MIG Welding for Beginners – Yes or No?
If you have ever thought about becoming a welder or getting into the welding trade, there are boundless opportunities. But how do you get started welding? Which welding process is viewed as a starting point for a beginner?
The simple answer is MIG welding!
What makes MIG welding an appropriate process for beginners? It is considered the easiest welding process one can master. Most people who start welding out of their garage or for the purpose of home repairs usually get a MIG welder first. While they are generally on the more expensive side when compared to Shielded Metal Arc Welding (SMAW), otherwise known as stick welding, they are still a far better choice for learning the trade.
Fair warning though, if your plan is to eventually become a professional welder then stick welding or TIG (Tungsten Inert Gas) welding might be more appropriate. Stick welding specifically might be the hardest welding technique to learn but comes with many advantages for a welder. You can weld all sorts of different materials, from all positions, and can also do it indoor, outdoor, or even underwater. Once you become a master stick welder, MIG is a piece of cake.
For the sake of this article let’s say you are at the start of your welding career or you just want to weld something in your garage, then let’s focus more on MIG welding.
What is MIG Welding?
MIG is short for the Metal Inert Gas welding process. It is a type of arc welding that includes a welding wire (that acts both as an electrode and adds material) that is fed as a continuous and solid strip into the weld pool with the help of a MIG gun. The wire melts both add and base metal to bond the two together.
Electrode, in this case, is exhausted and used up. The only thing a welder must do is to track a seam while maintaining a steady tip to arc gap. During MIG welding, the arc also needs to be protected by a shielding gas that keeps the weld puddle from contamination.
One of the largest advantages of MIG welding is that it only requires one hand to hold and operate the gun, while other welding processes like TIG welding require both hands and a foot all needing very separate and focused efforts.
What is MIG Welding Used for?
A MIG welder is a go-to choice for home repairs, maintenance, and DIY projects as it can weld anything from 24-gauge materials to half-an-inch thick pieces of metal. Once you master the shielding gas and parameters of your MIG welder you are ready to point and shoot your way to a nice weld.
As mentioned before, it is the easiest process to learn, you can weld at high speeds, it is easy to control on thin metals, and is a very clean welding process in comparison to stick welding. MIG welding accounts for nearly half of weld metal deposited currently!
What Do I Need To Start MIG Welding?
The MIG Gun
You can’t MIG weld without a gun. It is the basic component of every MIG welding machine as it enables the electricity flow and the wire feed. The wire speed can be set on the machine itself. The gun has a copper tip, which is replaceable, as it wears off after a certain period of time because of usage.
The gas used for shielding is an integral part of the MIG welding process. Besides being able to protect the weld bead, it also has several additional purposes. It forms the arc plasma, stabilizes the roots, and the material surface, and it also ensures the safe transfer of the melted droplets from the wire to the weld pool.
A welder also needs to make sure to have a proper combination of gas at hand. We recommend using the ones that are the 75% argon and 25% carbon dioxide mixture, or a 100% CO2 one.
Protection & Safety
Whether you are working on stainless steel or other metals, you should never underestimate the welding tips concerning safety at the workplace. No matter if you are MIG, Stick, or TIG welding, your safety has to be your number one concern.
Your main piece of protection is a welding helmet. Preferably an auto-darkening one as it protects your eyes from sparks and welding blindness but also ensures quality work. Leather gloves are needed to protect your hands because things can get hot and burns happen all the time (don’t forget the UV radiation and skin cancer). It is also good for welders to use a long-sleeved jacket made of denim, leather, or other non-flammable materials, with buttoned cuffs and collar, so it protects your skin.
Finally, the shoes are also of great importance. Never wear open-toed shoes. Heavy leather ones with a protective cap over the front are never a bad choice.
Why is MIG Welding for Beginners?
A MIG welder is going to be your main piece of equipment. Unlike some other processes, like TIG welding, you only need to adjust the settings. A MIG welder will provide you with everything you need to successfully finish the job. That includes the gas, the electricity, and the wire speed that is delivered via a welding gun.
The machine allows the user to set the wire feed speed, the polarity, and the amperage of the electrodes. This does not only dictate the current but also the type of materials that you are planning to work on.
As a rule of thumb, people usually start with a 110 voltage welding machine. This may be enough for beginners at first, but dual voltage machines are also available that have the 230 voltage option. These are machines with more power, and it helps to have it when working on more difficult welds.
As opposed to other types of welding techniques, MIG welding is definitely the best and easiest one to get started with. Especially if you are not planning to go pro and only want to learn a certain technique so you can fix things around the house. In this case, MIG welders are more than appropriate for basic usage.
They even come with variations that involve using a flux core wire. When using flux core, you don’t really need a shielding gas to protect the weld puddle. Since it contains flux, the wire melts while it bonds the metal and acts as a flux electrode for stick welding. Using this method. you can easily work outside. But, one of the best welding tips that welders give is to use good, clean materials. Meaning that the preparation must be done right – clean, dry steel, and without corrosion is the right way to go.
So, if you are a beginner welder and don’t know where to start, MIG welding is your best choice. From there on you can learn and start using other welding techniques and develop further. MIG welding is also quite versatile and is suitable for making welds on different kinds of metal and steel. It offers enough power for starters and enables you to increase it if you need it.
Acquiring a MIG welder can be affordable as well. The right machine can make a whole lot of difference, but it still comes down to using it. We are confident you can master MIG welding, and look forward to watching you evolve from a novice user throughout your welding adventure.
If you are looking for material to practice on check out our Protoboxes, or browse our list of easy to weld steels!
About the Author – Adam Mason
Attested 6G welder for TIG and SMAW and has a few years of MIG welding experience on large oil tanks, precisely Flux Core welding with Lincoln inner-shield wire in all positions (except of course 6G). He’s got his Welding Diploma from Midwest Technician institute, but most of the welding skills I have acquired on the job site.
Check out more of Adam’s work at Welding Pros