Got a part to weld on your car or truck that is in an awkward spot?
You can reach it but there is no easy angle to see where you have to weld.
But the prospect of getting the part out to weld it up and getting it back in again is not appealing. Or it just may not be possible. Then a welding mirror could be just what you need.
What is a Welding Mirror?
A welding mirror is a mirror you use when welding.
When there is no easy way to see where you need to weld.
You position your welding mirror so that it gives you a clear view of the weld area.
Then you use the reflection in the welding mirror so you can see your weld, as you weld.
The mirror itself can be a specialist mirror designed for the job or one of a suitable size and shape that you have pressed into the role.
It is helpful if your welding mirror is of a hard and tough construction. As transporting in a tool box and onto a weld site means that you’ll want a mirror that isn’t easily cracked or broken.
YouTube Video Showing Welding with a Mirror
Still not sure how you could use one? Take a look at this 34 second video showing TIG welding with a mirror around a pipe.
Video Credit: havoccrf50
When Would You Use a Welding Mirror?
Welding mirrors are usually used where you have limited access to the joint you need to weld.
This could be because other machinery or parts are too close to the part that needs to be welded. And they obstruct the full view of the joint.
Some example situations:
Welding a joint around the diameter of a pipe and the back is close to a wall.
You can’t clearly see the weld and it is far too difficult to remove the part.
Where the part is too big. Or time constraints mean removing the part from its connections to weld it up would just take too long.
In all these scenarios it may not be possible or convenient to weld the piece in a workshop environment.
Then the use of a welding mirror makes the hard to see joint visible, when access to the weld is an issue.
What is Mirror Welding?
Mirror welding is any weld where you view the weld through a mirror while welding. And there are many instances where you could choose to weld this way.
Welding a part on a truck or a car but view your weld at an angle as you are welding it, through a mirror. That is mirror welding.
You are a pipe fitter and need to repair and attach a new piece of Aluminum pipe. The weld has to be made all round yet you can’t see the back. You weld with a mirror that is angled to show you the back side as you weld. That is an example of a mirror welding job.
Welding With a Mirror – Attaching and Positioning
The position and how you attach your welding mirror is important.
You want it securely attached so that your view of the weld puddle isn’t distorted by vibration as you weld.
Yet you may need some flexibility to move the mirror slightly part way through the weld to get a better view.
If MIG welding, it is possible to hold the mirror with one hand while you hold your MIG gun and weld with the other. Not ideal, but possible.
When TIG welding you will have to affix the mirror to something nearby as you need both hands free to weld.
Welding mirrors can be attached by a magnet. This of course assumes you have magnetic surface at the right position and angle to attach it to. And you may not have.
If you are interesting in finding out about the pro’s and con’s of a magnetic welding mirror, then do hop over to my post all about it.
Good old duct tape to help fix your mirror is another option. As are vice grips and clamps to hold your welding mirror in place. Along with a sturdy enough stick or even suction cups. Though stick and suction cup setups are not always reliable.
Or get a mirror used for welding inspection. One that is long handled or with a stand may make fixing it in place easier. Inspection mirrors with a telescoping handle that can be pulled further in or out or a mirror that swivels 360 degrees are very handy.
As long as it is quality made and the swivel joint doesn’t fail quickly making your mirror useless to use.
Or have a friend near, with the right protective gear on, to hold your long handled mirror in place.
Regardless of how the mirror is fixed you need the right view and angle before you weld. Pay around with its position to get just the perfect angle on your mirror welding jobs.
Welding Using a Mirror
Welding using a mirror means to some extent you have to think backwards – or at least in a roundabout way, to get the weld done right.
The best way to think about it is, that it is similar to backing up your car using your mirrors. Or reversing your car with a trailer on the back.
The first few times you did it was awkward, bad, you didn’t get it in the right spot and you thought you would never get it right. But with practice you no longer think about it.
And dentists work all the time with mirrors. It is a skill that is learnable and once learnt it becomes second nature.
Like with a lot of things to do with welding it takes practice.
And you can’t get better by simply thinking about welding with a mirror. You have to actually do it.
Mirror Welding Tips
The first thing to think about is your mirror.
- When new to welding with a mirror, one tip is to choose a mirror large enough. A mirror that gives you a good view, yet is small enough to fit in the space you have.
- You may well decide that a mirror that magnifies gives you a better view of the weld puddle.
- Another tip is to position your mirror as far away from the weld as you practically can. You want to see the weld, yet keep the mirror clear of smoke and weld spatter.
- The rectangular or square mirrors are the easiest to work with when you’re mirror welding. Their shapes give you a better view.
- Get three or four welding mirrors. Dropping and covering in spatter are just two of the many fates that can befall an unlucky mirror.
- Some use a plastic cover lens over the mirror to save the mirror from spatter. But the view you get may give you two versions of the weld puddle. One a slight reflection of the other. Not recommended for an easy mirror weld.
A Mirror Welding Technique
Let me tell you the best technique I would use to go about welding with a mirror. You may feel this is a skill that is impossible to learn. It is not. Have confidence in yourself and your welding savvy. Then you’ll have the skill perfected in no time.
- Practice makes perfect. It’s an old saying yet so true. But how I hear you ask …
In your work shop. At your welding table, away from the pressure of the weld job itself.
Practice by taking on a few dry runs. And by this I mean, set up some parts in roughly the weld position you’ll be welding in. No mirror yet.
If the weld will be below eye level, then set yourself up with the weld in a similar position.
Using no electricity, no arc, your welding hood up, welding set in hand, move your hands in the right direction. You want to move towards where the mirror would be.
Dry run in the truest sense your weld. Once you feel relaxed with that, then add in the mirror.
Think about and play with the best position for you to get the view you need with the mirror.
Dry run again, this time with the mirror. Practice enough dry runs for you to feel like your hands know what to do. The aim here is not use your brain or straining to think about it. Let your hands to the work.
- Still in the work shop add in some metal and practice making a weld with your mirror.
Take a breath, relax, and get yourself into a comfortable position.
Know that your eyes will tell your brain one thing, but trust your hands and muscles. They know what to do and which direction you should be travelling in. Because you have practiced it.
Watch the weld in the mirror, not your hands.
Listen to the sound of the weld. Does it sound right?
Remember to weld towards your mirror it will be easier.
Take several practice runs, until you are comfortable, perhaps a bit bored it’s so easy. Then you’ll be ready for the field.
- Go out to the weld. Position your mirror. You’ve done this in your workshop, so you’ve got this.
Listen to the sound, weld towards your mirror and watch the puddle.
More Mirror Welding Tips
- You can always think about setting up a second mirror. One is then the mirror image of the other. Why?
You’re then turning backwards – the mirror image – round the right way again. You’ll need both mirrors positioned just right, which may be a challenge.
Watch out for reflections causing you problems and obscuring the weld puddle.
- Remember even in a mirror image left is still left and right is right. And for that matter up is still up. No need to panic that it is all so different.
- Welding round a tube or pipe? If you are TIG welding remember that you can always bend your electrode. Bend it. Similar to the diameter of the pipe you are trying to get around. This will make things easier for you.
Other Options to Using a Glass Mirror for Your Mirror Weld
Some swear by sections of mirror finish stainless steel. They will give you a nice reflection to work with, won’t break when you drop them. Plus you can grind and clean the spatter off when you’re done ready for the next mirror welding job.
Large gold welding lenses can also work really well and they won’t break easily.
Mirror welding may seem daunting and a skill that is just too difficult. But it is the exact opposite. It’s a valuable skill for any welder to learn.
Looking for a job in the welding industry?
Telling your prospective employer that one of your skills is MIG welding or TIG welding with mirrors they will certainly be impressed.
Remember that, the people in life who make the biggest impact are the ones who are pushed to do something and then do it.
Attempting and achieving the skill of MIG, stick or TIG welding with a mirror puts you out in front of many other welders.