Mig welding aluminum withOUT a spool gun?
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  1. #1
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    Mig welding aluminum withOUT a spool gun?

    I want to weld some aluminum, probably nothing thicker than 1/8th for now. I have a Miller 175 mig machine, but the spool gun is over $600 (while the spool guns for the new 180 is less than half that ).

    I would buy a new tig machine before I'd pay $600 for a spool gun.

    The purpose of the spool gun is simply to get the wire closer, because aluminum wire is too soft to push through the normal mig lead, correct?

    If so, has anyone even tried with a normal mig lead? It seems like if you were very careful to keep the lead as strait as possible at all times it might feed. If any one has tried what was the result and what thickness of aluminum wire were you using?

    Also what thickness can I expect to be able to do with my MM175?

  2. #2
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    Re: Mig welding aluminum withOUT a spool gun?

    It can work sometimes, you need to use an aluminum only liner so that it does not get contaminated by the steel wire. It would also help to get a shorter lead so it has less distance to push.

    Its more commonly done in a push-pull gun, with rollers at the gun and wirefeeder. I dont know if they make one that will work on your unit, but its something to look into.
    Have we all gone mad?

  3. #3
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    Re: Mig welding aluminum withOUT a spool gun?

    I have done it, but it is a PITA! Do what you have to but be patient with it. You will also go through some tips like that. Good luck.

  4. #4
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    Re: Mig welding aluminum withOUT a spool gun?

    Looking at the specs, you probably will be able to do 1/8", possibly 3/16" alum.



    I looked at the Spoolmate 100 and the Spoolmate 3035, The pin connections to the machine look to be the same for the gun trigger and the feed power but the part numbers for the motors are different. I don't know if they are using a different voltage to run the motors or if it's just that they have superceded one part with another. You might PM Steve (7A749) or may be one of the other guys here who works on Miller stuff and see if they know what the actual differences in the guns are. It may have more to do with the machine hookup than the spoolgun. I know I had to install an adapter kit from Miller in my MM185 in order to run the 3035 spoolgun on my machine. I forget now exactly what was involved in doing so.
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  5. #5
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    Re: Mig welding aluminum withOUT a spool gun?

    I have done without any issues on my Hobart Handler 140. i just changed my spool over to AL...then changed my gas over to 100% Ar.....and away I went! No birdnesting, just ugly aluminum welds! nothing a grinder couldn't make look decent though.

    my gun lead on my HH140 is short though.....10 feet or maybe even 8 feet long.

  6. #6
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    Re: Mig welding aluminum withOUT a spool gun?

    I talk to a guy on a different board from Austraila & he says spoolguns are a rarity there.

    He has been doing it with a standard push style feeder & nylon liner for decades.

    Just keep the whip distance short & he says it goes pretty well. There may be just a bit more to it but that's what I read out of it.

    Your MM machine doesn't have the 4 pin connector you plug the MIG gun into wired for 24 volt output. It only has the contactor leads for the trigger. The newer machines come set up for use with Miller's cheapie spoolgun. Unfortunately, you'll have to get the SGA control & all that crap to run a gun on yours.

    There are alternatives, but you'll have to cobble to do it. You'll still spend money either way.

    IMHO, if you were going to spend money on a spool gun, buy a machine that can power it beyond what the smaller units will. You'll do sheet metal at best with your machine & the duty cycle will be almost nothing at top end. I'm not crazy about Miller's light duty gun either. For what you'll spend to get it set up right, you're better off saving your money for a used 30A/MM 251-252 combo.

    Even looking for a Miller Regency 200-250 or an older Miller Spoolmate 200 power source with the spool gun is a good option. These are both Miller CV MIG welding power sources that were designed primarily for use with a spoolgun, but can also connect to many different Miller wire feeders for multi purpose use. They are "sleeper machines", meaning a lot of people have no clue what they are & pass them by. They can be had for a song sometimes complete with a spoolgun.

    Keep an eye out on C'sList & ebay. They come along from time to time & sell cheap once in awhile.

    Just a thought.

  7. #7
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    Re: Mig welding aluminum withOUT a spool gun?

    Quote Originally Posted by BurningMetal View Post
    I have done without any issues on my Hobart Handler 140. i just changed my spool over to AL...then changed my gas over to 100% Ar.....and away I went! No birdnesting, just ugly aluminum welds! nothing a grinder couldn't make look decent though.

    my gun lead on my HH140 is short though.....10 feet or maybe even 8 feet long.

    Thanks, by reading this i will try it myself, almost everyone says to buy a spool-gun. They are 1/2 price of the welder.

  8. #8
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    Re: Mig welding aluminum withOUT a spool gun?

    Quote Originally Posted by silverram323 View Post
    Thanks, by reading this i will try it myself, almost everyone says to buy a spool-gun. They are 1/2 price of the welder.
    Have fun. I'd suggest you talk to your doc about some tranq's and probably some blood pressure meds.
    .



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  9. #9
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    Re: Mig welding aluminum withOUT a spool gun?

    i checked into fitting out my mm175 with a spool gun and decided that the money and bs would not be worth it and the fact that taking anger meds and since i'm already on blood pressure meds the mm252@30A spool gun were better spent. i have to say that since i got the 252 @ 30A i haven't welded 5' of aluminum beads with it. i use the tig or the O/A torch.
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  10. #10
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    Re: Mig welding aluminum withOUT a spool gun?

    I am still a total noob even with MIG welding steel, but hope to get into aluminium welding eventually.

    Has anyone here tried to BUILD a home made Frankenstein spool gun out of an old salvaged wire feed motor ? The prices that spool guns go for is absolutely obscene.

    I am, sure with a few parts from a deceased MIG welder, and a bit of imagination, plus a couple of boxes of crazy pills medication, it should not be all that difficult to bodge up something that can imitate a real spool gun ?
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  11. #11
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    Re: Mig welding aluminum withOUT a spool gun?

    Quote Originally Posted by DSW View Post
    Have fun. I'd suggest you talk to your doc about some tranq's and probably some blood pressure meds.
    It'll never workkkkk!
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  12. #12
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    Re: Mig welding aluminum withOUT a spool gun?

    Quote Originally Posted by Warpspeed View Post
    I am still a total noob even with MIG welding steel, but hope to get into aluminium welding eventually.

    Has anyone here tried to BUILD a home made Frankenstein spool gun out of an old salvaged wire feed motor ? The prices that spool guns go for is absolutely obscene.

    I am, sure with a few parts from a deceased MIG welder, and a bit of imagination, plus a couple of boxes of crazy pills medication, it should not be all that difficult to bodge up something that can imitate a real spool gun ?
    I wouldn't put it past Duanne to be able to make something like this work, that or someone who is an electrical engineer...

    You need to understand the down sides of a spoolgun 1st however. Even as "compact" as a spoolgun is, it's still way bulkier and more awkward than a standard mig gun. A huge disadvantage with alum where you need to weld at almost 2x the speed as steel the same thickness. I dumped my spoolgun for many alum projects simply because with small objects it wasn't practical to maneuver the spoolgun around fast enough to get good results. It was great on long straight things, but items where I was constantly changing the gun angle relative to the work it was a PITA.

    Now you want to build something bigger and bulkier to try and accomplish the same thing. The entire feed drive, trigger and nozzle assembly has to be built into a small easy to handle well balanced package. And do it with probably scrap parts on the cheap. Quite a challenge.

    Also keep in mind alum will not tolerate feed irregularities. It's why a long whip on a standard mig doesn't work well. As soon as there is a hiccup in the feed, the alum will melt back into the tip. That leaves most "cheap" mig's with their erratic feeders out of the equation.
    .



    No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!

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  13. #13
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    Re: Mig welding aluminum withOUT a spool gun?

    Hey guys,
    I see this query quite a bit & there is a really simple & inexpensive solution. I have a 160A MIG unit that is setup strictly for the alum. production runs I do(<.140"). This unit has a 6' MIG cable assembly that came originally equipped with it. I use 5356 since the production runs are not heat-affect applications(>150deg.). The wire feeds easily with no issues such as birdnesting. If you feel that a spoolgun setup is too much to invest in for just a few alum. jobs once-in-a-while, then consider getting another complete MIG cable assembly for your unit. These can generally be found on E-Bay quite reasonable.

    If you are not experienced enough with modifications or have the tools to shorten a MIG cable assem., take it to someone who is. It would be much easier to do the machine side of the assem. rather than taking the gun all apart & attempting to get the internals in the exact configuration for proper function. Then you will have a nice, short cable assem. that is easily changed over so you can do aluminum. Just some mental fodder to digest...... Here's a pic.....

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  14. #14
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    Re: Mig welding aluminum withOUT a spool gun?

    For the price and free shipping I would order one of these and figure out how to make it work on mine, doesn't look like it would be too hard. http://www.ebay.com/itm/NEW-Hot-Max-...item3a6cd1d32f
    Otherwise the Spoolmate 100 sells for $200, and it looks the same as my 3035, might have a back end that you have to modify to make work on yours though. With the addition of a SGA 100c you can make a spool gun work on just about anything too.

  15. #15
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    Re: Mig welding aluminum withOUT a spool gun?

    MIG guns can be shortened and Teflon liners aren't expensive.

    I shortened a used Tweco easily enough, but the project it's for didn't happen so I haven't got to use it yet.

    http://weldingweb.com/showthread.php?t=43695

    I'd grab a used gun off Ebay and have at it, or get with OADoctor about having him circumcise a gun for you. I don't know what size gun the 175 takes, but Miller guns are plentiful.

  16. #16
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    Re: Mig welding aluminum withOUT a spool gun?

    I have used my175 for alum with the 10' m 10 gun ,035 wire it works ding have Teflon liner so I had some contamination. For a little job it works.
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  17. #17
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    Re: Mig welding aluminum withOUT a spool gun?

    I tried it and it just wouldn't work for me. I shortened the old GA gun from my MM200 and installed the Teflon liner. Both 4043 and 5356 fed like a dream.

    I ruined 10 tips in 20 minutes. The wire would always burn back and melt the tip, regardless of stick out length, amps or Ar flow. I was thinking no pre flow may have had something to do with it. My Spoolmatic worked fine.

    I'm a novice, so YMMV. Let us know it it works for you and how you did it. I will try to post my posting on it with pics from 2011.
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  18. #18
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    Re: Mig welding aluminum withOUT a spool gun?

    TA Arcmaster 300
    CM3
    XMT 304
    S22P12 suitcase feeder
    X-Treme 12VS
    Optima pulser
    TA161S
    Maxstar 150STL
    Hypertherm PM45
    OP setup
    Stihl 020AVP, 039, 066 Magnum

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