There is no shortage of industry-specific terms associated with welding and special machines for metalworking, but before you get started, it’s probably best to understand the different types of welding you could pursue, and there are several options. Technically, welding is characterized by the joining of pieces of metal, but welders may also engage in cutting, brazing, and soldering metal.
With cutting, metal surfaces are separated, while brazing and soldering join metal, but they generally do so with softer metals for joining and with lower temperatures (meaning these processes generally aren’t as strong or durable). If you’re just starting out in welding, it’s important to understand the distinctions between the various types of welding. Here’s a quick tutorial of basic terminology.
Gas welding requires a mixture of acetylene gas and oxygen that is used to create a flame hot enough to melt metal. It can be used to melt soft or delicate metals like aluminum, bronze, and copper, as well as harder alloys like steel. It requires greater knowledge and expertise than some other types of welding.
MIG stands for Metal Inert Gas welding, although the process is also referred to as GMAW, or Gas Metal Arc Welding. Used for welding a wide variety of metals, MIG welding is arguably the most common type in both industrial and private settings, likely because it is relatively easy and accessible. By this method, a steel rod is fed through the gun where it is melted so that a bead (a line of melted filler metal) can be applied directly to metal surfaces being joined.
TIG stands for Tungsten Inert Gas welding, although the process is also referred to as GTAW, or Gas Tungsten Arc Welding. It differs from other types of welding in that a non-consumable tungsten electrode is used. This is different from arc welding in that the electrode does not melt along with the metal. TIG welding is cleaner than other processes, but it is also more expensive and more difficult to master.
This type of welding is named for the arc of electricity that passes between an electrode (or stick) and the metal surface being welded, creating the heat needed to melt and join pieces of metal. Arc welding tools may be powered with either AC (alternating current) or DC (direct current) and arc welding may or may not require the use of a filler metal to join two pieces of metal. Unlike MIG and TIG, arc welding does not involve the use of any gases.
There is a lot of other lingo you’ll want to learn if you intend to take up welding as a hobby or a profession, but having a basic understanding of the different types of welding can give you springboard from which to begin the learning process.