Set Up Your New MIG Welder Properly
Now that you’ve purchased a new MIG welder and the proper welding gear it’s time to start welding. If you’re a novice welder, I suggest getting in some practice on some pieces of scrap metal. Gather discarded bits of metal of various materials and thicknesses in order to practice welding at different settings.
Even though welding with a MIG welder is relatively easy, it’s always a good idea to thoroughly test out your welding machine and really get to know its ins and outs. This is especially important when working with different thicknesses of metal. Your welder comes with a settings chart for reference, but it’s wise to have all the settings down by heart so you don’t have to refer to the chart again and again.
Before going any further, let’s be clear that you’ve gotten all the appropriate welding gear as well. Welding with extremely hot metal can be dangerous, so safety is a must. You need a good helmet, welding gloves and a thick welding jacket. Welding does throw sparks and although most MIG welders are designed to reduce spatter to a minimum, it’s better to be prepared than burned. So make sure to have all your welding gear on and not just a pair of board shorts and sandals!
Now hopefully you’ve gotten a great welding shop where you can begin working. But if you’re a novice welder you might not have that luxury, so be sure to choose an appropriate location for your work.
You’ll need a large open space, like a concrete driveway or garage. It should go without saying to stay away from anything flammable, like wood, cloth, paint or any number of things that may be found in an ordinary garage.
Remember that cleanliness can be a life saver. Always keep your welding surface and welding shop clean and free of flammable debris. Otherwise you might burn your house down! And always keep fire safety equipment accessible in your shop.
So you’re set up and geared up. You have your welder, your scrap metal, your awesome skull welding helmet and a clean open welding space. You’re ready to start welding! Now you need to consider three basic aspects of your new MIG welder. The tip voltage, wire feed speed and how quickly you move your tip.
How well you apply these three things will determine the quality of your welding and can only come with lots of practice. The tip voltage is used to determine the depth of penetration; the higher the voltage the greater the penetration.
Practice with various metals to see what kind of voltage you need to lay a surface weld and how much voltage will blow a hole through the metal. You’ll also have to spend lots of time practicing with different thicknesses of metal as the voltage and feed speed setting will change. The feed speed of the wire adjusts the length of the arc and your control of the tip controls the metal transfer onto the project. If you move your tip too quickly the wire will lose the arc.
If you move too slow you can fuse the tip to the work. This is why practice is critical to really get a feel for your new MIG welder. With a bit of practice, you’ll find the perfect combination of these three aspects of working with your MIG Welder.
Once you’ve gotten your voltage and wire feed rate settings down and you’ve developed a comfortable rhythm, you can try practicing different patterns. Different jobs can require different patterns.
Try zigzagging, weaving and looping patterns instead of just straight welds. The important part to learn is to keep your welding tip moving, find that rhythm for all the patterns, so you make a clean weld and don’t blast holes into your projects. Like in all things, practice makes perfect and working with a MIG welder is no exception.