MIG welding is simple, strong, effective and fairly easy to pick up. It’s a skill that everyone should have in their tool bag. Whether you’re looking to tackle projects around the house or you’re just learning how to weld, MIG welding should be at the top of your “to-learn” list.
In our MIG welding how-to guide, we’ll cover all the basics to show you how to MIG weld, starting with what it is. We’ll also share some MIG welding tips and techniques to help improve the quality of your work. Think of this as MIG welding 101 — and Weldpro is showing you how it’s done!
What is MIG Welding?
Welding permanently bonds two pieces of metal, and MIG welding is one of the most popular techniques for doing so. MIG is an abbreviation for “metal inert gas.” This term refers to the gas used to protect the weld as it’s being made.
While many people think of MIG welding as the easiest type of welding, it’s still incredibly useful and common in various industries, especially in construction and numerous factory settings.
What Can You Weld with a MIG Welder?
A MIG welder can be used to weld aluminum, stainless steel, carbon steel, cast iron, alloy, sheet metal, copper, square tubing stock and other metals. MIG welding is popularly used for repairing damaged metals, too. It tends to work best with somewhat thin materials.
What Supplies Do You Need to MIG Weld?
To begin using a MIG welder, you obviously need the welder itself and the torch that goes with it. Additionally, there are several MIG welding accessories you must have, including a power supply, wire feed, ground clamp and gas regulator. You’ll need canisters for carbon dioxide and argon, as well.
Beyond these tools, learning how to weld with a MIG welder requires several pieces of personal protective equipment to keep you safe while you work, including a welding mask or helmet, gloves, boots and welding sleeves or a jacket. If there are concerns with ventilation, you may also choose to use a respirator or equipment to extract fumes.
MIG Welding Basics: Learning How to MIG Weld
While this basic MIG welding guide is far from exhaustive, we’ve compiled the simplest steps for how to use a MIG welder. This way, you’ll have a better idea of what welding with a MIG welder entails.
1. Prepare Your Tools and Workspace
The first step in learning to MIG weld is to prepare your tools. Making sure your tools are in good working order is the key to producing excellent welds. Follow this checklist before getting started:
- Ensure the welding wire is secured to the machine and can rotate freely so the feed rollers can pull wire through to the gun itself.
- Open the valve on your gas tank(s) and ensure that there’s gas flowing.
- Check the welding gun for feed wire and allow around ⅜” of wire to protrude from the gun’s tip — squeeze the trigger to ensure that the wire is able to feed properly.
- Verify that your ground clamp is clean, free of rust and in good condition. Connect it directly to your workpiece, ensuring there’s no debris or rust impeding the connection.
- If there are any rough spots, rusted areas or blemishes on your workpiece, use a grinder or sander to get rid of them.
- Remove all flammable materials from your workspace.
- Have a carbon dioxide fire extinguisher on hand.
- Put on your protective equipment and get ready to figure out how to use a MIG welder.
2. Secure Your Ground Clamp
Begin by attaching your ground clamp to a metal surface. If you’re working in a shop, most people attach the clamp to their welding table. If you’re in the field or you don’t have anything metal to connect to, connect it to the piece you’re welding.
3. Prepare the Gas
Open up the cylinder by loosening the gas regulator’s nut and turning the gas valve, which is usually located at the top. Once the PSI gauge reaches 1,000 PSI or greater, you’re ready to weld. Tighten the regulator’s adjusting screw until it’s at the proper PSI for the material you’re MIG welding.
4. Set the Welder
There are several variables you can control that will affect the MIG weld, and these settings must be adjusted according to the material you’re welding, your wire thickness and the gas composition. Most welders use a chart that lists the ideal settings for each scenario. Adjust the settings according to the piece you’re welding.
Next, fire up the welder by plugging it into the welding power supply. Adjust the voltage and wire speed according to the recommended settings — too high, and you could destroy your workpiece; too low, and the weld’s strength and form will be compromised. Smooth, even, consistent, unhindered welds are a sign that your settings are correct — and you’re heading toward perfect MIG welds.
5. Begin Welding
Assuming your protective equipment is on, you’re ready to start. There are two main MIG welding techniques you can use:
- Pushing – When you push to weld, the results will be shallow penetration but a wide bead profile.
- Pulling – A pull technique, on the other hand, tends to be narrow in width but deep penetration.
Overall, you want to maneuver your torch from top-down, laying the beads in a back-and-forth or circular pattern at one to two inches long, moving pretty quickly.
6. Close Up Shop
Keep your gloves on while finishing up everything. Lower your wire feed as low as possible. Shut the valve on the gas cylinder until it’s completely tight. Squeeze the trigger on the MIG welding gun to “bleed the regulator,” meaning the cubic feet per hour gauge will go as low as possible. Then, you can shut everything off — the welder itself and the power supply. The ground clamp and wires can be removed, too.
When Should You MIG Weld?
MIG welding is the ideal type of welding for bonding steel, stainless steel and aluminum. It’s a wise choice for thin materials up to ⅜” thickness. With thicker materials or other types of metal, you may be better suited with a STICK or TIG welder.
MIG Welding Tips for Perfect MIG welds
The MIG welding tips below are all great ways to improve your MIG welding techniques and make you a better welder.
- Don’t use a failing ground clamp — replacements may be necessary.
- Keep dust, dirt and grease out of your workspace.
- Have welding consumables on hand so you’re never in a bind without essential components.
- Gently preheat your workpiece with a blow torch to improve the quality of your welds.
- Feel free to practice on scrap metal.
- To get perfect MIG welds, let your metal completely cool before you touch it.
Get Everything You Need for MIG Welding at Weldpro
Before you learn how to MIG weld, you need to have all the right supplies. And even after you learn to MIG weld, you’ll always have to ensure you have the best. Weldpro has you covered. Our MIG welders are the perfect solution to your job — no matter what it is. Start MIG welding now with Weldpro!SHOP NOW