MIG welding is one of the most popular methods of welding among beginners. MIG welders are easy to use and can be learned in just a couple of hours. If you're looking for some advice on what would be the best MIG welder for beginners, then this article will help you make your decision!
What is MIG Welding?
Metal Inert Gas (MIG) welding is only one of the many welding processes that use an arc as a source of heat to weld metals. For a beginner like you, MIG welding is the perfect choice to start with. Getting the best MIG welder has a lot of advantages for someone who's about to learn how to weld metals.
Fastest form of welding
MIG welding is pretty straightforward to use. Unlike with Tungsten Inert Gas (TIG) welding—which is the hardest kind of arc welding—you'll only need to point the welding gun on the metal workpiece and pull the trigger.
Most MIG welders have a wire feeder that extends automatically to the tip of your welding gun as you fire it up. This keeps the filler metal engaged to the workpiece, so you get consistent welds. With TIG, you'll need to dip a separate filler metal rod into the welding gun arc. That takes skill and precision. With MIG welding, you can complete simple projects in a matter of hours.
Welds are both thin and thick pieces
MIG welding can work on different levels of metal thickness. On average, the best MIG welder for the money can work on ¼ inch metal thicknesses for every increment of 250 in amperage. That's an equivalent of 6.35 millimeters. On the flip side, it can also MIG weld a 30 gauge steel at a minimum of 0.0125 inches (0.33mm). The range of metal thickness it can work on allows you to use MIG welding for various projects.
Can use either an AC or DC current
The electrode polarity is one of the many factors that will affect your welding finish. As a beginner, you may not think it's useful, but once you've worked on multiple projects, the AC/DC option will become important.
Put simply, alternating current (AC) is reversing polarity. If you use an AC option in welding, you'll get an "electrode positive"—the tip of the welding gun, which is the electrode, has a positive polarity. This positive electrode is more intense. That's why it penetrates deeply into the workpiece.
On the other hand, the direct current (DC) produces a single direction of electric current—a direct polarity. That means you get an "electrode negative" configuration. With a negative electrode, more filler metal will be melted on the workpiece, also known as a deposition rate.
Having an option to choose currents gives you more control over the result of your welding.
It's easy to learn
MIG welding isn't very technical compared to other welding processes such as TIG. The best MIG welding machine for beginners only has a few things you'll need to tweak before you start firing the welding gun. That's because these welding machines automatically adjust the amperage and, in some cases, the wire feed speed. Giving the MIG welder the precise thickness of the metal workpiece can adjust the welder's settings to make a pass on the metal effectively.
Widely used in both home and industrial settings
The MIG's capability to handle different metal thicknesses makes it suitable for a wide range of use in both home and industrial settings. If you'll be using a MIG welder for home, you'll be working mostly with projects involving thin steel or aluminum. But once you've improved, you can use the same welding machine for bigger projects, like repairing cars and motorcycles. You can even use this process for construction projects to put together office spaces and houses components.
How should beginners choose the best MIG welder for their needs?
MIG welding is an easy process to learn, but that doesn't mean you should go easy in choosing your first MIG welder. The right welder that fits your level of expertise will make for a fun and seamless welding experience. This is important when you're starting out. Here are some of the things you can put in mind before buying your first MIG machine.
Choose a welding machine power output accordingly
Output dictates range. A 110-volt machine will give you fewer amperage options. Fewer amperage options mean you'll be limited in the thickness of metals you can work on.
On the other hand, you also have to consider where you'll be using the machine. If your house is fitted with 110-volt outlets, then your equipment should, too. Just get the best 110V MIG welder In scenarios wherein your hands are tied when it comes to power options. But if your working area has 220 volts or higher, you should get a MIG welder that can adapt to both 110v and 220v and set electrical currents to either alternating current or direct current.
You don't want something that is too powerful or too weak.
Consider what type of projects you'll be working on
At the beginning of your MIG welding journey, you'll be taking on small home projects. Your inclination to do projects may not be as frequent. A smaller machine is your best option.
A portable welding machine will not need a lot of tweaking compared to the larger ones with many features. This is important when you're a beginner doing garage projects as you want to focus more on perfecting your welding technique. As you refine your skills, you'll notice subtle details on your welding finishes. Your progression will naturally elevate you to more complex projects, and it follows that your preferences will change. You'll go from a light MIG welding machine to a heavier, multi-process one that offers more controllable features. So, don't rush the progression. Start small and buy a small MIG welder first.
Make sure the welder is compatible with your budget
Apart from skill, you'll also need to consider how much you're willing to pay for a MIG welder. The best cheap MIG welder should be in the lower price range, at around $500, but it should also offer decent features.
It wouldn't be hard to find these kinds of cheap MIG welders loaded with features. The competition from each manufacturer has driven everyone to put a lot of features into a machine, and the price is low. It's all a matter of selecting what you think works best for you.
The Lincoln Electric K2185-1 is a great example of a cheap, portable MIG welding machine with enough features. It can be dual-process—compatible for both MIG and flux-core welding. It also supports mild steel for your initial home projects. Most importantly, it only costs $465.
Choose a machine that has an excellent warranty
Warranty is important when you're planning on doing a lot of welding. If you're going for low-priced ones as your starter welder machine, it has to offer an excellent warranty. We're not just talking about duration. The service within the warrantied timeframe is also very important.
For example, if there are malfunctioning components on the MIG welder, the manufacturer must offer basic troubleshooting before replacing the parts, free of charge. But what's even better is if they can troubleshoot over the phone and even send the parts to your address so you don't have to carry your machine to the service center.
Companies such as Lincoln and Miller provide these kinds of excellent warranties on their welding machines for 30 days to as much as 5 years, depending on the type of machine you purchase.
Getting started with MIG welding
Having that MIG welding machine in your workshop for the first time is an amazing thing. That feeling of unwrapping your first MIG welder that looks shiny and perfect will make you want to fire it up and play with It immediately. Rein yourself in a little. Check out these tips first before you set out to do some badass MIG welding.
Safety first - Don't forget that despite how awesome, safe, and easy MIG welding may look it still has its own set of dangers. So make sure you are wearing a protective outfit and safety gear like a professional welder before starting any project. Get yourself some gloves, a welding helmet, overalls, and boots to start. If you need more details on what to get, check it out here.
Get yourself acquainted with the machine - Read the instruction manual thoroughly and practice using it in a safe environment. MIG welders are easy to use, but some may come with more or fewer options than others, so make sure you fully understand how it works before beginning any project. Don't worry. It shouldn't take up that much of your time. Once you understand how each part works, you'll get a better experience and results using your machine.
Play around with welding consumables - Apart from familiarizing yourself with the parts of the machine, it's also important to experiment with different consumable types and how they look on different metal workpieces. This goes the same with your MIG wire, tip, and gas mixtures. This is a fun way of learning how each welding bead profile is different depending on your adjustments.
Don't be afraid to ask for help - there are plenty of people who can offer advice on using a MIG welder. Just don't be afraid to ask! Sources such as forums can be a viable avenue to get and receive welding wisdom. These forums will have like-minded people eager to share their hard-earned wisdom that came from years of experience.
Practice makes progress - Making mistakes is inevitable and you shouldn't be bothered by it. Most importantly, don't let imperfections discourage you from your practice. You're aiming for progress and not perfection. Take small steps. Focus on one skill to improve, and until you get used to using a welder, try practicing on scrap metal before moving on to your actual projects. If you maintain your consistency, you'll be a skillful MIG welder quickly.
Welding projects for beginners
You're going to outgrow the initial familiarization and practice phase at some point. You'll crave more than just welding a bunch of scrap metals together at odd shapes. You'll want to weld something useful with your newfound skill and equipment. Here are a couple of small projects you want to get started on.
Picture frames - This one is relatively easy to put together. Try working on this with a few stainless steel components.
Rectangular vase made of scrap metal - This would be a good project to undertake if you want to add an industrial and rustic touch to your interiors.
Welded portraits - If you're artistic and want to try MIG welding as a medium, this would be a fun project to undertake as a beginner. Draw a person's face using welding beads.
Desks - A table is something essential in a home. So why not build a table for a specific space in your house using steel or non-ferrous metals as components?
A Little Bit of Every Welding Process
Choosing a MIG welder as your first machine is a good way to get you hooked on the activity. Whether your intention for getting into welding is to cultivate a new hobby or to build a profitable gig, you won't have a hard time easing into MIG.
What's amazing about MIG welding is that it has a little bit of every arc welding process. You'll learn how to set up gas regulators, choose and set up wire consumables, play around with different machine configurations, and position your welding gun. These tasks are more or less present in other welding processes such as flux-core welding, TIG welding, and stick welding, and with a MIG welder, you get an easy introduction to arc welding. Then, when you master MIG, you can jump into other arc welding processes without putting in so much work.
If you want to know more about MIG welding and other welding-related topics, visit us at Welding Buddy. Our site is loaded with welding information that will help you gain insights and make the right decisions.