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A beginner's Guide to MIG Welding - Part 1

A versatile welding method

The word on the street is that MIG Welding (Metal Inert Gas) Welding is one of the easiest welding processes to learn!

The buzz is right in our opinion. MIG welding is an easy process to master. Get you parameters such as amperage and wire speed right, select the correct consumables and all you really have to control is your torch to lay a nice bead.

Following these steps, most people can learn to run good beads with MIG in just a few hours. But there’s more to great MIG welding than just running beads, isn’t there? Well, in this article we'll talk you through the process. We’ll focus on how to get everything set up and ready to go with your MIG welder. Preparation is key people!

Get to know the machine

A MIG welder is made up of a few different parts and it's important to at least know the basics of your machine. Otherwise, it's a bit like getting in a car and having no idea what does what - sadly, we've all seen a few examples of this!

The Welder: Contains a spool of MIG wire and a wire feed roller to push the wire out to the MIG torch. The spool of wire should be held on with a tension nut tight enough to keep the spool from unravelling, but not so tight the rollers can't pull the wire from the spool. The type of drive roller you require will depend on the type of MIG wire you are using.

The MIG Torch: This is the business end of the welder. The MIG torch comprises a trigger to control the wire feed and the flow of electricity. At the end of the gun is a contact tip, which will vary in size according to whatever diameter wire you are welding with. Tips are a consumable item and can be cheaply be replaced. Most machines only come fitted with a single tip so it is worth purchasing some extras when you buy a machine.

The Gas Tank: If you are using a shielding gas with your MIG welder (note: many MIG welders allow for gasless wire), there will be a gas bottle behind the welder. The gas will either be 100% Argon or a mix of Argon and CO2, which will shield the weld as it forms. See our article Gasless MIG welding vs Gas MIG welding - 6 things you need to know for a discussion on gas versus gasless welding

The Ground Clamp: The ground clamp completes the electrical circuit between the welder, the welding gun and the project. You only need one clamp from the welder attached to your piece to weld, or onto a metal welding table. Make sure it is making good contact.

Setting Up the Machine: The following video about the Cigweld Weldskill MIG Series takes you through a typical set-up procedure for a MIG welder.

Safety first

MIG welding is a safe form of welding, so long as you follow these steps to protect yourself and your welder.

Wear a welding helmet/mask: Any form of arc welding produces an extremely bright light, so you need to protect your eyes. Make sure to wear an Australian Standard approved auto-darkening welding helmet. The auto-darkening feature will kick in as soon as your arc starts and will darken the visor on your helmet far quicker than you can blink, ensuring you will not suffer any damage to your eyes. Failure to properly protect your eyes can result in welder's flash which can result in permanent eye damage. Ensure your helmet has a minimum shade rating of 11 when MIG welding.

Safe work place Ensure other people in the room are wearing eye protection before you MIG weld, or consider purchasing welding curtains to shield the light. As with helmets, ensure your curtains are Australian safety standard approved.

Wear gloves and leathers: You need to protect yourself from molten metal splattering off of your work. Wear whatever MIG gloves you feel comfortable with, as well as Welding Clothing to protect your skin from the heat. If not leathers, wear clothing made from cotton as this won’t burn or melt.

Wear boots: DO NOT wear open-toed shoes or synthetic shoes - boots are the way to go.

Well ventilated area: Welding produces fumes, which you shouldn't breathe in if you can help it. Wear a mask if it’s going to be a long job. Professional welders should also consider a fume extraction system.

Fire safety: Keep a tidy area for welding so you don’t risk fire from the molten metal and grinding sparks. Always keep a CO2 fire extinguisher in the workshop just in case.

Photo of MIG welding in process

LAYING BEADS: It's important to safely clothe yourself and set up your area before you begin MIG welding.

Prepare your weld

Next, it’s time to set up your welder and the piece you’ll be working on.

The Metal: For the best results, take a couple of minutes to clean your metal and grind down any edges to be joined. As Abraham Lincoln once said "Give me 6 hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first 4 sharpening the axe".

The Welder: Ensure the ground clamp is directly attached to either the metal being welded or the welding table. Make sure you have the proper wire speed and power setting (consult the welding machine manual for instructions). If you are using gas, make sure the valve to the shielding gas is open and flowing through the regulator at the correct level. Then turn on the welder.

With everything set up safely you are ready to weld. Stay tuned for Part 2 where will work through the welding process step-by-step. Inspired to buy a MIG welder? Check out our full range at eWelders.com.au and/or give us a call on 1300 554 685 to discuss your welding needs.