When first getting started with MIG welding, having some direction is essential. Otherwise, you might pick up bad habits that will be difficult to break down the road.
In addition, since welding can be quite time consuming, if you are not on the right track in the beginning you may not simply be wasting time but wasting valuable resources as well.
This is why you will benefit from following previously tried and tested tips that will reduce the time necessary for you to improve your MIG welding skills.
So, here are eight tips for MIG welding beginners that will set you up for success.
What you need to know before starting
The first two functions you need to get right is the wire feed speed and voltage settings. The best place to start is finding a suggested settings chart for the wire size and the thickness and types of metal that you will be welding together.
Most MIG welding machines will have one of these attached to the machine, typically inside a cover or a door on the machine.
This is an example on the inside door of a Lincoln MIG 180 welding machine.
When you get it right you will be cooking with grease as they say. Actually, when it comes to MIG welding if you have everything set correctly you will be frying bacon. Because it literally sounds like bacon frying when done right.
What you’re wanting to hear is a real consistent crackle; if it is not right you will probably hear inconsistent popping and banging.
Use a sanding disk or abrasive on your metals before welding
The reason you need to use a sanding disk or abrasive is to obtain the cleanest metals possible. MIG welding is not quite as forgiving as Electrode welding where a little rust or paint usually isn’t that big of a deal.
MIG welding requires cleaner surfaces to create a quality weld. Remove all the solids that you can before welding. Grease and oils will also reduce the quality of your welds so be sure to remove those as well beforehand.
Use a two-handed grip
With a little guidance and some practice, the machine setup and preparation of the material is something you will be able to handle quite well by yourself. But now, it is time to actually do some welding.
Of course, when welding, one hand must be controlling the gun. And, it is not always possible, depending on how your work is laid out, to use the off-hand to provide support to the gun hand or gun.
But if possible, you should always use both hands for more precise welding. A two-handed grip will always provide better results.
Maintaining optimal distance
The guns distance from the work is quite essential. The standard distance of the gun from the base metal is considered to be ⅜ of an inch. And you need to make sure the wire is not over-extended. This is also known as stick out.
Ensuring proper stick out will make sure the metal is getting the heat required for a good weld. Don’t allow the gun to drift too far away from the base metal.
Another reason to make sure the gun tip is the proper distance from the weld is so the shielding gas can do its job. The further away the tip, the greater the chance the shielding gas will not be able to keep the impurities out of the weld.
Getting the right work angle
A proper gun angle is very important for creating a good weld. If you have ever been taught how to weld with an electrode, then you should know that when welding with a rod, the rod is pulled away from the weld puddle as the bead is being laid down.
The opposite is true when MIG welding. When MIG welding, you will use what is known as the push method to create your weld.
To be clear, look at the metal straight down from the top then angle the gun slightly so the angle is approximately 15 degrees. Imagine a drinking straw in a large cup laying over against the rim. This should give you a good visual of the proper angle, or very close to it.
When you start your weld you will be pushing the gun towards the weld, or in other words, away from you.
Maintain a steady speed
This is where many beginning welders tend to lose their patience. Some of the welders who are just starting out do not fully understand how much the speed can affect the quality of the weld.
The only time you should vary your speed is when you realize, as your welding, that you are either going too slow or too fast.
Because if you are doing it too fast, then you will get much less penetration due to too little heat being produced at the puddle and your weld will not have enough filler metal in for proper tie in.
If your speed is too slow, it may produce too much heat at the puddle causing burn through or at the very minimum will just produce some ugly shaped beads.
But if you can maintain a proper and steady speed, you will get a perfect bead with good penetration and tie in with no excessive build-up or, voids in it.
Right ground clamp
As a beginner, one of the best things you can do is to get a good quality ground clamp. Many welders do not put a lot of thought into the ground clamp.
But in reality, this is something you should take very seriously. If you don’t have a good ground clamp which can provide a good ground, then your welds could suffer. You could damage your machine as well.
If the ground is building a lot of heat, then the number of wires attaching it to the lead may be compromised or broken. In that event, remove the ground, cut the lead back until the full thickness of the wire can be used to re-attach the ground.
And, remove a cheap ground clamp and replace it with a quality ground attachment as soon as you can.
Uphill welding method for better penetration
If you are working with thicker material, welding uphill may help to get a better result. For instance, if you need to weld a metal that is ¼ inch thick or more, you will get something less than the best result with conventional welding techniques.
Get a quality helmet
In the process of utilizing any welding method, you will need to use a helmet for eye and skin protection. But when it comes to MIG welding, using an auto-darkening helmet will improve your welding.
Auto-darkening lenses enable you to get a better view of your set up right up to the moment you pull the trigger. The amount the lens darkens is also adjustable for your comfort and ability to see what you are doing once the welding commences.
Proper welding gun size
Choosing the right sized welding guns are quite important. Because even though smaller guns can look less appealing and bigger ones might feel right, in reality, the opposite is typically true. So, when you are just starting out, avoid getting a big sized gun if you have a choice. The smaller guns are simply more nimble.
The tips mentioned above, if meticulously followed, will help the beginner get off on the right foot. Even most professionals follow these tips as well.
So, get them stamped upon your brain and get started cooking with grease, bacon grease that is!
Brandon M. Fox
The fixit man blog