What is needed to MIG Weld?
MIG welding (a type of GMAW welding) is one of the easier welding methods to learn and use in a home shop or professionally. To get started MIG welding, there is some essential equipment that you’ll need. You will want to make sure you have the right electrical setup, safety equipment, tools and consumable materials like gas and wire. The basic MIG welding gear that you’ll need is:
- Welding Machine (often called a welder)
- Power Source
- Electrode Wire
- Shielding Gas
- Metal Cutting Tool
- Angle Grinder
- Accessories (welding cart, clamps, etc.)
- Welding Clothing (gloves, boots, etc.)
- Welding Helmet
- Safety Equipment
MIG Welding Equipment and Accessories
Before buying MIG welding equipment and gear, you should account for all of the items that you will have to buy. If you have a set budget, it’s good to know everything that you need, so you don’t end up spending too much on the first few items and forgetting others. You should also think through the type of welding projects that you will be taking on. For instance, if you are planning on welding thick steel, you may need more power than many beginning welding machines will allow. Or if you plan to weld for years, you may want to consider a larger gas tank to save money and avoid frequent refills. The key is to think through what the next year or two of welding looks like and buy accordingly.
MIG Welding Machine for Beginners
There are dozens of credible MIG welders to choose from, depending on price range and intended use. For beginners, there are a few models that I would recommend checking out.
Lincoln Electric Handy MIG Welder
A lightweight, capable, 70 amp option that will work for most home, farm or shop projects. This is on the higher end, price-wise, for a beginning welder, but is a reputable brand and quality product. You will see cheaper ones out there, but I would not recommend going on the very low end.
Forney Easy Weld 261 MIG Welder
This is going to be lower priced, but still has a good reputation. It has a 140 amp power output that lets you weld thicker steel, but it is also a lighter machine than most (under 20 pounds), so you can move it around easily. Forney has a lot of other welders that are similar, but this is the best MIG option for beginners.
While we could certainly show you a ton of options for beginner welders, those two are a really good place to start. Most of the other credible options that you will see are going to be flux-core or multi-process, not strictly MIG.
You will want a constant voltage DC power source in most cases for MIG welding. Most of the dedicated MIG welding machines that beginners will be looking at are going to have the power source included as part of the machine. In some cases, you would have a separate device for the power supply, but this is not necessary for most MIG uses.
Depending on price, you’ll have options for the power output of your MIG welder, but for light-duty welding, you should be in the 70-150 amp range. For reference, welding a 20 gauge or 3/100 inch sheet will require about 70 amps. If you are looking to weld 1/4-1/8 inch thick steel, you’ll want to be closer to 150 amps or higher. Keep in mind that 70 amp MIG welding machines will run off of a typical household 110 volt plug, while higher amp machines may require a different power input. Make sure you check this before buying. If you are set on purchasing a separate power source, that’s fine, but the options that we recommend for beginners are included in the welder.
MIG Welding Wire
The wire that is used in MIG welding is consumable, meaning that you will have to replace it as you use it. The biggest things you will want to focus on when buying your first wire are size and price. There are other variables that you’ll get into with experience such as spatter and feed, but if you buy a reputable wire the first time, you won’t notice a difference. For most beginner welding jobs, you can pick a common size like 0.030″ or 0.035″. For sheet metal, you will want 0.024″. Make sure you check your welding machine to ensure that the wire is compatible before buying. Here is the best overall MIG wire value that is low-cost enough that you won’t need to shop around too much.
INEFIL ER70S-6 .035-Inch MIG Wire
Middle of the road in terms of cost, this wire will feed smoothly and give you good looking beads. It comes in different sizes based on what you need, but the 0.035 should be good to have around for most beginner/home/DIY jobs. Chances are, if you start with this wire, you won’t run into a need to switch.
Shielding Gas Setup
There is a lot that can go into the selection of shielding gas for MIG welding and most of it is beyond the scope of this post. However, I’ll give you the basics with a few choices. If you want to take a deep dive, the folks at Weld It Myself have a great post on this. The short version is that you want to use C25 (75% argon, 25% carbon dioxide) for most DIY or at-home welding, use CO2 for thicker steel, and a higher argon mix (85%) for faster welding with less spatter. For a beginner, I would recommend starting with C25, both due to price and ease of use. There is less to consider when purchasing this gas and your best bet is probably to get it at a local welding supplier, but you can also order a product like this online:
In this case, it’s free shipping so maybe it’s easier than transporting it. You can buy these tanks in multiple sizes and get them empty or full. For a beginner, you’ll want to start with a full tank as it will be more cost effective. You can refill it from there once you run out.
MIG Welding Accessories
Again, it’s probably beyond the scope of this page go into detail on all of the accessories that you will need. However, as you are planning your budget to get started, you should make sure that you take these things into account. You likely have many of them already, but be careful to ensure that they are the right type of accessories for welding (work gloves are not the same as welding gloves, etc.). Here is the basic list of MIG welding accessories:
- Welding Cart
- Auto-darkening welding mask/helmet
- Flame-resistant clothing
- Ear Plugs
- Angle Grinder
- Chop Saw
- Carpenter Squares
- A Level
- Hoses and Nozzles
- Metal Marker or Soapstone
- Spool Adapter
- Wire Cleaner
- Swan Neck Conversion Kits
Those are the basics to get started with MIG Welding. If this seems intimidating to look at all of this piece-by-piece, you may want to look at a MIG welding kit, which includes most of what you need to get started in one package. Otherwise, I would recommend setting a budget, finding equipment and accessories that are not the cheapest, but don’t break the bank and starting to put together your setup. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out using our contact page or check out some of our other articles that dive deeper on MIG welding.