MIG welding TIPS and tricks - part 3

Getting the most out of your MIG welder is important, not only for performance but also versatility. While many people consider TIG to be the gold standard for Aluminum welding, a DC MIG welder really does offer a good compromise while welding aluminum. It can rapidly handle all but the thinnest materials. Usually, for a MIG without pulse, this is 1/8” or over in thickness. Most Aluminum welding with a MIG welder is performed with a spool gun or a push pull gun, combined with 100% argon shielding gas. This is done in the spray arc range. So when purchasing a MIG welder, always consider the cost of the spool gun or push pull gun into the budget if you think you might ever want to weld aluminum. The speed is much faster, and when done properly, quality is good. Practice will be required of course, as it is somewhat different than short circuit MIG welding. But if you don’t have a spool gun and find yourself needing to weld aluminum, don’t despair. MIG welding of aluminum can be performed with a little practice using the standard gun. First, you’ll need to use at least .035” wire, with 5356 series wire being the preferred choice due to its stiffness and resistance to bird’s nesting. 4043 is too soft and will create feeding. You also need to source a Teflon liner, or at least a liner material designated for aluminum welding. Using a short gun, (usually the stock gun on Everlast MIG units is sufficient) held straight out as possible without coiling or heavy drooping the wire will feed well with the optional U groove feed rollers. Also it should be mentioned that feeding issues will be greatly reduced if you use a special aluminum tip or the standard tip with a one or two sizes larger orifice to accommodate the extra expansion space needed for aluminum wire. This will help prevent sticking of the wire in the contact tip and any associated bird’s nesting that may be caused.

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One of the main reasons to MIG weld is the cost effectiveness of it. It has a higher transfer efficiency than stick welding (only about 60%). It also has greater speed, reducing labor costs. But people often think that welding MIG is most expensive, when it is not. One of their main concerns is shielding gas consumption. Yes, shielding gas is a major expense to consider while MIG welding, but if you know how to adjust the MIG welding gas, instead of reading it from some chart, it will help you keep shielding gas cost to a minimum. To adjust gas flow correctly, it will take a couple of minutes and a scrap piece of metal to run a few test beads on. This will only consume a minimal amount of gas during this adjustment process, so, don’t worry. But to begin, crack the adjustment open on the argon regulator until the gauge registers and/or the ball briefly floats.

This will get you a starting point. Try to weld with the MIG gun. Watch for any bubbles while welding, or irregular arc, with a lot of smoke and sparks. This indicates in adequate flow. To determine the exact flow rate, you can squeeze the trigger with the wire speed turned down and watch the ball or gauge. Download Granny 2.0

This will give you an idea of where you are at. After that, make sure you have readjusted the wire feed, and then turn the gas up a little at a time, each time about a ¼ to ½ turn each time until the bubbles and sparking goes away and the metal is left bright. Once this is reached, you may add a just ¼ turn more for an added margin in case of a draft or breeze that may be flowing. Outside welding will require a significant amount more gas flow than indoors, so if you’ve adjusted for indoor use, and move to outdoor locations, repeat this process. Add a good bit more insurance room will be required though so add as much as another turn to insure good coverage, and if possible put up a tarp to block the wind. If you can’t swing a tarp or get entirely out of the wind, keep yourself close to the weld and MIG gun and use your back as a shield against the breeze.

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