If you're new to welding, you're sure to find that there are a lot of tips and tricks to learn. One of the most important things to remember when you're looking to produce clean, strong welds is to start with a surface that's as clean as possible. Even the smallest particles and contaminants can weaken the weld and interfere with the process. Here's a look at some things you should know about metal surface preparation for new welders.
Cleaning Up Coated Steel
Coated steel isn't going to take a solid weld, because you need bare metal exposed for the welding process to work properly. If you're working with a coated metal product, use a grinding wheel to get rid of any coatings on the surface. Take your time with the grinder, though. Be as consistent as you can be in pressure and the time spent in each spot. You don't want to make the surface of the metal uneven by grinding one spot more than others.
If you're dealing with coating-free metal, but there are some rust spots developing on the surface, those are going to have to go as well. Rust flakes under a weld can weaken the integrity of the weld, and may even eat through the metal underneath. If you're just dealing with surface rust, steel wool may clear it away. For more extensive rust, you'll want to break out the grinding wheel again. Don't leave any rust behind, because it will continue spreading.
Removing Prior Welds
Don't ever try to weld over the top of an existing weld. You're not going to improve the condition of the weld by doing that, because the two won't integrate together. It's better to grind the old welding material away from the surface and start fresh. That way, you don't have to worry about the old weld weakening the overall integrity of the structure.
Finishing the Clean Up
Once you've dealt with the obvious issues, use a grinding wheel to go over the entire surface of the metal lightly. You just want to remove any residue, contaminants or particles that may have settled into the surface. Oils, dust and similar particles can interfere with the welds otherwise.
With the tips presented here, you can tackle your first welding jobs with the confidence that you know how to get the metal ready. The right preparation is vital to a solid weld. If you need more guidance or aren't sure about a specific situation, talk with a local welder or metal fabricator like Checkpoint Welding & Fabrication.
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