as a rough guide, here are some comparisons of the power options offered by different kinds of MIG welders:

Material Thickness for a MIG Welder

If you’re trying to figure out how much power you’ll need in a MIG welder, a good place to start is the kind of material you plan on welding. You can manage to weld 1/8” thick metal with a 115V unit, but once you start working on 3/8” thick metal, you’ll need to consider a MIG welder with more power. Typically a 115V MIG welder won’t have enough power to effectively weld 3/8” metal, though some have been willing to give it a shot!

A 230V unit will have enough power to effectively join the metals together. Multiple passes with a lighter duty machine won’t work as well.

Duty Cycle for a MIG Welder

A duty cycle is the amount of time a welder can run within a ten minute cycle. It’s common for an affordable 115V machine to have a 20-30% duty cycle, which means it can run for 2-3 minutes for every ten before it needs to stop for cooling. On the other hand, there are some more expensive MIG welders that provide 230V of power and operate at a 60% duty cycle.

The difference between a 115V welder and 230V welder will be around $300-$800 depending on the features you want. A longer duty cycle and more power make for a very versatile welder than can handle whatever you want to do, but you do pay for that expanded performance.

The Best of Both MIG Welders

You can pay a little more for a MIG welder that offers both 115V and 230V. This provides more power and versatility and may be the best option if you aren’t quite sure what you’ll be working on and can afford to invest in a slightly more expensive unit. The one drawback is that you may lose some of your duty cycle when operating at 230V.

Of course each brand’s welder will differ slightly from one model to another. However, when it comes to power, the big question will be what kind of material you want to work on, especially its thickness.

Learn more about MIG welding at Baker’s Gas and Welding.


5 Tax Tips for Freelance Self-Employed Welders

TaxesWith tax time nearly upon us, as the April 15 deadline quickly approaches, that familiar old saying comes to mind: “The only certainties in life are death and taxes,” and that’s certainly no April Fools!

No matter which “side of the aisle” you fall on politically, there’s no doubt that the middle class gets squeezed with the highest effect tax rate relative to average gross income earned. And most welders, whether freelance, self-employed or employees, qualify as members of the middle class.

Therefore, the more you know about the ins and outs of the tax code, including all the tips and tricks to effectively navigating the often cumbersome tax return process, the less money you will end up having to fork over to Uncle Sam, and more cash you’ll keep in your pocket (where, frankly, it belongs).

Self-Employed as a Freelance Welder

When you make the decision to become a freelance welder, you’re taking the plunge into the world of the self-employed. No more W2 income statements, now all income is accounted for via the 1099 form.

From an income tax standpoint, there are both virtues and detriments to your status of self-employed. The increased capacity to make deductions and greater latitude in appling those deductions is wonderful, but on the downside employment taxes rise, and effectively navigating the tax code without incurring the wrath of the taxman is significantly more difficult than the good ole days of your regular “employee” tax status.

Top Tax Tips for Self-Employed Welders

The following tips for self-employed welders are intended to give you a heads up on how to best manage your finances for tax purposes as a Freelance or Self-Employed Welder. Some of these tips may not help you in this year’s round with the taxman, but are definitely applicable in the future:

Keep Adequate Records

One of the biggest issues tax professionals are really making a point of harping on this year is record keeping.

Filing taxes as a self-employed freelancer already arouses suspicion from the IRS, but to make matters worse, most state governments are broke and running enormous deficits, and the federal government is running the biggest deficit in the nation’s history (and it’s growing daily). Suffice it to say – the taxman is hungry for CASH! And individuals filing taxes with self-employed status are prime targets for the governments taxation hunt.

So, if you want to avoid being audited (which is definitely not fun) KEEP DETAILED RECORDS!

In fact, if you haven’t already done so, reviewing the 1040 tax form Schedule C, which outlines potential deductions, is probably a good idea – a little inspiration to help keep you on a straight and narrow path.

Business Income Vs. Business Losses

One of the biggest benefits of being self-employed is the ability it affords you to deduct your business expenses from you gross income, effectively lowering your taxable income base. On the other side of this coin, however, self-employed individuals with high wages offset by inordinately high business losses represent one of the biggest red flags to the IRS for those filing taxes with self-employed status.

As a freelancer, your profit is the amount of income remaining after you’ve covered all your business expenses. The equation looks something like this: income – expenses = profit. It’s not uncommon for freelancers to show a loss, but if your income is high (especially if it’s above average for your profession – and rest assured the IRS is well aware of the average), and you’re attempting to reduce that income by showing high business losses, you’re heading for trouble.

Showing a business loss year after year is another issue to avoid. If a business shows a loss 3 out of 5 years, the IRS can audit you to investigate whether or not you’re conducting a “hobby” as a business to incur business losses on purpose as a strategy to shelter your gross income and lower your taxable profit base.

Obviously you have to be aggressive with your tax return in order to avoid as much taxation as possible, but be careful, as you might be inviting the kind of attention you would prefer to avoid, i.e. nasty audit by the IRS.

Self-Employment Taxes

The biggest difference between filing taxes and an employee and a self-employed individual is employment tax.

When you’re an employee, your employer matches or covers half of what the government refers to as your “employment taxes,” which includes: Social Security, Medicare, etc. When you’re self employed, however, you’re solely responsible for those so-called “employment taxes,” which are now referred to as “self-employment taxes.”

Self-employment taxes generally amount to about 15% of your gross income (up to $100,000, after which the rate increases), and ideally you should set this amount aside and pay quarterly estimated returns.

For example, if you estimate you income at approximately $50,000 year, that breaks down to $12,500 per quarter, and you should therefore pay $1,875 for each quarterly return.

By reducing your effective gross income with deductions, however, you can reduce your employment tax, and that brings us to our next tip.


The following is list of typically acceptable deductions for a freelance welder under Schedule C of the 1040 Tax form:

  • Advertising – this includes business cards and web-marketing
  • Insurance – for life, property casualty, or business insurance. Do not include health insurance under this category
  • Other interest – credit card or loan interest, such as interest paid on an equipment loan
  • Legal and professional services – such as fees your accountant will charge
  • Administrative expense – billing and invoicing services
  • Rent or lease other business property – rent paid for a workshop or storage space
  • Repairs and maintenance – repairing your computer, for example
  • Supplies – routine office supplies like paper, toner, pens, pencils, notepads, etc.
  • Travel – the cost of gas and wear on your car when traveling to jobs in the field
  • Utilities – electricity, gas
  • Other expenses – such as professional organization dues, web development, and business telephone expenses

Health care premiums are deductible on your 1040 tax form as personal deductions, unless your business shows a loss, in which case your premium has to be deducted on the Schedule A form as a medical expense.

Registering as an S-Corp

This is one of those tips that’s a little too late for this year’s tax filing but may be a prudent measure for the future.

An S-Corp is a special kind of incorporation designation for self-employed individuals or very small businesses, which offers the personal protection of a corporation; your personal assets are protected from the legal liabilities and you are relieved of personal responsibility for business debts and losses.

The S-Corporation doesn’t pay taxes, but instead the taxes “pass-through” to the corporate officer – you, the freelance – and are treated like normal personal taxes.

Establishing an S-Corp is less of a tax exemption benefit and more of a move to protect your assets and reduce your legal liability.

Legal Zoom is an excellent resource for no-hassle incorporations, business registrations and DBA filings.


Parts of a Welding Machine

Welding machines are used when pieces of metal need to be permanently joined.  Welding machines come in a variety of types and sizes with varied amounts of voltage produced.  These output voltages range from a small welder with 80 amps to larger welding machines used in industrial settings that can produce up to 12,000 amps.  Depending on the type of welding you will be performing, your machine will range in power from the low end of the scale to the higher end. 

Welding machines take the electrical current they are supplied with, either from a regular household socket to a more advanced power system, and convert that power into an arc of energy that is used to join the two pieces of metal together.  There are two different types of welding machines, constant current or constant voltage.  Welding machines that use constant current maintain a set current by changing up the output voltage.  A constant voltage welding machine keeps the voltage steady by adjusting the amount of output current.

  • Transformers are used by some welding machines to convert the high voltage current from the power source to a lower voltage current used for welding.  The output current can be adjusted by the welder within a certain range.  This allows the welder to properly set the output current for the type of welding that is being performed.
  • An alternator or generator is used by some types of welding machines that use a motor or combustion engine to convert the electrical energy into mechanical energy.  An alternator or generator is used to convert this mechanical energy into a low-current electrical output. 
  • An inverter welding machine produces high amounts of voltage that are necessary for high-intensity arc welding.  This type of welding machine stores the high voltage current obtained from the power source in a capacitor.  A microprocessor then switches the stored energy into a transformer where it is then converted into the correct output current needed to successfully complete the weld.

If for any reason you are unsure of the type of preferences your welding machine requires you should always consult the manual that came with your welding machine.  This will provide you with the necessary information you need to properly use and set your welding machine.  If you continue to have questions, consult an experienced welder who can offer you valuable insight into how to get the most out of your welding machine.

Building a Simple TIG Welder Water Cooler

The TIG welder is most easily recognized by the bright, white electrical arc that it produces.  The TIG welder was designed for continuous welding of certain metals such as stainless steel and aluminum.  During the process of continually welding, the TIG welder can become very warm in the area of the torch handle if there is not a supply of cooling water being used.  When TIG welders are going to be used continuously, a constant supply of water is necessary to keep the torch handle at a temperature that can be comfortably held by the welder.  If you don’t already have a water cooling system for your TIG welder, we’re going to provide you with the instructions on how to build one.

What you’ll need: an open container for the water basin (10-15 gallons in size), a submersible water pump (3-5 gallons per minute, with 1/4 inch fittings), 1/4 inch clear plastic tubing (40-50 feet in length), and 3 small hose clamps (for 1/4 inch fittings).

The first thing you will need to do is to set the cooler basin next to the TIG welder location and place the submersible pump inside.  Remember that the closer the cooler is to the torch handle assembly and torch cord, the easier it will be to attach the tubing carrying the water to the TIG welding torch.  Once you are satisfied with location of the cooler basin, you should now remove the outer jacket that covers the torch cord in order to expose the gas tubing and the electrical conductor.  Snapping open the jacket all the way will expose the two copper fittings located on the lower end of the torch handle.  These copper fittings will be used to conduct the water in and out of the torch handle.

Next you will need to unroll the 1/4 inch tubing and attach one end to the fitting on the torch handle, securing it in place using 1/4 inch hose clamp and screwdriver.  Once the tubing has been secured you will now run the tubing down the length of the torch cord until it reaches the submersible pump located inside the cooler basin, remove any excess tubing and attach the tubing to the pump’s output fitting using another hose clamp.  Now, you will need to attach the remaining tubing to the other copper fitting located on the torch handle.  This tubing will drain the water that will run back into the cooler basin.  Secure the tubing in the same manner as you previously did.  You will also need to cut the tubing so that it can easily rest inside the cooler basin. 

The final step is to reattach the cover of the torch cord and ensure that the tubing fits properly inside the covering.  Fill the cooler basin with fresh cool water and cover the top of the basin with a piece of plywood to keep any debris from landing in the clean water.  Plug the pump into the power supply and ensure that the water is flowing and draining properly.  Once you have done all of this, you now have a TIG water cooling system.

NOTE: To avoid burning up the submersible pump, you’ll want to check the water level of the water basin each day before running the TIG welder to ensure it isn’t low from evaparation or leakage.

Resources for TIG Welder Water Cooler Ideas:


China Welders…

China Welders…

by Dave

(Blende, CO, USA)

Made in America means nothing anymore. Even if the welder is assembled in the US the parts were made in China. If a piece of equipment does what it says it will do then you have a working tool. I’ll try anyone’s welders. I had a Lincoln only last one year but my trusty Harbor Freight Arc-120 stick welder still works just fine after 4 years. I’d love to give one of those 3 in 1 welders from China a try myself. Just sayin’…

Custom Fabricator AND home shop enthusiast

Custom Fabricator AND home shop enthusiast

by Edward Williams

(Wichita Kansas US of A)

Frankly, I own a Miller Econotig that gave me maybe 100 hours service before the
Circuit board failed – about $500 + to repair it. I’ve seen too many posts with this
Same problem. I also have small inverter HFT 110 amp dc tig welder – ‘lunch box’ size.
I have had good success and at 16% the price of a Miller I’ve found it to be quite adequate.
Let me be clear; I am NOT making my living with it or any other of my welders.I’ve worked
as an industrial equipment fabricator for 12 years – primarily with stainless and aluminum.
About 90% tig welding was with Hobart. Rather than fixing the Miller I’m considering a Riland.
Let’s be honest; there is a difference between the Chinese and American. Get what meets
your needs, fits your budget, and. Strokes the old ego. Ed