You’ve probably heard that MIG welding is the easiest welding process to learn. And while this is true, it is a process that requires a bit of skill. There are some basic skills you need to learn before embarking on your first welding task.
Here are 16 mig welding tips for beginners to help you get started on your first welding project.
16 Best Mig Welding Tips For Beginners
The surface needs to be clean
The first thing you learn about MIG welding is that it does not do well with rusted, painted, or dirty surfaces. Therefore, before welding, ensure the base metals are clean of any contaminants, oil, or grease.
MIG welding is a bit more tolerant of minor surface contaminants than TIG welding. However, the cleaner the base metal, the less problems you will have. I personally use either a sanding disk or a non-woven abrasive to clean metal before welding.
Use the right stick out length
Stickout is a term you will find being used in many mig welding stainless steel tips. It refers to the length of the wire between the welding gun and the base metal. The further the wire is from the base metal, the longer the stick out.
A longer stick out reduces the heat output and even the coverage of the shielding gas. Ideally, the stick out should be 3/8 inches. However, in some instances, especially when welding thin metals, it is wise to have a longer stick out.
MIG welding is notorious for having a high heat output, hence why it’s not preferred for overhead and vertical welding. As such, for thin metal, a shorter stick out may lead to the metal being burnt through.
Get a better ground clamp
One of the main complaints you will hear about MIG welders is that they come with crappy ground clamps. Poor quality ground clamps can really mess up your weld and even damage your machine. The best ground clamps to use are those made of copper since copper is a great conductor.
Push or pull, which to use
There are two approaches you can take when MIG welding. First, you can push the gun towards the direction of the weld; this is known as the forehand method. Alternatively, you can drag the gun across the weld surface, known as a backhand.
The forehand method results in shallow penetration with a wide flat smooth surface. The backhand method results in deep penetration. Ideally, the forehand method is recommended for thin sheets of metal. On the other hand, the backhand is ideal for thick sheets of metal.
Keep The Torch At The Right Angle
Ideally, you should position the welding gun at an angle of between 5 and 25 degrees. When welding two similarly thick metals, the angle should be at the center. But if you are joining two metals of varying thickness, the angle should be closer to the thicker metal.
Use an uphill welding method for thick metal
Welding thicker sheets of metal can be challenging since more penetration is required. The solution is to use an uphill welding technique. This results in smooth penetration. The idea here is to start from the bottom and go up. Use this technique for sheets of metal that are over ¼ inch thick.
Use a darkening helmet
When MIG welding a standard welding helmet might not be enough. The best type of helmet to use is a darkening helmet. With it, you can observe where you are pointing to without having to remove the helmet.
Use a suitable electrode
MIG welding can be done on a wide variety of metals. It is essential to know which wire works best on which metal. In my experience, the e70s2, 3, 4, or 6, er70s2 are ideal when working with carbon steel.
For stainless steel, I use the er308L electrode. While for aluminum, I use either the 4043 or 4943 rods.
Test the metal you are working with
To know what rod to use, you must first know the kind of metal you are working with. In some instances, you will know what kind of metal you are working with. However, there are times you will have to do a test to know what kind of metal you are dealing with.
The magnet test is the easiest. If the metal is magnetic, then it is either steel iron, nickel, or cast iron. If not, you can guess with the sparks it produces. Carbon steel produces a lot of sparks.
Avoid big welding guns
The bigger they are, the more attractive they are. This is true for welding guns. However, big does not mean better. When you are new to welding stick to small welding guns as they are easier to control the weld puddle.
Use short wires for thicker metals
As a general rule of thumb uses smaller wires for thicker metals. As such, the .035 welding wire will be more suitable than the .045 welding wire.
Have extra tips at hand
Contact tips are prone to burning back. This is actually a very common scenario and has many causes. Some of them are;
- the tip is not clean,
- it has been used often, or
- your welding position is not proper.
Whatever the reason, it is always a good idea to have extra tips at hand for quick replacement.
Use the right shielding gas
Carbon dioxide and argon are the two main shielding gases used in MIG. You can use these gases alone or as a mixture. It all depends on your welding wire. Carbon steel wire has to be used with either carbon dioxide or a 75% argon and 25% CO2 gas.
Most mig welding aluminum tips recommend using 100% argon when welding aluminum. And rightly so as it is a non-ferrous metal.
Select electrode polarity and gas flow
Different welding machines offer different polarity settings. For MIG welding DC electrode positive or reverse polarity is recommended. For gas flow, set the gas flow rate to between 20 and 25 cubic feet per hour.
Use the right welder
Welding machines have different voltage levels that determine the amperage output. For welding thick sheets of metal you need more amps. Thus a 220v mig welder will be better suited for welding thicker sheets of metal than the 110v mig and 120v mig welder
Speed of your gun movement
How fast or slow you move the welding gun has an impact on the quality of your weld. Moving the gun too slowly results in an oversized bead. On the other hand, moving the gun too fast results in low penetration.
There is no universal rule on how fast or slow you should move the gun. The best thing to do is to experiment and see the effect you have on the metal.
The above welding tricks and tips mig can help you go from a newbie to a pro. As already stated MIG welding is not a complicated process to learn. However, you must grasp the basics if you want to become proficient at it.