17 Tips for Welding on a Budget

If you have exceeded your welding budget, then there are ways you can bring costs under control. However, cost reduction measures require careful consideration since project safety and quality are important factors in engineering and fabrication projects.

With these 17 tips for welding on a budget, you can reduce the overall project costs while maintaining quality and safety:

1. Select a Low-Cost Welding Method

For certain applications, you can select either of the two following methods, which are more affordable as compared to other welding techniques:

Stick Welding

Since stick welding relies on minimal equipment, it is an inexpensive welding technique. However, weld quality is not necessarily the best. Welds created by this technique may experience different problems, which include but are not limited to, cracking, low penetration and porosity. These welds have low durability and can be severely affected by bad weather conditions.

Although stick welding is very old, it is still commonly used in 3rd world countries due to cost benefits. Equipment for more modern welding techniques is either significantly more expensive or not easily available in these regions. Stick welding is still used in certain sectors, such as construction, automotive, plumbing and refrigeration.

Flux-Cored Arc Welding (FCAW)

This welding technique is similar to MIG welding. The main difference is that FCAW employs tubular wire, which contains flux at its core. Depending on the filler material, shielding gas may not be needed. If a flux core electrode is used, then you can expect cost savings because shielding gas won’t be needed to be supplied separately.

Here are the advantages of FCAW:

  • Fairly inexpensive
  • Requires less operator skill
  • High rate of welding for quick job completion
  • Depending on the type of electrode used, no shielding gas may be required. It is, therefore, feasible for outdoor welding under windy conditions
  • Metal requires less pre-cleaning
  • The flux material provides molten slag and gas for protecting the hot weld. Hence, there is a low chance of porosity or corrosion.
  • Equipment is fairly light and easily portable as compared to other welding techniques.

However, there are some disadvantages. With improper handling, different weld defects may be created, such as the incomplete joining of metal parts, cracks and slag inclusion. Other welding techniques may also create these problems.

FCAW also has its own set of disadvantages:

  • Melted contact tip. The nozzle can come into contact with the hot molten joint. This contact can cause the tip of the nozzle to melt.
  • Mechanical problems can cause irregular electrode feeding rate.
  • Porosity. The protective gases can possibly create porosity (tiny holes) in the weld (if they are trapped inside).
  • Compared to GMAW, the consumable electrode is more expensive.
  • High levels of gases are generated. These gases are toxic and can obscure the vision of the welder.

The advantages and disadvantages of FCAW for the welding scenario must be carefully considered. The benefits and cost-savings will then outweigh the expense.

2. Employ Good Design Practices to Reduce Unnecessary Welds

An easy and safe way to reduce unnecessary welds is to contact a welding contractor. They have the expertise to modify product design, so that it requires a minimum number of welds.

For instance, suppose the boxes that you are fabricating are based on a design that requires welded handles on each side for lifting. The welding contractor can modify the design. Instead of lift handles, slots can be cut in place for lifting purposes. These modifications can reduce welding operations and costs.

Experienced welding professionals have the expertise to pinpoint areas where welding is unnecessary. They can reduce the number of welds and suggest good alternatives that are more feasible. This will save you money, time and effort in the long run.

3. Bundle Welding Costs with Other Fabrication Expenses

If you employ the services of a welding contractor, then you can outsource other fabrication processes as well. You can reduce costs by bundling welding and other fabrication processes into one package. Welding professionals and contractors often have expertise in other fabrication processes as well. These partners may also be able to procure material as well.

For instance, you can request your welding contractor to perform machining, welding and painting processes as part of the project. You will have a high chance of getting a decent discount due to a larger order. These professionals may be able to execute these processes more economically than you. This can lead to further cost savings.

With their experience and expertise, welding professionals can also optimize other manufacturing processes with welding operations. For instance, in many projects, welding may be followed by a machining process. The welding operation should be carried out in such a way that minimum machining should be required. Proper allowance should be made for the machining process. If welding is carried out properly, then there will be minimal distortions and changes in the parts. As a result, this will make subsequent machining easier.

4. Understand Welding

Welding is both a skill and a science. The order in which welding is carried out affects product quality. The high temperatures involved may produce distortion and warping. With the right welding technique and practices, the undesired distortion and change can be controlled for better quality and reduced fabrication time.

Experienced welders often have the skill to judge the type of distortion that may be produced by welding. For instance, they may assemble the parts with clearances that are different as compared to design. After welding is completed, the final clearance will then correspond to design. Professional welders know the changes that welding will introduce. Hence, they plan in advance how to compensate for the distortion.

With adequate welding knowledge, experience and skill, you can produce high quality parts that have fewer welding defects. This will result in easier quality control and a higher production rate.

5. Control Equipment Downtime

Wasted time results in greater costs and lost earning opportunities. Hence, all possible steps should be taken to conserve time. This principal applies to welding as well. Professional welders, therefore, utilize efficient scheduling to minimize downtime for welding equipment. This applies to both maintenance and the use of electrodes.

Welders should employ electrode packages, which are large enough to minimize electrode change frequency. Also, enough welding wire is required in the package to last a few hours of uninterrupted operations. However, it is also important to keep the package size within one limit. This is because once the package is opened, then the filler wire will be exposed to the atmosphere. This is often a tough industrial environment full of dust, fumes and other contaminants, which can degrade the quality of the wire over time. This may then have a negative effect on the welding process. Hence, the package should not be so big that it cannot be consumed within a day.

Another factor that has an important bearing on downtime is maintenance. Without maintenance, welding equipment can break down at a higher frequency. This will result in more stoppage and wasted time. Hence, giving due regard to maintenance is necessary. It is all too easy to forego or delay maintenance as a result of heavy workload. This should definitely be avoided. Properly maintained welding equipment is capable of delivering reliable performance for better fabrication quality.

Optimal maintenance scheduling can also ensure reliable equipment performance with minimum maintenance.

6. Don’t Cut Costs at the Expense of Quality

It may be tempting to employ the cheapest welding equipment and the most inexpensive welding processes for minimizing costs. However, this can backfire in the form of lower quality, higher failure rate and ironically, increased costs. Hence, balancing cost-cutting measures with effective welding practices and techniques is imperative.

This is not to say that lower cost welding methods like stick welding and FCAW should be phased out completely. You should know the conditions under which they are feasible. For instance, stick welding is ill-advised for joining thin metal sheets. Although gas metal arc welding is ostensibly more expensive, it will produce good results with sheet metal. Hence, GMAW is economical in the long run under these conditions.

There is also a lot of cheap welding equipment flooding the market. Such equipment may appear to be a good deal. However, it comes at the cost of reduced functionality. Many such models are not suitable for anything except thin parts. So even if you have just started welding, it is advisable not to aim for exceedingly low priced equipment. If something is too inexpensive, then you should take a close look at it since excessively cheap items often pose several problems. Welding equipment is not any different in this regard.

7. Don’t Select Overly Expensive Helmets

Some welding helmets on the market cost $400. Even for heavy-duty industrial work, you can opt for helmets that have a lower price than this amount.

If you have just started welding, then you can select a good quality helmet under $100. But you must remember that you may have to upgrade in the future with heavier use. Don’t go for the cheap ones as they are not worth it. They are too flimsy and may break easily.

8. DIY Welding Cart

If you intend to purchase a welding cart from the market, then you should be prepared to set aside $100. But there is no need to spend this amount when it can be made with reasonable diligence and fairly low skill level.

If you decide to fabricate your own welding cart, you will need to spend around $30 on the material. There are several DIY guides on the internet for making these carts. The main items required are just wheels, expanded metal and angle iron.

9. Visit the Steel Yard

If you have just started practicing, then even scrap steel will be sufficient. You don’t need to spend too much money on high quality finished steel for welding practice. Go to the local steel yard and check the scrap pile. You can select pieces that are in good shape and obtain a reasonable discount. With enough resourcefulness, you can even get this stuff for free. If you are aware of any welding or machining workshop in your area, then take a look at the used metal being discarded. You can take their permission to haul the metal parts and even get them for free with a little persuasion.

This tip is for practice only. For full-fledged projects, you will need to purchase high quality steel pieces.

10. Purchase Online

With online buying, you will have much greater choice. Far greater discounts are also available online due to intense competition. Places like Ebay and Ram Welding Supply can offer you affordable welding supplies and consumables. If you purchase online out of state, then you may not be required to pay tax.

If you have started welding either with MIG or FCAW, then you should begin with flux core wire. This is more budget-friendly because the flux core provides inert gas that can protect hot welds from the atmosphere. As a result, you do not need to purchase a separate gas tank cylinder, which is expensive.

11. Analyze Your Welding Costs

Looking for bargains on materials and equipment is fine if you are a DIY welder. But if you have your own workshop for commercial production, then this is just part of the picture.

Material costs are often just around 20 percent of the total cost, while around 80 percent of the total welding cost can be attributed to overheads and labor.

To increase the productivity of welders, stockpile the necessary supplies close to the welding station. This will reduce the number of trips they must make for supplies.

Your welder should not have to hunt for different parts before welding. If the parts arrive in a neatly organized batch, then the welding operator can get to work right away. It might appear that just a few seconds are being wasted for finding parts. But these lost seconds can increase over the passage of hours, days and months. This wastage must be minimized to improve productivity.

Even if you are outsourcing parts to a vendor for welding, make sure that you deliver them in well-organized batches. This will save time for your vendor and allow them to do more in the same amount of time.

12. Monitor Gas Wastage

If you have a separate gas supply for your welding process, then you should monitor for gas wastage. The surge turbine can give digital readings of gas flow rate to monitor gas consumption. If gas flow is too high, then invest in a surge guard to reduce wastage due to gas surges.

You should also monitor leaks to minimize gas wastage. Keep a record of your daily gas consumption. If production remains the same, but there is a significant increase in gas costs, then leakage may be the reason behind increased gas consumption.

13. Avoid Overwelding

Many welding shops make the mistake of overwelding. For instance, if the drawing requires a ¼ inch fillet weld, then they are guilty of applying a 5/16 in fillet weld. This may be done for different reasons. Often, there is no fillet gauge to measure the fillet weld size. In many instances, welders put in a thicker weld to be certain that there is enough metal for a weld, a type of overcompensation. Whatever the reason, there is almost a fifty percent increase in material consumption. This is certainly expensive. There may even be a reduction in quality because more welding material means more heat and greater distortion. Welding operators should be given fillet gauges for welds of the right size.

14. Correct Joint Preparation

In certain situations, a double bevel may be a better choice than a single bevel for joint preparation before welding. Double bevel is recommended for any material that exceeds ¾ in thickness. This can reduce the amount of consumables used. For ¾ in thickness, double bevel requires just 1.45 pound for one foot of weld metal while single bevel will consume 1.96 pounds per foot.

15. Use Welds Wisely

Welds can be used to reduce costs as well. They may be a better option for complex shapes rather than casting them as a whole. So welds should be used during fabrication where cost savings are possible.

16. Use Jigs and Fixtures

If your production volume goes high enough, then jigs and fixtures can improve the welding operation speed and reduce costs. It is easier to weld components and make accurate joints with such equipment.

17. Observe Safety Standards

Follow safety standards meticulously. Welding can lead to several health hazards, which can entail costly medical treatment. Improper use of welding equipment can also lead to accidents and material damage. Adhering to safety standards will save you a lot of money in the long run.

About Pierre Young

Photo of author
Hey, I'm Pierre Young a qualified AWS Certified Welder. I got into welding in 2009 as a side hustle. Ever since then, I've been doing all kinds of welds - both for business and pleasure. While immersing myself in this wonderful hobby, I've learned from hands-on experience what welding gear works and what doesn't. Welding Headquarters is the site where I share everything I've learned.

Leave a Comment