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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Instead of hijacking the home improvement thread, thought I would make a new thread dedicated to the MIG welding journey I have embarked on. I have never welded so much as a spot weld before, never participated or been involved in any welding project. I am a welding virgin, whose cherry was popped on a cold Tuesday, February 19, 2019. These are the chronicles of this EPIC journey! Love to hear all of your lessons, stories, experience, suggestions, and crap over how amazingly bad I will be as this starts off!
 

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Discussion Starter #2 (Edited)
As discussed in the home improvement thread, I bought this $95 MIG rig.



I did not buy off Amazon (bought off eBay) so this is not EXACTLY it, but it is the EXACT same picture and description as the one I bought off ebay:

https://www.amazon.com/Commercial-Automatic-Welder-Welding-Machine/dp/B00XXVFH2Y/

Also bought a table and stand and put them together:



Today was the day I gave it my first go, after having swapped out my 15A breakers in my garage for 20A (the runs were already 20A), and the outlets to 20A. Bought some goodies:



I was able to thread the .030 GS wire with little heartburn (meaning my cable did not un-spool on me). Yay for a newbie! Cable ran out just fine.



I didn't want to drop $100 on the leather weld jacket (yet), so settled on the $30 cotton shirt from Tractor Supply. Fits nicely, looks cool in all black. Everything was setup and ready to rock and roll.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
I had some scrap laying around and wanted to see how I could do a spot weld.

This is the absolute first weld I have ever done:



WAY too thin a piece of metal, went right through it with that spot (lol), right into the table:



This rig only has a 1 or 2 setting and MIN or MAX. I have it at 1 and MIN, and the wire feed between 6 and 7. I counted out a 2 second hit, which was too long for that sheet metal piece. Live and learn.

Moved on to some heavier crap I cut in half:



Much better spot. Gave me some confidence. I tried to lay a seam down both pieces to weld them together, but I pushed the metal with the tip and wound up separating the pieces a tad and spot welded both to the table. DOH. Pried them off and cleaned up. Better wait to try that again.

So I put them at a T and gave it a go to lay a fillet weld:



Behold how amazingly awful. Two big problems in my approach.

1 - I ran the puddle toward my body as opposed from left to right (right handed). No idea why I did that other than not thinking through it. So my angle and all that was not optimal.

2 - I could not see the puddle or the cup very well. May need to lighten the shade. I had the helmet set to the 9-14 or whatever, but I may need to put a lighter piece in there. All I could really see was the spark, so wandered the seam a bit.

Also I varied my speed too much, dragged the tip on the metal, all the newbie dumb stuff.

I will cut some scrap down and practice laying some beads down, get to where I can control it better.
 

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Yup, what he said. Also, you're supposed to push MIG wire when welding, versus dragging it like stick welding. Practice going from left to right, and right to left to figure which is more comfortable for YOU. Lighten up the shade, until you can see the arc in the helmet. While lit up, you should be able to see the other surfaces. Also, on your inverted "T"joint, you were trying to put too much material to the top leg. You want to split that.

You might try either starting from the bottom, and going straight up to the top, then going down at a slight angle and the going up again (kind of like an "N" shape), but moving tighter and smoother. Or go with figure 8's, or just littls sideways triangles. Whatever works for you.



You could also use your soap stone and make a line about a 1/8 inch above, and out, for you to fill with weld. The idea of using the soap stone is to help you "see where you want weld".


Once you get where you can see, and are comfortable in whichever direction your welding your best (some people weld better L to R, or R to L), then you can concentrate and your hand speed (welding speed). Keep in mind 1 thing, comfort, comfort, comfort. If you're not comfortable, your welding WILL suffer. You can dial up, or down wire speed to help you get comfortable, you can turn up the heat (#2 setting) and wire speed to help you get comfortable. The key is comfort.



Definitely get some "anti-spatter" spray for your table though. It'll make clean up a lot easier. ;)

I hope this helps.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
That first piece is galvanized. Do not weld on that indoors, very toxic fumes. And it takes special rod or wire.
Maybe why my lungs hurt! I started getting sick yesterday and have it going more full on today. I guess the galvanized fumes didn't help much. Lungs do hurt.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Yup, what he said. Also, you're supposed to push MIG wire when welding, versus dragging it like stick welding. Practice going from left to right, and right to left to figure which is more comfortable for YOU. Lighten up the shade, until you can see the arc in the helmet. While lit up, you should be able to see the other surfaces. Also, on your inverted "T"joint, you were trying to put too much material to the top leg. You want to split that.

You might try either starting from the bottom, and going straight up to the top, then going down at a slight angle and the going up again (kind of like an "N" shape), but moving tighter and smoother. Or go with figure 8's, or just littls sideways triangles. Whatever works for you.



You could also use your soap stone and make a line about a 1/8 inch above, and out, for you to fill with weld. The idea of using the soap stone is to help you "see where you want weld".


Once you get where you can see, and are comfortable in whichever direction your welding your best (some people weld better L to R, or R to L), then you can concentrate and your hand speed (welding speed). Keep in mind 1 thing, comfort, comfort, comfort. If you're not comfortable, your welding WILL suffer. You can dial up, or down wire speed to help you get comfortable, you can turn up the heat (#2 setting) and wire speed to help you get comfortable. The key is comfort.



Definitely get some "anti-spatter" spray for your table though. It'll make clean up a lot easier. ;)

I hope this helps.
That first pass I just could not tell which plate was which, was trying to put the material in the joint.

I did hit it again a bit later after posting that first round up. I laid the material so I could run left to right, and got to a more comfortable feel on the movement. It also allowed a little better light from my overhead lighting to get in there - I could see a bit better. Same shade on the mask.

This is so bad it is embarrassing, but hey, in for a penny:



I think on this attempt I put the machine to 2 and dialed down the feed to 5. Wire felt like it was coming even faster, maybe the 2 setting has something to do with that. The instruction booklet is not, in that not much instruction at all. I'll need to hit YouTube to figure out what is the difference between 1 and 2. Anyway, that seam goes all over the place. I noticed the wire was coming out fast and I could feel it pushing into the metal. Probably where I went off track there (was going left to right). Metal really heated up:



That's the back side. I was trying to get a slow, even pace. Need to practice!

Third attempt - back to 1 and wire feed of about 7:



Was going left to right again, and looks like I really wandered all over the place and laid a lot of wire down for most of the run. Got into a slightly better feel near the end.

I had bought $10 worth of that metal - 48" piece that I cut those four 5" chunks out of, so there is more to cut and play with. My lighting in the garage is fluorescent overheads. I may put a direct bright light shooting at my work so I can get a clearer view. Or something.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
So if pushing MIG wire, then angle the nozzle to the left when going left to right? I am traveling left to right but have the nozzle angled to my right, maybe 45 degrees or so, so that the puddle is forming behind the nozzle. Have not tried to angle the other direction, or go right to left. Next time!
 

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Less wire speed and more arc power (voltage). Move the wire towards your sight and keep your head ahead of the movement and the arc, welding toward your vision. You want to get a puddle of molten metal formed and maintain that puddle at all times when you are welding, the puddle should almost penetrate to the other side of your work, but not quite. It helps to stabilize the hand moving the nozzle of the welder to keep the movement precise, particularly if you are old like me with hands that are not as steady as they once were

I think what you have is a flux core welder, not seeing any gas bottle or regulator. MIG welding is metal with an inert gas forming the inert gas "bubble" over the work area so no oxygen is present. Flux core welding uses the flux in the "core" of the wire to create the "bubble" of no oxygen over the welding so it can not oxidize the weld and ruin it.

The puddle is the key and what I see is no penetration into the base material. That is always not enough arc power and too much material.
 

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Angle the nozzle towards your eyesight, not away from it. That. No way you can way you can watch the puddle of weld and keep it consistent unless you are actually looking at the puddle. Makes it a lot easier to really put down a nice bead.
 

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So if pushing MIG wire, then angle the nozzle to the left when going left to right? I am traveling left to right but have the nozzle angled to my right, maybe 45 degrees or so, so that the puddle is forming behind the nozzle. Have not tried to angle the other direction, or go right to left. Next time!

Yes. Ideally you want the puddle just in front of the nozzle. Try slowing the wire feed a little more, and your speed down a little.It's not a race. Slow down and take your time. Do a short 2 inch weld at 1 end, then do another at the other end. compare the 2 welds. If you can see you're moving away from the welding location, stop, move back in place and restart. Five inches of weld can almost be considered a long pull. This is especially true with a 110 volt welder. Try doing 2 inch welds first. Maybe just run some weld beads next to those you've already done, while playing with the wire speed. Get some practice running the machine, and it's settings.Every welding machine is a little from the next one.Even 2 machines sitting on a shelf will have different settings to operate.Different operators will find the settings they best for them.Some like it hotter so they can move faster, while others like it cooler to make better welds that don't crystallize the steel (hydrogen enbrittlement).
 

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Those beautiful consistent beads with the slight ridges almost perfectly spaced that seem to really join the two materials are due to getting the voltage a wire speed just right. I don't think your low (1) setting is powerful enough for the thickness of the material your are welding.

Also try just laying the two pieces flat on top of each other with the edge slightly offset, leaving a strip of about 1/4 inch where you can weld much easier than what you are trying to do and absolutely get rid of any galvanized sheet steel. You don't need that complication messing with your learning process.

I welded two halves of a Lincoln Continental Mark 3 frame together with a butt plate for added reinforcement 45 years ago. Started out with oxy-acetylene then graduated to MIG when they became less expensive. Had a Lincoln SP 100 MIG welder in my garage for years.
 

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An example of 2 different operators is a friend of mine had just bought a Hobart 140 from TSC. He set it up and started playing with it, then called me to see if I was around and could help him dial it in some more. So he brought it over and we laid some beads down on some scrap steel. Him first; then me on the same setting. Then me resetting it it and running a pass followed by him. we slowly played with different wire speeds and different thicknesses of metal, continuing to "turn up the heat" until we got to the burn thru stage (he found it first), then watched me fill in his burn thru without changing any settings. The key for him was learning that different thicknesses he had to change his settings, in that 1 setting doesn't do it all.

You could also do some lap welds, then use a hammer to break them off and weld on again. ;)
Just something to keep in mind and think about.


By the way, how thick is that metal you're trying to weld?
 

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I think what you have is a flux core welder, not seeing any gas bottle or regulator. MIG welding is metal with an inert gas forming the inert gas "bubble" over the work area so no oxygen is present. Flux core welding uses the flux in the "core" of the wire to create the "bubble" of no oxygen over the welding so it can not oxidize the weld and ruin it.
Flux-core is often called "gasless-MIG", most small home units are gasless now because it makes them a lot more portable and means you can weld outdoors easily (shielding gas gets blown away by the wind too easily). When it comes to welding most non-professionals only really know of stick (SMAW/MMAW), MIG (GMAW) and TIG (GTAW) and flux-core most resembles MIG just without the shielding gas, hence "gasless-MIG" (FCAW will just confuse most people even more).

And from what I remember the general rule is "if it slags, let it drag", so for MMAW/FCAW you drag/pull and for shielded (GMAW/GTAW) you push (or either, depending on the joint). If you're right-handed you'll naturally point the nozzle towards the left (like a pen) so dragging will be left-to-right (like how you write) and pushing will be right-to-left. Dragging allows you to see the puddle form behind the tip but you have less vision of the upcoming joint, pushing is the opposite.
 

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Those beautiful consistent beads with the slight ridges almost perfectly spaced that seem to really join the two materials are due to getting the voltage a wire speed just right. I don't think your low (1) setting is powerful enough for the thickness of the material your are welding.

Also try just laying the two pieces flat on top of each other with the edge slightly offset, leaving a strip of about 1/4 inch where you can weld much easier than what you are trying to do and absolutely get rid of any galvanized sheet steel. You don't need that complication messing with your learning process.

I welded two halves of a Lincoln Continental Mark 3 together with a butt plate for added reinforcement 45 years ago. Started out with oxy-acetylene then graduated to MIG when they became less expensive. Had a Lincoln SP 100 MIG welder in my garage for years.
Yup, galvanized steel is something you really don't want to weld, or learn to weld on. I drink milk when it I have to weld it. and I usually have a fan running, pulling the fumes out the window, or at a minimum away from me. I normally grind the galvanized coating off first, then weld it, as most patch panels you buy have a galvanized layer under the shipping primer.


Like Old Mechanic, I learned to gas weld, solder (plumbing), arc welding, then TIG welding. Once MIG welders became more common place, I traded a 67 chevy short box pick up for a 5 year old 110 volt Snap On MIG welder and some cash from a friend of mine, as his son needed a truck. and I'd been using that very welder for a couple of years (even on that that truck). I still have that welder, and use it regularly.
 

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I didn't want to drop $100 on the leather weld jacket (yet), so settled on the $30 cotton shirt from Tractor Supply.
Better than nothing, but you're going to want heavier.
I went with a Walmart Special denim jacket. Super comfy, and plenty of protection from spatters... $25 if it burns through.
Definitely keep it buttoned all the way up unless you need a tan :D


The gold tone on the welding table spooked me for a minute. Normally, I associate that color with cadmium plating, and while zinc is bad, you definitely do not want to inhale cad fumes.
Heavy Metal Fever is not just the urge to buy tickets to a Kiss concert and you don't want to mess with it. Cad is particularly nasty so be careful with a LOT of cross ventilation if welding zinc or cad plated bolts.


Grab a Harbor Freight auto-darkening hood. It makes a HUGE difference, and even if the Chi-Com electronics fail, you'll get dazzled, but the glass is 100% UV-protected so you won't get a flash burn. The $100+ Lincoln/Miller units are nice, but the reaction time is the same... they basically just offer a larger viewport.
But do resist the urge to leave the hood down when not needed... you want to lift it when done to scan for any fires you may have started... keep a couple of good extinguishers available. I've never needed one thankfully.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Better than nothing, but you're going to want heavier.
I went with a Walmart Special denim jacket. Super comfy, and plenty of protection from spatters... $25 if it burns through.
Definitely keep it buttoned all the way up unless you need a tan :D


The gold tone on the welding table spooked me for a minute. Normally, I associate that color with cadmium plating, and while zinc is bad, you definitely do not want to inhale cad fumes.
Heavy Metal Fever is not just the urge to buy tickets to a Kiss concert and you don't want to mess with it. Cad is particularly nasty so be careful with a LOT of cross ventilation if welding zinc or cad plated bolts.


Grab a Harbor Freight auto-darkening hood. It makes a HUGE difference, and even if the Chi-Com electronics fail, you'll get dazzled, but the glass is 100% UV-protected so you won't get a flash burn. The $100+ Lincoln/Miller units are nice, but the reaction time is the same... they basically just offer a larger viewport.
But do resist the urge to leave the hood down when not needed... you want to lift it when done to scan for any fires you may have started... keep a couple of good extinguishers available. I've never needed one thankfully.
Table is zinc coated to help with rust, so the manual states. I will open the garage door next time to maximize cross ventilation!
 

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Good point on the extinguisher handy. Inevitably you'll be welding either something with an oil residue somewhere or a spark hitting a towel or other object that easily burns.


As others have said, you push your puddle with wire feed welders.


You might see if you can make friends with a local fabrication shop or similar place. When I was in high school (a few decades ago) I worked for a fabrication shop as a parts cutter monkey and master of runny paint jobs. They'll have barrels of small scraps that are too small for them to be useful. See if you can get them to let you grab a few pieces to practice welding together. Take some of your test projects/scrap and offer to throw them into their bin. Should save you paying $$ for practice material.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
I am covered well - the weld shirt is long sleeved and buttons up to the neck. I also have a leather apron to get down to my knees or there about.

This is a gasless welder, flux core. I get the bacon sizzling sound which I take to mean I am in the neighborhood of getting the setting right. I will set it to MAX on the next one and lay the nozzle 45 degrees the other way to see how that works out.
 
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