How to improve your welding skills?
What are the tips for improving MIG welding?
Remember that the best MIG welding operator is a safe one.
Never forget that welding, when done improperly, can be hazardous. Electric shock, fumes and gases, arc rays, hot parts, noise and a host of other possible hazards come along with the territory. The ultraviolet and infrared light rays can also burn your skin — similar to sunburn but without the subsequent tan — and your eyes. This is why the best MIG welding operator knows how to stay safe.
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Following some simple tips can help you take your MIG welding operation to the next level and ensure you are as safe, efficient and professional as any other shop.
Welding helmets, gloves, close-toed shoes and clothes that fully cover exposed skin are essential. Make sure you wear flame-resistant natural fibres such as denim and leather and avoid synthetic materials that will melt when struck by spattering, potentially causing burns. Also, avoid wearing pants with cuffs or shirts with pockets, as these can catch sparks and lead to injuries.
Keep in mind that heavy-duty MIG welding often produces a lot of heat, sparks and spatter, and requires a lower degree of ability than some other forms of welding. Therefore, using thick, stiff leather gloves that provide a higher level of protection is smart. Similarly, choose leather footwear that covers your entire foot and leaves as little room as possible for spatter to fall along your ankle line. High-top leather shoes and work boots often provide the best protection.
Finally, always be sure you have adequate ventilation per OSHA recommendations and check material safety data sheets (MSDS) for each metal being welded and filler metal being used. Use a respirator whenever required by the MSDS.
Do your research before you set up your equipment.
Before you get started, conduct online research to see what the best practices are for the specific wire you have or contact a trusted filler metal manufacturer. Doing so not only tells you what the manufacturer’s recommended parameters are for your diameter wire but also what the proper wire feed speed, amperage and voltage is, along with the most compatible shielding gas. The manufacturer will even tell you what electrode extension or contact-to-work distance (CTWD) is best suited for the particular wire.
Keep in mind that if you get too long of a stick out, your weld will be cold, which will drop your amperage and with it the joint penetration. As a general rule of thumb, since less wire stick out typically results in a more stable arc and better low-voltage penetration, the best wire stick out length is generally the shortest one allowable for the application.
Make sure all of your connections are sound before getting started.
Before you start welding, make sure all of your connections are tight — from the front of the MIG gun to the power pin attaching it to the power source. Also, be certain there is no spatter buildup on your consumables and that you have a ground cable as close to the workspace as possible.
Before you start welding, make sure all of your connections are tight — from the front of the MIG gun to the power pin attaching it to the power source.
Whenever possible, hook the ground cable on the weldment. If that is not possible, hook it to a bench. But remember: The closer it is to the arc, the better. If you have a questionable ground, it can cause the gun to overheat, impacting contact tip life and weld quality.
In addition, regularly clean any shavings from the welding wire or debris that collects on your consumable parts and in your liner using clean compressed air.
Select the proper drive roll and tension setting to feed wire effectively.
Improper drive roll selection and tension setting can lead to poor wire feeding. Consider the size and type of wire being used and match it to the correct drive roll.
Since the flux-cored wire is softer, due to the flux inside and the tubular design, it requires a knurled drive roll that has teeth to grab the wire and to help push it through. However, knurled drive rolls should not be used with solid wire because the teeth will cause shavings to break off the wire, leading to clogs in the liner that create resistance as the wire feeds. In this case, use V-grove or U-groove drive rolls instead.
Set the proper drive roll tension by releasing the drive rolls. Then increase the tension while feeding the wire into your gloved hand until the tension is one half-turn past wire slippage.
Always keep the gun as straight as possible to avoid kinking in the cable that could lead to poor wire feeding.
Use the correct contact tip recess for the application.
Contact tips can have a significant impact on MIG welding performance since this consumable is responsible for transferring the welding current to the wire as it passes through the bore, creating the arc.
The position of the contact tip within the nozzle, referred to as the contact tip recess, is just as important. The correct contact recess position can reduce excessive spatter, porosity, insufficient penetration, and burn-through or warping on thinner materials.
While the ideal contact tip recess position varies according to the application, a general rule of thumb is that as the current increases, the recess should also increase.
Use the shielding gas best suited to your wire.
Always know what gas your wire requires — whether it’s 100 percent CO2 or argon, or a mix of the two. \While CO2 is considerably cheaper than argon and good for penetrating welds on steel, it also tends to run cooler, making it usable for thinner materials. Use a 75 percent argon/25 percent CO2 gas mix for even greater penetration and a cleaner weld, since it generates less spatter than straight CO2.
Here are some suggestions for shielding gases for common types of wire:
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Solid Carbon Steel Wire: Solid carbon steel wire must be used with CO2 shielding gas or a 75 percent CO2/25 percent argon mix, which is best used indoors with no wind for auto body, manufacturing and fabrication applications.
Aluminum Wire: Argon shielding gas must be used with aluminium wire, which is ideal for stronger welds and easier feeding.
What are the ways to improve your stick welding skills?
Be able to see what you are welding clearly
If you are using a welding mask or helmet with dirty or scratched lenses, it is probably time to replace them. If you keep an extra set of replacement lenses on hand, you are more likely to replace defective lenses when it is time.
But, if you are like me and don’t keep a spare set of lenses, we are more apt to think we can do just one more job with these old second-rate lenses and then swear we’ll pick up a new set later.
Then, we tend to put the helmet up when finished and forget about it until the next welding project.
It may be time to upgrade your welding helmet altogether. Did you start out with a cheap one or maybe an older style? If so, you really need to experience a quality helmet with a larger viewing area, auto-darkening, with an adjustable shade feature.
If your eyesight isn’t what it used to be, make sure your helmet will accommodate a magnifying lens. For more information about the ten best welding helmets for beginners, click here.
Don’t let your welding experience or the quality of your welds suffer because you can’t see the weld pool well enough.
Why is it important to know your machine?
If your machine is an AC only welder, then you have no other polarity choices. If you have an AC/DC welder, then familiarize yourself with the pros and cons of each setting.
With direct current, a.k.a. DC, you can opt to weld with either straight polarity or reverse polarity. This means that the electrons in the current will only flow in one direction. Never both ways simultaneously like with alternating current, a.k.a. AC.
So, with three polarity choices, which one will be the best for the job in front of you?
Note: AC is really not a polarity as the current itself reverses polarity 60 times per second – 60 hertz
Know when AC is the best choice
Again, if AC is your only choice, just be sure you are using rods explicitly made for AC welding. If you have a choice between AC and DC, you may choose only to use the AC setting when welding on magnetized metal.
A good example of magnetized metal is tubing and rods that have been in a rod pumped water or oil well. The friction between the rods and tubing as the rods cycle up and down several times a minute will quickly magnetize the steel.
Once the metal liquefies in the welding pool, magnetized steel has a tendency to blow or push the molten metal away from the pool. This is better controlled when welding with AC.
Otherwise, most welders with the option will perform 90% or more of their work welding with DC. It is easier to start the arc, keep the arc going, it welds smoother, and is more consistent, and splatters less.
Know which DC polarity is best and why
Since the current flow is either one direction or the other depending on the DC setting, it is reasonably easy to understand what is happening when welding. What might be a little confusing for some is the industry uses two different sets of terms to describe the two settings.
Straight and Reversed is one way to distinguish the polarity. The other is Positive and Negative polarity. The latter description may be the less intuitive of the two.
Straight and Positive are describing the same polarity direction, as is Reversed and Negative. Since most DC machine dials are typically marked with the + and – symbols, we’ll stick with the terms positive and negative to define the settings as we continue.
Most people will do the majority of their welding on DC+. This means the current flows from the machine to the base metal then up to the electrode and back to the machine to complete the circuit.
The consequence of the current flowing through the base metal first is that an estimated 65-70% of the heat generated will be created in the base metal. This helps to gain more penetration.
Conversely, when the current is reversed to the DC- setting, the current will flow from the machine through the electrode to the base metal and back to the machine to complete the circuit.
With this setting, the electrode will receive more of the heat this time. This results in less penetration. It also makes the electrode burn off at a higher rate creating more deposition, making welding thinner metals easier with less burn-through.
Know which amp/current setting is best for your electrode
There are more 1/8” welding rods sold than any other size. So. Let’s use this rod size for our example in finding the best starting point for our amperage setting. If the rods do not specify, the rule of thumb is one amp per .001 in rod diameter.
A 1/8” rod is .125 inches in diameter. Therefore, a good amp setting to start with is 125 amps. Make adjustments in 5-10 amp increments until the desired setting is found.
Know the correct arc length
The arc length is the distance between the rod tip and the pool when welding. Again, using a 1/8” rod for our example, the rule of thumb suggests keeping the arc length at 1/8”, the same distance as the rod diameter.
Keep in mind; the rod diameter is the diameter of the steel portion, less the flux.
If the arc length is too short, the rod is going to tend to weld poorly and stick more often. If too long, you will create more splatter and get less deposition to the weld.
Know the correct rod angle
For welding in the flat or overhead position hold the rod at approximately a ten-degree angle with the top of the rod leaning towards the direction of the weld. This is also known as the drag or backhand technique.
When welding vertically and uphill, tilt the rod the same ten degrees but in the opposite direction of the direction of travel. This method is known as the forehand or pushing method.
To estimate the ten-degree angle, picture a straw laying to the side of your glass of tea and that should be close to +/- ten degrees of angle.
Know the correct way to move the rod tip
There are several different ways a welder might maneuver the rod tip and therefore, the pool during the welding process. For ¼” thick metal or less, a steady drag with no lateral motion imparted on the tip is probably best.
Using a half-moon or L shape motion when making a T weld, may be helpful at times. This would be to maneuver the rod up, on the vertical portion while pulling the puddle slightly forward as you work the rod tip down to the horizontal piece.
Then, working the tip slightly up and back then down and forward. This would only be necessary when welding thicker metals. Be careful not to undercut the base metals.
On thicker, flat metal, to make the weld slightly wider, some will simply make a Z pattern or a semi-circle pattern with the rod tip. Another method is the hesitate and drag technique keeping the rod tip in line with the weld with no lateral movement whatsoever.
What should be the speed of your speed in welding?
Travel speed is very important. Travelling too fast will result in poor penetration and the possible formation of pinholes or porosity. The bead will also be too narrow, the deposition will be inadequate, and the base metals will often be undercut.
Overlap or what is also known as cold lap, happens as the result of moving too slow. This forms as the result of excessive deposition and lack of penetration. The weld appears to sit on top of the base metal instead of becoming part of it.
In other words, the tie-in on the edges of the weld may not be smooth and uniform.
Do you need to keep your electrodes dry?
Rods that have soaked up moisture from the surrounding air will weld very poorly. Damp rods may cause the arc to be rough and erratic. If you have the correct polarity and are welding in the recommended amperage range for the rod you are using, and your rod is not burning smooth and consistent, your rods may be damp.
To remedy this problem, always store rods in a sealed container when not in use.
Discard electrodes if the flux becomes flakey and separates from the steel easily. Many welders will store their rods in an old discarded refrigerator.
This aids in keeping moisture away from electrodes. It is also handy to store anything else you may want to keep dry and dust-free. If you have no dry rods to finish your job with, try sticking the rod to the base metal for just a couple of seconds.
This will cause the rod to heat up very quickly, and the heat may help evaporate the moisture held in the flux. The rod will become red hot in just a few seconds. For that reason, do this only as a last result and with caution.
How to clean the base metals prior to welding?
To help ensure that there will be no porosity in your weld, thoroughly clean all mill scales, rust, dirt, moisture, grease, and oil from the surface to be welded. This can be accomplished with a wire wheel, flap wheel, or grinding wheel on an angle grinder.
If it’s not too bad, a wire brush may get the job done. If for some reason you are not able to clean the metal, be sure to use E6011 rods.
When welding on less than clean base metals slow down your welding speed and slightly increase the pool size, which will allow more time for any additional gas bubbles to migrate out.
Perform a dry run
It can be very helpful to perform a dry run with your electrode before you actually start welding. Especially if the weld is going to be in a tight area.
With the power off, a test where your hands will need to go and if there will be sight obstacles as you move around the proposed weld. Identify the areas where you may be welding out of position and may have issues keeping the proper rod angle.
You may find it best to stop your weld in strategic areas in order to reposition yourself in a manner more conducive to maintaining proper sight and technique. It will be better to identify these spots ahead of time.
What to do before getting them during the actual welding phase?
Basic elements to improve results
For many people, especially those who are new to it or perhaps don’t weld every day, stick welding, otherwise known as shielded metal arc welding (SMAW), is one of the more difficult processes to learn. Experienced welders who can pick up a stinger, pop an electrode in and lay down great welds time after time can inspire great awe in the rest of us. They make it look easy.
The rest of us may struggle with it, though. And we don’t have to, not if we pay attention to five basic elements of our technique: current setting, length of an arc, angle of an electrode, manipulation of electrode and speed of travel — or CLAMS, for short. Properly addressing these five basic areas can improve your results.
While stick welding may be the most forgiving process on dirty or rusty metal, don’t use that as an excuse for not properly cleaning the material. Use a wire brush or grinder to remove dirt, grime or rust from the area to be welded. Ignoring these steps hurt your chances to make a good weld the first time. Unclean conditions can lead to cracking, porosity, lack of fusion or inclusions. While you’re at it, make sure you have a clear spot for the work clamp. A good, solid electrical connection is important to maintain arc quality.
Position yourself, so you have a good view of the weld puddle. For the best view, keep your head off to the side and out of the weld fumes to ensure you’re welding in the joint and keeping the arc on the leading edge of the puddle. Make sure your stance allows you to support and manipulate the electrode comfortably.
What is CLAMS?
Bringing all the CLAMS points (current setting, length of an arc, angle of an electrode, manipulation of the electrode, and speed of travel) together may seem like a lot to think about while welding, but it becomes second nature with practice. Don’t get discouraged! There is a learning curve with stick welding, which many believe got its name because when learning how to weld, everyone sticks the electrode to the workpiece.
Current setting: The electrode you select will determine whether your machine should be set up in DC positive, DC negative or AC. Make sure you have it set correctly for your application. (Electrode positive provides about 10 percent more penetration at a given amperage than AC, while DC straight polarity, electrode negative, welds thinner metals better.) The correct amperage setting primarily depends on the diameter and type of electrode you select. The electrode manufacturer usually indicates the electrode’s operating ranges on the box or enclosed materials. Select your amperage based on the electrode (a general rule of thumb is 1 amp for each .001-inch of electrode diameter), welding position (about 15 percent less heat for overhead work compared to a flat weld), and visual inspection of the finished weld. Adjust your welder by 5 to 10 amps at a time, until the ideal setting is reached.