Mr. Ferguson's Welding Tips

Design Brief: To understand the tips to make work better in the shop.

Context: Safety is first in the workshop. Read and understand all of the safety rules before using any tool or machine.

Possible Solutions: Have instructor demonstrate (mandatory) the tool first. Have another student demonstrate the tool. Read the manual that comes with the tool (mandatory). Ensure that you have been certified “competent” by the instructor before you use the tool (mandatory).

Detail Design: The following are some of Mr. Ferguson’s shop tips. They are meant to be helpful hints. See the equipment Owner's Manual or your notes for all safety and operational information. Here are tips on the following seven topics:

  • MIG Welding
  • Aluminum MIG Welding
  • Self-Shielded Flux Cored Welding
  • TIG Welding
  • Stick Welding
  • Plasma Cutting
  • Resistance Welding

MIG Welding

  1. Along with practice, practice, practice, remember safety, safety, safety!
  2. Although most manuals recommend wire stickout (from nozzle to steel) of 1/8-in. to 1/4-in., I recommend using as little stickout as possible. When filling in a big gap or hole, I allow up to 1/2-in. of stickout.
  3. When welding thin gauge, allow more wire stickout — even up to 3/4-in. Use the push, or forehand, method because you don't want very much penetration.
  4. Forehand welding allows you to see better with shallow penetration. Although difficult to see because of the nozzle, backhand welding is smooth and gives the best penetration.
  5. Use the correct wire type for the base metal being welded. Use stainless steel wires for stainless steel, aluminum wires for aluminum, and steel wires for steel.
  6. Use the proper shielding gas. CO2 is good for penetrating welds on steel, but may be too hot for thin metal. Use 75% Argon/25% CO2 for thinner steels. Use only Argon for aluminum. You can use a triple-mix for stainless steels (Helium + Argon + CO2).
  7. Although you cannot have air blowing around because it displaces your shielding gas, make sure you have some ventilation. Your body need oxygen NOT carbon dioxide: don’t breath the Argon gas mixture!
  8. MIG ain't worth a dang on paint, dirt, rust, oil, and grease.
  9. Put the work clamp as close as possible to the work piece. You'll have a better circuit, which will give you a better weld.
  10. For best control of your weld bead, keep the wire directed at the leading edge of the weld pool.
  11. When welding out of position (vertical, horizontal, or overhead welding), keep the weld pool small for best weld bead control, and use the smallest wire diameter size you can.
  12. Relax your hand and watch the puddle. Watch your travel speed, gun angle, and temperature. The thinner the steel, the faster the travel speed.
  13. Skip weld — weld a couple of inches at the beginning, middle, end, and then come back — when you want to control distortion. If you weld a long seam all at once, you are likely to warp the steel.
  14. Clean the gun liner and drive rolls occasionally, and keep the gun nozzle clean of spatter. Replace the contact tip if blocked or feeding poorly.
  15. Keep the gun straight as possible when welding, to avoid poor wire feeding.
  16. Use both hands to steady the gun when you weld. Do this whenever possible. (This also applies to Stick and TIG welding, and plasma cutting.)
  17. A drag or pull gun technique will give you a bit more penetration and a narrower bead. A push gun technique will give you a bit less penetration, and a wider bead.
  18. Your machine should sound like bacon frying when it is set right on short circuit.
  19. The more you burn, the more you'll learn. Do it right the first time. Cutting corners usually results in problems that have to be corrected.
  20. Above all, have fun!

Aluminum MIG Welding

  1. The best feeding of wire for aluminum is done with a spool gun. If you can't use a spool gun, use the shortest gun possible and keep the gun as straight as possible. Use Argon only for shielding gas. Only use a push gun technique when welding aluminum.
  2. If you are having feeding problems, one thing you can try is a contact tip that is one size bigger than your wire.
  3. The most common wire type is ER4043 for all-purpose work. ER5356 is a stiffer wire (easier to feed), and is used when more rigid, higher-strength weld properties are needed.
  4. Clean the aluminum before welding, to remove the oxide layer. Use a stainless steel wire brush used only for cleaning aluminum.
  5. Fill the crater at the end of the weld to avoid a crack. One way to do this is to dwell in the weld pool for a second at the end of the weld.

Self-Shielded Flux Cored Welding

  1. Use a drag (pull) gun technique.
  2. Keep the wire clean and dry for best weld results.
  3. The weld is similar to Stick welding, in that a layer of slag must be removed from the weld after welding. Use a chipping hammer and a wire brush.
  4. Self-shielded Flux Cored does not need shielding from an external cylinder of shielding gas. (The shielding is in the wire.) This makes it good for outside work, where external shielding gas could be blown away.
  5. Self-shielded Flux Cored is generally harder to accomplish on thin metals than MIG welding.

TIG Welding

  1. Good process for thin metal — very clean process producing good looking welds.
  2. Use Argon shielding for steel, stainless, and aluminum.
  3. Use DC-Straight Polarity (DCEN) for steel and stainless. Use AC for aluminum.
  4. Always use a push technique with the TIG torch.
  5. Match the tungsten electrode size with the collet size.
  6. Aluminum — use a pure tungsten, AWS Class EWP (green identifying band). Will form a balled-end in AC.
  7. Steel and stainless steel — use a 2% thoriated tungsten, AWS Class EWTH-2 (red identifying band). Prepare a pointed-end for DCEN welding.

Stick Welding

  1. Use a drag technique for most applications.
  2. Take precautions with flying materials when chipping slag.
  3. Keep electrodes clean and dry — follow manufacturer¹s recommendations.
  4. Common steel electrodes:
  5. Penetration: DCEN — Least penetration; AC — medium (can be more spatter also); DCEP — most penetration.

Plasma Cutting

  1. Clean, dry, oil-free air is important.
  2. Stay at recommended air pressure (more air is not necessarily better!)
  3. Touch torch tip gently to workpiece.
  4. When initiating a cut, start on the end of material and ensure arc has completely penetrated metal before proceeding further.
  5. When completing cut, pause at the end to assure severance.
  6. Torch should be perpendicular to workpiece.
  7. Work cable should be attached as close to workpiece cut as possible.
  8. If you can see the arc coming through the bottom of the cut metal, it will eliminate guessing if your travel speed is correct.

Resistance Welding (Spot Welding)

  1. Resistance welding is not recommended for aluminum, copper, or copper alloys. Use for steel and stainless steel only.
  2. For more heat (amperage output), use shorter tongs.
  3. For units without a heat control, tong length can be used for a control. For instance, for thin metals where you want less heat, longer tongs can be used.
  4. Keep in mind that longer tongs can bend, and you may lose pressure at the weld.
  5. For the metals being welded, make sure there is no gap between the pieces — this will weaken the weld.
  6. Keep the alignment of the tongs straight, so that the tips touch each other exactly. Also, maintain a proper pressure adjustment — not too much or too little pressure.
  7. When you need one side of the weld to have good appearance, you can flatten (machine) the tip somewhat on that side.
  8. Clean the tips on a regular basis, or you will lose output (amperage). Dress the tips with a proper tip dresser.