A Beginner’s MIG Welder Guide for Safe and Efficient Welds
Last updated ago
6 min read
By 
Welding Buddy Experts
Published 
September 23, 2021

A Beginner’s MIG Welder Guide for Safe and Efficient Welds

Last updated ago
6 min read
By 
Welding Buddy Experts
Published 
September 23, 2021

You're about to make an exceptional storage rack for your cramped, small shop or construct a pretty entry gate to enhance your home value. As a beginner or hobbyist, you find that MIG welding is a popular method in your skill level, so you're interested to learn more about it.

Look no further! Here's a good beginner's MIG welder guide to ensure you can still produce excellent results within the scope of your current skill set. Learn about the basic elements of a MIG welder, features and factors that influence your buying decision, and some helpful tips to maximize welding efficiency.

MIG or Stick Welder for Beginners: Why Should I Choose MIG Welding?

You probably came across MIG and stick welding when searching for the best beginner welding methods. Indeed, both of them are relatively easier than the others, like TIG and Flux-Core welding. But why should you choose MIG over stick welding? Here are the reasons why:

  • MIG welding provides a pre-selected wire speed, so you can save yourself from the technicalities of the speed setting.
  • MIG welding produces less spatter and slag, so you don't need as much cleanup time as stick welding requires.
  • MIG welding gives you fast and easier opportunities than stick welding if you're an amateur trying to make smooth welds.
  • MIG welding has fewer stops and starts than stick, so the welding process is smoother.
  • Using one hand with MIG welding is possible since you only need to hold the torch trigger.
  • MIG welding is perfect for delicate metalwork that is less than 1/8-inches.

Still, the bottom line here is that the easier welding method depends on the individual and the activity.

Essential Components of a MIG Welding Machine

If you decide to go with MIG welding, let's learn about the basic components of its machine. You must have adequate knowledge and understanding of these parts to produce good results. Check out the points we highlighted below.

Power Supply

The power supply is the core area of a MIG welding machine. It provides the current needed for heat generation and metal fusion. Most MIG welders use constant voltage (CV) power sources, also called a direct current power source.

It provides a continuous voltage towards the arc when welding, making a stable and reliable weld on your workpiece.

Welding Gun/Torch

The welding gun or torch transfers current to the wire and guides it to precision in the welding arc's joint. Using a MIG torch properly offers increased productivity, weld quality and reduces the risks of costs and fatigue.

In addition, the torch makes MIG welding a versatile process—it allows you to work on different positions and various metal thicknesses with ease.

beginner mig welder gun

MIG Welding Wire

The MIG wire consists of an electrode that feeds through the torch and is heated to fuse metals. There are different types of MIG electrode wires, and you choose according to the type and thickness of the welded metal.

For example, the three most commonly welded metals for MIG are stainless steel, carbon steel, and aluminum. When you weld aluminum, your wire should also be designed for aluminum and have a thickness similar to the base metal.

Welding Clamp

Earth clamps (also called ground clamps) are tools that ensure your MIG machine is grounded and your workpiece gets completed. They hold surfaces together to prevent unnecessary movements while you try to weld metals together.

While you can actually weld without a clamp, it rather puts your safety at risk.

Things to Consider When Buying the Best MIG Welder for Beginners

Now that you understand the basic parts that make a MIG welder work, it's time to know what characteristics a good welding machine has. These features can guide you in finding the right machine for your workpiece.

Amperage and Duty Cycle

Knowing the right amperage for a certain duty cycle is important when considering the length of your weld periods. The amps refer to the produced heat, while the duty cycle refers to the length of time you can weld without overheating. Therefore, if you want to weld a thick metal continuously for long periods, aim for a welder with high amps and a duty cycle.

Spool Gun Capability

Do you need a MIG welder that is capable of using a spool gun? The answer to this depends on whether you're welding aluminum or not. If yes, then we recommend you get a machine with spool gun capability. The reason is that welding aluminum requires more power, and the welding wire isn't enough to complete this task. Additionally, adding a spool gun helps provide a stable and reliable feed to the MIG torch.

Power Source

The volt determines how thick the machine can weld metals—for most beginners and hobbyists, using a 110 Volt MIG welder to weld metals 1/8 inches and below is a good choice. But let's say you have to weld a single metal or a mix of metals that are 1/2 inches thick, then you should consider a 220 or 230-volt welder. Additionally, keep in mind to use only the MIG welder on the circuit and switch off other unnecessary appliances.

beginner mig welder old machine

Good Warranty

The golden rule of a MIG welder warranty is: the better the welding machine, the longer the warranty it offers. Most prominent brands offer up to five years of warranty on their products. You can use that as a standard when looking for your MIG welder. However, don't expect the same length for MIG torches—the ideal warranty for welding guns ranges from 30 days to six months only.

MIG Welding Tips For Beginners: Tips for a Safe and Efficient Weld

Suppose you've already set your eyes on a good MIG welding machine. In that case, the next things you should learn are helpful tips to give you a good, safe, and efficient start!

Setting It Up

The setup is the complicated part of MIG welding, so some consider stick welding easier. However, not having the right tools and settings can be very stressful, especially for beginners. Here are things to focus on when setting up your MIG welder for the first time:

  • Variables - You need to look into a couple of things before starting the machine: the right wire, wire speed, gas flow, contact tips, and more. Each machine is different, so look for detailed instructions.
  • Starting Safe - You're still familiarizing yourself with the machine, so don't opt for maximum level settings. For example, set the wire speed to the lowest level when practicing to avoid risks.
  • Polarity Settings - Polarity determines the strength and quality of your weld. MIG welding needs a DC electrode positive polarity.
beginner mig welder spatter

Double-Checking

Double-checking must always be done before the welding process, regardless of the welder's quality. A beginner should do this with utmost care and attention, as it helps you become familiar with the machine. Additionally, it would be great to have a MIG welding kit for beginners for instant minor repairs. Here are the parts you should inspect:

  • Ensure that the shielding gas hose doesn't leak. It is best if you have a spare hose in case this happens.
  • Check the speed of the wire spool hub and ensure it's on a moderate setting for optimum performance.
  • Cleanliness is a key to a successful MIG weld. Ensure that the tubes, contact tips, and wires are clean and not worn out—if cleaning is not enough, replace them.

The MIG Welding Gun Angle

The push method is the torch angle used in MIG welding. Specifically, the angle must be approximately 15 degrees laying over the weld pool. At the same time, you should look at the welding metal from a bird's eye view. Then, the gun is pushed towards the weld and away from you to provide a safe distance.

One Hand vs. Both Hands

As previously mentioned, MIG welding is easy because you can use one hand to work on metal. However, beginners might not have enough skills for precise welding yet, so we recommend using a two-handed grip to control the welding gun. For now, you have to focus on making a safe and decent weld more than trying pro techniques.

Gasless MIG Welding Tips for Beginners

MIG welding is classified into two categories: gas and gasless. Gas MIG welding uses a shielding gas, while gasless MIG welding (also called flux-core welding) uses self-shielding flux core wire.

Flux-core is a better option if you need to work on a thicker metal (about 1/16-1 inches) that contains a lot of debris. It's also used for outdoor welding and is more portable than gas MIG welders. However, if you're planning to use the gasless method, here are essential tips to give you a proper weld:

  • Polarity - Gasless MIG welding needs a DC reverse polarity welding torch for deeper penetration. This means the current's flow comes from the welding surface to the electrode, concentrating on the heat. Doing so prevents poor weld results, large amounts of splatter, and structural issues.
  • Welding Area - Gasless MIG welders produce many fumes, so having a well-ventilated area is the ideal working environment for this method. We recommend using exhaust ventilation and protection equipment, such as welding helmets with respirators.
  • Travel Speed and Angle Setting - Self-shielding wire has higher heat concentration on the electrode. Therefore, it's best to use a smaller range of angles and a constant travel speed. Use 5﹘20 degrees for vertical welding and 15﹘40 degrees for horizontal welding.

Final Thoughts

We hope this article has guided you in getting a good grasp of using a MIG welder. With the right equipment, settings, and basic knowledge, you can make a successful weld to your desired workpiece. Most importantly, lots of patience and practice in the welding field contributes to the growth of your skills. Best of luck to your projects, welding enthusiast!

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