I am going to go out on a limb here. I am not trying to start anything or do not want to have an argument with anyone, but I would like to put my two cents in. I am 31 years old and have been in metal fabrication since I was fifteen. I am going to disagree with you to some part. I can weld just about anything you put in front of me. (Aluminum, Stainless, or Steel, Tig, Mig, and Stick). I am not trying to blow myself up either. Without a doubt wire welding is the easiest thing to learn. I could probably teach my 8 year old how to do it in a very short amount of time and practice. I think if someone wants to take up the challenge on welding, do not waste your money on college. You can take the money that it cost and buy a welder. Go to your local welding shop and ask to dig through there scrap bin, and practice, practice, practice.
I do not think you should be welding on spring perchers or anything like that at first. Have a qualified welder inspect your welds and tell you how you are doing, before taking on any hard jobs. As far as fabrication goes, that is a completly different story. Lots of trial, error, and experience needed. I take great pride in building something myself. I do have the experience and machinery to do these things and do not knock someone for paying for there parts. I would rather pay double sometimes and do it myself. Usually something that I want will have the marked custom name on it anyways, and cannot be bought for what I can build it for. Like I said I am not trying to start an argument.
No argument started. I'm just trying to keep the noobs safe. I stated non-credit course at a Vo-tech, that's not college. Non-credit courses are way cheaper and well worth the money. Just would hate to hear about someone's bumper falling off on the highway at 65mph. Can happen and has happened.
I agree, I taught myself to weld. I welded tons of scrap. I'd weld it and then cut it in half to see how well it penetrated and then make adjustments and weld some more. I now feel quite comfortable welding. I bought a book to teach me the settings (an old text book) for when I started with my arc welder and have since graduated to a wire feed (much easier to use). I say buy a quality mig and start playing, just cut your welds and get a pro to look at them. You can also get on welding forums and show them pics of your welds and they will tell you what you are doing wrong.
Glad it's worked out for you so far, but someone new at welding has no idea what to look for in a weld section. There are a ton of things to look for in a weld that a novice won't know about, porosity, undercut, excessive root penetration, lack of fusion, cold overlap, blah blah blah. I agree with and stated eariler to have a pro look at your welds.
Back on topic.....
Here's my rock rails I made, Shrockworks clones. Fabricated from pictures on the fly. Have fun.