What is the Difference Between Welding, Soldering, and Brazing

When it comes to welding, there can be some mistakes made about what makes the weld stick. While there are other ways to combine metal pieces, welding, soldering, and brazing are the most used and taught. What is the difference between welding, soldering, and brazing?

The main difference between welding, soldering, and brazing is melting. With welding, you melt base metal to create a connection. Soldering requires that you melt the metal that combines the pieces, and brazing is melting a filler metal to bridge the gap between base metals.

When talking about welding and all the other processes related to joining metal, you can give yourself a splitting headache. Some technical terms and requirements must be met for metal to be certified as stable. Don’t sweat it! Read on and learn just what you need to know to decipher the difference between welding, soldering, and brazing.

The Differences Between Brazing, Soldering, and Welding

The chemical and physical processes of welding, soldering, and brazing are pretty closely related. Each is used to attach pieces of metal, or delicate electronics items, by heating another metal to fill the void. While soldering is much more straightforward to operate, brazing works much the same way, just with a much higher temperature. 

The main differences between soldering, brazing, and welding are:

  • Materials – When soldering and brazing, a material, like tin, is worked into the spaces between welds to form a lasting bond. Several different types of material are used as a filler; even gold can be used while soldering jewelry.
  • Heat – Heat is pivotal to all three processes. When it comes to soldering, the heat isn’t as extreme and can be controlled with a temperature regulated soldering iron. Overheating can clump or fail to bridge the gap between the metal.
  • Process – Each of the techniques has a different set of rules and steps to make a functional weld. The machines for each is also different. As there are several types of welding, there are also different processes. Make sure you have the right equipment for the job that is needed.

When you see the slight differences between the three, it is easy to understand why there is such confusion. Going into more depth on the subject is required to fully comprehend the chemical and mechanical implications of welding, soldering, and brazing.

Welding, Soldering, and Brazing: How They Work and What They Do

It takes years of training to become a master welder. Joining metals with flame is one of the most awesome and rewarding jobs that a person can endeavor to undertake. The technical time and care put into welding make it a fantastic trade that allows the welder to build a life that rivals doctors or lawyers.

Welding is a Complicated Process that Takes Time and Effort to Master

Welding is one of those jobs where you work hard and are always dirty. Working with metal produces dust and debris that will ruin clothes and could be hazardous. Ensure that all the appropriate safety gear is worn and that other safety precautions are in place before you begin welding.

As technology has advanced over the decades, welding has become a high-tech process that uses the electrical grid to heat and melt metals. In shop classes across the country, children and some adults are learning to use welders and could even be picking up the threads of a new life. Welding has become easier to learn and more accessible than ever.

The steps to arc welding are:

  • Clean the Metal – After all your safety and welding equipment is put together, you should do an excellent job cleaning the metal with a wire brush. If there are places on the metal with an excess of dirt, the weld will not set, and you could end up ruining the metal or destroying the project altogether.
  • Measure the Pieces – Before you can begin welding, you need to make sure that all the pieces you have are going to be the length and size you need. Once the components are measured, you should cut them to length. Cutting them will help to reinforce the welds and make them last much longer.
  • Crank up the Welder – Depending on what type of welder you have, there are four major kinds, get it going and make sure it is powering on and there are no significant problems. Thicker pieces of metal could require more power from the welder. Take the time to set your welder correctly to have a successful welding session.
  • Tack the Project – No matter what you are working on, you should use a tack weld, a space weld to hold materials, to create the shape before moving onward. These tack welds give the item’s shape and give you an idea of where you need to run the precious bead welds that will secure the item.
  • Run the Bead Welds – A bead weld is used to fix long fissures in the metal. After tacks are made in the corners of a box, you must seal the line between them. This is what we all think of as welding and, when done correctly, will look like stacks of dimes. A weld that isn’t clean will need to be scrubbed with a wire brush.
  • Cleaning Time – Once all the welds are made and the welder is powered down, you can move on to the last portion of the job, clean up. Clean the metal again with the wire brush and maybe a chipping hammer. Remove any splashes from the flux and other particulates that are present.

Learning to weld and all the things that are required of the welder will take time. There are classes in engineering and mechanics that could even force you to read and do math homework while learning. One thing is for sure, welding, like soldering and brazing, is an in-depth process that will yield high rewards to those who master it.

Soldering: How it works

When it comes to soldering, there are a couple of things you should know up front. If you are trying to use a metal with a higher melting point, you head towards brazing. Brazing, an important type of soldering process, uses higher melting point materials. Soldering is more for electronics and jewelry making.

Some machines can mass-produce circuit boards with a soldering process. It creates the circuits on boards that run power when connected with a power source. Then those pieces have additional soldering, done with iron and solder, that turn them into the brains behind some of our favorite gadgets.

Soldering is a Fun and Relaxing Hobby that Could Take You Places

One of the most important parts of our society today is electronics. They are everywhere we look and dictate our lives to us in an unprecedented way. The chips and cards inside of our favorite devices would be nothing without soldering. Solder is often used to fuse the input wires on machines to microchips that create higher functionality.

One of the most extraordinary things about soldering is its simplicity. Children from the age of 5 learn how to use a soldering iron to create carvings in wood and work their way towards metalworking. Solder is cheap and easy to use, so kids can have a ball with a spool and still learn how the process works.

The steps in soldering with a soldering iron are:

  • Get your Gear Together – When you take on a soldering job, you should have all the equipment needed to get the job done. This goes beyond the standard soldering iron and solder to include things like:
    • Soldering Iron – It goes without saying that you need a soldering iron, but you should have one that fits the job you are undertaking. Lower wattage irons are suitable for fusing short bits of solder but could be a pain on something much larger. 
    • Rosin Core Solder – Having good solder is crucial for this process. It must have a low melting point, and there should be enough material for you to make a few mistakes. The rosin is essential here as other types of solder can have materials that allow the materials’ oxidization.
    • Solder Resting Spot – When you are soldering, the iron tip will be all kinds of hot. You don’t want to lay it down on your workbench or table as it will scar or burn a hole in whatever you choose to work on. Use an old spring or some non-conductive metal to create a place to rest the iron when not in use.
    • Sponge – Having a sponge to clean the tip of your soldering iron is also another great thing to have. Make sure it is damp and that it isn’t something that will easily catch fire.
    • Some Solder Braid – There’s a round implement that looks like cloth bandages that can be used to soak up excess solder. This is a great tool for cleaning up mistakes or sloppy solders that could limit the panel’s function or ability to conduct metal.
    • Clips – Some people choose crocodile clips, while others prefer a C-clamp made of a nonconductor. These clips are important to hold the pieces in place while you go around and make the connections with the solder.
    • An Abrasive – This last one is a kind of dealer’s-choice item. You will need something to work as an abrasive to remove excess bits of solder more forcefully. Choose some sandpaper or a wire brush to brush away any extra bits of solder quickly.
  • Tinning the Iron – Once your iron is hot and ready to go, you need to complete a quick tinning process. Tinning means that you test the iron with a few bits of solder to make sure it is the appropriate heat to work the solder. Getting solder too hot will keep the process from working correctly.
  • Clean the Material – Once the tip is working correctly, take the time to clean the material for any flux or debris. Use your abrasive and go over the metal bits that need to be soldered and pay close attention to dust or particulate. Any dirty spaces run the risk of ruining the board.
  • Now You’re Soldering – Now you are ready to get in there and put some solder down! The main thing to remember is to heat the location and then apply the solder. This creates a bond between the board and wires that will conduct electricity. Just barely touch the iron to the material and move on.
  • Clean the Spot – An excellent idea once you have finished working is to check the area and clean it up once you have finished working. While cleaning, you could notice places that need more work or bonds that didn’t take. Go back and fix whatever you can.

Soldering is moving towards a job that machines are created for, but someone has to wire those machines, right? Learning how to solder is a precious skill that means you have a solid base in electronics and metallurgy.

Brazing: A Perfect Way to Solidify Joints in Metal

Brazing is a bit of both welding and soldering. The metal is heated up in brazing, whereas in soldering, you only want to heat the surface and then the solder. Brazing works to make joints out of pieces of metal that aren’t similar. Brazing can create some of the most flexible metal bonds around, making it ideal for all kinds of enterprises. 

Brazing is Fascinating and Creates the Perfect Joint

Brazing is one of the incredibly cool processes created by man. It uses capillary action to pump molten material into a space to bridge a gap between metal pieces. This works like soldering in that metal is heated to make the welds. Once the metal reaches a certain degree, it can be pumped and fit into joints and other hard to reach places.

It uses torches and flame-like any other type of welding but has a higher heat requirement and threshold to function correctly. The capillary action will only work if there is enough heat to go around. If you are working on a large piece, just concentrate on the joints instead of heating the whole amount.

The steps to brazing metal pieces are:

  • Ensure Proper Clearances – Brazing is one of those processes that you must get right the first time. Measure twice to ensure that the clearances you need to apply the material and the joint still work correctly and don’t create other issues. Brazing, like solder, is a small material that can stack if not completed correctly.
  • Scrub the Metal – Like any other metalwork, you need to clean the materials you are working with before any heated work occurs. Capillary action won’t bond with any kind of dust or debris present on the surface. Clean well with steel wool or a wire brush to get into spots the eye can’t see.
  • Shake out some Flux – When hot metal meets open-air, it begins to oxidize. Throwing some flux around the area will keep oxide from ruining the brazing with extra air pockets that could lead to weaker welds. Coat the area well with flux so that even if there are some pockets, the flux will eat the air before problems can occur.
  • Get Components Into Position – Now that everything is clean and fluxed, you can move the parts you need into position for brazing. Move them to where they will fit into your specifications and clamp them into place. Use C-clamps or vice-grips if you are unsure about the sturdiness of the area.
  • It’s Time to Braze – Brazing is a bit different in that it heats all the surrounding metal to pump in the filler material. It is like soldering just on a much more massive and hot scale. The capillary action will only work if the other areas to be welded are the same temp as the filler material.

Brazing is a straightforward and durable way to seal a joint between metal pieces. The time required to do a brazing job is comparable to any other welding or soldering job and can pay just as well. Brazing is a bit more involved, but once you have learned the process, it is a snap to work on any jobs you might have taken.

Conclusion

Welding, soldering, and brazing are all different ways to join pieces of metal by heating an element and inserting it into the gap between materials. Each of the processes uses a large amount of heat and material, like solder or tin, that can be melted and harden into a solid weld or joint. Clean and reapply as many times as needed to make a good weld.

When it comes down to it, the most significant difference between the three is what area of the weld is heated. Each requires that the heat is applied at different times to ensure that the filling material isn’t going to oxidize or fracture under pressure. Whichever you choose, be sure that the weld is secure before declaring a project complete or an item fixed. 

Alexander Berk

A bit about myself: I am a certified international welding engineer (IWE) who worked in different welding projects for TIG, MIG, MAG, and Resistance Spot welding. Most recently as a Process Engineer for Laser and TIG welding processes. To address some of the questions I frequently got asked or was wondering myself during my job, I started this blog. It has become a bit of a pet project, as I want to learn more about the details about welding. I sincerely hope it will help you to improve your welding results as much as it did improve mine.

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