If you want to learn how to MIG weld, this article will prepare you for the process. Learn how MIG welding is different from other kinds of welding and the advantages it offers a beginning welder, what kind of supplies you will need to get started and the basic method of welding using this kind of equipment.

If you want to up your DIY game, you should learn how to MIG weld. Welding is a helpful skill to have in your arsenal. If you know how to weld, you can make repairs on almost anything metal that you own, such as your car or patio furniture. You can also create some useful and beautiful items to use inside your home, out in your yard, or even to sell or give as gifts. MIG welding specifically is a great place for beginners to start due to the way the equipment works. Read on to find out how to get started in MIG welding and begin fixing and making things you never thought you would be able to do yourself.

What Does “MIG” Mean?

MIG stands for “metal inert gas.” In MIG welding, you use a metal wire that is charged with an electric current to fuse two pieces of metal together. The electric charge is what creates the heat that makes the wire melted. A cloud of inert gas keeps the molten metal created by this electrode free of contaminants. Hence the term, “metal inert gas” welding.

You might want to know: 22 Reasons to Go to Welding School.

How to Mig Weld: The MIG Difference


Other forms of welding use different materials or different methods to reach the same finished result, which is two pieces of metal being fused into one. For example, in MIG welding, the filler metal is automatically fed through the welding gun, and the welder only needs to concentrate on moving in a smooth and steady motion. However, in TIG welding, the welder must hold the filler metal that bonds the two pieces of metal together separate from the welding gun and manually feeds it into the weld.

Other methods of welding either require more skill to perform well or they result in a messier finished product. MIG welding offers a nice middle ground between the other ways. It’s almost as easy as operating a crafter’s glue gun, and achieving attractive results is possible with practice. Additionally, MIG welding allows for welding in multiple positions and makes it possible to join metals of different thicknesses.

How to Mig Weld: Before You Start

Before you can start MIG welding, you need to acquire the necessary supplies. Here’s a list of what you need to get before you draw your first bead:

A welder

The machine that makes the metal melting magic happen. Invest in a good one. Cheap ones may lead to frustration and poor welds. New welders have the capability of handling all the different kinds of welding in one machine, so if you think you might end up pursuing welding as a more serious interest, something like this could be a good choice for you.

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A welding cart

Unless you like the idea of pushing a 75-pound piece of equipment around, invest in a cart for easy moving.

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Gas

While you can get away with 100 percent CO2, you’ll achieve a cleaner weld with a mixture of 75 percent CO2 and 25 percent argon. The psi you need will depend on the type of torch you’re using, so check the user manual of the welder you’re getting to see what you need.

Wire

This one won’t hurt your wallet nearly as much as the welder did. Make sure you select a wire that corresponds to the metal you’re planning on welding. Generally speaking, thinner metal takes a thinner wire, and thicker metal takes thicker wire.

Welding helmet

Splurge on a model that is auto-darkening. It’ll save you from having to flip your helmet up and down in between welds, and more importantly, you won’t have to start blind.

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Welding Pliers

This tool will both trim your welding wire and clean splatter from the nozzle of your welding gun.

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Carbide scribe or awl

You’ll need one of these to mark your cut lines onto your metal.

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Metal cutting tools

Keep it manual with a hacksaw, or go electric with a metal-cutting chop saw or a grinder fixed with a cutoff wheel.

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Magnet square and/or miter clamp

These tools will secure the joints before you spot weld them together.

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Right-angle grinder

You’ll use this tool a lot. It’s good for surface preparation, beveling, grinding and smoothing welds.

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Wire brush and chipping hammer

You’ll use these to clean up splatter after you weld.

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Protective clothing

Heavy gloves, a long-sleeved cotton shirt, long cotton pants that don’t have cuffs, work boots, and a hat are essential pieces of the welder’s outfit.

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Fire extinguisher

A stray spark can easily set something on fire, so be prepared.

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How to Mig Weld: Prepare Your Metals


While some methods of welding will forgive a certain amount of rust and dirt on the metal, MIG welding will not. To get a good weld that will hold, clean your metal with acetone and a wire brush before you begin. If you need to cut your metals to specific dimensions, mark your cutting lines with your carbide scribe or awl and then cut them with your tool of choice.

Once your metals are clean and cut, you need to prepare the edges that you will weld together. Bevel these edges at a 45-degree angle with your right-angle grinder. This specific bevel is called a chamfer. Chamfering these edges will create a space for the metal electrode to fill in and results in a stronger final project.

Now, position your clean, cut and chamfered metal pieces together, and hold them in place with your clamp or magnet square. The placement of your pieces may help you determine which tool would be most helpful here.

How to Mig Weld: Work Your Weld

Before you pull the trigger on your welding nozzle, make sure the electrode wire is sticking out somewhere between 1/4 and 3/8 of an inch. Also, make sure the nozzle is clean of any splatter or other dirt and debris.

Turn your machine on and affix the grounding clamp to the metal that’s being welded. Set the voltage and amperage on your welding machine according to the thickness of the wire and metal you’re welding with. Your machine likely came with a reference chart that will help you determine these settings.

Make sure the gas valve is open and set between 15 and 25 cubic feet per hour.

Use a piece of scrap metal to set the wire feeding speed. Practicing your technique for a moment will help you decide how fast or slow you need the wire to go to achieve an optimal result.

To start your weld, place a few tack welds along the seam you plan to fully weld by holding the gun in place for a couple of seconds while you pull the trigger. These individual beads will keep- the metal pieces in place as you pull additional beads across the seam.

Completing Your Weld

To complete your weld, pull the trigger and move the gun across the seam in a smooth motion and with even speed, spending one or two seconds laying each bead. Each bead should slightly overlap the bead that was laid just before it. The direction you travel, whether left to right or right to left, will depend on if you’re right or left handed, respectively. As you move, be mindful to keep the arc length, or the distance of the wire to the metal, consistent. Don’t focus on the bright arc, though. Instead, look at the edge of the puddle of melted wire. When you read the end of your weld, let off the trigger and pull the electrode away. The finished weld will look like a row of scales.

The angle of the gun in relation to the metal will depend on the kind of joint you are creating. For a butt weld, which is when two pieces of metal are laid next to each other and attached, hold the gun at a 90-degree angle to the surface of the metal. For a T-joint, hold the gun at a 45-degree angle, equidistant from each piece of metal is attached. And for a lap joint, hold the gun between 60 and 70 degrees. The thicker the metal, the higher the angle.

How to Mig Weld: Finish Your Weld


The final step in the welding process is to smooth out the joints you just made. Use your right-angle grinder affixed with a 36-grit grinding wheel to create a uniform seam. For best results, work along the weld path rather than across it. You’ll see plenty of orange sparks as you grind the extra metal down. If you should happen to see blue sparks, ease up on the pressure you’re putting on the grinder. For the final flourish, a zirconia flap disc lets you work on precise shaping and finishing details.

Learning to weld may seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t need to be. The convenience and less-involved method of MIG welding make this skill accessible for the weekend hobbyist and the DIY enthusiast alike. Practice is all it will take to become proficient, so learn how to MIG weld and start on your own repairs and creations.

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