If you can't get a class for some reason, do some small projects. I've been around building cars for years, but always let my dad do the welding. I practiced some when I was younger but as I got older I didn't try as much. I had a small class in HS shop class where we focused on welding which helped me find the "bead". This helped a LOT but a lot of my problem was finding the right setting and cleaning the metal a little more before welding. (if it would strike an arc I'd burn the mess off)
Its funny b/c when I started building my car you can see where I've consistently gotten better in both welding and cutting. When I started my cuts were usually off and I would have to fill in some (on thin sheetmetal) with the mig welder. as I neared the end of the metal work you could see which parts were done later in the build than which parts were done earlier in the build.
So basically practice makes perfect especially if you can't get into a class.
Originally Posted by grouch
I can vouch for the strange attraction between shoes and molten globs of steel -- it taught me real quick not to wear those cheap, tops-vented-by-woven-plastic sneakers while welding. That cherry red steel ball will zip right through and the melted plastic makes it stick when it gets to your foot. Wear all-leather footgear!
You mean even if I drink 2 gallons of buttermilk and put slivers of potatoes under my eyelids I still can't weld an army tank to an aluminum bridge using galvanized roofing nails for rods without a helmet? How about if I sit on a hot stove while doing the above? (Sorry, oldred, I couldn't resist).
Speaking of bad habits, and remembering the "more is better" syndrome that's somewhere in the Welding Coach
thread cboy linked, a new weldor should avoid substituting a build-up of weld for good fitting and good prep. Right after buying a 110V flux core wire welder, I attempted to weld up an exhaust system with it. I took the car to a local shop for a front-end alignment and the mechanic there, a friend, ran it up on the lift to check the underside. His first comment on seeing the exhaust system was, "You must have some monster mud daubers at your house."
I've since given away the wire welder and now have a true mig, based on advice received here. That plus an auto-darkening helmet and that Welding Coach thread made a big difference for me. No more monster mud daubers.