Metalworking artisans employ various methods for manipulating metal and giving it new shapes. Welding and forging are metalworking techniques that have been around for generations. Both are metalworking techniques, but few know the fundamental difference between them.
Welding is the process of fusing metal by melting parts of it. Forging is the art of reshaping heated metal by repeatedly hitting it. Forging is an old art, while welding is one of the more modern metalworking techniques. There isn’t much to compare between the two as they are different methods of working metal.
Forging, casting, soldering and welding are some of the most common metalworking methods you will see these days. Welding vs. forging: what’s the difference? These two methods are vastly different from each other. In this article, I will talk about the different characteristics of welding and forging. I will also touch upon their various applications. So, without wasting any more of your time, let’s get right to it.
What is Forging?
Forging is a technique used for reshaping metal. It has been around since ancient times. Throughout the ages, these techniques underwent various forms of refinement and evolution. Reshaping metal through forging requires external force. Blacksmiths would repeatedly hit moldable metal with a hammer to achieve this effect.
Forging is not merely a process of shaping metal. Its other crucial aspect is its ability of purification. Forging metal into shape allows the metal to strengthen itself by altering its grain flow. It removes impurities from the metal structure. The more times a piece of metal goes through the process, the more refined it becomes.
There are quite a few different types of metal forging techniques. Most people believe molten metal and hammer is the only available example of forging, which could not be more wrong. Forging could be categorized into two primary categories, hot forging, and cold forging. They can be further classified based on the compression technique and usage of mold.
Hot forging is the standard forging technique most of us are familiar with. In hot forging, the metal gets heated to a point where one can mold it with a hammer. Sometimes the metal might get fully melted and set into a mold for casting.
A blacksmith has various ways of forging metal. They can draw metal, which means stretching it. Tapering metal creates a pointy end. Shrinking metal is also another forging method that compresses the metal. It works like the opposite of drawing metal. Things like iron and still can only be bent once it turns yellow in the forge.
The main reason for heating the metal is to reduce energy consumption.
Japanese bladesmiths used to forge and reforge a blade 32 times to give it unparalleled strength. It was one of the highest quality forging techniques in the world.
Ferriers also use hot forging for their goods. Ferriers mainly make things like nails, horseshoes, and other hunting tools. These items need to be incredibly tough, so they use tough metal to make them.
Cold forging is generally used for forging weak metal. It is a forging method that does not require the use of excessive temperature. Things like steel and iron cannot be cold-forged because of their exceptional strength. Typically, things like tin and copper are valid candidates for cold forging.
Cold forging employs the use of techniques like bending, drawing, extruding, etc. whitesmiths are usually familiar with cold forging. Whitesmiths are well-known for their usage of cold forging. They are also known as tinker, tinsmith, or tinner. They create things made of sheet metal, which is easy to forge even without heat.
Whitesmiths also make cutlery and household tools. Some of their items include spoons, sears, candle holders, forks, etc.
What is Welding?
Welding is a type of fabrication process. You can join multiple parts of metal or any other weldable material through this process. Generally, a layer of the material gets melted and joined together. Both heat and pressure are used to weld together multiple parts of metal or other material.
Welding melts the subject metal and fuses the melted bits. It is fundamentally different from other joining techniques such as soldering or brazing. Contrary to what people believe, welding is not limited to metal. Materials such as plastic and wood can also be welded.
There are three primary types of welding. The first one is arc welding, the second one is friction welding, and lastly, there is laser welding. Most people are familiar with various kinds of arc welding. You are likely to see arc welding on construction sites.
Arc welding uses various high-temperature energy arcs for joining metal. The most common sorts of arc welding are shielded metal arc, gas metal arc, gas tungsten arc, and submerged arc.
Shielded metal arc welding uses a flux-coated electrode with an AC/DC power supply. The resulting electric arc melts the electrode and the subject metal and fuses them. Gas metal welding uses a similar process but adds shielding gas that protects against contamination.
Friction welding is a process you would mostly see in the automobile industry. There are no external energy arcs in friction welding.
The individual metal pieces are ground against each other to generate absurd amounts of friction. The friction then generates enough heat to melt the said metal pieces. There is inertia friction, rotary friction, and linear friction welding.
Laser welding is one of the new forms of welding. You won’t see it anywhere other than a workshop, as laser welding tools cost a lot.
Laser welding works by manipulating power density to melt metal. It can be divided into two modes; conduction welding, and keyhole welding. Laser welding is extremely accurate and has little to no splatter.
Welding Vs. Forging: What’s the Difference?
Welding and forging are fundamentally different works. Welding focuses on fusing metal while forging focuses on shaping metal. Both of these techniques are used to strengthen and create new things.
There are many differences between forging and welding, here’s a list of some of the crucial ones:
Forging and welding techniques apply to almost any kind of metal. However, one cannot use plastic or wood as the base material for forging. On the other hand, one can apply welding techniques to those materials.
Forging techniques do not primarily rely on heat. The heat only acts as a softening agent to make certain metals more moldable. That is why there are cold forging techniques that one can use even with room temperature. Welding, on the other hand, needs to produce heat no matter what.
Some forgers rely on molds to make the initial shape of the item they are trying to craft. There is no use of molds in welding. Welding relies on flux wires that act as a metallic adhesive after it is melted.
Welding is a relatively new form of metalworking. That’s why it needs modern tools and uses more energy. On the other hand, one can start forging with a good hammer and anvil.
Forged products have better quality and strength than welded items. The quality of a forged item depends on the forger. Welders do not refine or strengthen the workpiece; its strength depends on the quality of the material used.
Welding together different parts is only feasible because most of it is factory-made. Creating anything creative while only relying on welding is nothing but a pipe dream. Forging, on the other hand, refines the metal and purges it of impurities. With enough skill, one can easily create top-quality equipment.
Welding pieces of material is more wasteful than forging. Forging is a form of metalworking that directly molds all of the metal that you use. For welding, you need to cut off the parts that are not useful.
Welding is primarily a way of joining and fixing things. It can’t be used for anything else without making custom parts. Forging, on the other hand, is a lot more flexible. You can craft, mold, cast, or alter a lot of things through forging.
Convenience and Viability
Welding wins against forging when it comes to modern-day demand. Forging still does not fall behind too much, because forged parts are superior in terms of strength. Welding is more practical with so many manufactured parts laying about.
Application of Welding
Welding is a widespread metalworking method that we use in almost every industry. Unlike forging, however, different types of welding techniques are used in different places. Take arc welding, for example, it is the most common form of welding, and it covers a large section of the welding industry.
Different welding techniques have different effects. Arc welding can effortlessly weld heavy metal, but it is horrible for welding thin sheet metal. To top it off it can’t be used on metal that reacts with electricity like titanium and aluminum.
However, Arc welding produces frighteningly high temperatures. It is also pretty fast, and the tools are portable. That’s why arc welding sees a lot of use in the following sectors:
- Automotive industries
- General construction sites
- Heavy tools and parts from the mechanical industry
- Boatyard and shipbuilding industry.
Since arc welding is used for heavy-duty metal, you must be wondering what people use for thin sheet metal. MIG welding or gas welding is your answer. MIG welding is a bit troublesome because you cannot use it on thick metal. And even the thin metal needs a lot of preparation before you can introduce it to the welding heat.
However, it can make some exceedingly high-quality welds. MIG weld also has very little splatter effect, and you can use it to join two different types of metal. So, it is way more flexible than arc welding. Below are the uses for MIG welding:
- Thick sheet metal
- Welding pipes
- Home improvement items/plumbing
- Automobile industry
Application of Forging
Strength is the selling point of forged material. That is why forged goods are usually seen where heavy-duty machinery is needed. Forging is generally not classified differently like welding. That is why all forged items fall under the same category. Here is a list of where forged items are used:
Tools and Hardware: Forged items have always boasted quality over quantity. That is why many people still choose forged tools and hardware over large-scale manufactured goods. You can find plenty of forged tools like pliers, sleds, hammers, hooks, turnbuckles on the market. Bladed tools are also among the commonly forged items.
Mining/Railroad Equipment: Heavy construction tools for mining are another good example of high-quality forged goods. Wheelbarrows, wheel hubs, rollers, ax hilts, gears, levers, shafts are among the most common items in this sector. These items need to be strong and reliable, and nothing is stronger than quality forged items.
Heavy machinery and shipyards: Forged items are almost always seen in shipyards and on heavy machinery assembly. Things like pistons, shafts, spurs, struts, hinges, landing gear are common forged items. Sometimes intricate custom parts also need to be forged as there’s no manufacturing machine for that.
What is Forge Welding? And Its Use
Forge welding is a welding process that employs forging techniques. It is the oldest form of welding, yet many people still use it because of its frighteningly good quality. It is a solid-state welding process. One needs to heat both pieces of metal right below their melting point and hammer them together.
Forge welding provides high-quality joints. It is fast and reliable, and it is stronger than regular welding methods. Forge welding does not need any filler material, as long as the break is not too uneven. Additional filler could be added if needed.
However, forge welding has a high skill requirement. People without high enough forging skills will only ruin it. There is a way around this and that is automated forge welding. But the machinery required for automated forge welding is too expensive for small-mid scale operation.
Forge welding is a crude method, but it is brutally effective in repairing metal objects. It is a simple technique that only has a few steps.
Step 1: Setting the Flux
Fluxing is crucial for forge welding. One can’t fuse the metal without adequate fluxing. Borax, brake cleaner, or kerosene can be used as a flux material.
Borax is the most commonly used flux for forge welding. One needs to sprinkle an adequate amount of borax on the workpiece. As it heats up, it will melt into a glass-like coating. All the borax needs to be hammered out afterward. If borax stays in, there will be permanent inclusions and imperfections left in the workpiece.
Step 2: Heating
Heating is the second step of forge welding, and it is one of the most crucial. The heating temperature needs to be at a sweet spot between 50-90% of the metal’s melting point. If one heats the metal too much and melts it, the result would be abysmal. But if the metal is too cold it won’t fuse.
One needs to research a bit about the melting point of the metal they are using. Too much heat will cause the carbon in the metal to start oxidizing.
Step 3: Fussing
Bring the fluxed workpiece out of the forge once it has been heated enough. You can tell if it’s heated enough or not by the bright yellow glow. After pulling it out of the forge you need to work quickly. Strike the iron while it is hot (pun intended). Jokes aside, you need to either hammer it or bring it to a hydraulic press to finish the fusing process before it cools down.
Uses of forge welding
Forge welding is one of the oldest welding methods, but it is so effective that it is still used almost everywhere. Here’s a list of practical applications of forge welding:
- Bicycle parts: Many bicycle manufacturers use forge welding for making the skeletons.
- Firearms: Forge welding is used in the making of hunting rifles and shotgun barrens. Other types of firearms are also often made using this method.
- Aerospace industry: Funnily enough, even such a modernized industry uses a crude technique like forge welding. However, the forge welding used for welding aircraft parts is a machine-guided automated version.
- Heavy parts manufacturing: Forge welding is used for joining crankshafts, rail tracks, and other tough structures. It is also a reliable method for repairing cast-iron compartments.
Welding vs. forging: what’s the difference? They are fundamentally different forms of metalworking. Welding is slightly inferior because you can’t do anything other than join things by it. Forging, on the other hand, has a plethora of other uses. Welding originated from forging.
Forge welding, the oldest form of welding, is a technique forgers have been using for centuries. Modern welders usually have no forging skills, but a forger usually knows forge welding and other common types of welding. You could say welders are a specialized group of forgers.
I hope this article was able to teach you a thing or two about these metal working techniques. Thanks for stopping by.