Hello, my name’s Graham, I’m one of your Technical Advisors and a founding partner of The Welders Warehouse
My job is to help you select the correct products for whatever it is you want to do and to help you get the best out of your purchase. So please, get in touch, tell me what you’re working on and what you need and lets make your job more of a pleasure than a chore!
I started my working life back in 1977 as an Apprentice Sheet Metal Worker and welder in Chessington, Surrey before moving to Milton Keynes in the mid 80’s to buy a house I could afford with my lovely new Wife.
In the late 80’s I jumped from manufacturing engineering to a sales career, selling first Carbide Burrs, then specialised welding equipment and consumables, before helping found The Welders Warehouse in 1993.
In 1999 The Welders Warehouse entered the then exciting new World of Cyberspace with our first e-commerce website.
The rest, as they say, is history!
When I’m not working I enjoy Photography, Walking, Travel and a bit of Golf (which I’m not very good at 🙂
Firstly, a general purpose Mig Welder is not the best equipment with which to weld Aluminium, a DIY type machine is even less suitable.
The best type of machine to weld Aluminium with is an AC/DC Tig Welder
Having said that, with the right set up, most Mig Welders can be used for welding aluminium (more or less), provided they’re set up correctly.
Mig Welding steel is not difficult, this is because when it comes to setting the machine up:
> Roller Tension
> Torch Liner Quality
> Power Setting
> Wire Feed Speed
there is a reasonable margin of error.
For example, if your wire feed speed is a little High, or Low, you’ll get away with it. If you’re trying to weld Aluminium you WON’T get away with it. Wire feed speed that’s too low will cause the wire to burn back on to the Tip, too high and it will hit the job, potentially causing a “Birds Nest” of wire inside the machine! All very frustrating.
> Pure Argon Gas, NOT Co2 or an Argon/Co2 mix
> Plastic or Teflon Liner in your Torch (more on this later)
> An oversize Tip for the end of the Torch (more on this later)
> A Reel of Aluminium Wire suitable for the grade of Aluminium you intend welding
> LOTS of patience getting the Power and Wire Feed Speed right
A Regular steel liner (looks like bicycle brake cable), will scrape the surface of the Aluminium Welding Wire, causing the wire to bind/jam in the liner. A Plastic or Teflon Liner MUST be used to avoid this. If your Mig Torch already has a plastic liner, but you’ve been using it to weld steel, I would recommend fitting a new liner for Aluminium.
Because Aluminium has binding properties, it may jam in a regular tip, especially when the tip gets hot. Some types of tip can be purchased in an “Aluminium” version, these are slightly oversized to compensate. If your machine’s tip type is not available in an Aluminium version, I would suggest using 1.0mm tip for 0.8mm wire.
Several grades of Aluminium Mig Welding Wire are available and the grade selected needs to be compatible with the Aluminium to be welded.
If your welding a straightforward commercial grade of Aluminium, my suggestion would be to use a 5356 grade Aluminium Mig Wire You can use a 4043 grade, but this is a softer wire and therefore more prone to feed problems.
OK, you’ve got Argon Gas, you’ve fitted a Plastic/Teflon Liner and oversized tip and you’ve fitted your spool of 5356 Welding Wire.
Next you’ll need to place close attention to the tension on your feed rollers. Ideally, you’ll be using ‘U’ shaped rollers, but if all that’s available for your machine is ‘V’ shape, these will have to suffice. Set the Roller Tension AS LOW AS POSSIBLE. Do this by starting at a point where the rollers slip and don’t feed the wire. Then slowly increase until the wire does feed OK. More info on Roller tension can be found in our Knowledge Zone
This will be determined by the job. If you’re an experienced welder of steel, start by setting the Power about 50% higher than you would for the same thickness of steel.
This will be determined by the job. If you’re an experienced welder of steel, start by setting the Wire Feed Speed about 100% higher than you would for the same thickness of steel.
If you’re doing a job in cold weather, try warming the job up a little. What you’re looking for is the job to not be cold to the touch, so if it is, put a fan heater on it for a few minutes. A job that’s warm to the touch will weld easier. This shouldn’t be necessary in Summer.
Make sure metal you intend welding is clean, running a sanding disc over the area to be welded can also help if the aluminium is old as this will reduce the effects of surface oxide.
Getting the balance of Power and Wire Feed Speed when trying to Mig Weld Aluminium is a frustrating exercise of trial and error.
Start by angling the torch at 45⁰ as this will minimise the risk of birds nesting wire inside the machine if the wire feed speed is too high.
Once you’ve got the Power and Wire Feed Speed set correctly the process is not dissimilar to welding steel. Hold the torch at around 70⁰, and move slowly along.
I hope you found this useful, if things work out well for you, please feel free to post some pictures of your achievements on our Facebook Page
Gas vs Gasless Mig Welding, which is best? is a conversation I have with customers on the phone on an almost daily basis.
Firstly, let’s clarify that “Gasless” Mig is not actually gasless, because there is no such thing as gasless mig welding. The weld pool has to be protected from the oxygen in the air and this is done by displacing the air with gas!
So called “Gasless” Mig Wires are actually “Self Shielding”.
Self Shielding Mig Wire is a tube of metal with a flux core. As the welding arc melts the wire it also burns the flux, this produces a gas shield around the welding process. So NOT “Gasless”.
Secondly, I’m going to put my cards on the table! I’m not the Worlds biggest fan of Self Shielding Mig Wire!
OK so it has some uses, but it produces a fierce arc that’s not much use on steel thinner than around 1.2mm and as for car body welding, well if a mig welder supplier tells you their machine can weld car body thickness steel without gas GET THEM TO DEMO IT!!!
Self Shielding Mig Wires also produce a LOT of nasty smoke, so are best used in the open air. And that really is the only place I would advocate using self shielding wire, in the open air and even then, only when its too windy to use solid wire and gas.
Self shielding mig wires were first developed in the USA for use on the vast prairie farms of the mid west. A small hand held mig welder was developed that would operate off a deep cell, 24v Tractor battery. This welder was part of a tool kit carried by the farmer and used to carry out on the spot repairs to gates etc out in the fields.
Self shielding mig wires found their way into the UK DIY welder market in the 80’s, before disposable gas cylinders became available.
By far the most common and best way to use a Mig Welder is with solid wire and a cylinder of gas. With this system, the Mig Welder pours gas over the weld pool as you weld, thus keeping Air/Oxygen from contaminating the weld.
Solid Wire + Gas is easier to use and produces better quality welds
I’ve written a separate Blog article called:
What Gas do I need for Mig Welding and Tig Welding which you may find useful
In my opinion, if you have a Gas/No Gas Mig Welder you should always use it with Gas, unless you absolutely have to use self shielding wire.
I personally, would prefer to protect the work area from wind with screens etc than use self shielding wire, but as I said earlier, I’m not a fan 🙂
We offer a full range of Mig Welding Wires for most materials, including Solid and Self Shielding wires for steel.
If you’re not sure what type of Mig Welder would best suit your needs, get in touch, you can write via our Contact Us page, or phone and ask for me! (numbers at the top of this page)
I hope you found this useful.
I recently attended an International Welding Expo in Dusseldorf, Germany.
Whilst wandering around I came across an impressive display of Welded Scrap Art.
OK, so most of us would have seen this sort of thing before, but it’s the first time I’ve seen more than one piece in one place. All were made from scrap metal, and old car or motorcycle parts, so as well as being impressive to look at, it struck me a a great way to recycle!
I couldn’t get photos of every item because it was VERY busy with people taking selfies next to them, but I hope you enjoy the photos I did get.
To give you a sense of scale, the 4 figures were all around 7ft/2.2M tall and the car was full size.
If you prefer to watch video than read, the following link will take you to a video we’ve produced that explains Duty Cycle.
“Duty Cycle” is probably the least understood of the specification data published for any type of Mig Welder, Tig Welder or Plasma Cutter. Essentially it’s a set of figures to indicate how long a welder will run for before it gets too hot and the thermal overload mechanism shuts the machine off for some cool off time.
However, as there are a number of variables (ambient temperature and power setting for example), Duty Cycle data is more for comparison of different welders.
Manufacturers establish the Duty Cycle figures by putting the machine in a controlled temperature environment and running it at a specific output until it overheats and shuts off. The time this takes is recorded and presented as a percentage of a work period.
The European Union definition of a Work Period is 10 minutes.
A typical Duty Cycle will be shown as follows:
30% @ 200amps at 40°C
So what do the numbers mean?
30% is the percentage of the work period the machine operated for during the test. In this example, the machine operated for 30% of the 10 Minute work period, which is 3 minutes.
200amps is the power output that the machine was set to for the test.
40°C was the ambient temperature the the machine was tested in.
As mentioned earlier, this data is notional because of the variables.
For example, in the UK you’re unlikely to ever be welding in a 40°C ambient temperature! (good luck if you are 🙂 ) If its Winter it may be below 10°C in your workshop, so the machine will be cooled by air that is substantially below the test temperature of 40°C so the welder will clearly run for longer than 3 minutes!
If you were to set the machine to an output below 200amps it will weld for longer, set it higher than 200amps and it will overheat sooner.
So the Duty Cycle figure is a guide only. But as I said earlier great for comparison and making sure you get the right machine for the job!
Hope this helps
The Welders Warehouse
Wire Feed Roller Tension on a Mig Welder is how tightly the Rollers Grip the Mig Welding Wire to feed through the Mig Welders feed mechanism and torch. Feed Roller Tension is one of the more important mig welder settings.
If the tension is too light the rollers can slip and wire will not be fed through at the correct speed, or will feed erratically, potentially causing the wire to burn back on to the copper Tip at the end of the Mig Welders Torch.
If the tension is too great, unnecessary strain is put on the Mig Welders Wire Feed Motor and there is a risk of damaging the surface of the Mig Welding Wire. If the surface of the wire is damaged, this can in turn damage the Mig Welder Torch Liner.
If the roller tension is too great on softer Mig Wires (e.g. Flux Cored & Aluminium), the wire can be slightly flattened, so instead of your welding wire being, say 1.0mm in diameter, it may become 1.1 x 0.9mm, this will then increase the risk of jamming at the copper Tip.
So how do your correctly adjust Mig Welder Feed Rollers? Here’s the method that’s served me well with Home and Professional welders for the last 20+ Years:
Prevention is always batter than cure, but if you’ve already experienced the feed problems mentioned earlier, chances are you’re going to need to replace your liner. This is something you should do from time to time anyway as torch liners are a consumable. We carry a range of Mig Torch Spares and our website has a useful Torch Identifier to help you select the correct parts for your Mig Gun.
I hope you found this useful
“Inert” & “Active”.
Shielding Gas is required for Mig & Tig Welding because it’s essential to keep Oxygen from the weld pool. Shielding gas does this by replacing the Oxygen containing air that’s all around the weld pool and, of course, all around us!
The most commonly used Inert gas is Argon. Argon is the main shielding gas used for Tig Welding most metals and Mig Welding Aluminium or Mig Brazing.
The most commonly used Active gases are Co2 (Carbon Dioxide) and a mixture of Argon & Co2. Active gases are primarily used for Mig Welding most metals (except Aluminium and Mig Brazing, where pure Argon is used).
Co2 is the lowest cost of the Active Gases, but is far from the best. Co2 produces a cooler, coarser, more spattery arc and a marginally harder weld. Co2 is a more challenging gas to use on thin material and not all Mig Welders perform well on thicker material with 100% Co2 as a shielding gas!
An Argon/Co2 mix produces far superior results as the arc is softer and smoother with the resulting weld deposit slightly softer and more malleable than where pure Co2 is used.
There are several different mixes of Argon/Co2 on the market, typically:
95% Argon + 5% Co2, which is ideal for Mig Welding up to around 10mm Steel
90% Argon + 10% Co2, which is ideal for Mig Welding 8-25mm Steel
80% Argon + 20% Co2, which is ideal for Mig Welding 20mm plus Steel
So what’s the difference between “Inert” and “Active” gases?
An Inert gas, such as Argon, has no effect, or reaction, on or with the welding process, it simply performs the essential task of replacing Air/Oxygen from around the weld pool.
Active gases do have an effect on the welding process. The effect of an active gas on Mig Welding is twofold:
Firstly, the Co2 content in an Argon/Co2 mix makes the gas slightly electrically conductive, this in turn raises the arc voltage, which increases penetration.
The second effect is the Co2 content breaks down the surface tension of the molten weld pool (this is the same type of surface tension that allows water to form a drip). Using Co2 to break the surface tension of the molten weld pool allows the weld to flow and flatten slightly for the correct weld profile.
The use of Active Gases for most Mig Welding applications means that most people are actually MAG welding (Metal Active Gas) rather than MIG (Metal Inert Gas) welding, however, MIG has become the generic term, despite, in fact, being inaccurate!
If an active gas is used for Tig Welding the raised arc voltage will increase hole blows and cause excessive burning of the Tungsten Electrode.
If an Inert gas is used for Mig Welding (except Aluminium and Mig Braze), higher machine power output will be needed to achieve penetration and the finished weld will look too tall because the surface tension has not been broken.
Gas Cylinders can be purchased in two forms:
I hope you found this useful
Technical Advisor – The Welders Warehouse
Mig Welder Settings
Wire Feed Roller Tension on a Mig Welder is how tightly the Rollers Grip the Mig Welding Wire as its fed through the Mig Welders feed mechanism and is one of the more important mig welder settings It is important to adjust this correctly because if the tension is too light the rollers can slip and wire will not be fed through at the correct speed, causing the wire to burn back on to the copper Tip at the end of the Mig Welders Torch. If the tension is too great you’ll be putting unecessary strain on the Mig Welders Wire Feed Motor and risk damaging the surface of the Mig Welding Wire. If the surface of the wire is damaged, this can in turn, damage the Mig Welder Torch Liner. If the roller tension is too great on softer Mig Welding Wires (e.g. Flux Cored & Aluminium), the wire can be slightly flattened, this means that instead of your welding wire being, say 1.0mm in diameter, it may become and oval 1.1 x 0.9mm, this will then increase the risk of jamming at the copper Tip.
To correctly adjust the tension:
If you would like a bit more explanation we do have a video demonstration of the above in the Mig Welder Info section of our website Knowledge Zone.
I hope you found this useful
Technical Advisor – The Welders Warehouse
Well the short answer is, “Yes” and “No”.
Sorry its ambiguous, but it all depends what you want to do! Let me explain!
Oxygen + Fuel Gas kits used to be simple, you had Oxygen + Acetylene! However, the waters are now muddied by a number of factors.
Unfortunately, Acetylene is still the best all purpose gas, but there are viable alternatives, as long as you know what you want to be able to do and choose carefully.
Propane is the easiest fuel gas alternative to Acetylene to obtain and is normally supplied in cylinders on a Deposit basis, rather than rented (as is usually the case with Acetylene).
For most users, Propane works out cheaper, especially for infrequent users of Oxygen + Fuel kits. The only real downside to using Oxygen and Propane is that it can’t be used for actual Welding. Oxygen and Propane fuelled kits are however, ideal for Silver Solder, Brazing, Cutting and Heating. So as long as you don’t want to Weld, Oxygen and Propane is a great way to go! Oxygen + Propane produces a flame temperature of around 1800⁰C.
Propylene is a blend of gases, including Propane and available in a number of throwaway canister Brands, Gasex, Mapp & Turbo Gas to name but three, it’s also available in larger, refillable cylinders. An Oxygen and Propylene mix burns quite a bit hotter than Oxygen and Propane, typically around 3100⁰C and could, therefore, be considered better as jobs will reach operating temperature quicker.
Unfortunately, like Propane, Propylene is not suitable for fusion welding. You will find people out there who will tell you it can be used to weld, but in tests that I’ve carried out, the welds it’s produced have been fairly brittle and break easily.
Propylene + Oxygen is however excellent for Silver Soldering, Brazing & Heating.
Oxygen + Propane equipment should also be used for Oxygen + Propylene.
The Welders Warehouse offers a number of excellent Oxygen + Propane Kits, please take a look at our Gas Equipment Page to see the range!
Hope you found this article useful.
Technical Advisor – The Welders Warehouse Ltd
Your Eyes are, arguably, your most vulnerable and most important sense, so it’s important to look after them.
Arc Welding processes (Tig Welding, Mig Welding, Stick Welding, Plasma Cutting etc) emit a range of light wave lengths that are hazardous to eyes, including Ultra Violet (UV), which is the most dangerous to eyes.
“Arc Eye” is a common and painful hazard for Welders. Arc Eye is essentially the UV Burning of the back of the eye. This is exactly the same as Sunburn to the skin. A mild Arc Eye feels like sand in the eyes, severe Arc Eye is extremely painful and can lead to temporary, or even permanent blindness. Arc Eye also increases the risk of cancer in the eye.
Traditional passive welding helmets used a piece of shaded glass to reduce UV exposure. The darkness of this glass is typically 9EV to 13EV (13 being the darker). Helmets fitted with this glass are great for protecting the eyes from UV, but they’re so dark that the operator can see nothing until an arc is struck.
In the early 1990’s automatic welding helmets came on to the market. These helmets are a bit like super fast, super dark, React to Light Sun Glasses.
When you’re not welding, the filter is a light green, allowing good vision for job set up and torch positioning. As soon as an arc is struck, the filter darkens to a welding shade. The welding shade can normally be adjusted, lighter, or darker.
When welding is finished, the helmet goes back to the Light Mode. This all happens VERY quickly! For example, our Speedshield V goes Dark in less than 1/10,000 of a second and comes back to Light Mode in between 0.2 and 1.0 second (user adjustable).
A question we get asked regularly is:
“What happens if the helmet does NOT darken when I strike an arc?”.
Well that’s where it gets a bit clever. All The Welders Warehouse Auto Welding Helmets have a special coating that filters out UV to the equivalent of at least shade 15 glass. This coating is permanent, meaning you get shade 15+ protection from UV, even when the helmet is in the Light Mode.
All this means that, provided you have the helmet down, there is ZERO risk of Arc Eye. The lightening and darkening of the Lens also means you don’t have to lift the helmet between welds or tacks to see where the next weld/tack needs to go, very convenient and great for productivity!
Bottom line? Automatic Welding Helmets, ours at least, are easy to use, hugely convenient and productive to use and above all 100% SAFE for YOUR Eyes!
You can see our full range of super safe, fully CE approved Auto Welding helmets on our website, Welding Helmets to go directly to the correct page.
Hope this helps you weld safer!