Best MIG Welders for the Money – Top Picks & Reviews

Metal Inert Gas (MIG) welders, otherwise known as gas metal arc welders (GMAW), are popular for many good reasons. Ask random professional welders what welding method they prefer and chances are most of them will answer either MIG welder or Tungsten Inert Gas (TIG) welder

So, why do many welders both professionals and hobbyists alike — prefer MIG welders over most welding tools? For starters, MIG welders get the job done most efficiently, whether at home or in an industrial setting. Moreover, MIG welders are so versatile that there’s a MIG welder for every skill level. 

The biggest advantage with using MIG welders is the speed with which it gets the job done. As far as productivity goes, the majority of stick welding and TIG welding units can’t hold a candle against most low-end MIG welders. It’s for this very reason why MIG welders are recommended in industrial settings. If steel industries can produce metal work at a faster rate, profits naturally get a big boost. 

MIG welders are also very accessible to novice welders. You can order one online or buy from a nearby welding supply store. It’s easy to use because the operations are pretty straightforward, not to mention that it only takes a moment to hook it up. If you haven’t operated a MIG welder before, you’ll find that it doesn’t take much to learn how to use it properly.

While MIG welders are great, no MIG welder is created equal. If you want to make the most of the MIG welding method, you have to buy one that fits your needs and budget. We understand how difficult it can be to do that, considering the number of selections available out there. This is even more the case if your budget is limited.

To help you out, here are MIG welder recommendations that will give you a bang for your buck. We understand that what’s ideal for one welder may not be for another, so we tried our best to be diverse in our picks. We also wrote a comprehensive review for each one to help you pick the best MIG welder for the money that best fits your needs.

Ready? Dive right in!

1. Millermatic 141 (907612)

The Millermatic 141 MIG welder is a welding tool that is as powerful as it is reliable. It has an amazing auto-set feature that lets you automatically adjust the tool’s parameters with minimal effort. It’s just as impressive in manual mode thanks to its intuitive interface and all-aluminum drive system. 

This MIG welder is a dream to set up.  It has a quick-select drive roll and an auto-set mode that allow you to set it up on the fly. This same feature also protects your unit from short circuit hazards.

As already mentioned, the Millermatic MIG welder packs quite a punch. With a maximum power output of 140 Amps, this unit can work on materials that are up to 3/16” in thickness.

Lastly, despite this unit’s extensive functionality, it comes with a minimalist design that’s easy on the eyes.

Specs

Duty Cycle: 20% at 90 Amps

Input Power: 110/115/120V

Weight: 51 pounds

Dimensions: 20.5 x 11.25 x 12.5

Pros

  • Easy to set up
  • Starts without any spatter
  • Automatically sets right parameters
  • Comes with Auto Spool Gun Detect
  • The operation in manual mode is intuitive

Cons

  • A bit on the pricey side
  • Doesn’t come with a spool gun for welding aluminum

2. Hobart Ironman 230 (500536)

The Hobart 500536 Ironman is a welder that deserves its name. In terms of power, this unit packs quite a wallop with an input power of 230 volts. Moreover, its 60% duty cycle is nothing to sneeze at. The Ironman is more than capable of handling steel, aluminum, and stainless steel and can weld steel with a thickness of up to ½”. It can be relied on for multiple power outputs thanks to its twelve voltage power settings. It also comes with wire-speed adjustment, which allows you to make speed adjustments with minimal effort. 

You’ll be pleasantly surprised to know that this welding unit can be purchased for $2,500. While that’s not exactly cheap, this welding machine’s amazing power and wide range of features are compensation enough.

Specs

Duty Cycle: 60% at 175 Amps.

Input Power: 230V

Weight: 224 pounds

Dimensions: 36 x 19 x 32

Pros

  • High duty cycle
  • Cuts up to ½” of steel
  • Flux core functionality
  • Comes with infinite wire speed adjustment
  • Easy to set up

Cons

  • The power cord could be longer

3. LONGEVITY Migweld 140

For its low price of $400, it’s amazing how the LONGEVITY Migweld 140 has established itself as one of the best all-around MIG welders in the market. It has everything a novice MIG welder will need to start welding like a pro in no time.

This MIG welder is capable of running ten different voltage settings, not to mention that it can weld up to ¼” of steel. It comes with Flux core functionality, giving you all the benefits that a full-scale arc welder can provide. This MIG welder weighs 54 pounds, making it well-suited for light use. To top it off, it comes with thermal overload protection, so you don’t need to worry about the unit overheating even if you’ve been using it for long stretches. 

Specs

Duty Cycle: 20% at 90 Amps.

Input Power: 110 Volts

Weight: 54 pounds

Dimensions: 24 x 13 x 17

Pros

  • Easy to set up
  • Comes with Flux core functionality
  • Has thermal overload protection
  • Automatically sets right parameters
  • Has 10 different voltage settings

Cons

  • Regulator hose is a bit short
  • Feeding can be slow at times

4. Hobart Handler 190 (500554)

If you want a MIG welder that’s powerful, portable, and easy to use, Hobart Handler 190 (500554) is a tool that delivers on all fronts. It doesn’t hurt that it has a compact, sleek design that makes professionals and hobbyists alike swoon. 

The Hobart Handler 190 is capable of handling all types of welding jobs. Whether you’re working on metal sculptures, building farm equipment, or fixing roof sheets, this welding tool can help you do the job most efficiently.

So, how powerful is the Hobart Handler 190? For starters, it can weld 24-gauge up to 5/16”. It normally runs at 230 volts but you can switch to 115 volts through a simple switch of the plug. Hooking up this unit is easy, with extensive but intuitive controls that allow you to adjust its settings and parameters on the fly. The unit’s operation controls are pretty straightforward. Just follow the instructions on the manual and you’ll weld like an expert in a few hours.

Do you prefer to use a spool gun? This unit is built for it—just turn the selector switch on for spool gun mode and you’re off to the races. Better yet, this helps you do away with any feeding issues that usually occur when you’re welding aluminum wire. 

Bottom line? The Hobart Handler 190 has a lot going for it. If you want an all-around MIG welder you can use for a wide range of welding jobs, this unit won’t let you down.

Specs

Duty Cycle: 30% at 130 Amps.

Input Power: 220/230/240V

Weight: 68 pounds

Dimensions: 19.5 x 10.625 x 12.4

Pros

  • Spool gun-ready
  • Highly portable
  • Ease of use
  • Short-circuit proof
  • Has 7 different voltage settings
  • Quick select drive roll

Cons

  • A bit expensive (although the unit’s features are compensation enough)

5. Lincoln Electric K2185-1 Handy

The Lincoln Electric Handy is great for those who are just getting started with welding. For one, it’s not expensive, making it the perfect choice for novice welders who don’t want to make a huge financial commitment yet. The unit’s interface is a cinch—as soon as you familiarize yourself with the intuitive controls, you’re well on your way.

Another reason why this MIG welder is perfect for beginners is its extensive safety features. It’s got a fan-cooled design that prevents the likelihood of overheating, which in turn, increases its longevity. It also has a cold contactor safety feature, meaning that the unit stays cold even if it’s not being used. Now that’s safety for you!

That’s not to say that the Lincoln Electric Handy is not great for experienced welders. This unit packs quite a punch (up to 88 amps), allowing you to make quick and precise welds. It’s not powerful enough to perform heavy-duty jobs, but other than that, this unit is a good companion for welders who are always out and about.

Specs

Duty Cycle: 20% at 70 Amps.

Input Power: 115V

Weight: 46 pounds

Dimensions: 12.8 x 8.8 x 18

Pros

  • Big bang for your buck
  • Extensive safety features
  • Very durable
  • Four different voltage settings
  • Highly portable
  • Cold contactor safety

Cons

  • Doesn’t have a gas gauge

6. Forney 309 140A

The Forney 309 140 is a MIG welder that offers a lot when it comes to small welding jobs. It’s packed to brimming with features that set it apart from the new wave of MIG welder products currently being released in the market. With a power outlet of 115 volts, this unit is perfect for the household. With a max power output of 140 Amps, this welder is no slacker. It’s easy to take around with you thanks to the built-in gas hose and MIG regulator. 

The Forney 309 140 comes with Flux-core functionality, adding to its versatility. You can use it on a wide range of metals, including cast iron, stainless steel, aluminum, among many others.

To top it off, this unit weighs only 62 pounds and sports an ergonomic handle, making it a cinch to take everywhere with you.

Specs

Duty Cycle: 20% at 115 Amps/35% at 90 Amps

Input Power: 115V

Weight: 56 pounds

Dimensions: 19 x 9.5 x 16.5

Pros

  • Can weld a wide variety of metals (aluminum, cast iron, stainless steel, etc.)
  • Competitive price
  • Highly versatile
  • High duty cycle
  • MIG gun has high compatibility with Tweco consumables
  • Huge cabinet for added storage
  • Long MIG Gun is easy and comfortable to handle

Cons

  • Doesn’t have enough power for industrial settings
  • Low maximum weld limit (¼ inch)

7. Weldpro 155 AMP Inverter MIG/Stick

If you want a good MIG welder that’s affordable as it is versatile, you can’t go wrong with the Weldpro 155 Amp Inverter MIG Welder. Even at its low price, it’s fully capable of plugging into two voltage settings (110 and 220). It’s compact and portable to boot!

How versatile is this machine? Well, it allows you to switch between 2T and 4T (between manual and automatic wire feeding) with ease. If you’ve ever struggled to feed with long beads and awkward corners, this automatic wire feeding capability makes the process so much easier. 

Granted that the leads could be longer, you can compensate for it by buying additional accessories if required.

If your budget is limited, buying this machine is a safe investment that will get you on the right track. 

Specs

Duty Cycle: 20% at 115 Amps/35% at 90 Amps

Input Power: 115V

Weight: 56 pounds

Pros

  • Highly portable
  • Affordable
  • Highly versatile
  • Ease of use
  • Provides a lot of amperages

Cons

  • Leads could be longer
  • Doesn’t come with a regulator

8. Hobart Handler 210 (500553)

The Hobart Handler 210 MIG welder has a lot to offer in terms of amperage, affordability, and functionality. It’s not exactly cheap, sure, but this machine brings so much to the table that it more than makes up for it. 

If you’re impressed by how extensive this machine’s amperage settings are, wait till you learn how many wire speeds it offers (it’s from 40 to 680 IPM!) The infinite wire speed control makes this one a joy to work with. And with 7 voltage settings and variable power outputs at its disposal, this welder helps you perform a wide range of welding jobs with great efficiency. There are no (or minimal) spatters involved, so no need to clean up after every welding job. 

Simply put, the Hobart Handler 210 MIG welder offers much in the way of versatility and power, setting the standard for versatility, power, and controls within this price range.

Specs

Duty Cycle: 20% at 90 Amps

Input Power: 115/230V

Weight: 79 pounds

Dimensions: 19.5 x 10.6 x 12.4

Pros

  • Superior wire feed control
  • Great value
  • Highly versatile
  • Release tension on the fly
  • Intuitive operational controls

Cons

  • A bit on the heavy side
  • Duty cycle is limited

9. Hobart Handler 140 (500559)

The Hobart Handler 140 is another homerun for the Hobart line, and much like its predecessors, this MIG/Flux-core welder boasts an excellent user interface and the highest manufacturing standards.

With a duty cycle of 20% at 90 amperes, the Handler 140 is more than capable of handling any household or small workshop project. This welding unit can weld thin materials such as stainless steel, aluminum, and steel like a hot knife through butter. If you want to weld thicker materials, the Handler 140 has a reliable flux-core option that can help you pull it off. And with five voltage settings, this welder allows you to switch it up as you go along, resulting in smoother arcs even when working on different thicknesses.

This welding unit is lighter than most professional welding machines, allowing for easy transport and handling. If you’re a welder who frequently works on different types of projects, you can do no wrong by taking this with you. 

Specs

Duty Cycle: 20% at 90 Amps

Input Power: 115V

Weight: 57 pounds

Dimensions: 19.5 x 10.6 x 12.4

Pros

  • Easy to maintain arc stability
  • Super portable (weighs only 57 pounds)
  • Highly versatile
  • Minimal spatter involved
  • Wire feeding is highly accurate
  • Great for novice welders

Cons

  • Not well-suited for full-scale industrial projects
  • Doesn’t work with direct AC power supply
  • Requires a separate gas cylinder for MIG welding projects

10. Millermatic 141 (907612)

The Millermatic 141 is the Miller line’s quintessential 120V MIG welder. This welding machine truly delivers when it comes to providing beginners a fantastic user experience. The auto-set control, for one, allows you to get comfortable with the process in no time. Long-time welders can still stick to how they do things thanks to the unit’s serviceable manual settings. It has wire feed settings, infinite voltage control, quick select drive roll—the whole works. What more could you ask for?

This welding unit is no slacker in the power department, boasting an amperage range of 30A to 140A and a duty cycle of 20% at 90 amperes. It also comes with thermal overload protection to protect your unit from overheating incidents.

Specs

Duty Cycle: 20% at 90 Amps

Input Power: 120V

Weight: 51 pounds

Dimensions: 22 x 11 x 12

Pros

  • Auto-set feature makes this newbie-friendly
  • Highly flexible (thanks to the unit’s infinite voltage control)
  • Highly compatible with 15 feet MIG guns
  • Extensive manual settings for experienced welders
  • Comes with a 10 feet spool gun and a two gauge regulator
  • Quick select drive roll

Cons

  • Not well-suited for full-scale industrial projects
  • Power cord is too short (5 feet)

11. Lincoln Pro MIG 140 K2480-1

When it comes to power and versatility, not many welders can keep up with the Lincoln Pro MIG 140. Whether you’re working at home or in a shop or a factory, this welding unit has everything you need and more.

Case in point: the excellent 2-knob control system, which allows you to switch between different modes with the least amount of effort. And no matter the type of material you’re working on, be it aluminum, steel, or stainless steel, the unit’s gas-shielded MIG mode should help you get the job done. If you need to weld thicker metals, switching to the flux core welding mode will help you penetrate deeper to get it done. How deep? Well, this unit can weld 4.8 mm of sheet metal in a single pass. 

This MIG welder is packed to brimming with features that ensure you’re consistently welding at a high level, including the easy-turn tension indicator, a fully adjustable drive system, brass to brass gun connection for better conductivity, and more.

Specs

Duty Cycle: 20% at 90 Amps

Input Power: 120 volts

Weight: 50 pounds

Dimensions: 13.7 x 10.15 x 17.9

Pros

  • Ideal for beginners
  • Highly effective in minor projects
  • Easy to hook up and set up
  • Speed and power are highly adjustable
  • Effective on a wide range of metals and thicknesses
  • Comes with flux core functionality

Cons

  • Could add thermal protection
  • Not suitable for heavy-duty welding projects

12. Lincoln Pro MIG 180 K2481-1

If you value consistency in your welding work regardless of the project or task you’re working on, you’d be wise to consider buying the Lincoln MIG 180 Welder

This MIG/flux-core welding machine is perfect for both novice welders and professionals courtesy of its wide variety of useful features. It has a simple control knob that lets you change output levels with minimal effort. Moreover, its 120 settings allow you to weld efficiently on aluminum and light steel. It’s also equally effective for heavy-duty jobs since its 208/230 volt settings allow for deeper penetration on thicker metals.

While this welding machine packs some serious power, it has adjustable settings that ensure you won’t melt thinner materials like aluminum.

This dual-voltage machine is also easy to take with you anywhere thanks to its portable and lightweight build. Whether you’re welding in a factory, your home, or at the farm, the Lincoln Pro MIG 180 is a welding companion you can always count on.

Specs

Processes: MIG, Flux-Cored

Input Power: 208/230  V

Weight: 66 pounds

Dimensions: 14 x 10.15 x 18.6

Pros

  • Diamond core technology provides a “more forgiving” arc
  • Dual input (208/230 V)
  • Effective for heavy-duty work as well as home or small workshop use
  • Ergonomic build
  • The brass-to-brass gun connection allows for better conductivity
  • Very adjustable

Cons

  • A bit on the heavy side
  • Not suitable for heavy-duty welding projects
  • Power output is a bit low

13. Miller Millermatic 211 (907614)

If you want a dual voltage MIG welder with a ton of features that help you produce precise welds, the Millermatic 211 MIG Welder hits the sweet spot. This welding machine is easy to set up because of its Advanced Autoset feature, which allows you to adjust your unit’s parameters and arc settings easily.

The Millermatic 211 also comes with a quick-select drive roll that enables you to change spools with the flick of a finger. It’s not only dual-voltage, but it also has a ring on the back that you can twist to switch from one mode to another with minimal effort. 

Another great thing about the Millermatic 211 is its lightweight design. If you’re always welding in different locations, you won’t have any difficulties lugging this machine around with you.

Specs

Duty cycle: 40% at 150 amps

Input Power: 230V

Weight: 38 pounds

Dimensions: 20.5 x 11.25 x 12.5

Pros

  • Comes with a dual voltage plug that makes switching between voltage settings easy
  • Lightweight and portable
  • Easy to set up
  • Stable arc allows for more precise welds

Cons

  • Not cheap (though it gives you a bang for your buck)
  • Duty cycle could use an improvement

14. Eastwood 175 Amp

Eastwood MIG 175 might be an oldie but goodie, but it’s still one of the best MIG welders on the market. 

This welder unit runs at 220V and has a rated amp of 175A. Wire feeding is effortless thanks to the unit’s adjustable wire feed speed control. But what sets this one apart is its ability to handle a wide range of metals, including aluminum and steel.

The Eastwood 175 MIG welder is a great choice for beginners because of the many accessories on offer, including a spool gun, aluminum wires, a gas regulator and hose, tips, and many more.

This welder weighs only 62 pounds. If you’re a welder who’s always out and about, you won’t have any issues taking this unit along with you everywhere you go.

One major drawback of this product is that it’s made of flimsy material. You might end up breaking the access panel if you’re not careful.

Despite that one flaw, the Eastwood 175 MIG welder is a great welder to have if you want a versatile MIG welder that’s easy on the wallet.

Specs

Duty cycle: 30% at 130 amps

Input Power: 220V

Weight: 62 pounds

Dimensions: 10.75 X 17 X 15.75

Pros

  • Offers a wide range of accessories for the full MIG welding experience
  • Lightweight and ergonomic build
  • Can handle many metals, including aluminum, steel, and stainless steel
  • Big bang for your buck
  • Serviceable for both professional welders and beginners

Cons

  • Made of thin material

15. Hobart Handler 130 (500568)

The Hobart Handler 130 is a robust MIG welder that is as versatile as it is user-friendly. It’s not as powerful as its 210 and 140 counterparts, but it’s got a wide range of useful features that more than compensate for that one flaw. With that said, it’s capable of penetrating 1/4 “ steel and is capable of handling many kinds of metals, especially stainless steel and iron. 

If you want your welding to be more productive, the Handler 130’s Flux-cored functionality will come in handy. Also worth mentioning is the welding unit’s patented EX-Mode, in which a knob can be used to switch settings easily based on the thickness of the material being welded. 

Do you struggle with controlling gas input when you weld? The Hobart Handler 130 solves that problem for you with its built-in gas valve, which gives you a better handle on gas mixes as you do the work. No more spatters!

Weighing 51 pounds, this welder can be carried around with no sweat, literally. 

Specs

Duty cycle: 20% at 85 amps

Input Power: 115V

Weight: 51 pounds

Product Dimensions: 13 x 10 x 17 inches

Pros

  • EZ-mode with wire feed knobs for great customization
  • User-friendly and easy to set up
  • Competitive price
  • Suitable for both novice welders and long-time welders
  • Highly portable
  • Packed with useful features

Cons

  • Not fit for heavy-duty projects
  • Lacks a spool adaptor

16. Lincoln Electric Easy 140

If you want to produce high-quality welds on a wide range of projects, the Lincoln Electric Easy MIG Welder 140 won’t let you down. Equipped with a straightforward 2-knob control system, this multiple process welding unit lets you manage your gas shields while working on steel, aluminum, and stainless steel. And thanks to its robust flux core functionality, this welder is capable of penetrating deep when welding thicker materials.

With a fully adjustable drive system, coupled with its numeric-drive tension indicator, the Lincoln Electric Easy lets you change the settings with the least amount of effort, thus preventing wire tangling and cable breakage. 

Whether you’re an old hat at this by now or still learning the ropes, you’ll get the hang of this machine in no time, courtesy of its intuitive controls and streamlined design. Besides, it comes with a calibration chart to serve as a guide as you hook up the machine and use it for the first time.

Specs

Duty Cycle: 20% at 90 amps

Input Power: 120V

Weight: 50 pounds

Dimensions: 13.7 in x 10.15 in x 17.9 in

Pros

  • Extensive wire feed speed system
  • User-friendly and easy to set up
  • Fully adjustable drive roll system
  • Smooth drive tension adjustment
  • Highly portable
  • Voltage control allows a stable arc

Cons

  • Not efficient at welding thicker metals

17. Eastwood MIG Welder 135A

Whether you’re a hobbyist or a professional, the Eastwood MIG 135 is a welder that hits many sweet spots. This welding machine can be counted on to produce precise welds even on delicate tasks. Sporting a lightweight and compact design, this unit can be carried around with little effort. 

This MIG welder comes with many accessories that will come in handy on any project and in any setting. Wire feeding requires little effort as well thanks to the unit’s switchable drive roller and precision-drive motor. 

If you want an affordable MIG welder that ticks all the right boxes, you can count on the Eastwood MIG 135 to truly deliver. 

Specs

Duty Cycle: 20% at 90 amps

Input Power: 120V

Weight: 57 pounds

Dimensions: 9.5 X 16.1 X 14.5

Pros

  • Lightweight and portable
  • Can be used in any 120-V power outlet
  • Powerful for its size
  • Comes with many helpful accessories
  • Great value
  • Option to use gas or flux-wire

Cons

  • Not fit for full-scale industrial projects

18. Everlast Power i-MIG 200

The Everlast Power MIG 200 boasts the Insulated Gate Bipolar Transistor (IGBT) inverter technology, which can produce a higher output even with low input power. To call this one a MIG welder is limiting, for it also offers stick welding and flux-cored functionality. 

This MIG welder offers many advantages, including a high duty cycle, multi-processing, dual voltage option, and high power output. With all these features at your disposal, you can produce high-quality MIG welding with stunning consistency.

Switching from the spool gun to stick welding has never been easy courtesy of this machine’s Eurostyle Quick Coupler. This nifty feature lets you use generic spool guns instead of expensive branded ones, allowing you to cut costs dramatically.

This unit’s best feature is the highly convenient induction control, allowing you to switch between MIG and Stick welding with little effort. Newbies, most of all, wild find this handy, making them weld like a pro even if they haven’t used a welding machine before.

Specs

Duty Cycle: 35% at 125 amps

Input Power: 110/220V

Weight: 53 pounds

Dimensions: 24 x 9 x 14

Pros

  • Lightweight and portable
  • Straightforward and easy to use
  • No need to switch between MIG and Stick welding
  • Minimal spatter
  • Great value
  • Easy to switch between 110V and 220V

Cons

  • Spool gun is awkward to handle at first

19. Hobart Handler 125 (500573)

The Hobart Handler 125 MIG Welder 500773 is the latest offering in the welder company’s Hobart 125 series. And this one’s a doozy, folks.

Performance-wise, this is as good as a 125 MIG welder gets. With an output range of 25-130 Amps, this machine can weld up to ⅛ inches of steel. It’s easy to work on metals with variable thicknesses courtesy of the machine’s four output voltage settings. Switching from flux-cored wire to MIG welding is effortless. Moreover, the durable feed head along with the quick-release drive roll lever allows you to thread new wire with no sweat. 

Despite the abundant features, the Hobart Handler 500573 is easy to use. You’ll find it easy to produce clean and non-porous weds even if this is your first time to handle a MIG welder.

Specs

Duty Cycle: 25% at 80 amps

Input Power: 110/115/120V

Weight: 57.5 pounds

Dimensions: 19.4 × 10 × 13.5

Pros

  • Easy to hook up, adjust, and control
  • Great value
  • No need to switch between MIG and Stick welding
  • Highly portable
  • Produces high-quality, precise welds
  • Capable of handling various metals of variable thicknesses

Cons

  • Some accessories (tank, pressure regulator, etc.) still need to be purchased

Different Types of Welded Joints

So, you just bought your new TIG welder, and you’re trying to become a better welder. Well, this is the article you need.

Contrary to what most would think, the joints formed by welding come in different types. But for anyone with an untrained eye, they may all just look the same.

What you probably don’t realize is that these varying types are not just about the style or aesthetics but they serve legitimate purposes. Metals and plastics are welded together using either a butt weld or a fillet weld in different positions to meet specific needs and forces, but the joints they form are varied.

Don’t have a clue what these different types are? We’ve got you covered! In this article, you will know about each of the five major types of welded joints present according to the American Welding Society and learn about what sets them apart from each other. That way, you can choose which one to use for your next project.

Butt Joint

If you have ever seen metals or plastics lying flat whose parallel edges are welded together, the joint you are looking at is a butt joint. This consists of welding the edges or “butts” of the material that are placed side by side and in the same plane. Doing a butt joint is considered as the simplest method, that is why it is also considered as the most popular.

Butt joints may be done as it is or weld preps, or cutting off sections of the edges to be welded, may be necessary. They are created through different welding styles, namely:

  • Bevel groove weld – only one of the materials has a diagonally straight bevel that extends from top to bottom
  • Flare-bevel-groove butt weld – same as the bevel groove weld but has a groove
  • Flare-V-groove butt weld – each parallel sides of two materials have grooves running from top to bottom
  • Square-groove butt weld – no bevels or grooves are made; the parallel edges are simply welded together
  • J-groove butt weld – only one material has a groove at the edge, but this groove only passes through around 3/4 the entire length of that edge, thus forming a ‘J’
  • U-groove butt weld – both materials have parallel edges with grooves that take up 3/4 of each edges’ length
  • V-groove butt weld – bevels on both parallel edges are made from top to bottom

This type of joint is often used for various materials and equipment, such as pipes, fittings, flanges, and valves, but it should not be used for those that will receive loads at high impact. Butt welding can be done for metals and plastics with a thickness ranging from 3 mm to 12 mm. But if it is 5 mm thick or more, you need to bevel one or both edges first before you can weld them.

Some also opt to have a double butt weld for those involving bevels. Unlike a traditional butt weld that only involves one side, a double butt weld involves making the same type of bevels on both sides of the edges so that they are mirror images of each other. This allows the parallel edges to be welded on both sides.

Aside from doing a double butt weld, you can also opt for a full penetration weld to strengthen the joint formed. Beveling the materials and doing a full penetration weld will result in a strong butt joint. Do note that excessive heat can result in a twist or bow, not a straight finish.

Edge Joint

An edge joint is made when edges of two metals are placed parallel to each other, and their adjacent edges are welded together using a butt weld. This edge joint is formed either with the metals stacked on top of each other and welded at the side, or they are placed next to each other and welded at the top. Instead of being on the same plane like a butt joint, they are welded at parallel planes.

The edge joint is highly similar to the butt joint, that is why the many of the welding styles used to create this type of joint are the same:

  • U-groove weld
  • J-groove weld
  • V-groove weld
  • Square groove weld or butt weld
  • Bevel-groove weld

You can also use the edge flange and corner flange welding styles to form an edge joint. An edge flange weld typically consists of two curved metals with their edges welded at their parallel points, while a corner flange weld involves one straight metal and one curved metal also welded at parallel points.

Edge joints are weaker because the weld done is shallow and does not completely penetrate the joint, that is why they are typically used on sheet metal plates that are less than 6 mm thick, such as mufflers. It is also not recommended if the welded materials are expected to undergo a lot of pressure, tension, or bending.

To strengthen the edge joint, you can either do a full penetration weld or add filler material as you weld. It is essential that the materials be clamped together before you weld because it can separate as you weld and start opening up like a clam.

Tee Joint

You might have guessed that the tee joint has something to do with the letter ‘T’. A tee joint, or sometimes referred to as a t-joint, consists of two metals or plastics intersecting to form a right angle and are welded together. The upright material is typically placed at the center of the flat one, forming a ‘T’. Welding is done using a fillet weld at both corners formed by their intersection at the base of the upright material.

The different welding styles used to create a tee joint are:

  • Plug weld – a hole is made on one of the metals or plastics, and the edge of the other one must intersect with the hole. This hole is then filled or plugged up through welding, which then bonds the materials together
  • Slot weld – has similarities with a plug weld but the hole made is larger and can extend to one edge
  • Fillet weld – both corners made by the intersecting materials are welded together.
  • J-groove weld – similar to a fillet weld but the base of the upright material has a groove
  • Bevel-groove weld – same as a J-groove weld but it has a bevel instead of a groove at the base of the upright material.
  • Flare-bevel-groove weld – involves a tube-shaped material placed above a flat material and these are welded together at their intersecting points
  • Melt-through weld – only one side is welded but the weld fully penetrates so that it reaches the other side of the upright material

While a tee joint may seem simple, welding them together is complicated because the material placed vertically can move around when you weld the one side first or even be distorted. This upright material must either have a brace to hold it in place or allow it to stand at a slight angle so that it will move in the right position while welding. In case the tee joint is misaligned after welding, use a soft hammer to tap the welded section into place. Do it quickly while it is still hot so that it will be easier to move.

Tee joints are normally used for materials whose thickness do not exceed 3 mm and even for bonding a pipe to a metal. Also, all four sides of the intersecting sections are typically welded to give it strength. Some do opt to weld either the lengths or ends of the materials only, resulting in a weaker weld.

Corner Joint

A corner joint is done similarly to a tee joint but the upright material is typically placed at the edge of the other one lying flat, forming an ‘L’ or right angle. This type of joint, also known as a square joint, is also one of the most popularly used, especially for sheet metals. It also allows you to weld two materials that have varying thicknesses, lengths, or widths.

Because the corner joint involves a fillet weld on the intersecting side and a butt weld on the parallel side where the edges meet, its strength is uneven and it is generally weaker than a tee joint. Some of the most common uses of a corner joint are in creating boxes and frames using both light and thick materials.

These welding styles used in butt joints and tee joints are also used to form a corner joint:

  • Bevel-groove weld
  • Fillet weld
  • Square groove weld or butt weld
  • J-groove weld
  • U-groove weld
  • V-groove weld
  • Flare-V-groove weld

The following welding styles also form corner joints, but the resulting appearance does not form the ‘L’ shape that is why they are often mistaken for edge joints:

  • Corner-flange weld – involves one flat and one curved material but only the corners of their parallel edges are welded
  • Edge weld – done similar to a basic edge joint where the edges are placed parallel to each other and then welded
  • Spot weld – only small spots at the sides of the intersecting edges are welded

Corner joints are typically made with the entire edges of both materials touching each other, but it is also possible to weld only their corners. You can also only do a butt weld for a corner joint and leave the inside corner without a weld. To strengthen the joint, weld preps are done on the sides that will be butt welded.

Lap Joint

If you need to weld two materials that have different thicknesses, a lap joint is another way to do it if a corner joint is not suitable. A lap joint involves stacking two materials together so that they will overlap and welding is done on either the top or bottom only or both. While fillet welds are mostly used, the weld that creates a lap joint is also known as a lap weld.

You can choose among the following styles, aside from the fillet weld, if you need to create a lap joint:

  • J-groove weld
  • Slot weld
  • Plug weld
  • Bevel groove weld
  • Flare-bevel-groove weld
  • Spot weld

You can typically see a lap joint when resistance spot, laser beam, and electron beam welding is used, as well as in exercise and industrial equipment. Lap joints are among the easiest to create because there is hardly any preparation needed aside from positioning the materials. Not only that, they also often have the smoothest finish. However, it is also prone to warping if there is too much heat during welding.

Now that you are aware of the five different types of welded joints, you can now identify which joints are most suitable for your project. Yes, you can use various types in a single project.

But aside from choosing the suitable joints, always make sure to wear the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) as you work. Welding can be done easily but there are always various safety and health risks present no matter how small your project is. Safety first!

Using an Oxy Acetylene Cutting Torch: Setting Up, Lighting, Using, Shut Off

Does the thought of using an oxy acetylene cutting torch intimidate you? We feel you. After all, dealing with two tanks that are at risk of catching fire as you work sounds risky. You would rather have all your body parts firmly attached as you work, right?

Don’t let this safety risk stop you from using a cutting torch; the worst-case scenario you are thinking of doesn’t really happen that often. If you have the right settings for the entire system, you can safely use an oxy acetylene torch for all your projects.

But, it doesn’t stop there. You also need to properly set it up before you start using one. Not only that, you must light the torch and shut it off correctly. Yes, there are proper ways to do all that.

Don’t worry because we will show you that all these are not as hard as you think.

How Does a Cutting Torch Work?

Before you set up your cutting torch, you must first understand how it works so that you can handle it properly. Not only that, this will allow you to get a cut of good quality, which is only possible if done correctly. For more serious cutting jobs, we do recommend the use of a plasma cutter, though.

An oxy acetylene cutting torch allows oxygen to mix with acetylene to combust and produce a flame that has a temperature exceeding 3000 C. This kind of flame is the only one hot enough to cut through mild steel, specifically any kind of steel that only has a maximum of 0.3% carbon.

Steel has an ignition temperature, ranging from 700 to 900 ℃, which is enough to remove components that protect it against oxygen while keeping it in solid form. The cutting torch pre-heats steel for it to reach that temperature; a cherry red color on the steel will be the sign that it has been adequately preheated.

When oxygen from the cutting torch reaches the unprotected steel, an exothermic reaction occurs that causes it to form oxidized liquid steel or slag. Because steel has a higher melting point, this slag that formed can easily be blown away by oxygen. This then reveals the solid steel that has not been oxidized.

The exothermic reaction that occurs is continuous as long as the cutting torch is lit up and the flame hits the steel. This constant reaction prevents a crust from forming on the steel, which immediately occurs if the protection against oxygen is still present on the steel. Because there is no crust that forms, the oxygen from the cutting torch can now penetrate the exposed solid steel and cut through it.

Due to the acetylene present, the flame produced by the cutting torch is the highest among all oxyfuel cutting processes. This means you can make cuts much faster and of better quality than the other methods.

How Do You Set Up an Oxy Acetylene Cutting Torch?

Large cylinder tanks. Hoses. Regulators. Valves. Torch. With all these components, setting up an oxy acetylene torch can be an overwhelming experience. While we admit that setting it up is not a straightforward affair, it is still doable even by beginners.

Setting up such a system is pretty standard, but you must first check for any unique instructions the manufacturer of your cutting torch may have. The manufacturer’s instructions will always take precedence over the following standard instructions:

  1. Secure the oxygen and acetylene tanks to a sturdy post, wall, or the like in an upright position. It would be better to use cylinder carts if available since they will do a better job of keeping them in place.
  2. Check and remove any protective coverings placed on the tanks. But if no covers were used, clean the tanks first to remove any debris or dust that settled, especially in the valves. When cleaning the valves, stand away from the opening and quickly turn it on and off. This short burst is enough to blow off the dust present.
  3. Ensure that the regulators to be connected to the valves of the tanks have matching threads. If not, connect the regulator to an adaptor first, then connect the other end of the adaptor to the valve. Screw them in place by hand first, then finish tightening the connection using a wrench that has a fixed opening.
  4. Identify which hoses are used for oxygen and acetylene respectively; the hose for acetylene is typically red and green is for oxygen. Attach the right hoses to the regulators of the right tanks without contaminating it with any kind of lubricant.
  5. Once the hoses are firmly in place, connect the other ends of the hoses to the handle of your torch.
  6. Connect your cutting torch to its handle and tighten the nut by hand. Ensure that the valves on both the torch and the handle are closed.

After setting up, you still need to do some checks before attempting to light your cutting torch. Make sure that the regulators are facing away from you when you do the following:

  1. Open the valves of both tanks, but do it slowly and only one at a time.
  2. Adjust the screws of the regulators so that the gauge will reflect a psi between 40 to 60 for the oxygen tank and 10 psi for the acetylene tank.
  3. Slightly open the valves for both oxygen and acetylene on the cutting torch, but make sure that the valve for acetylene is not open by more than 1/8 of a turn or exceeding 45 degrees.
  4. Do a leak test on all the connected parts using a solution specifically for leak testing or a paste made using dissolved Ivory soap. Use it to coat the valves, hoses, and regulators and watch out for any bubbles that form after a few minutes. If present, it means a leak is present and you need to adjust or tighten the connections.
  5. Repeat the leak test until no bubbles appear.

After successfully doing a leak test, you can now light up your oxy acetylene cutting torch following the instructions of the manufacturer.

How to Light a Cutting Torch

Because of the gases involved, lighting up a cutting torch is done differently. Unlike other torches, a cutting torch will not produce a flame with just a push of the button.

Most cutting torches are lit up using this method:

  1. Slightly open the valve for acetylene on the cutting torch. Make sure that it does not exceed a half-turn.
  2. Use a flint striker or spark lighter to ignite the acetylene gas flowing out of the torch’s nozzle. Soot or black smoke may come out once it is lit up, which is considered normal. You can wait it out or adjust the acetylene valve to make the smoke disappear.
  3. Once the smoke is gone, slowly open the oxygen valve of the torch to remove all the yellow spots of the flame and adjust to get a neutral flame needed for cutting. This neutral flame consists of a small, white, cone-shaped tip near the nozzle and a bigger blue core.

You should only use a flint striker to light a cutting torch because using smaller lighting devices, such as a match or lighter, are too small and will put you at risk of burning your hands as you light up the cutting torch. Also, you must make sure that the tip of your cutting torch is facing away from you, other people, and any flammable objects.

But if your cutting torch has its own ignition device, skip the above steps and follow the instructions given.

How to Shut Down an Oxy Acetylene Cutting Torch

Because there is also no knob or button present on the torch to stop the flame, you must manually shut down your oxy acetylene cutting torch by cutting off the gas being supplied. If you are not yet aware, there is a seemingly never-ending debate about which gas supply to switch off first – oxygen followed by acetylene or acetylene then oxygen.

While both methods are considered correct, manufacturers generally advocate shutting off the oxygen valve first before acetylene. This method allows the acetylene still flowing to blow off the soot that settles in the crevices of your torch; any soot present can affect the seal of the gas valves and cause a leak.

Not only that, but this order also allows you to conduct a leak test before cutting off the gas supply. Once you cut off the oxygen supply then acetylene, the presence of a small flame despite no gas flowing to the torch will indicate a leak. Early leak detection helps prevent an explosion.

Another advantage of cutting off the oxygen supply first is that mini flashbacks are less likely to occur. Despite most cutting torches having protective features against it, flashbacks can still happen. Mini flashbacks occur in the form of a loud pop or bang. While generally considered harmless, mini flashbacks can still cause accidents.

If you are done with your work and need to return your equipment to its storage, you must follow the following steps:

  1. Cut off the oxygen and acetylene gas supplies by switching off the valves at their respective tanks.
  2. Purge the gas that remains in both hoses or gas lines by reopening the oxygen valve on the torch so that the remaining gas in the hose will flow out. Close the oxygen valve once no more gas is flowing out.
  3. Repeat the purging with the acetylene gas line. Make sure to purge both hoses separately.
  4. Once you finish purging, disconnect all components and store them properly.

When storing the oxygen and acetylene tanks, make sure to keep it in a dry and airy location far away from any flammable objects. Always keep them in a vertical position.

Can You Cut Cast Iron With a Cutting Torch?

Have you ever attempted to cut cast iron using an ordinary blowtorch? If so, you may have realized that it is a futile effort. But if you are using a cutting torch to do so, the result will be different.

Because an oxy-acetylene torch has the highest flame temperature present, it can easily cut through even steel that is at least 200 mm thick. But when it comes to cutting cast iron, it is also possible but it will not give you a clean cut and is a bit harder to do.

Preheating the cast iron is crucial to cut through it, and this is done by setting the cutting torch so that it produces a carburizing flame, instead of a neutral flame, and with the highest possible temperature. This type of flame offers better preheating to the cast iron and also stops oxides from rapidly forming. Preheating should be done from the top all the way to the bottom and with more acetylene so that the heat will deeply penetrate the cast iron.

Once it is sufficiently preheated, make small semicircles around the preheated line to melt the iron. Finally, use the oxygen jet to blow off the molten iron and cut through it. You may need to use flux to help you make the cut.

Because of the complicated process, using an oxy acetylene cutting torch to cut through cast iron is not often used. In fact, there are other methods specially developed for this purpose.

Can I Weld With a Cutting Torch?

Are you wondering if you need to buy separate welding equipment if you already have a cutting torch and need to do some welding? If so, we have good news – you can also use your oxy acetylene cutting torch for your welding needs. In fact, this process is known as oxy acetylene welding.

Basically, the metals are placed side by side, with a small gap present between them, and are melted together by the oxy-acetylene flame. When they cool down, the melted sections are already bonded to form a weld seam. Oxy acetylene welding can be used if quickly joining metals together is your only concern because the weld seam formed is not as neat as the ones created by other welding methods.

A neutral flame is also used for welding using a cutting torch, but you need to move your torch in a circular manner so that the metals will melt and pool towards the small gap present between them. While the weld seam formed using this method is strong enough, you can also add filler material using a rod to increase its strength.

An oxy acetylene cutting torch, contrary to its name, is not only used for cutting. You can also use it in different ways, making it such a versatile tool that you must have in your workshop.

Welding Glasses: Shade 14, 13, 12, 10, 5

You probably know that you can lose your fingers if you are not careful with welding, but did you know that you can lose your eyesight as well if you don’t wear the right kind of welding glasses?

This is something that a lot of welders take for granted. They mistakenly think that any pair of tinted glasses, including their favorite pair of wraparound shades, would work for welding. And if they find it uncomfortable, they don’t wear a pair at all and just ignore the blinding light as they work.

They are unaware that wearing the wrong eye gear, or worse, not wearing any at all, can have disastrous consequences. To keep your eyes protected, you must use the right kind of welding glasses. There are different shades available for welding glasses but we will discuss the most commonly used ones, which are shades 14, 13, 12, 10, and 5.

Welding Goggles vs Helmet

Wearing safety gear is important whenever you do any kind of welding activity but when it comes to welding goggles vs helmet, you may find yourself confused about which one to use. Don’t worry, you’re not alone.

It cannot be denied that a welding helmet offers more protection; after all, this headgear protects the wearer from the neck up. This means your entire face and neck are protected from sparks, fumes, ultraviolet (UV) light, corneal sunburn or flash burn (aka welder’s eye), and infrared (IR) radiation, as well as metal bits from the base material. On the other hand, welding glasses can only protect your eye area.

Because welding goggles are more compact in size, they are less intrusive to wear. Meanwhile, a helmet is much bulkier and can feel constricting for some welders. Helmets can be uncomfortable for some to the point that wearing them can affect their work, that is why they would rather wear welding glasses despite offering less protection.

Goggles used to be preferred by many because it is perceived to be better when it comes to visibility, as helmets with passive or fixed lenses made it a bit harder for the wearer to see clearly. Fortunately, more helmet manufacturers are now offering helmets that offer clearer views as you weld, as well as interchangeable and auto-darkening lenses. But if you are using conventional helmets, you still need to wear glasses together with your helmet to protect your eyes.

For some, helmets are also a hassle to wear because conventional ones with passive lenses need to be in different positions before, during, and after welding, especially for beginners that need to use darker shades. It may be too dark for them to position the torch before starting the weld so the helmet must be put in the up position first and only snapped in place immediately before welding. To do so, they have to snap or nod their necks so that it will go into the right position, which can be straining to the neck.

As a fix, auto-darkening lenses are used so that the welder can simply wear them at all times and the lenses will adjust itself based on the amount of light detected. Helmets with auto-darkening lenses also have varying features available, such as:

  • Having a fixed shade that darkens to shade number 10 only when it senses an arc or a variable shade with different shades that darken to an appropriate shade depending on the amount of light detected
  • Different reaction times that indicate how fast the lens will darken to a certain shade once it detects light
  • Number of sensors installed to detect the light
  • Various viewing sizes
  • Delay controls that allow you to set how long it stays dark after it no longer detects an arc
  • Sensitivity controls that allow you to set the light sensitivity of the helmet before it darkens to a suitable shade

When choosing between welding goggles vs a helmet, it will just be a matter of preference for the welder. The helmet is the best option for those who prioritize safety and don’t mind the added bulk, while the welding goggles are best for those who need a clearer vision when working and with fewer intrusions. But if you decide to wear welding goggles, you need to be extra careful to avoid injury to the exposed parts of your face and neck when working.

Welding Glasses Shade Numbers Explained

If you are getting your first pair of welding glasses, you may notice the different shade numbers available. OSHA explains shade numbers as an indicator of the amount of protection the filter lens provides. In particular, the number represents the intensity of UV and IR radiation that it allows to pass through.

The darkness of the filter increases with the shade number, which then decreases the amount of light that passes through the lens. This means a pair of welding glasses that has a shade number of 14 is darker, allowing less light to pass through and offering better protection from the brightness of the light than a pair of welding glasses with a shade number of 11.

Welding glasses, as well as some helmets, normally use lenses with fixed shades. However, there are newer helmets that come with auto-darkening lenses that automatically adjust the shade when the equipped sensors detect a welding arc. When inactive, it has a shade number of either 3 or 4 and will darken up to shade number 13 when it finally detects light. The maximum shade numbers these auto-darkening lenses have are varied, but the majority of them use shade number 13 as the maximum.

The minimum shade numbers recommended by OSHA will not just depend on the type of welding used but also in the amperage or arc current, but their ideal shade numbers and ranges are as follows:

  • Shield Metal Arc Welding or SMAW – from 7 to 11
  • Gas Welding – from 4 to 6
  • Gas Metal Arc Welding or GMAW – either 7 or 10
  • Oxygen Cutting – from 3 to 5
  • Flux Cored Arc Welding – either 7 to 10
  • Gas Tungsten Arc Welding or GTAW – either 8 or 10
  • Heavy Air Carbon Arc Cutting or CAC-A – 11
  • Light Air Carbon Arc Cutting or CAC-A – 10
  • Plasma Arc Welding or PAW – from 6 to 11
  • Heavy Plasma Arc Cutting or PAC – 10
  • Medium Plasma Arc Cutting or PAC – 9
  • Light Plasma Arc Cutting or PAC – 8
  • Carbon Arc Welding – 14

Shade numbers normally range from 2 to 14, with shade number 2 being the lightest. However, there are also special welding glasses that offer zero shade, and even shade numbers 1.5 and 1.7. But for welding activities, they generally require shade numbers higher than 2.

Shade Number 14

If you want the darkest shade of welding glasses, you need to look for one with shade number 14. Because it is very dark, and you can hardly see anything with it, this is not suitable for use outside welding activities. The dark shade allows the filtration of up to 99% UV and IR radiation, which makes it ideal for use when all types of welding, especially arc welding at high amperage like TIG welding. They are typically used for heavy industrial welding and not for small projects like those done at home.

Lenses with shade number 14 almost look completely black and are mostly available with welding glasses and some helmets with fixed lenses. Helmets with auto-darkening lenses often do not have this shade number.

Shade Number 13

You can go a shade lower, which is shade number 13, if you want to keep your eyes well-protected but find shade number 14 too dark for you. In fact, welders who prefer dark lenses on their welding glasses or helmets prefer to use shade number 13 more than shade number 14.

Lenses with shade number 13 are also cheaper, that is why they are common on both welding glasses and helmets, including those equipped with auto-darkening lenses. Shade number 13 is often the darkest shade available for welding glasses that will only be used for non-industrial projects involving both light and heavy-duty welding. You can also use shade number 13 for all welding types.

Shade Number 12

For many, welding glasses and helmets equipped with shade number 12 are more comfortable to use than shade numbers 13 and 14. This is because this shade is just enough to let them see the light coming from the welding arc while being comfortable for them to do so even for hours; some get eye strain when they use darker lenses. Shade number 12 is also ideal for use in all welding types, from light-duty to non-industrial heavy-duty use, especially those with high amperage.

Both welding glasses and helmets offer shade 12 lenses. In fact, most older models of welding helmets with fixed or auto-darkening lenses have shade number 12 as their darkest shade.

Shade Number 10

If you know that your welding projects will only require you to use a medium amperage, welding glasses or helmets that use shade number 10 are suitable for you. This shade is typically considered as the middle ground because they are not too dark nor are they too light for welding. But despite being marked as shade number 10, you can see that different lenses marked as such seem to have different shades; they can either be greenish or blackish.

Welding glasses and helmets that use this shade number tend to be manufactured for specific uses because of this issue. That is, specific models are often created for specific welding types and not for general use. Despite this, shade number 10 can be used for all types of welding, but not when using high amperage. Do note that those welding inside a garage may find this shade to be too dark for them to work with.

Aside from traditional welding glasses, shade number 10 is available in welding helmets with fixed and auto-darkening lenses.

Shade Number 5

For light work, shade number 5 is usually sufficient. However, it should not be used if your welding activity involves arcs, such as MIG and TIG welding, because the shade is not dark enough to shield your eyes from the very bright light of the arc. That is why this shade number is typically used only for cutting, grinding metals, brazing, and other work involving a torch, including an oxy acetylene one.

Welding glasses with this shade not only come in black or green tints, but various manufacturers also make mirrored and polarized versions that make them look like ordinary sunglasses. In fact, there are even some sunglasses with this shade number that you can already use for the light welding-related activities we mentioned.

Keep in mind that if you need to wear prescription glasses when welding, it may be a bit harder for you to choose the right shade number, especially if your pair of prescription glasses is already tinted. In such cases, shade numbers at the middle of the range are a safe bet. Aside from choosing the right shade number, you must also choose the right welding glasses or helmet that can accommodate your prescription glasses at the same time.

Can I Use Welding Glasses to Look at the Sun?

Since you know that welding glasses are capable of shielding your eyes against UV rays, you may be wondering if you can use it to look at the sun, particularly during a solar eclipse. After all, it is not a phenomenon you experience every day.

Yes, welding glasses can be used to directly look at the sun but only with the right shade numbers. This means not all welding glasses or even helmets can be used as an alternative to the proper eyewear when watching a solar eclipse.

According to NASA, welding glasses that can be used to look at the sun should be shade number 12 or higher; any shade number lower than that should not be used for such activities. Shade numbers 12, 13, and 14 are dark enough for you to safely look at the sun. However, what is most recommended is shade number 14, which is the darkest shade available, but some do say that shade number 14 is too dark.

Despite this protection, staring at the sun for a long time is still not recommended. While the risk is minimized, there is still the slightest chance of experiencing long-term issues the longer you look directly at the sun even with welding glasses.

How to Use a Plasma Cutter

Cutting metals with precision is a long, tedious process, even more so if you’re dealing with thick lumps. Using saws or angle grinders can only do so much. If you want to speed up the process of metal cutting and want to produce highly accurate metal pieces, then it’s time for you to consider using a plasma cutter. 

Plasma cutters are known for their high-precision and efficient cuts. Moreover, unlike other metal cutting tools, plasma cutters aren’t likely to leave “dross,” ensuring that you’re getting a polished product after the work is done.

While having a plasma cutter as your primary cutting tool is highly convenient, you must familiarize yourself with its basic operations before you start using one. 

In this blog post, you’re going to learn some basic information on how does a plasma cutter work, how you can hook it up, which gases to use, and the steps you need to take to cut metal pieces with it.

How does plasma cutter work?

A plasma cutter, first and foremost, is a welding tool that is used to cut materials. It does this by producing plasma, which is formed after combining compressed gas with a high-voltage electric arc. By transmitting the electric arc and the compressed gas through a narrow opening (nozzle), the gas reaches a temperature so high that it enters a 4th state of matter. Moreover, this compressed gas runs at very high speeds, allowing it to cut through molten metal. 

Awesome, right? You can think of the plasma cutter as a more realistic version of the lightsaber from the Star Wars films. But you don’t have to train like a Jedi Master to wield it. As you’ll soon discover while reading this article, using a plasma cutter isn’t so hard if you know the proper procedures.

Before we go there, let’s talk a bit about why using a plasma cutter is one of the best decisions  you can make as a welder.

The advantages of using a plasma cutter

So, why use a plasma cutter? Because it offers many advantages over other cutting tools, that’s why.

Let’s go over these advantages below:

1. It cuts fast

Using a plasma cutter is a great time saver. Did you know that most plasma cutters can generate 40,000°F? With that amount of heat, don’t be surprised if you’re able to cut through metal like a hot knife through butter. 

2. Easy to use

When you’re using a plasma cutter, extensive training is not required. Spend a couple of hours using it and it will feel like you’ve been using it for years. You see, the operations of a plasma cutter are pretty straight-forward. Before you know it, you’re making perfect cuts with that thing like a real pro.

3. No warping

There’s no warping because the heat-affected zone is smaller.

4. It’s safer to use

Plasma cutters are relatively safe. Why? Because they don’t have to use any flammable gases to do their thing (unlike with oxy-fuel torches).

5. It’s cost-effective

You might be surprised to know that creating plasma doesn’t require a lot of energy. This saves you a lot of money on energy costs. Most plasma cutters also won’t require any preheating, cutting your energy consumption even further.

6. It’s versatile

The plasma cutter can cut through almost anything, including copper, carbon steel, cast iron, nickel alloys, stainless steel, and more. And it can do so even with various thicknesses and with different types of metals. 

7. It’s very precise

Plasma cutting allows you to cut non-ferrous metals as well as thick sheets of steel. This is due to the plasma system’s ability to concentrate its energy in a small area. And by increasing the density of the plasma, a plasma cutter makes it easy for you to make highly precise cuts.

How do you hook up a plasma cutter?

Are you ready to start that thing?

First, connect the compressed air to the air filter that can be found at the rear of the plasma cutting machine. Keep in mind that the compressed air could be bottled, a small air compressor, or a built-in air compressor. Either way, your plasma cutter unit probably has an in-house regulator that can regulate the system’s airflow. 

Next, set the amperage of your plasma cutter to the recommended levels. Set the amperage too high and the workpiece will become too hot and will start to gather waste materials. Set it too low and your cutting is bound to get sloppy. You don’t want to do either, so turn up the amperage and make some practice cuts to get a feel of things. Then turn it down slowly and stop once you’re comfortable with the travel speed.

The end goal here is for the plasma to have the right amount of heat and to travel at the correct speed. This way, you can make precise cuts with less dross, which can result in a more refined finish.

What kind of gas do you use with a plasma cutter?

There are several recommended gas for plasma cutting. Let’s go over them one by one. We’re also enumerating their pros and cons to help you decide which one is ideal for your welding project.

Compressed air

Compressed air is the most widely used gas for plasma cutting, especially for lower currents. This gas is ideal for metals that are around 1-inch thick. Many also choose compressed air for plasma cutting because it’s more than enough to create a strong electrical spark that produces a plasma jet.

Pros

  • Efficient at cutting stainless steel and aluminum
  • Minimal chipping during the cutting process.
  • Effective at cutting thin metal sheets with smooth surfaces
  • Cost-efficient

Cons

  • Difficult to make incisions deeper than ½”

Oxygen

If you want high-quality cuts on carbon steel that is at least ¼- inch thick, you can’t go wrong with using oxygen. Oxygen also delivers when it comes to precision cutting, not to mention that it has properties that make dross easy to remove. You can still use oxygen on aluminum, though you might end up with a rougher cut face if you aren’t skilled enough to pull it off.

Pros

  • Requires minimal effort
  • Can be used with other fuels
  • Can generate extremely hot flames
  • Can cut fast

Cons

  • The intense heat makes cutting soft metals tricky

Oxygen-Air

Oxygen, combined with pure air as a secondary fuel, can create an extremely stable plasma, making it reliable for thick mild steel cuts. Moreover, it cuts metal with stunning precision and leaves little to no debris. 

Pros

  • Oxygen and air are not expensive
  • Effective when cutting thick sheets of metal
  • Makes highly precise cuts

Cons

  • Poor results when cutting shiny metals like aluminum

Nitrogen

Planning to cut a lot of aluminum and stainless steel? Nitrogen is where it’s at. It’s especially great when cutting metallic pieces that are up to 3-inches thick, especially when you want to create a polished product with a smooth, shiny surface.

Another great thing about hydrogen is that it produces high-precision cuts despite its economical use of plasma. It’s also equally effective when used as secondary gas during the cutting process.

Pros

  • It’s cheap (nitrogen is abundant in the atmosphere)
  • It can be used as a secondary gas.
  • Effective when cutting thick sheets of metal
  • Can make high-precision cuts

CONS

  • Cuts slower than most gases

Hydrogen

Hydrogen is a great conductor of heat, making it ideal for creating extremely hot plasma flames. Despite this, hydrogen has dissociative elements that speed up the cooling process on smoother metals. This gas is also effective in cutting non-heavy metals like aluminum and stainless steel. 

Pros

  • High thermal conductivity
  • Cheap utility and storage
  • Can be used with a variety of secondary gases such as carbon dioxide, water, and pure air
  • Fast cooling

Cons

  • Can’t be added to other plasma gases during the plasma cutting process
  • Low kinetic energy 

Argon

Argon is an inert gas, which explains why there are no chemical reactions when metal makes contact with it. This is why cutting metal using argon as the main compound allows for polished, smoother cuts.

Pros

  • Kinetic energy is high, resulting in high precision cuts
  • Low-ionized plasma beam speeds up the cutting process
  • Can be paired with a variety of secondary gases, including water, carbon dioxide, and pure air
  • Works well with thin metal sheets with shiny and smooth surfaces

Cons

  • Has poor conductivity

Argon hydrogen

Argon hydrogen is the recommended gas for cutting stainless steel and aluminum pieces that are up to 1/2 -inches thick. The right mixture for argon hydrogen is 35% hydrogen and 65% argon. Thanks to argon hydrogen’s hot plasma gas, this compound helps speed up the cutting process by a great deal. So much so that it can easily cut through 6” of stainless steel plate. This gas compound is also the best choice for plasma gouging on any material.

Pros

  • Produces a nice big flame
  • Generate intense heat that can cut thick sheets of metal efficiently
  • Can create clean, refined cuts especially when nitrogen is used as a secondary gas
  • Results in shiny surfaces

Cons

  • Argon can be expensive (it’s a rare gas)
  • Causes occasional chipping and cracking
  • Effective only in controlled settings

What air pressure is required for plasma cutting?

Getting the air pressure right is an important aspect of plasma cutting. If the air pressure is too high, the plasma is likely to blow up. If it’s too low, then your plasma won’t be strong enough to do any cutting.

There are no hard rules as to how much air pressure is required for plasma cutting given the different requirements between plasma cutting devices. For example, for most Everlast products, the recommended amount is anywhere between 55 to 70 psi.  Most manuals, however, recommend anywhere between 70 to 150 psi. For low amperage cuts, the required amount is 45 psi and below. Some plasma cutters have internal regulators, and the recommended amount of air pressure for them is between 60 and 80 psi. 

Simply put, if you want to know the recommended amount of air pressure for your plasma cutter, it’s always better to refer to the manual that came with the unit. That doesn’t mean you have to follow it blindly. In the end, it’s up to you to determine how much air it takes to efficiently cut the workpiece. If a certain amount is working for you and you’re getting great results out of it, then why not stick with that?

How to Use a Plasma Cutter

Okay, let’s get to the heart  of the matter. How do you use a plasma cutter? Here are the steps to do just that.

1. Choose a work station

Cutting metal can be a hazardous job if you’re not doing it on a safe surface. You need to pick a sturdy table that can support your materials and equipment and keep them in place. Also, pick a location that gives you a lot of wiggle room to move. Make sure the work area is clean. After all, dust and debris may be sucked by the plasma cutter’s cooling fan and may damage the unit as a result.

2. Plug the plasma cutter to a power supply 

Make sure that the plasma cutter unit is turned off before plugging it in.

3. Connect the plasma cutter to the air compressor

If your unit doesn’t have a built-in compressor, connect the external air compressor instead.

4. Turn on the air compressor 

Most compressors have the power switch at the rear. Turn it on and wait for the tank to fill.

5. Attach the ground clamp

Securing the ground clamp will keep you safe while using a plasma cutter. Plasma cutting, after all, emits potentially harmful electrical charges. Make sure that the ground clamp is attached to the area close to where you’re going to make cuts.

6. Turn the unit on

The switch might be found at the rear of the unit. Turn it on and wait for the interface to light up. You’ll notice the air compressor start to engage by then.

7. Set the amperage

The thicker the material, the higher the amperage should be. 

8.  Start cutting the workpiece

As you cut through the metal, make sure that the nozzle is on top of the metal’s edge. Turn the trigger on to create an arc and then slowly move the torch back and forth over the metal.

9. Turn off the plasma cutter unit

Once you’re done, turn off the unit.

10. Unplug the ground clamp from the metal

11. Turn off the air compressor

 In most plasma cutters, you simply need to rotate the lever 90 degrees to turn it off.

12. Leave the torch to cool

Done with the cutting? Great job. Now it’s time to let the torch cool off. Once the trigger is released, arrange the hoses and make sure the torch, ground line, and airline are all wrapped up.

Aluminum Welding: Can it be Welded, How To, TIG, MIG

Aluminum is a fine piece of metal with countless benefits and uses. 

But can aluminum be welded?

Why, yes you can! However, you can’t weld aluminum in the same way you weld steel alloys. 

For one thing, aluminum’s melting point is much lower than other metals, not to mention that it has higher conductivity. Aluminum’s unique properties make it prone to burn-throughs, especially when you’re working with thinner aluminum sheets. Because the feeder wire for aluminum is softer than steel wire, there’s a higher chance of the metal getting tangled up with the feeder. 

Simply put, if you want to weld aluminum, you must use sophisticated methods and specialized equipment, not to mention a specific skill-set, to pull it off. 

How To Weld Aluminum?

We all know what welding does: to melt two metal pieces and join them. You can carry out this process by using a welding machine. Welding aluminum, however, requires more precision and a stronger bond to be done successfully.

What do I need to weld aluminum?

So, what do you need to weld aluminum successfully? That depends on the arc welding method you’re using. Let’s go over how to weld aluminum for each welding method.

Tungsten Inert Gas (TIG) Welder

A TIG welder uses a tungsten electrode along with an inert gas to provide shielding to the area being welded. TIG welding is the most recommended method for welding aluminum. Why? Because it’s the welding method that not only produces extreme heat but is also able to maintain it for long stretches—something that you need to weld a metal like aluminum. Whether you’re working with thin aluminum sheets or thick ones, TIG welding machines can achieve the precision needed to mold aluminum the right way. 

With TIG welding, you need to obtain a filler rod to bond two metal pieces together. That filler rod also needs to use an alloy that’s similar to that of the metal piece you’re welding. As such, you need to use an aluminum filler rod to fuse 2 aluminum pieces. Before you start welding, make sure that the filler rod you’re using is similar in size to that of the tungsten electrode.

Metal Inert Gas (MIG) Welder

Another piece of equipment you can use to weld aluminum is a Metal Inert Gas (MIG) welder, otherwise known as Gas Metal Arc Welder (GMAW). Because MIG welders have high deposition rates, you get faster welding speeds. MIG welders might also require a spool gun to ensure that they’re mechanical wire feeding system is running smoothly. You need to generate more heat when welding aluminum with a MIG welder, which is why it’s always best to use them on thinner aluminum  

Just like with TIG welders, MIG welders need a rod that uses an alloy similar to that of the metal piece being welded. When welding aluminum with a MIG welder, you need to use pure argon shielding gas to facilitate the spray transfer process.

Oxy-Acetylene Torch

Oxy-Acetylene torches use acetylene and oxygen to generate heat. While cheaper than MIG and TIG welders, Oxy-Acetylene Torches are more difficult to control even for experienced welders. Adjusting the heat is also equally difficult, making burn-throughs more common.

Ground Clamp

The ground clamp is what connects the ground cable to the workpiece. As part of the welding circuitry, the ground clamp ensures that the current can be carried over without overheating.

How to Weld Aluminum

Already have what you need to weld aluminum? Great! Now let’s get to the good stuff. There are many ways to weld aluminum, but only two we would recommend. Those are TIG welding and MIG welding. 

Let’s go over the steps for each method one by one.

How to TIG Weld Aluminum

1. Gather your materials

The materials for welding aluminum include:

  • TIG (tungsten inert gas) welder. As already mentioned earlier, TIG welder is the ideal choice if you want to achieve precision while welding aluminum. You can buy a TIG welder  from a local welding store in your area or your nearest home improvement outlet.
  • Aluminum filler rod. You need this tool to fuse two metal pieces. Remember to choose a rod that’s similar in size to your tungsten electrode.
  • Can of argon gas. This serves as a shield that will stabilize welder’s arc.
  • Protective gear. Choose one that has high resistance to ultraviolet radiation. Long-sleeves are better, obviously. If possible, use one that is made of 100% cotton. 
  • Safety accessories such as a thick pair of gloves, respirator, heavy welding helmet, and a pair of work boots.

2. Prepare your work area

Aluminum accumulates a thin coating of aluminum oxide over time. As such, you need to clear the aluminum oxide by grinding away at the material with a wire brush or a rough file. Why the need to do this? For starters, melting oxide takes twice the melting temperature as that of aluminum. In other words, you’ll have a hard time melding the joints together if you don’t remove it. You also have to clean the wire brush or rough file beforehand to ensure that it won’t leave metal traces behind. 

Next, you need to clean the filler rod with an acetone solution or a scotch bright pad to ensure that it won’t contaminate the aluminum upon use.

Your next step is to make sure that your workpieces are tightened up. You’re bound to struggle with joint gaps if you don’t. To ensure that the workpieces will hold, file them first before clamping them together.

You need to preheat your workpiece to ensure that the welding process becomes smoother. You can put the workpiece in an oven or apply heat on it using a propane torch. The recommended temperature is between 300° Fahrenheit and 400° Fahrenheit. You might also want to put tack welds at both ends of the welding area to better facilitate the preheating process. You can also preheat a thick aluminum sheet when fusing it to a thin one. That way, the welding process can run smoothly and no cold lapping will occur.

3. Practice the welding motion

You need to make sure that you do this correctly, so practice the welding motion before you work on the aluminum. Don’t light up the torch for now. Hold your welder at a 10-degree angle and keep a regular distance (6.4 mm) between the tungsten and the aluminum. Also, make sure the filler is at a 10-degree angle from the tip of the torch. Take care that the torch’s tip and the filler rod don’t make contact or contamination will occur when you start welding.

Now that the welder is in the right position, move it back and forth along the workpiece. To ensure proper motion, move the entire hand instead of your fingers alone.

4. Weld your aluminum

Now before you get to the exciting part, set the amperage of your welder first. For every 0.001-inch of thickness, there should be an equivalent of 1 amp. To be on the safe side, add a few amps to the welder’s amperage settings to serve as a buffer for the preamp output.

Now tap the electrode against the workpiece and draw it back about ⅛ of an inch. 

Good so far? Now it’s time to create an electric arc. Do this by pushing the button on your welder. If your torch doesn’t have a button, it should have a foot pedal you can step on instead. If no arc is created, you might need to turn up your amperage. Keep turning it up you see that beautiful arc.

Keep welding until the workpiece creates a puddle that’s almost as wide as your filler’s diameter. When welding aluminum with a MIG, it’s always better to push with your forehand. This is so that the entirety of the weld puddle is covered by the shielding gas. By pushing the weld puddle this way, you can ensure that you’re getting enough shielding gas coverage, reduced contamination, and smooth cleaning action.

Move along the length of the workpiece until all joints are filled up. Next, give your weld several seconds to cool before restarting the weld. Adding some extra filler rod at the beginning of the weld will also help you create a stronger weld. You can then add more filler as you gently push the puddle along the joints.

Are you done welding? Time to stop the arc. Do this by removing your foot off the pedal  and then pulling your finger away from the button on the torch. 

Next, give the aluminum piece some time to cool off before you test out the finished product.

How to MIG weld aluminum

As already mentioned, using a MIG welder to weld aluminum provides higher deposition rates, which in turn, helps with productivity. But you need sufficient skills, specifically with wire feeding, to pull it off. If you’re feeling worried about getting it right, following the steps below should come a long way in helping you MIG weld your aluminum the right way.

1. Select your welding equipment and tools

When  picking a MIG welding equipment, you need to consider the thickness of the aluminum material. For example, a 230-volt welder is enough to weld aluminum with a thickness of 6 mm, or a 115-volt welder to weld aluminum with a thickness of 3 mm. 

Next, prepare a shielding gas (preferably pure argon) and your aluminum electrodes. Ideally, the wire should be less than 1 mm in diameter. Check if your regulators are built for CO2. If they are, replace them with ones designed for argon.

2. Use aluminum electrodes

Your electrodes need to have the right thickness for each specific metal. For aluminum, prepare electrodes that have a diameter of 0.035 of an inch. Now the most popular ones are the 4043 and 5356 filler alloys. 4043 is a softer alloy. If you’re concerned about feedability, using the 5356 filler alloy will make the process much smoother for you, though you might need to turn up the current while you’re at it

3. Feed your electrodes with aluminum wire

You can feed your electrodes by using an aluminum feeding kit. Make sure that the contact tips are large enough for the aluminum wires. You may use non-metallic liners to reduce resistance on the wire when it passes through the feeder. Feel free to use U-shaped drive rolls to ensure that the aluminum wire won’t be shaved off. It’s not recommended to use steel feeders or their V-shaped drive rolls for that same reason.

As much as possible, you’d want to avoid “birdnesting” or creating tangling problems with the wire between the drive roll and the liner. If you don’t, you’ll have to cut off the wire and reintroduce new wire to the liner. 

4. Keep the MIG welding gun straight

Always keep the gun straight at all times to prevent kinking in the cable while you’re welding. If you don’t, you’ll have a more difficult time feeding the wire. Besides, keeping the gun straight helps in increasing the tension as the wire is being fed into your gloved hand until it’s beyond wire slippage.

4a. Use a spool gun

Since aluminum is more difficult to feed through a liner than steel, using a spool gun might be your best option. Why? Because unlike with typical MIG welders, a spool gun allows you to feed the wire for only a few inches. Sure, the spool gun might be difficult to maneuver, and being able to hold only a pound of a spool of wire electrode is very limiting, but if you can feed aluminum wire without tangling them up every few minutes, then the trade-off is worth it. Better yet, using a spool gun allows you to weld from a power source that is more than 50 feet away.

Final Word

Welding aluminum can be a challenge at first, but the more you do it, the better your results will be. Aluminum is a great metal, and there are so many beautiful things you can create out of it. Give it the patience and diligence it deserves and you’ll create metalwork that is truly rewarding.

Arc Welding: What It Is And How To Do It

Welding has been around since time out of mind, and it has come a long way since August De Meritens used arc heat to fuse two metal pieces. Thanks to technological advancements over the last few decades, welding metals has never been more efficient and easy. A big part of that can be attributed to arc welding.

Arc Welding: What is it?

Arc welding is a welding method that uses an electric arc to generate heat. That heat is then used to melt or meld metals. By using a power supply, you can use direct current (DC) or  alternating current (AC) to create an electric arc between a base material and an electrode (consumable or non-consumable). Of course, a power supply has to generate enough heat (around 6500° Fahrenheit). to melt two pieces of metal and fuse them. 

How does arc welding work?

Arc welding aims to fuse metals, and you need a welding machine to do that. As the power supply creates an electric arc that is hot enough to melt metal, you can guide the electrode holder along the gap line while the electrode continues to generate the current that helps produce the filler metal to the said gap.

When metal undergoes extreme temperatures while in contact with oxygen and nitrogen, chemical reactions occur. This is what the arc is for. But the arc does more than that. To facilitate the welding action, the arc provides a protective gas to reduce contact between the molten metal and the air. Once the molten metals have cooled down, you get a metallurgical bond that fuses the metals.

Different types of Arc Welding

There are many different arc welding methods, and the right one for you depends on your objectives and the materials you’re working with.

Let’s go over them one by one.

MIG Welding

Metal inert gas welding (MIG) is a fusion welding method that feeds a consumable electrode to a metal piece. MIG welding can either be a metal inert gas or metal active gas. For metal inert gas, you use a chemically inert gas (i.e., helium, argon, etc.) as a shield that helps maintain the arc.

MIG welding is done by using a spooled wire electrode via a spool gun. The gun releases a shielding gas that protects the shielding area from the atmosphere, which prevents the formation of oxides in metals. 

MIG welding has its share of advantages and disadvantages. Let’s break them down to see if MIG welding is the right method for you

Tungsten Inert Gas Welding (TIG)

TIG (Tungsten Inert Gas) welding uses a non-consumable tungsten electrode heated at extreme temperatures to meld parent metals. Once two metals are fused, the tig welder dabs the material onto the weld puddle. 

Flux-cored arc welding (FCAW)

FCAW is a method of arc welding that utilizes flux-filled electrode tubes to create electric arcs. The tubes emit flux shields to create a barrier against the air, helping to maintain the electric arc. This type of arc welding has a high weld-metal deposition rate, making it the ideal method for welding thicker sections of metal (those that are more than an inch thick).

Plasma arc welding (PAW)

This method uses air ion generators to emit hot plasma jets in the direction of the welding area. Jets released via PAW are extremely hot, which creates an ideal environment for welding narrower and deeper welds. PAW is also the recommended method if you want to speed up the welding process.

Shielded metal arc welding (SMAW)

This arc welding technique uses coated electrodes to generate an arc. Once the heat causes the coating and the tip of the electrode to melt, the alloy slowly solidifies, which facilitates the forming of the weld. This method is ideal for construction work.

Submerged arc welding (SAW)

This method uses a granular flux to create a dense layer that covers the molten metal. SAW allows for deeper penetration of heat, not unlike what a thermal insulator does. If you prefer a welding technique that does away with sparks and spatter, SAW is your go-to welding method.

What are the differences between TIG and MIG welding?

The two most popular arc welding methods are TIG and MIG welding. Chances are, you’re stuck trying to decide which method to use. Let’s break down their major differences to help you decide.

One major difference is the method used. As already mentioned earlier, MIG uses a wire electrode to feed the weld while TIG welding uses a filler material. If you want to do it fast, MIG is the way to go. But if you want a refined finish, you’re better off using TIG. 

The best method also depends on the thickness of the metal. MIG is the better choice if you’re working with thicker metals while TIG is preferred for thinner metals.

You’d do well to use MIG if you’re not experienced at welding. If your skill is at the professional level, then you can leverage that skill by using TIG. TIG is also much more expensive than MIG. 

To help you make an informed decision, let’s break down the pros and cons of each method.

TIG Welding PROS

  • Welding work is more precise
  • Provides high-quality finishes
  • Allows you to weld a wide range of materials
  • Requires small amounts of flames
  • Works well with thin metals
  • Resistant to corrosion
  • Weld beads are visually pleasing

TIG Welding CONS

  • Takes longer to do than using a MIG welder
  • Complicated for most beginners to learn
  • Welding surface needs to be kept clean

MIG Welding PROS

  • Welding is done faster.
  • It can be used on a wide variety of metals and alloys.
  • Spatter is minimized.
  • Easy to learn
  • Not a lot of spatter

MIG Welding CONS

  • A little expensive
  • Not fit for outdoor welding
  • Cools fast
  • Positioning is limited
  • Doesn’t work well with thicker metals

What are the advantages of arc welding?

Now that you know how arc welding works, you might already have an idea or two about its advantages. However, your mind is probably not made up yet on whether this method is for you. Will it be worth it? Here are the advantages of arc welding you should look forward to:

  • Portability. Welding materials and equipment are lightweight and easy to move around.
  • Affordability. There’s no need to use expensive machinery. You can carry out the process even on a shoestring budget.
  • Refined finish. You get a neat and refined result due to the mechanized nature of the welding process.
  • Less spark and spatter. When we think of welding, we see a person, his face covered with a thick welding mask, sparks flying in front of him. That’s not the case with arc welding, where a lot less spark, spatter, and smoke is produced. 
  • Faster welding process. Because of the concentrated heat it produces, arc welding is much faster. 
  • Distortion is reduced. Most beginner welders struggle with distortion, which is caused by a disfigured base plate following extreme heat. Weld distortion is troublesome because it can compromise the structural integrity of a weld. The arc welding process, however, reduces much of the distortion because of the faster process and the higher concentration of heat.
  • Resistance to corrosion. Arc welding produces a welding joint whose properties are non-corrosive. As a result, you don’t need to employ anti-corrosion methods when doing arc welding. 
  • Welding joint doesn’t break easily. The welding joint has high tensile strength than normal welding and therefore doesn’t break easily.

How to Arc Weld

Now that you have a basic idea of how the arc welding process works, let’s dive into the procedures on how to do it. 

Word of caution: When properly installed, using an arc welder is relatively safe. However, it always pays to be safe. The improper use of an arc welder can expose you to potential hazards such as electric shock, heat stress, noise, noxious fumes, fires, burns, etc. Make sure to wear proper safety gear before you proceed. 

Equipment for Arc Welding

  • Welding Machine (welding equipment can either be A.C. or D.C.)
  • Cables or Leads
  • Electrode Holders
  • Cable Connectors
  • Chipping Hammer
  • Wire Brush
  • Protective Gear (welding gloves, work boots, welding shield, welding apron)

1. Create a weld

You need to create a serviceable weld  to ensure a smooth welding process. First, you need to strike a successful arc between the workpiece and the electrode. Once that’s done, create a bead by guiding the electric arc between the pieces. Then move the arc back and forth along the path of the weld until the metal achieves your desired width for the bead. Next, remove the melted slag from the bead until the molten metal looks refined enough.

2. Make the preparations

Next, you need to gather round all the tools, materials, and equipment you need to perform arc welding. These include your arc welding machine, cables, clamps, electrodes, and metal pieces. Make sure that your work area is secure and safe. The table should be made of non-flammable material or steel.

3. Prep your weld

Grind a sharpened edge to the sides of the metals that are to be joined to give the weld arc more room for melting the sides of the metal pieces. Remove any dust, dirt, grease until you have a clean slab of molten metal.

4. Clamp the metal pieces together

Any clamp (i.e., spring-loaded clamps, lock pliers, or a vice) will do as long as it can hold the metal pieces together firmly.

5. Secure the clamp to the large stock being welded

Ensure that the work piece’s grounding is clean to complete the electrical circuit with the least resistance possible. This allows you to create an electrical arc with minimal effort.

6. Pick the right rod and set the amperage range

Put the electrode in the stinger and see to it that the electrode holder is set firmly at the end of the electrode.

7. Turn on the welding machine

You’ll hear a humming noise from the power supply as soon as you turn your welding machine on. Take the time to examine if the cooling fan is running.

8. Hold the electrode holder and aim the tip of the rod towards the metal plate

Make sure the tip of the rod is within a few inches of the metal workpiece. Give it a few practice taps to ensure that you got the positioning right. Caution: You’d want to protect your eyes when striking an electric arc so make sure that you have your welding mask on.

9. Tap the electrode against the metal piece’s surface

This can get tricky since the recommended distance between the electrode’s piece and the metal piece depends on the diameter of the electrode and the machine’s amperage settings. But you’ll know you got it right once the machine is able to generate a continuous arc. See to it that the arc’s gap does not exceed the electrode’s diameter. Once you’re able to keep the arc steady, gently guide the rod along the area you want to weld. You’ll start to notice the metal melting away. You can begin creating your weld once the pool is filled up.

10. Maintain the electric arc

You need to establish the arc as you move through the weld you’re building. Don’t move the electrode away from the metal piece’s surface or you’ll lose your arc. If you do, stop what you’re doing and remove the slag from the metal piece. You need to do this to protect the weld from contamination.

11. Set your welding machine’s amperage

How many amps do you need? That depends on the type of material you’re welding. Make sure that you reduce the amperage if you see craters starting to form at the edges of the bead. Turn up the amperage if you’re having difficulties maintaining an electric arc.

12. Clean it up

Clear away any slag or dirt once you’re done. Do this not only because it makes the finished product look better, but also because it’s good preparation for paintwork. You can remove any remaining slag or dirt by rubbing at it with a wire brush or a rough file. You can also use an angle grinder if you want to remove a piece of the weld. 

13. Put a primer on it

A fresh weld can get corroded if exposed to the elements. To keep the rust away, apply an anti-rust primer along its surface (preferably one in a spray can).

TIG Welding: What Is It, Aluminum, Stainless Steel, Tips

Think again if you believe that welding involves only one method.

Or that the variations you see are just special techniques that the welder thought of doing to make the job easier.

It may not be that obvious to an untrained eye, but there are different types of welding that professionals make use of depending on the material they are using and the kind of project they are doing. These different types will also have different results, although they all achieve the basic goal of welding, which is to join pieces of metal together.

If you can’t differentiate one welding method from the other just yet, don’t worry because it is a common dilemma and we are here to help you out.

For starters, we will talk about TIG welding, which remains one of the most widely used methods around. We will tell you what it is, some valuable tips if you want to try it out, and how it should be used when welding materials such as aluminum and stainless steel.

So, let’s get to it!

What is TIG Welding?

By now, you may be wondering what TIG welding is, especially if it is your first time to hear about it. TIG stands for tungsten inert gas, which is its main component. It is also known as gas tungsten arc welding, or GTAW, and is one of the arc welding types. Tungsten is used because of its high melting point, which is ideal for welding.

In TIG welding, an arc is made between the tungsten electrode, which is non-consumable and is attached to the torch, and the material. This arc is surrounded by an inert gas, typically helium or argon, that functions as a shielding gas to prevent oxidation and contamination of the metals while welding.

The arc produces enough heat to create a molten weld pool. As this molten pool forms, a filler material is typically added to it that melts and mixes with the weld pool. This filler material comes in the form of a rod and is separately held, which means you hold the torch in one hand and the filler rod in the other hand. The weld seam is formed when the molten weld pool mixed with filler material cools down.

Filler materials that can be used for TIG welding vary, and among these are stainless steel, aluminum, nickel, and mild steel. TIG welding without using filler material is also possible, but it can affect the quality of the weld.

TIG Welding Advantages and Disadvantages

With the different welding types available, you might ask yourself why you should choose TIG welding over others in projects where other types can also be used. To answer that, you need to discover its advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages

  • Produces a high-quality weld and superior weld bead that does not sacrifice the strength of the joint and is corrosion-resistant
  • A high-purity weld is created because TIG welding requires working in a completely clean environment and with clean materials
  • Generally affordable
  • While it is typically done manually, automation is possible for orbital TIG welding
  • No flux, which means any hassles or issues involving slag is avoided
  • Little to no touchups or finishing process needed after welding because of the quality of weld made
  • Offers versatility because it can be used to weld various materials
  • Its small heat zone lessens any possible distortions and allows the welder to work with thinner materials
  • No fumes, sparks, spatter, and flames produced in most cases
  • Allows you to work on even small joints, as well as hard to reach sections that other welding types are not capable of
  • Offers more control to the welder
  • Torch with a pen-like design and size allows the welder to create intricate designs, that is why it is also used in creating art
  • Welding is possible in all positions
  • Ideal if you need gas-tight joints
  • Two-handed operation offers convenience if you need to switch filler rods
  • Autogenous or filler-free welds are possible
  • Defective welds are rare
  • Continuous work is possible because of the non-consumable tungsten electrode used

Disadvantages

  • Working with dirty materials and environment will weaken the joint formed
  • Its deposition rate is low, which means you need to work slowly to get the kind of weld you need; a slow pace is needed for a successful weld
  • Cannot be used to weld thick materials
  • Using this method requires training; it cannot be done by anyone without proper knowledge of the process
  • It is harder to separate two metals welded together, such as when recycling metals, and doing so will likely damage both base materials
  • Requires the use of both hands and one foot for the pedal at the same time when working
  • Can be more expensive than other welding types, particularly because of the shielding gas and equipment used
  • Produces high levels of UV rays, requiring a welder to use the right eyewear at all times when welding

It is important to know all these advantages and disadvantages before deciding whether TIG welding is suitable for your project or you should consider other types.

MIG vs TIG Welding

MIG vs TIG welding – two different welding types that are often used interchangeably, and it is easy to see why.

For starters, even their names are already quite similar. Their basic function is also the same, which is to fuse two metals together, and they both require a shielding gas when welding. But this is basically where their similarities end. By now, you are already quite familiar with TIG welding so it will be a lot easier to understand their differences.

Unlike TIG welding, MIG welders only require one-handed operation and MIG welding is therefore considered a point-and-shoot process – you only have to point the gun at the location you want to weld and press the trigger to start welding. This makes it a method that is fairly easy to do even for beginners.

TIG welding requires a filler rod held separately, while the filler material in the form of a wire is directly fed to the gun in MIG welding, so it is automatically added as you weld. This means the process is simplified and offers faster welding, allowing you to weld at a faster pace and increase productivity. Unfortunately, this also means that the joint created is not as strong as the one created via TIG welding.

MIG welding is much more suitable for thicker materials, whereas TIG welding is best for thinner ones. And while TIG welding offers a high-quality finish, the same cannot be said for MIG welding because small holes are often formed at the joints. And because MIG welding costs less overall, this makes it suitable for most applications, while the more expensive TIG welding is ideal for specialized ones.

There are also other minor differences between MIG and TIG welding, but these are the major ones that you should be aware of.

Basic TIG Welding Tips for Beginners

If you consider yourself a beginner to TIG welding, these basic tips will be of great help to you once you learn the ropes through training, and they can also help if you’re currently in the process of finding that right TIG welder to get you started:

  • Keep it clean. If you want the best quality weld possible, you must ensure that both your working environment and the materials you wild be welding are completely free of impurities, such as dust and rust.
  • Safety first. Never forget to wear your safety gear when working.
  • Choose the right tungsten. TIG welding involves the use of tungsten, and there are different types available. Always match the material to the right type of tungsten.
  • Also, consider the thickness of the tungsten. If it is too thin, it can overheat quickly. But if it is too thick, it will need more heat once you start using your torch.
  • Less power is more. Choose the lowest power setting that you can handle or sustain because too much power will likely cause it to burn through the material.
  • The angle is key. While you can weld in all positions, make sure that there is a 15 to 20-degree angle between your torch and the metal and away from the travel direction. This allows you to easily work with the filler material and offers better visibility as you weld.
  • Avoid the common rookie mistaking involving the filler. You should always allow the filler rod to be melted by the molten pool created by the torch because using the torch to melt the filler material will only result in a weak weld.
  • Never allow the tungsten tip to touch the molten pool. This will cause the tip to become contaminated. When this happens, you must regrind it first using a diamond grinding wheel before restarting if you want a high-quality weld. And when grinding, do it as even as you possibly can and in a lengthwise direction.
  • Keep it slow, steady, and consistent. You need to work carefully and at a controlled and steady pace to produce a uniform weld. Also, there should be a small gap, ideally only 1/8 to 3/16 inch, between the base material and the electrode when welding.

These are just some of the many tips that you need to take note of when you are still mastering this type of welding. TIG welding is a more specialized type, but it does not mean beginner welders like you should not attempt it.

TIG Welding Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is a challenging material to weld because of its excellent heat retention, which can cause it to warp, rust, and become brittle when being welded. Because of these characteristics, only a few of the available welding types can be used for it, and one of these is the TIG welding method.

While TIG welding can be used for stainless steel following the usual process, extra care is needed when doing so. Aside from choosing the correct type of tungsten, gas, and filler material, ensuring that your workplace is clean, and that the tungsten tip is properly sharpened, you must also focus on the heat being applied to the metal.

Using too much heat increases the risk of warping, that is why it is important that just the right amount of heat is applied to stainless steel and this can be determined by the color of the weld. If you are using the right amount of heat, the color should range from a flaxen or light-yellowish to a salmon color. But if you see that the weld is grayish or dark in color, it means that too much heat is being applied.

To prevent this, increase the speed of travel of the torch and reduce amperage at the same time. You can also opt for a thinner filler rod so that it can melt much faster at moderate heat. And to prevent the coloring common to welding stainless steel, it is a good idea to stop every now and then as you weld and allow the material to cool, especially once you start noticing discolorations while welding.

TIG Welding Aluminum

TIG welding is often associated with aluminum because the majority of projects done through this method involves aluminum. But just like stainless steel, aluminum has properties that also make it complicated to weld with. Additionally, there are no color changes as you weld, making it hard to determine if you are doing it right.

Not only is it an excellent conductor of heat, but the oxide layer present on the surface of aluminum has a higher melting point than the base material itself. This means you need precision in terms of the heat to surpass the oxide layer while at the same time prevent the base material from overheating. That is why when working with aluminum, remember the following:

  • Use a stainless steel brush to clean and remove the oxide layer before welding aluminum. Do so in one direction only and use the same brush for aluminum only.
  • Weld aluminum using an AC or alternating current polarity, as this will remove the oxide layer that quickly reforms after cleaning with the stainless steel brush.
  • To prevent burning through the base material and creating distortions on your weld, increase the speed of travel as you weld but make sure that the welding current is set high enough. If done too slow, it will burn through the base material.
  • The arc should not be high enough nor too close. Make sure that it is just close enough so that the heat is concentrated on a small area only.

TIG welding offers you more control as you weld, which is needed in aluminum. This is why even if MIG welding can also be used on aluminum, TIG welding is the method of choice for many welders working with this material.

TIG Welding Copper

Another metal that can be quite a challenge to weld but is doable using TIG welding is copper. This metal is known for its high conductivity, which means it will quickly heat up once you start welding. But at the same time, this property means that the weld pool created quickly dissipates because copper cools it down quickly.

That is why when working with copper, you also need to weld fast and hot. Not only that but pre-heating the entire material using a propane torch will aid in preventing the molten pool from immediately solidifying. Copper is also prone to warping so if you are working on thin sheets of copper and require it to retain its shape, this method may not work for you.

Proper cleaning and ventilation in your workplace are also important. Copper is known to oxidize and form a patina, which must be removed using a stainless-steel brush with fine bristles. While TIG welding is generally fumeless, any fumes generated when welding copper is hazardous that is why proper ventilation is important. Also, the high heat required to work can be potentially dangerous if flammable items are in close proximity; it can get hot enough to ignite them.

Because of the versatility when it comes to TIG welding, always make sure that you are using the right materials for your project, especially in terms of the tungsten electrode, filler rod, and shielding gas; they need to be appropriate for your base material if you want to produce a high-quality weld. Also, make sure to undergo training before attempting this method. TIG welding requires specialization, but it can still be done by a beginner trained to do so.

What Size of Gauge Wire Should You Use for a 30 Amp Breaker?

A burned wire when you inspect your circuit breaker is a surprise that you do not want to get. Fortunately, this is an avoidable scenario if you know that having the right size of the gauge wire for a circuit breaker is important. The bad news is, this is something that a lot of people; they mistakenly believe that one wire is as good as any other so they attempt to make the connections themselves instead of calling for an electrician.

Anything involving breakers, such as its connections, should be taken seriously because it has to do with electricity. If you have the right components installed, you will avoid any known electric hazards and issues common to circuit breakers and faulty connections. In fact, many of these issues occur because of the wrong sized wire gauges used for the breakers. This is why it is important to know the right combination of the breaker and its compatible wire gauge sizes.

If you have a 30 amp breaker right for your air conditioner, water heater, or clothes dryer that needs to be wired but you are clueless about what size of the wire gauge is needed, allow us to help you out with not just that but also in understanding the basics involving wire gauges.

What Happens if You Use Too Small Gauge Wire?

People believe that as long as both ends of a certain wire will fit a connector, they can use it for their connections with no issue. Unfortunately, this is not the case for breakers. Those who are unaware of its importance often use too small gauge wires to connect their breakers, often because they want to save money since smaller wire gauges are cheaper.

Sadly, this only leads to costly mistakes for them.

If you use larger wires on your breaker, the only effect it will have is on your budget. This is because you ended up spending more than what you need to since larger wires cause more. It does not have an effect on your breaker nor will it cause damage to it, as it can handle the current that flows through it.

But if you use a wire gauge that is too small for your breaker, the following can happen:

  • Melted Wires – the smaller the wire, the less amount of current it can handle and the higher its resistance to the flow of energy. But if the wire gauge is too small for your breaker, the current that flows through the wire is more than what it is designed to handle. Since the wire has a high resistance, heat is generated and this will eventually be enough to melt the wires.
  • Performance Drops – any appliance or equipment that is connected to the circuit with the too-small gauge wire will not operate at peak efficiency. This is because it receives only a fraction of the energy it requires to run at full performance.
  • May Damage Equipment – aside from affecting its performance, using a smaller wire gauge can eventually damage your equipment. Power being supplied improperly can cause them to go bust
  • Can Start Fires – this is the worst that can happen when a wire gauge is too small to handle the current it receives. While circuit breakers have their own safety measures, such as tripping when it experiences an overload, this may not be enough to prevent a fire because of the wrong wire gauge used

These scenarios are totally avoidable, as long as you use the right wire gauge for a circuit breaker.

Wire Gauge Size Chart

While electrical work should ideally be handled by licensed electricians, it also helps to be personally aware of important aspects of your circuit breaker, such as the suitable wire gauge. To select the right wire gauge, professionals use different wire gauge size charts as their reference.

In the USA, the wire gauge size chart that is considered standard is the American Wire Gauge, commonly referred to as AWG. Also known as the Brown & Sharpe wire gauge, the AWG is a system that prescribes specific sizes or diameters of solid round wires, referred to as the wire gauge, to be used as electric conductors. The ampacity, or amperage capacity, is the maximum current that the wire gauges can handle.

What you should note is that the AWG numbering system does not directly represent the actual size of the wire. This means the higher the AWG number, the thinner or smaller the size of the wire and the smaller its ampacity. This is why a 2-gauge wire can carry a higher ampacity than a 14-gauge wire.

To better understand it, you can use the following chart to determine the diameter of a wire in inches and millimeters in terms of the AWG number:

AWG Diameter (inches) Diameter (millimeters)
0000 0.46 11.68
000 0.4096 10.4
00 0.3648 9.266
0 0.3249 8.251
1 0.2893 7.348
2 0.2576 6.544
3 0.2294 5.827
4 0.2043 5.189
5 0.1819 4.621
6 0.162 4.115
7 0.1443 3.665
8 0.1285 3.264
9 0.1144 2.906
10 0.1019 2.588
11 0.09074 2.305
12 0.08081 2.053
13 0.07196 1.828
14 0.06408 1.628
15 0.05707 1.45
16 0.05082 1.291
17 0.04526 1.149
18 0.0403 1.024
19 0.03589 0.9116
20 0.03196 0.8118
21 0.02846 0.7229
22 0.02535 0.6438
23 0.02257 0.5733
24 0.0201 0.5106
25 0.0179 0.4547
26 0.01594 0.4049
27 0.0142 0.3606
28 0.01264 0.3211
29 0.01126 0.2859
30 0.01002 0.2546
31 0.00893 0.2268
32 0.00795 0.2019
33 0.00708 0.1798
34 0.00631 0.1601
35 0.00562 0.1426
36 0.005 0.127
37 0.00445 0.1131
38 0.00397 0.1007
39 0.00353 0.08969
40 0.00314 0.07986

As you can see, the largest wire gauge in terms of diameter is 0000-gauge, while the smallest is 40-gauge. This means the 0000-wire gauge has a bigger ampacity than a 40-gauge wire, and this also means that the 0000-wire gauge allows more energy to flow through it.

Wire Gauge and Circuit Breaker

Now that you have a better understanding of the relationship between ampacity and the wire gauge, it is time to determine what wire gauge is suitable for specific circuit breakers.

If you have no idea where to find the amperage of your circuit breaker, look for the number on the handle of the breaker itself; this number is the maximum amperage of that breaker.

Once you find the amperage of your breaker, you can now determine what wire gauge to use. The most common wire gauge and their corresponding ampacity are:

Wire Gauge (AWG Number) Ampacity
14 15
12 20
10 30
8 40
6 55
4 70
3 85
2 95

The chart above is for copper wires with an ambient temperature rating of 60 ℃ or 140 ℉, which is considered as the standard. But in some cases, the suitable wire gauge for a specific ampacity will change depending on the wire used and the ambient temperature rating.

Copper is known to carry more ampacity than aluminum, that is why at the same wire gauge, it can handle more compared to its aluminum counterpart. This means if you have a 6-gauge copper wire and a 6-gauge aluminum wire, the copper wire will allow more current to flow through it.

Not only that, but wire gauges with a higher ambient temperature rating can be used at higher ampacity. This is why a 14-gauge copper wire with a 60 ℃ or 140 ℉ ambient temperature rating is suitable for a 15 amp breaker, while the same wire gauge but with an ambient temperature rating of 90 ℃ or 194 ℉ can be safely used with a 25 amp breaker.

These factors are what makes choosing the size of gauge wire to use for a 30 amp breaker not as straightforward as it seems. From the chart above, a 10-gauge copper wire with an ambient temperature rating of 60 ℃ or 140 ℉ is seen as standard in most conditions. However, you can also use a 10-gauge aluminum wire with a 90 ℃ or 194 ℉ ambient temperature rating, as well as wire gauges larger than these two sizes.

Always remember that it is fine to get a wire gauze bigger than the recommended size for a circuit breaker, but you should never use a gauge wire that is smaller for the available ampacity of the breaker.

How Many Amps Can a 12-Gauge Wire Handle?

The amps that a 12-gauge wire can handle are:

  • 20 for a copper wire with an ambient temperature rating of 60 ℃ or 140 ℉, which is the most common connection
  • 25 for a copper wire with an ambient temperature rating of 75 ℃ or 167 ℉
  • 30 for a copper wire with an ambient temperature rating of 90 ℃ or 194 ℉
  • 20 for an aluminum wire with an ambient temperature rating of 75 ℃ or 167 ℉
  • 30 for an aluminum wire with an ambient temperature rating of 90 ℃ or 194 ℉

Can a 10-Gauge Wire Handle 35 Amps?

Say you have a 35 amps breaker and a 10-gauge wire lying around. You may be wondering if this particular wire can handle that much current. It is possible but it will depend on the type of wire and its ambient rating.

Only a 10-gauge copper wire with either a 75 ℃ or 167 ℉ or 90 ℃ or 194 ℉ ambient temperature rating, as well as a 10-gauge aluminum wire with an ambient temperature rating of 90 ℃ or 194 ℉ can handle 35 Amps.

Can a 12-Gauge Wire Handle 25 Amps?

If you are wondering if your extra 12-gauge wire can also be used for a 25 amp breaker, it is possible to do so. A 12-gauge copper wire can be used if its ambient temperature rating is either 75 ℃ or 167 ℉ or 90 ℃ or 194 ℉, while a 12-gauge aluminum wire is compatible if its ambient temperature rating is 90 ℃ or 194 ℉.

MIG vs TIG Welding: Differences, Aluminum

Different projects require different tools and methods, and this includes any welding project you might have. Welding has different types, and it is important to choose the right one if you want to get the results you envision.

Among these types, MIG and TIG welding are the ones that people get confused with the most. Aside from the nearly identical names, anyone with an untrained eye will think that their process is also the same. In reality, there are notable differences between the two and this is what you must understand before choosing one over the other in your projects, such as those involving aluminum.

If you are confused about MIG vs. TIG welding, don’t worry because you are not alone. Clearing this confusion is our goal, so stick around if you want to know more about it.

Differences Between MIG and TIG Welding

Because both MIG and TIG welding involves the use of an electric arc to heat and melt the metals and weld them together using filler material, many use them interchangeably. They believe that there are no noticeable differences between MIG and TIG welding anyway, that is why they go for the one that is most convenient or economical for them.

Admittedly, it is easy to confuse them with each other. Aside from the method we mentioned above, they also both require the use of a bare electrode, as well as a shielding gas that prevents the metals from being contaminated or undergo oxidation. Also, both MIG and TIG welding can only be used on metals that are conductive in nature.

But these are where their similarities end. The most noteworthy differences between MIG and TIG welding are in terms of the following:

Operation

The easiest way to differentiate the two is through their operation. When they both use a filler material, they vary in how it is done.

Using a consumable wire-fed electrode in welding is what mainly differentiates MIG welding from TIG welding. This wire electrode is directly fed into the spool gun used for welding, allowing one-handed operation.

On the other hand, TIG welding, also known as GTAW, requires a two-handed operation because the tungsten electrode used is non-consumable. In order to meld two metals together, there must be a filler applied. In this case, it is a separate TIG filler rod; one hand operates the torch with the electrode and the other hand holds the TIG filler rod.

Note that it is also possible to weld metals without any filler with TIG welding.

Difficulty

With the differences in operation or handling present, this resulted in a varying degree of difficulty. Since the filler material is directly fed into the spool gun, most welders find it easier to do MIG welding. When used with a filler rod, TIG welding requires a two-handed operation where the torch is simultaneously used with the filler material, and this may be too complicated for beginners.

MIG welding is also called as welding’s “hot glue gun” and this means it is easier to learn than TIG welding; like a glue gun, you only need to press the trigger to start and stop welding.

Equipment

While both MIG and TIG welding require the use of a shielding gas source and welding power supply, they require different equipment. MIG welding involves using a spool or welding gun and a feed wire unit, while TIG welding involves the use of a welding torch, non-consumable electrode, foot pedal connected to the electrical supply, and separate filler material in the form of a rod if needed.

Filler and Filler Replacement

Both MIG and TIG welding typically make use of a filler, but these fillers and filler replacement vary. Fillers in TIG welding consist of a rod measuring 60-180mm with a diameter of 1 to 3 mm, while the filler in MIG welding is in the form of a lengthy wire that has a 0.5 to 2 mm diameter and is wound in a wire-pool. Because the filler rod in TIG welding is shorter compared to the longer wire used in MIG welding, it will require more frequent replacements.

Speed

Because of its uncomplicated operation, MIG has the advantage when speed is an important factor in your project. This is ideal if productivity matters more than quality. On the other hand, the slower TIG welding may be a better option if quality and attention to detail are important.

Thickness of Material

Aluminum and steel, both mild and stainless, are suitable for both MIG and TIG welding. Their difference lies in the thickness of the material. If you are welding thicker ones, MIG welding is recommended because it can do so faster. On the other hand, TIG welding is more suitable for thinner materials.

Project Size and Type

In terms of the type and size of the project, TIG welding is suitable for small-scale ones that involve thinner materials. But for larger projects, such as in the industrial setting, where it involves thicker materials, MIG welding is ideal.

Appearance

If the quality or appearance of the weld is crucial for you, TIG welding is the best choice. Its finish is a lot cleaner than MIG weld, offering a smooth finish that is free of defects while ensuring a reliable joint is made.

Cost

The overall cost is higher with TIG welding, not just because of the materials and equipment required but also because it is more time-consuming. In contrast, MIG welding has cheaper and easily replaceable parts and is more cost-effective because you finish projects much faster.

Application

MIG welding is considered as more diverse because it can easily be used in different applications. On the other hand, TIG welding can also be done on a wide variety of projects, but its overall costs make it impractical to do so. That is why it is typically only used in artwork, automotive, ornamental design, and stainless steel applications.

Knowing these marked differences between MIG and TIG welding will allow you to easily choose which one is more appropriate for your project.

Which Type of Welding is Best?

Now that you are aware of their major differences, you may be wondering which type of welding is considered as the best between MIG and TIG welding. By now, you know that there is no straight answer for that.

MIG welding is your best option if:

  • You require high strength welds that require only minimal cleaning and sanding
  • Speed and accuracy are essential
  • Welding will be done indoors, as the shielding gases used are not ideal for outdoor use
  • You require only minimal fumes, especially for continuous operations
  • The metals to be welded are thick, but it can also be used on thinner metals. When welding thin metals, care is crucial to avoid burning through it
  • Your project involves heavy-duty work and longer operations, allowing you to weld more pieces in a short time
  • Minimal defects are important, as its continuous operation lessens starts and stops
  • One-handed operation is a must

On the other hand, go for TIG welding if:

  • You need weld beads that are aesthetically-pleasing and offer a beautiful finish
  • Attention to detail is required
  • You require your work to be spatter-free, resulting in a cleaner finish
  • The work area is extremely clean
  • You will only work on a small project
  • Environmental hazards are a concern, as TIG welding is considered more eco-friendly because of the minimal fumes and sparks it generates
  • It does not involve cast iron
  • You need more control over your weld
  • Spatter-free work is your goal
  • Stronger welds are needed
  • Less maintenance is needed, as TIG welding does not require sanding and cleaning in-between jobs

For general use, MIG welding is recommended because of its easy operation and versatility. TIG welding is more appropriate for the more experienced welders and those that require neater welds.

Which Welder is Best for Aluminum?

If you are working on aluminum, you need to know which welder is best for it. If it is your first attempt to weld aluminum, you may think that any type will work; in reality, this is not the case. Unlike other steel alloys, aluminum is harder to work with due to its high conductivity and low melting point. The oxide film present on the aluminum surface, as well as its alloys, has a higher melting point than aluminum itself and makes it tricky to work with even for experienced welders.

Not only that, there are also certain types of aluminum alloys that require specific filler materials before they can be properly welded. Also, the processes done pre-weld and post-weld vary because of the oxide film present.

All these factors make it impossible to use a single type of weld for aluminum and all its alloys. That is why like other metals, the best welder for aluminum will depend on its purpose.

In most cases, TIG welding is used when aluminum is involved. This is primarily due to the fact that a welder has more control with this method, which is crucial to prevent the aluminum from overheating. Since a filler rod is used, you can easily use a filler that has similar properties with the aluminum alloys you are working on. This allows a cleaner weld on the aluminum and prevents feedability issues that sometimes occur with wire feeding.

TIG welders suitable for aluminum typically have the following characteristics:

  • AC-Powered – it is more suitable when dealing with the oxide film on the aluminum surface
  • Output Power (in Amperes) – the ideal range is 5 to 230 amperes
  • Welding Featuring a Low Amperage – its arc stability must not exceed 10 amperes
  • Duty Cycle – should ideally be 50 to 80 percent, but it can differ depending on what you need because different manufacturers have found workarounds involving this aspect
  • Pulse Welding – having a pulse mode offers better control in terms of heat

You can also use MIG welding, but it is a bit more complicated to do so. While there are different types of MIG welding, only pulse welding and spray arc welding can be used for aluminum. Like in TIG welding, the filler material to be used should also be similar to the alloy being welded. While the shielding gas may vary depending on the alloy, 100% argon is generally recommended. Also, this is preferably done with thin aluminum sheets only due to the amount of heat required.

To be applicable to aluminum, MIG welders should have the following features:

  • Gas supply – it should be pure argon; the welder must not have a gasless flux core
  • Design – a spool gun that allows the use of a coil with wire or one that has a short Teflon liner and wire feeding system with a smooth roller that is U-shaped
  • Duty Cycle – will depend on your environment; this is crucial especially if the workspace is hot
  • Protection from OverheatingMIG welders are at risk of overheating when used with aluminum, that is why safeguards should be in place

From all these, it is safe to say that TIG welding is best used with aluminum, but the major issue lies in its operation. Since handling TIG welders require skill and experience, only trained users can work with it. If you are not yet familiar with TIG welding, you should use MIG welding for your work involving aluminum.

What is important is that you avoid welding methods that require the use of a flux, as it will likely result in weld porosity.

What Do You Use a TIG Welder For?

Despite MIG welding seen as more versatile, it does not mean that TIG welding is limited. In fact, a TIG welder can be used in a variety of materials and for various purposes.

In particular, this is used with different materials and on projects where precision and control are required. These include:

  • Small, precise welds
  • Critical weld joints
  • Making different kinds of joints, such as butt joint, T-joint, fillet weld, and lap joint
  • Welding non-ferrous metals, including magnesium, copper, and aluminum alloys, and stainless steel but for thin sections only
  • Tubings with small diameters and thin walls, such as those used for bicycles
  • Aerospace
  • Automobiles
  • Welding conventional metals like copper and nickel alloys, gold, titanium, brass, and cobalt
  • Making repairs
  • Arts and crafts, such as sculpture-making
  • Welding considered tricky, such as welding on round objects and making s-curves

What Do You Use a MIG Welder For?

Compared to a TIG welder, there are more uses for a MIG welder because of the easy handling it offers. Among the many materials and applications you can use it for are:

  • Various metals and alloys, such as stainless steel, silicon bronze, carbon steel, nickel, aluminum, copper, and nickel
  • Joining thin to medium thick materials
  • Creating different joints, including T-joint, butt weld, and lap joint
  • Welding in various positions
  • Home and industrial welds
  • Doing repairs
  • Pipe welding
  • Equipment rebuilding
  • As overlay of coating that is wear-resistant
  • Surface reinforcements, such as train tracks that are worn-out

Now that you are aware of the basics of MIG versus TIG welding, hasn’t it become easier for you to choose which one to use for your next welding project?