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Wire Feed Welding for Beginners: A Complete Guide

My daughter finally showed interest in welding and asked me to teach her. So I pulled out the multi-welder and told her that this is how she would begin by learning wire feed welding. Her questions were endless: will it be easy? Did you teach the boys this way too?”

There are many different types of welding, but one of the most popular for beginners is wire feed welding. Wire feed welding is a great way to get started because it’s relatively easy to learn and perfect for small projects.

Welding is a great skill to learn and wire feed welding is a good starting point. It teaches hand-eye coordination, problem-solving, and patience. Welding also requires a lot of planning and preparation, leading people to be organized and careful.

So whether you’re a beginner or just curious about wire feed welding, in this post, I discuss how to get started and cover the following topics:

  1. Basic Welding processes
  2. What is wire feed welding?
  3. What can you weld with a wire feed welder?
  4. Do you push or pull when wire feed welding?
  5. Do you need gas to wire feed weld?
Picture of me wire feed welding.

Basic Welding processes

Welding refers to the joining or fusion of parts using heat and compression so that the components form a continuum. Usually, an arc flame is formed with current from the welding power source to create heat.

Several welding processes exist, but no single welding method is appropriate for all applications. The most common processes are MIG/MAG, TIG, and STICK. Each method has benefits and restrictions for specific applications. There is no one-size-fits-all approach.

It’s better for beginners to comprehend the core types of welding procedures available, how each machine functions, and the degree of expertise in handling it. It is essential to match your main welding requirements and skills with a process.

This step is essential to proceed with the specific options for each welding machine type. Let’s have a quick view of the most common welding process:

TIG welding offers the welder better control over the weld, creating strong, high-quality welds. It is relatively more intricate and challenging to learn than other processes, and it’s it takes more time than other methods such as MIG.

Stick or Shielded Metal Arc Welding is a good option for indoors and outdoors or in drafty areas, but it is also more challenging to learn and use, particularly the ability to strike and hold a consistent flow.

Plus, it is limited to metals with a thickness of not less than 18, requires frequent shank change, emits significant spatter, and requires the finished welds to be cleaned.

MIG/MAG welding is perfect for beginners. It is easy to learn and can create extremely clean welds on steel, aluminum, and stainless steel. Consumable electrode filler wire is housed in a MIG machine and fed through a gun.

Electric current from the welder travels to the MIG gun, creating an arc that melts the wire forming a weld seam used to fuse metal pieces.

What is Wire Feed Welding?

Wire feed welding, also known as MIG/MAG welding or flux core welding, is a semi-automatic welding process in which a spool of wire is either housed within the power source or fed from an external wire feeder.

In general, the composition of solid wires is very similar to that of the parent metal to be welded, to which variable amounts of deoxidizers are added, depending on the application and the shielding gas.

Wire feed welding is inherently more productive than other welding processes because other methods require stopping and replacing the consumable electrode. Wire-feed welders can house large rolls that last for many welds. The use of solid and cored wires has increased the efficiency of wire feed welding up to 80% – 95%.

Wire feed welding is the best process for beginners.

This process requires the least skill of the operator because the machine feeds the wire. The welding operator holds the gun in one hand, pulls the trigger, and welds. Other welding processes require perfection in positioning and manipulating the specific electrode, making them difficult to use.

Wire feed welding is the fastest-growing process with which welding speeds are also higher due to the continuously fed electrode. It has no slag and higher filler metal deposition rates.

The wire feed welding process allows the hobby welder, artist, farmer, motorcyclist, or “do it all” to perform most types of fabrication and maintenance or repair welds on materials from 24 to 1/2-inch thicknesses.

While it’s not that simple, most people can become competent wire feed welders by following some basic safety and training advice from certified and competent professionals.

What can you weld with a wire feed welder?

Wire feed welding can do spotless welds on steel, aluminum, and stainless steel with great efficiency. It can weld materials up to 26-gauge thickness.

This welding process is used to join all types of low and medium alloy steels and some stainless steels such as AISI 304, 308, 316, and austenitic steel sheets; it even works well on thick sheets due to the aggressiveness of C0 2 and offers welding speed.

In many cases, when welding different metals such as stainless and pure carbon steel, wire feed welding is preferred because it uses filler material.

Do you push or pull when wire feed welding?

The push or forehand technique involves pushing the torch away (in front) of the molten pool. Pushing primarily produces lesser penetration and a broader flatter bead because the arc force is directed away from the puddle.

I typically push weld when I use wire feed weld. It works well for me, and my beads are fine. In addition, I find that when I move the bead forward, it is easier to see and allows me to direct the wire better.

When using the pull technique, the torch is aimed back at the drawn puddle away from the deposited metal. Dragging normally produces deeper penetration and a narrower bead with more buildup.

This welding style is the most commonly used. Both methods work well; you should try both to find which approach works best for you.

Picture of a wire feed welder gun

Do you Need Gas to Wire Feed Weld?

You can weld without gas if you use flux core wire in your welder. However, standard MIG welding requires gas. Reactive gases such as pure CO2 or mixed gases (argon, CO2, O2), helium, or mixed gases made up of argon and helium of different compositions are used for wire feed welding.

Wire feed weld (GMAW or MIG welding) needs solid metal wire, which requires the use of shielding gas to protect the molten metal from contamination by the surrounding atmosphere.

Many factors affect the choice of shielding gas. Some of these are material to be welded, desired filler metal transfer mode, bead penetration and shape, welding speed, and of course, the price of gas.

A mixture of 75% argon / 25% CO2 dioxide serves as the best all-purpose shielding gas for carbon steel because it produces the least amount of spatter, the best bead appearance, and does not promote the burning of more refined metals.

Although 100% CO2 gives a deeper penetration, it also upsurges spatter, and the bead will be coarser than with a 75/25 Argon mix.

The gas flow to be used will depend on the conditions in which we are working, but in general, we can calculate it based on ten times the diameter of the wire.

Below is a helpful YouTube video for beginner welders who want to learn MIG welding.

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