If you’ve recently got into the world of welding, you’ll soon realize that welding isn’t just a one-method procedure. There are many types of welding controlled by different types of machines. While most of these welders can make joints in metal, each type of them has its own perk. Currently, MIG welders are the most common type of welders that can weld anything from thin sheets to heavy steel rods.
So, how to Use a MIG Welder Without Gas? Fortunately, you can still MIG weld metals without using protective gases. This method is known as Flux Core Arc Welding (FCAW) or Flux Core for short. In this method, you use a special welding wire known as a “flux core welding wire”. Similar to MIG’s electrodes, these flux core wires are consumable.
MIG welding is known for using inert gas feeds in the system. In the following article, I’ll show you how to use a MIG welder without gas and whether it’s efficient. So without further ado, let’s dive in!
Table of Contents
Does MIG Welding Require Gas?
Let’s get real about the reason you probably want to try welding: it looks awesome. You have decided you want to give it a try as a hobby, or maybe even a career, but the amount of equipment you will need seems quite cost prohibitive. Luckily, you will be happy to know that you do not need every single accessory to go along with your new welder.
Do you actually need that gas canister to do MIG Welding? No, you do not. You can just use wire instead of gas. This limits the work that you can do but is great for beginners.
Keep reading to learn how to weld without gas, which gas to use if you are using it, and much more.
How Do You MIG Weld Without using Shielding Gas?
As a beginner, the first gas option you will want to try is no gas at all. As long as you have got wire, you certainly can weld. While your chances of doing a strong, clean job go down, this may come as a relief to beginners reading the previous section and getting nervous about mixing chemicals on their driveway.
Well, do not focus on that yet. If you are just starting out and just bought your MIG machine, grab some wire and a couple pieces of metal and give it a try!
Just keep in mind before you begin that flux core wire works best. It is a combination of carbon and steel, giving you the durability you need to form decent bonds in the presence of airborne oxygen.
Once you have your tools ready to go, here is how to MIG weld without gas:
|2||Clean the Metal|
|3||Setting up the metal|
|4||Turn on the machine|
|5||Choose current strength|
|6||Set wire feed|
|7||Test it out|
1. Consider Safety Measures
As you know, flux core MIG welding produces fumes and intense flashing lights. You should make sure that you use protective gear to stay in the safe zone. Ideally, you need a welding helmet and a pair of protective gloves for that task.
2. Clean the Metal
Although flux core MIG welding works with dirty metals, cleaning the metal will have noticeable effects on the final work.
It should be an easy process, as you only need to brush or grind it to remove debris and sand from the surface.
3. Adjust the Settings of the Flux Core MIG Welder
The first thing you need to do before using the welder is to choose the number of amps you need in your project. Most welder machines have a control panel where you can adjust all these settings.
Choosing all the parameters of the MIG welder depends on the type of material you’re going to weld. Also, the thickness of the metal you need to weld might affect aspects like amps. For example, a single pass 1/4-inch steel should require about 180 amps.
4. Turn on the Machine
Make sure you have your wire loaded in the machine and have it plugged in a safe area, then start it up. For wire loading instructions, consult the machine’s instruction manual. Get this all ready to go before you start because it is easier to figure out when it is quieter.
5. Choose Current Strength
Once on, you will need to choose which strength you want the current to be. How strong do you want? It depends on the thickness and type of metal you are welding. Generally, the thicker the metal, the stronger the current. But be careful: aluminum really does not take much. For steel, however, you will need to turn up the heat.
6. Setting the Wire Feed
Next, you will need to adjust the speed of the wire feed, which mostly depends on the metal type and the project at hand.
Typically, you have to install a particular gear for this, contingent on the speed. Just like your car uses different gears depending on speed, so does your welding machine.
However, some machines have an automatic feed, such as MIG Welder Flux Core Lift Tig Reboot MIG-130 Gas.
7. Test It
If you are working on something delicate and you are new to welding, you may not want to release the Kraken right away. Grab a couple pieces of metal you do not care about, some scrap perhaps, and set it on your workstation. Try to use similar metal to the pieces you care about, if available, in terms of type. Turn on the machine and observe the size arc you are getting and the strength. Give it a go on the scrap metal. If you are burning it to a crisp, you may want to turn down your current a bit. If it is hardly doing anything, turn up the heat.
Also, if this is your very first weld, take your time to just do a few practice runs on that scrap metal. Familiarize yourself with:
- The speed of the machine
- The true strength of the arc, even when it is on the correct settings
- Where the off switch is in case of emergency
- Comfortably and efficiently raising and lowering your mask: these things are notoriously clunky, so this takes some practice
Once you test out your machine and are feeling confident, it is time to start welding. Take your time for a strong bind. If you go to fast, odds are it will not be a thorough enough job and will come apart quite easily. For steel, make a couple extra passes if need be. Just take care not to weaken the over metal’s integrity.
9. Finishing Up
When your weld is all done, shut down your machine and sit it down in a safe spot. Allow at least a few minutes for the metal to cool. It is a good idea at this time to take your mask off and step away for a bit. Why? If any chemicals were released, you want to let them dilute while you go and get some fresh air of your own.
When you return, admire your handy work. If admiring is not quite the word, you may want to give it another pass to fill in any gaps caused from oxygen pollution.
What Is MIG Welding?
MIG welding is a part of a larger type of welding known as arc welding. In short, all arc welding utilizes high voltage electricity to produce an immense amount of heat that’s enough to melt metals.
As the metal cools down, they’re fused through the joining points. The arc methods are stick, MIG, and TIG.
The difference between the three methods lies in the material of the electrode used with the base metal. Also, it depends on the gases used in the process.
Gas Metal Arc Welding (GMAW) is also known as Metal Inert Gas (MIG). From the name, you can conclude that MIG uses some gases in its composition.
It’s a process that uses a solid electrode that’s continuously fed along with some kind of a gas to melt that electrode and join welds.
The wire feed is held on a spool inside a welder. This wire is almost always metallic and the specific metal is determined by the type of metal you’re going to weld.
A MIG welder machine usually comes with different heat settings. This allows you to control the machine and set it to the right level of heat. In fact, MIG welders can reach an extreme level of heat that they can easily burn a thorough hole into a metal frame.
MIG WELDING WITH AND WITHOUT GAS >> Check Out The Video below
What Kind of Gas Do You Use for MIG Welding?
If you decide that you want to get the most out of your new MIG welding machine, you should make the switch to gas. After all, it will more than likely be some type of inert gas, since MIG literally stands for Metal Inert Gas.
By using gas, you are shielding the welding area from outside influences that can mess up your weld, like oxygen. To determine which type of gas you can use consult:
- Your welding machine’s manual
- The instructions on your welding wire (different wires have different requirements)
- The hardware store when you buy your particular welder
The most common gases to be used in MIG welders are helium, argon, carbon dioxide, and oxygen. Each one of them has a unique set of pros and cons when used with different materials and for various applications.
Before you continue reading, here is an article we wrote about the different gases: What Gases Do MIG Welders Use >> Welding Shielding Gas | Complete Guide
Argon is the most commonly used base to use as an inert gas during MIG welding. It produces a much narrower stream than other gases, enabling you to do a cleaner job. Imagine you are trying to draw straight, clean line with a pencil.
Obviously, you are going to be able to do a much better job with a thin pencil and a ruler than with one of those large gag gift pencils. The same goes for argon thanks to its consistency. While other better chemicals exist for welding, these are not inert gases and therefore can only be used in MAG welding, not MIG.
More often than not, your machine’s instruction manual will have a chart showing which gases are best to use, depending on the strength and chemical makeup of both the material you are welding and the wire type. 100% argon can be used on aluminum, and a mixture of 75% aluminum and 25% carbon dioxide can be used on steel.
Types of wires that work well with argon include:
You can also use helium with a MIG welder, just keep in mind it acts a bit different than argon. Chemically speaking, helium is among the safest chemicals. However, you still need to keep in mind that helium burns a lot hotter than argon, with a much a more fluid arc.
Some carbon dioxide or even oxygen can be added to it to deepen the flame’s penetration and stiffen the arc. (Consult your owner’s manual for proper mixing formulas and techniques.) Helium is generally considered best for:
- Stainless steel (and some other high-alloy austenitic and non-austenitic steels)
- Some aluminums
As far as wire, aluminum works best, such as the 4043 ER and 5356 listed above.
The Reasons for Using Shielding Gas in MIG Welding
As you already know, you can adjust MIG welders to reach extreme levels of heat. The problem is, the oxygen in the air can easily react with the metal in the extreme heat.
This results in a generally weaker structure due to the oxidation of some parts of the weld. Also, this causes the weld pool to form a layer of tarnish, producing a lesser quality product.
These inert gases act as a physical barrier that protects that weld pool from the impact of the atmospheric air, such as reacting with nitrogen and oxygen gases.
As you know, they come out of the same nozzle. So, they cover the pool with a form of a protective inert gas cloud. Since they’re inert, you won’t have to worry about them reacting with the weld pool instead.
Another benefit of using protective gas in your welder is health preservation. With less reaction with air, especially nitrogen gas, less dangerous fumes are produced.
However, this might be a minimal effect. The produced gas amounts are negligible, especially if you’re wearing safety equipment and working outdoors.
Can You Use a MIG Welder Without Using a Shielding Gas?
While the regular welding wire is solid on the inside, the flux core wire is hollow and is basically a micro-tube with flux inside of it.
This welding flux is a mixture of silicate and carbonate materials that will burn during the welding process. This burning produces a cloud of gas that will protect the weld pool just like inert gases.
You should also know that the burnt flux will form a layer of slag on top of the weld pool. However, you can easily remove it in a variety of ways, including a chipping hammer.
Can You Use a MIG Welder Without a Shielding Gas or Flux Core?
While you can get away without using a shielding gas using flux core wires, you can’t get away without using both.
While a lot of metals can resist reacting with air in regular conditions, almost all metals will do so in welding temperatures.
If you don’t use any form of shielding while welding, the final result will go through multiple oxidations that result in creating many small holes and pits in the weld. Besides looking tarnished and obviously discolored, it’ll also be extremely fragile.
A weak junction can be disastrous. In the case of vehicles or house gates, the last thing you’ll ever want is a bad welding job.
Here, you can find an article from our website about flux core wire: Does Flux Core Wire Go Bad | Tips for Preventing the Effects of Moisture Contamination
Comparing MIG Welding With and Without Gas
A typical question that might come to your mind is “how can I benefit from flux core?” or “is flux core any better than using gas”. In this section, you’ll find the answer.
Now that you know how both flux core welding and gas welding work. It’s time to put them head to head and see how they compare to each other.
Every welder has his own technique and conditions of work. That’s why there isn’t one method that’s completely better than the other. So, let’s compare them according to some important aspects.
Unlike many fields of work, welding requires a lot of transportation. That’s why portability is a crucial asset in welder machines.
Gasless flux core welders are usually much lighter in total weight. You won’t have to carry a heavy gas cylinder around.
While there are small cylinders, most gas welders will prefer a larger one to save more money and overall space. The typical welder weighs about 20 to 70 pounds alone.
Adding more than 100 additional pounds of gas tanks will always be a problem. As a result, gas welders are usually forced to use a cart to move around.
This takes a lot of time and might affect the daily productivity of professional welders in the long run. The reason behind that is that they need to make sure that it’s fastened tight enough to ensure safety.
Flux core wires are a much more convenient option while working outside. Flux core will burn only when the tube starts melting, producing a constant gas cloud on spot, which works even if it’s windy outside.
Since you typically won’t need an external source of shielding, gasless MIG welders are much better options if you’re working outdoors.
Flux core MIG welding also works with a wide variety of materials without needing to clean the material thoroughly first.
This allows you to work with dirty, rusty, painted, and galvanized metals without having to prepare them first.
On the other hand, solid MIG wires that are used in gas welding require a clean surface to work properly.
Also, flux core MIG welding provides excellent penetrating strength, allowing it to work on thick materials too. However, you should know that this ability depends on the machine you’re going to use.
If you’re aspiring to be a professional welder, you’ll need to check your expenses in order to make the maximum amount of profit. If you’re going to use flux core MIG welding, you won’t have to spend extra money on buying external gas tanks.
Also, you’ll be able to work on different projects and transport easily, which adds to your profits in the long run.
One of the common side effects of flux core MIG welding is that it produces more fumes than MIG welding with gas. If you have respiratory issues, gas might be a better option.
However, if you follow good safety and protection measures, using flux core MIG welding shouldn’t be a problem for you.
Position of Application
Finally, the position where you’ll apply welding can favor one method over the other. For example, vertical metal welds are better with gas shielded welding.
Having a gas tank with a flow control system allows you to direct your protective gas where you want in the speed and direction you desire, which isn’t always an option while using flux core MIG welding.
Ease of Use
Despite being a lot more convenient, flux core welding might be a bit more tricky to master. Also, it’s difficult to handle the flux wire because it’s relatively more fragile than solid wire.
On the other hand, gas protected MIG welding is much more straightforward. Also, the fact that you can control the flow rate and direction of the gas application is also in favor of gas welding.
What Are the Best MIG Welders to Weld Without Gas?
There are many MIG welders that feature flux core welding. Here’s a list of the best options to go for if you want to weld without using shielding gas:
- VIVOHOME Portable Flux Core Wire No Gas MIG
- Display4top Portable No Gas Flux Core MIG 130 PLUS Welder
- Hobart 500572 Handler 100 No Gas Flux Core Welder
- Forney Easy Weld 261 140 Gasless/Flux Core MIG Welder
There you have it. A complete guide on how to use MIG welders without gas. By observing all the pros and cons of flux core MIG welders, it’s obvious that they have a huge advantage when compared to gas-shielded MIG welders.
They’re more convenient and portable with much less hassle to worry about. However, you should know that it’s more complicated to master when compared to MIG welders.
Also, MIG welder with gas produces high-quality work without effort, so you have to put all these aspects in mind before making your final decision.
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