Welding, Soldering, Brazing & Fabrication: What’s The Difference?

Welding, Soldering, Brazing & Fabrication: What’s The Difference?

Metalworking developed as a means for the survival of primitive people.

The science behind this craft has created a constantly thriving role in human life as a hobby, an important part of the industrial world and as a trade. 

What is the difference between welding, soldering, brazing, and fabrication?

Welding is a technique that permanently joins two or more metals together using high temperatures to melt parts together and cooling to create fusion. Brazing is a metal joining process that uses metal fillers melted between two joints to attach them to each other.

Soldering is a technique that uses lower heat temperatures to join pieces of metal together with a metal filler that has a lower melting point than what it’s being attached to. Fabrication is the word used to describe the creation of an item made of metal from beginning to end.

Metalworking incorporates different techniques to complete the fabrication of a metal item including welding, brazing, and soldering.

Some of these different techniques in metalworking date back to early records of mankind.

Knowing the differences between these techniques can help us understand what they can achieve when the proper approach is applied during the process of working on metal fabrication projects. 

If you’d like to see a graphical breakdown of metalworking techniques, we got you covered:

Metalworking Techniques

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so, What’s The Difference between these techniques?

Welding, soldering, brazing, and fabrication are all key terms in the metalworker’s world.

Knowing what the differences are can help you learn metalworking and how to fabricate items using the correct technique for the project you’re looking to complete.

Additionally, having a comprehensive understanding of the major differences will help save you time and money on creating the perfect metal structure.

Fabrication

All the metalworking techniques allow for the process known as fabrication, which is the term used for the development of metal goods from start to finish.

Welding, soldering, and brazing all fall under the umbrella of fabrication and what it means. Fabrication also deals with a few other aspects of metalworking.

These techniques are:

  • Machining to remove specific portions of a piece of metal that a fabricator is working with, usually to create a specific shape by trimming the edges or corners
  • Punching with a die on a drill to create a hole in the metal
  • Stamping with a die to raise parts of the metal without fully puncturing the metal
  • Cutting to create smaller sections of metal sheets. Usually, this occurs with new, unshaped metal that has yet to go through any other process.
  • Shearing which is the process of making long cuts in sheets of metal
  • Folding or bending which is a technique used to manipulate metal to create specific angles. The process is complicated and requires high tech machinery. Joining two pieces of metal is seen as a simpler process.
  • Casting is a technique for complex shaping where molten metal is poured into a pre-crafted mold to create a solid form.
  • Assembling deals with joining two or more pieces of metal together using techniques such as welding, brazing, and soldering

Metal fabrication deals with the creation of large structures like ships and engines as well as small structures like frames or tables.

Fabrication encompasses all aspects of the creation of metal objects.

Welding

Welding is the newest of the metalworking styles, beginning in 1893.

It is the technique used to join two pieces of similar metals together using high temperatures. Welding can also be used on thermoplastics.

Often this technique uses a heated filler metal to create a strong, solid structure after it has cooled. There are different types of welds that can be used.

Welding is different than brazing and soldering because the high temperatures with metal fillers cause the welded item to become one unified piece instead of simply joining the two sections of metal at a point. Using temperatures that are too high during a weld can lead to the weld becoming weaker due to the properties of the metal changing.

  • Shielded Metal Arc Welding (SMAW) is a manual form of stick welding that is often used in industrial fabrication to weld steel or iron and to create large steel structures
  • Gas Metal Arc Welding (GMAW/MIG) is the process that uses a shielding gas. A shielding gas protects the weld from atmospheric gas interference during a weld to ensure a strong weld.
  • Flux Cord Arc Welding (FCAW) is a semi-automatic arc weld that is mainly used for construction because of its fast welding process and the portability of the tools needed to weld
  • Gas Tungsten Arc Gas Welding (GTAW/TIG) is the most commonly used method for welding thick pieces of stainless steel. It is very time consuming and complicated to use this method.

Welding can also be used to separate metal by melting through it. Welding only works with metals that have similar properties.

It cannot be used to join incompatible metals due to the use of high temperatures that can easily melt and warp the properties of metals with lower melting points.

It is important to remember that welding can have harmful effects on the metalworker if precautions are not taken.

Toxic fumes, high temperatures, radiation, and bright, blinding light are all risky parts of welding that an individual can be exposed to.

Brazing

Brazing is the earliest known technique for joining two metals.

Brazing was developed in the primitive world somewhere around 4000 BCE and then spread widely when technology became more prevalent around 3000 BCE.

The process of brazing takes two metals and joins them together at a joint by melting an alloy filler that has a lower melting point than the pieces of metal to be combined.

Brazing uses flux, which is a solution that is placed between the filler and the pieces of metal being joined. Brazing produces clean joints.

There is no need for a secondary process such as fusion as there is in welding.

Because brazing is done at a lower temperature than welding, it allows the metalworker to join metals with different properties without damaging the metals.

These metals are not heated at a high enough temperature to become a unified piece like they do in welding.

If a joint is properly brazed, the metal filler that has been used can be stronger than the two sections of metal being joined.

The process of brazing doesn’t have a significant effect on the joined metal parts. Aluminum, gold, silver, copper, and nickel can all be used when brazing.

Brazing is the most cost-effective option compared to welding. Large sections that need to be joined are not suggested for this technique.

High temperatures like those used in welding can damage brazed joints and should be avoided once the metalwork has been finished.

It is also important to remember that the color of the finished braze is usually not the same color as the joined metal parts.

Soldering

Soldering began around 3000 BCE with the Sumerians during the Bronze Age.

Soldering does not create as strong of a bond as welding or brazing do but maintains the same goal of joining two metals together.

Soldering is similar to brazing because it uses a metal filler that melts at a lower temperature than the metals used in brazing and welding.

Solder is the type of filler metal used and can be used on metals like gold, silver, copper, aluminum, and nickel because they do not melt when using soldering tools.

Soldering can also use flux. It is important to remember that fluxes contain toxic chemicals.

The American Welding Association defines soldering as using a filler metal that is melted at temperatures that do not surpass 840°F.

Solder melts when heated and then solidifies, usually rapidly, joining the two any two metals together.

When Should Each Of These Techniques Be Used?

Two Man Talking

Due to the differences in the composition of available metals and the different temperatures used in each metalworking technique, it’s imperative to plan out which technique to use before beginning a project.

There are a few factors to take into consideration when deciding on which technique to use to join metal together:

  • The thickness of the metal
  • The strength needed for the joint
  • Size of the project
  • Types of metals being joined
  • How many assemblies are necessary to complete your project

The Thickness of the Metal

If the metals set to be used in a metalwork project have a thickness lower than 1/2 of an inch, it is suggested to use brazing for these projects because the heat applied in welding will destroy the metals.

Any metals being used that are thicker than 1/2 an inch can have either technique applied.

Soldering is best for thinner, lighter metals that will not be exposed to excessive pressure that can break the bond of the metal joints.

The Strength Needed for the Joint

Due to the weakness of soldering materials compared to welding and brazing filler metals, it is the least likely choice for assembling strong joint metals.

Usually, the options for a strongly bonded assembly comes down to brazing or welding. Soldering is mostly used to bond electrical components and is used for plumbing or low-temperature metalwork.

Size of the Project

For large projects that require a strong bond and use similar metals that can withstand high temperatures, welding is the best option.

Welding bonds metals together permanently by fusing them through high heat and cooling.

For large projects that require a strong bond but use dissimilar metals, brazing is the best option due to its ability to create a bond between metals using a metal filler that won’t interact with or alter the composition of the metals being bonded.

Soldering is not suggested for large projects because solder is considerably weaker than other kinds of metal fillers and does not bond at a joint as well as brazing and welding.

Types of Metals Being Joined

Two Medals Welding

To successfully weld, the two metals being used must be similar. This technique will not work with a metal that melts at a significantly higher temperature than the other.

Welding temperatures are usually very high and will melt a metal that becomes molten at a low temperature.

Brazing and soldering can both join dissimilar kinds of metals, but these techniques are not as strong as welding.

Soldering is best for projects that require low-temperature bonding and do not require a very strong bond.

How Many Assemblies are Necessary to Complete Your Project

The time needed to complete a project is also something to take into consideration.

Welding and its different techniques make the processes of assembly time-consuming. Brazing is an automated way of joining metals and takes considerably less effort and time than welding does.

Soldering can be very quick for joining metals together but due to the softness of the soldering material, it is not considered suitable for large scale projects that require strong a strong bond between metals.

Welding is Best When…

Welding is best used when you need the joined metals to be bonded strongly, the metals are similar, and they can withstand high temperatures.

Because of the use of fusion in welding, the metals that are joined together create a unified whole. Welding is best for creating large structures and is known for its use in industrial fabrication.

Brazing is Best When…

Brazing is best used when joining metals that aren’t similar but need a strong bond. This process requires lower temperatures than welding and can produce excellent results in terms of durability.

The filler materials come in various compositions, sizes, and shapes that can be applied in many kinds of projects.

This process is less time consuming and is great for assembling projects that have many components or must be manufactured repeatedly.

Soldering is Best When…

Soldering is best used when trying to join dissimilar metals that do not require a particularly strong bond.

The low process temperature is this technique’s greatest advantage and can be done easily at home or on the go.

Soldering is suggested for bonding electrical units, for use in a plumbing or simple metalwork that doesn’t require large scale fabrication.

What Kind Of Equipment Is Needed For Welding, Soldering, Brazing, and Fabrication?

Machines For Welding

It is imperative that safety equipment is always used when working with heated materials such as metal or the tools to heat them with, like blow torches and furnaces.

Some of these materials are easily obtainable, other tools such as a furnace may require you to find or build a workshop due to their size.

Welding happens at higher temperatures than both brazing and soldering, and special precautions should be taken by the metalworker.

During welding, sparks and debris can be generated and should be protected against. The most common tools for welding depend on the type of weld:

For gas welding you will need:

For Arc welding, you will need:

Other tools for welding can include a gas pump or a highly heated rod to aid in the use of filler metals when working with this technique.

The equipment needed for brazing is simple and requires less space than some of the tools needed for welding. Most if not all these tools can be found at your local hardware store.

These tools include:

  • Something to heat the metal filler. The options include a torch, heated chemical bath or an inductor coil.
  • Filler metal material or a flux solution
  • Safety glasses
  • Thick, protective gloves

The items needed to solder are easily obtainable at a hardware or craft store and have various applications. They are portable and can be used in a small space if necessary.

The equipment needed for soldering:

  • Soldering Iron
  • Solder or fluxes
  • Safety glasses
  • Thick, protective gloves

Metalwork is a fascinating process that can be exciting to learn.

Making sure to take the proper safety precautions when working with these techniques and tools will ensure that the creative process is enjoyable and constructive.

Learning more about each type of metalworking technique can give a budding metalworker an advantage when creating different types of projects.

As with any art form or skill, learning the different aspects of metalworking takes time but can be particularly rewarding once they have been mastered.

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