Distance and Deformation: When to Use a MIG Welder Spool Gun?
Last updated ago
4 min read
Welding Buddy Experts
November 15, 2021

Distance and Deformation: When to Use a MIG Welder Spool Gun?

Last updated ago
4 min read
Welding Buddy Experts
November 15, 2021

Welding can be a fun and exciting way to create things. It's not just joining metals to fix something; it's also the birth of a new craft. However, the process may not be as breezy as your plans. You need to consider a few things to weld properly.

One of these is the welding gun or torch. It transfers the welding wire, current, and shielding gas toward the welding arc. Additionally, it enhances the stability of the arc and promotes cleaner welds.

Its purpose is easy to understand, but the gun types and compatibilities vary, which can be confusing. Primarily, you may use two welding guns depending on the welding process: the standard welding gun and the spool gun.

Are you considering using a MIG welder spool gun for your workpiece but still a bit unsure of your decision? This article will talk about the true purpose of a welding spool gun so that you can determine whether it's the right tool for your project or not.

A Quick Buying Guide for Welding Guns

Whether you're using a spool gun or a standard gun, you first need to know the general criteria for purchasing one. Take note of the following factors:

  • Type and Thickness of the Material — The type of gun to use depends on the material you're welding and its thickness. For example, spool guns are great for thinner aluminum. In contrast, standard or push-pull guns work for tougher and thicker materials and longer weld periods.
  • Manufacturer — Naturally, people new to welding tools look up mainstream brands and make them their buying reference. They give you an idea of how a high-performing torch looks like.
  • Pricing — Typically, a lower price means the components are not durable, so it might not be a worthy investment for you. Meanwhile, an expensive torch can offer more advantages, but you need to ensure that all its features are useful for your needs.

Compatibility — Some welding machines don't allow spool guns. Others have exclusive compatibility features that you won't find in other brands or models. Be mindful of these differences to ensure you'll get the correct gun.

mig welding gun closeup

Everything You Need to Know About a Welding Spool Gun

Suppose you decide to apply MIG welding for your next project.

You have the necessary tools, such as personal protective equipment (welding hood, gloves, jacket/apron, and more) and a MIG welding machine. You also have a base torch alongside the MIG welder, but you want to know if using a spool gun would be better.

Find out the answers below.

How Is it Different from a MIG Torch?

The key difference between a spool gun and a standard MIG gun is the drive rolls for the wire. You can find them mounted directly on a spool gun, whereas in a standard push-pull MIG torch, the rolls are inside the welding machine instead.

The purpose of the spool gun's construction is to reduce the traveling distance of the wire from the machine to the torch. Thus, it minimizes welding mistakes. However, spool guns work best in shorter and smaller welds because they don't have the same maximum amperage ability as a push-pull MIG gun.

What Materials Can You Weld with a Spool Gun?

Use a spool gun for soft wire materials, such as aluminum, lead, copper, brass, and tin. These materials are prone to deformation, especially if the wire feeds over longer cables (e.g., 5 ft). A spool gun can reduce the distance to a few inches and prevent the wire from getting entangled or caught up, leading to deformation.

When Should You Use a Spool Gun?

Use a spool gun if you're going to weld softer materials in shorter periods or smaller applications to avoid deformation. If you're using heavy welders, a spool gun is also a great choice to avoid fatigue. Additionally, if you're looking for a more affordable torch and have to switch between materials throughout the welding process, a spool gun is your go-to.

Can I Use a MIG Welder with a Spool Gun Instead of a MIG Torch?

Suppose you decide to use a spool gun for your aluminum workpiece. Your next questions would be how to connect a spool gun to a MIG welder and how to MIG weld aluminum with a spool gun.

How to Use It

Fortunately, using a spool gun isn't complicated and not very different from a MIG torch. Although it looks different from a standard torch, using it is pretty much the same way. You operate it by pushing the switch/trigger button, and then you're good to go.

Compatibility Considerations

While it's easy to operate, the spool gun setup still needs careful examination before you can use it. First, keep in mind that a spool gun varies according to the brand or machine model. Second, find out if it's compatible with the MIG machine. Otherwise, your spool gun will only cause poor welds, or you might be unable to use it in the first place. 

aluminum wheel repair

Bonus Question: Can You Weld Aluminum Without a Spool Gun?

Let's say you're still hesitant with spool guns and want to know if you can conduct MIG welding on aluminum without a spool gun. Yes, you can. Both spool and standard push-pull guns are designed for welding different metals, including aluminum.

However, you must know how tricky it is to weld aluminum. If it's thinner than 14 ga, you definitely need a spool gun or a different welding machine. That way, you can improve the wire feeding process and avoid metal deformation. Opt for a TIG welding machine or use a spool gun to weld aluminum if you want to make precise and cleaner cuts.

Final Thoughts

Depending on your welding process and equipment, a welding spool gun can be a required or an optional tool. If you're working on soft and thin materials like aluminum, MIG welding aluminum with a spool gun is a must. It will make welding easier and produce better results.

Meanwhile, it's optional when you look at the thickness of the metal. As long as it's not thinner than 14 ga, you can still weld using a standard torch, although that’s a little tricky. Balance your choices between personal preference and the necessary equipment to ensure a successful weld.

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