How can I weld thin metal?
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  1. #1
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    Dec 2011
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    How can I weld thin metal?

    Well I was trying to weld thin metal. I'm not sure the thickness but less than 1/8" and it would just burn right through it. I was just practicing so it wasn't a big deal, but I eventually want to do some repair work to my old Mustang.

    I narrowed down the problem to one of two things: the wrong wire size, or too high voltage. I have a Clarke MIG 130 amp welder and I wasn't using Argon. I was using .030 Fluxcore wire. I had the voltage setting on the welder at 1 which is the lowest and I had the wire feed speed very low so that it wouldn't just go right through the metal.

    I couldn't figure out how to make a good weld. What should I do?

    Thanks.

  2. #2
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    Re: How can I weld thin metal?

    gas-less flux core likes a bit more stick-out to preheat the wire.
    up your wire speed and move your gun more would be my suggestions.
    I don't think you can get flux core in a smaller size than .030, but I have never looked either.

  3. #3
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    Re: How can I weld thin metal?

    Quote Originally Posted by UMfan92 View Post
    I narrowed down the problem to one of two things: the wrong wire size, or too high voltage. I have a Clarke MIG 130 amp welder and I wasn't using Argon. I was using .030 Fluxcore wire. I had the voltage setting on the welder at 1 which is the lowest and I had the wire feed speed very low so that it wouldn't just go right through the metal.
    Close. Your problem is the wrong wire. You are using FC wire. You should be using .023 solid wire and 75/25 gas ( not 100% argon) if you want the best chance to have good results with sheet metal. FC wire is a much hotter process and give more penetration than solid wire and gas.

    After that it's lots of practice. With auto body sheet metal, don't expect super results without a lot of practice. You won't be able to just run a big long bead, like you can with say 1/8". You'll have to do short welds and skip around. Fit up will need to be very good. But welds need almost perfect fit up with no gap. Many times it's easier for newer welders to do lap welds rather than but welds because it's easier to get decent fit up and you will have 2x the metal to ork with at the joints. The down side is that then you have a place water and dirt can collect and start rust issues all over again if you can't seal the back well.
    .



    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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  4. #4
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    Re: How can I weld thin metal?

    Make sure your have your polarity set right as well. +1 on running 70s-6 with 75/25

  5. #5
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    Re: How can I weld thin metal?

    Ok so it's possible right? I have the tanks for MIG but I need a new regulator and I need to get them filled with the right gas.

    I'm pretty sure I have my polarity set correctly, but it's set correctly for fluxcore. I will see if maybe I can get the tanks filled one of these days and get some thinner solid core wire. Thanks for the tips though. Good to know that FC is hotter than MIG. About how much is it to fill the tanks?

    So my problem had more to do with the wire rather than the voltage? I hope it's not my welder.

  6. #6
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    Re: How can I weld thin metal?

    Quote Originally Posted by UMfan92 View Post
    Ok so it's possible right? I have the tanks for MIG but I need a new regulator and I need to get them filled with the right gas. I'm pretty sure I have my polarity set correctly, but it's set correctly for fluxcore. About how much is it to fill the tanks?
    For my small mig machine (which I haven't used in a while), I believe it's around $30.00 or so to refill the small tank at my local Airgas retailer. I use a larger tank for my larger Mig machine and the price is more obviously.

    I weld sheet metal with a Mig more than any other thickness of steel metal. I used to use my smaller 120v Lincoln exclusively on car body panels with no problems what so ever! The little 120v machines are perfect for that type of job. (I've since bought a bigger machine to weld thicker stuff with a longer duty cycle, but I still keep the 120v mig for small welding tasks and/or portability).

    Using the 75/25 C02/Ar mix as pointed out by others is key. (Or 100% C02, but you'll then need to purchase a different regulator for C02 gas. Most "out of the box" small mig machines come with a regulator for a 75/25% gas mix). As pointed by others, the .023/.025 solid mig wire size is best for sheet metal on cars. Make sure you do NOT use cheap crappy wire! I can't emphasize that enough! I love Lincoln "SuperArc" brand (hence my user name) for Mig. I've heard Hobart brand is excellent too. To me, the Lincoln stuff is rather easy to find everywhere. Airgas' "Radnor" brand is crap to me. I'll put it one step above Harbor Frieght crap wire. Some may disagree, but this is how I see it for thin auto body metal.

    With wire and gas shielding mix, you MUST absolutely make sure the surface is clean!!! No rust, paint, primer, grease, oil, dirt, or mill scale etc... on the surface of the metal you want to use a mig welder on. Otherwise those contaminants just make your work look like donkey-snot welds.

    You must also make sure that you have 3 settings adjusted properly. That being wire speed, amperage and shielding gas output controls. For gas output, I like 15-25 cfm set on my gas gauges depending on slight breeze conditions or not. With mig, you really need a zero wind speed in the atmosphere around you, wheras flux core welding tolerates windy conditions. I can't really tell you where to set your wire or voltage setting, because every machine is different. Just take scrap metal of the same thickness you plan on welding and practice on it. Wire stick out is key. Not to much, and not enough. I prefer about 1/4" for all of my shielded gas welding works best for me. Keeping the nozzle tip distance the same throughout the weld is also very important. If your hand starts drifting and the tip distance starts to increase, your welds will start to look bad.

    LISTEN to your mig welder. If it sounds like a tire leaking air, or a turtle hissing coupled with sputtering sounds like a pizzed off cobra, then you have the WRONG sound! Your welds will really suck! You really do need a fast consistant sound of bacon sizzling in a hot frying pan. That will produce consistant welds. That is the perfect sound to help you achieve perfect looking weld beads.

    A 120v quality machine will be more than sufficient for auto body sheet metal. Afterall, you don't need a sledge hammer to work on jewelry, do you? I wouldn't use anything but Lincoln, Miller or Hobart. In fact, I wouldn't use any of the older 120v lincolns or millers either. (That's just me).

    Polarity.... For mig welding, you need to run "positive polarity." In other words, your mig wire gun needs to be connected to the "positive" terminal and your work clamp to the "negative" terminal. When flux core wiring, you connect the leads the opposite way.

    Good luck. Let us know what you decide on using as far as your equipment.
    Lincoln Power Mig 216
    Lincoln AC/DC-225/125

    Miller 625 X-Treme Plasma
    Miller 211

    Forney 95FI-A 301
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    Makita
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  7. #7
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    Re: How can I weld thin metal?

    Quote Originally Posted by SuperArc View Post
    With mig, you really need a zero wind speed in the atmosphere around you, wheras flux core welding tolerates windy conditions.
    Um, can you define just how "zero" is "zero" ?

    I am really leaning toward getting a cylinder of an Argon/CO2 mix to do thin metal, but zero wind speed when welding outside and 2.5 miles from the Atlantic ocean is a no-go. I can weld behind the wall of the house, but to believe there will be zero wind movement most days (I did have almost two days of low wind, here, within the last three weeks - but that disappeared at about 1 AM this morning) is like believing North Korea is now stable since the great leader was knocked off / died / found a place to retire with the billions of $.

  8. #8
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    Re: How can I weld thin metal?

    You can use mig with gas outside with a light breeze if you turn up the gas flow. You will know when the breeze is too high because you'll immediately see the signs of poor gas flow as the wind blows away your shielding gas. If you don't know what this looks like, simply don't turn the gas on and try a short bead on scrap.

    Take note of what wind conditions are when you notice the wind is too high to work. I can usually tell if it's too windy to weld outside at my place by looking at the trees and leaves. If the leaves are only lightly rustling, it's probably do able with out setting up a wind break. If the branches aren't swaying in the tree tops, but I can hear the leaves, I probably can get by with simply setting up a couple sheets of plywood or a tarp as a screen. Much more than that I'll bag it for the day, break out the FC wire in the spoolgun or go to stick, or if I absolutely must get it done with mig, set up a full tent, but that's a bit much for most stuff. 90% of the time I can simply do what I want another day.

    A friend of mine does about 1/2 to 2/3rds his on site work using gas mig. He tents almost every project. Part of doing business. With the sort of work he does, porosity in welds is NOT an option, so he takes the time to protect the work. Some days, it's not possible to weld due to extremely high winds, but most times he has no issues if he sets up the tarps right.
    .



    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!

    Ronald Reagan

  9. #9
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    Re: How can I weld thin metal?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mambo Dave View Post
    Um, can you define just how "zero" is "zero" ?

    I am really leaning toward getting a cylinder of an Argon/CO2 mix to do thin metal, but zero wind speed when welding outside and 2.5 miles from the Atlantic ocean is a no-go. I can weld behind the wall of the house, but to believe there will be zero wind movement most days (I did have almost two days of low wind, here, within the last three weeks - but that disappeared at about 1 AM this morning) is like believing North Korea is now stable since the great leader was knocked off / died / found a place to retire with the billions of $.
    I hear ya, but zero means zero for gmaw (mig with gas). Well, okay 1 knot maybe, like a gentle breeze that comes and goes, weld in between the breeze gusts as they subside. Then you'll do okay with shielded mig welding. Otherwise, living next to the ocean with an off shore flow from the beach you might as well give up mig welding. Or give up in frustration with you crappy looking welds because the shielding gas blow away and doesn't protect the weld.

    Or, another option is that lets say you have some stronger gusts in the 5-7 knot range. If you errect a shield or barrier for your weld arc when using mixed gas, you'll do better as well. Go ahead, try to mig weld in some wind and you'll see how frustrating it can be. It's NOT impossible, but it's really a hassle.

    If you can, weld in a garage with the main door open. That will allow you in a 3 sided structure and a roof at preventing the wind hitting your arc as your running a bead. Also, you'll have to turn up your gas flow and you'll use more shielding gas. Shielding gas is NOT like a hard flux coating which turns to slag when it's heated by the arc.

    Flux core wire or stick welding you really don't have to worry much about winds and gusts. Sorry to break your dreams about "zero" wind and mig (gmaw) welding.
    Last edited by SuperArc; 12-19-2011 at 05:11 AM.
    Lincoln Power Mig 216
    Lincoln AC/DC-225/125

    Miller 625 X-Treme Plasma
    Miller 211

    Forney 95FI-A 301
    Victor Journeyman O/P
    Milwaukee
    Dayton
    Makita
    Baileigh

  10. #10
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    Re: How can I weld thin metal?

    Thanks guys. I may go research some form of tarp as a barrier-wall around me, or plywood. I was practice welding in the back this morning with the .030 flux core I picked up over the weekend, and even behind the wall it was really gusty... which was great for ventilation, not so great for migrating away from FC. I have been down here for about 9 years, and even just before I bought this Handy-Mig I remember wondering if the wind was always this constant, from the ocean's direction, for this many days at a time during other "winters" I've spent down here. I know we get still air and west winds in the summer, but this is getting weird (if not really nice, save for welding). Some day I will have argon, and have it working. (just checked, it seems I was welding during 14 to 18 MPH winds this morning, but that was in the open areas - I was getting the turbulence from behind the wall.)

  11. #11
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    Re: How can I weld thin metal?

    Question re: this topic and the start of every weld

    I upgraded to an argon tank and .023 wire. Is there a way to purge an area (get the argon flowing from the tip) before beginning a weld? It seems that I can get passable welds once I get going.

    Lincoln's gun seems to only have the options of a partial-pull of the trigger which pushes wire, and a full pull of the trigger which pushes wire and begins the arc. The option to get the shielding gas flowing, first, seems like it would be a handy thing to have.
    Cancel that - I found that if I pushed less I could get gas flow without wire feed.

    Also, as an aside that I haven't figured out yet (the instructions from Lincoln are left wanting), the gas continued to flow through the nozzle once after a weld was done - and bumping the trigger a few times didn't shut it off. Only the end of the next weld did shut it off.

    I am probably going to want to buy a gauge for the regulator, too... I can't tell how much it's putting out without a gauge.
    Last edited by Mambo Dave; 12-21-2011 at 02:18 PM.
    Lincoln Handy Mig

  12. #12
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    Re: How can I weld thin metal?

    I weld autobody sheet metal and probably the best way to weld it is to reduce the angle directing the heat away from the pool, using .023 or 24 wire and using a backing block, also consider going tig, pulse your trigger if you have to and move around let the pool cool.
    Also may wish to consider a mig with greater control over you heat selections and infinite wire speed adjustment, pretty tough when you ave four or five heat setting to get it dialed in right.I just rput new drive wheels on a millermatic 212 and ,024 wire and it still burns a little hotter than my other machine.
    Last edited by pistolnoon; 12-22-2011 at 01:44 AM.

  13. #13
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    Re: How can I weld thin metal?

    I hate to say this, but I also have that Clarke 130EN... I hated it.

    I went to a Miller 140 and weld quality improved 10 fold.
    Joe
    Miller 140 Autoset (2010)
    Miller Syncrowave 250 (1996)

  14. #14
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    Re: How can I weld thin metal?

    Quote Originally Posted by joebie View Post
    I hate to say this, but I also have that Clarke 130EN... I hated it.

    I went to a Miller 140 and weld quality improved 10 fold.
    Some one told me a long time ago; "You'll never regret buying quality"
    Safety 3rd
    Gump

  15. #15
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    Re: How can I weld thin metal?

    Best light gauge welding machine I ever had was an old century machine 120v I think about 130amp at the max. Pretty much useless on anything thicker than 1/8" but on thin sheet it just seemed to work better than anything else I ever used, even my MM251.

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