How to Use a Wire Feed Welder (Beginners Guide)

By the end of this guide, you should know how to properly use a wire feed welder.

Wire feed welders are one of the best ways to join thin and thick steel and knowing how to use one could help you reach mastery with welding. Using a wire feed welder is not that difficult to learn. But there are specific things such as gas type and travel angle that if not learned properly can cause a lot of issues.

Unfortunately, many people don’t take the time to learn in detail and end up injuring themselves or producing shoddy work. 

In general, to use a wire feed welder properly, follow these steps.

  • Connect the wire feed welder to a suitable electrical outlet.
  • Turn on the gas tank and keep the gas flow value (CFH) correct.
  • Inspect the steel plate and get the material thickness.
  • Connect the ground clamp to the welding table and ground it.
  • Set the correct speed and voltage on the welding machine.
  • Wear all the required safety gear.
  • Position the welding gun at the right angle.
  • Choose your welding technique.
  • Press the trigger switch located on the welding gun.
  • Run the torch properly on the steel plates.

We’ll go into more detail below.

How Does a Wire Feed Welder Work?

Wire feed welders produce weld joints using continuously fed wire electrodes. These electrodes go into the machines by an electrode holder. The following processes will start when you press the trigger switch on the torch.

  • The power supply springs will start working
  • The rollers will also begin at the same time
  • The arch spring will start working
  • The gas will start to flow
  • The rollers will feed the wire

So, with the burning arc, the wire electrode and the base metal will start to melt. These two processes happen simultaneously. As a reaction to these processes, the two metals will melt and form a weld joint. Protecting the metals from contamination is the role of the shield gas.

If you are familiar with MIG welding, you’ll realize that this process is similar. However, executing such welding requires proper skills and techniques.

Must Know Things Before Using a Wire Feed Welder

Before we get into how to part, it is essential to learn about the technical process of a wire feed welder. A proper understanding of these techniques will help you immensely while welding.

Direction

You can choose from two options when it comes to direction. You can either pull or push. Here is a simple explanation about them.

When you bring the welding gun toward you while welding, this process is known as the pull technique. Pushing away the welding gun from you is known as the push technique.

The pull technique is commonly used in flux cored wire and stick welding. Use the push technique for a wire feed welder.

Tip: For a MIG welder, you can use either push or pull techniques.

Work Angle

The relationship between the welder’s workpiece and the axis of the electrode is known as the working angle.

Work angle entirely depends on the joint and metal type. For instance, work angle might vary because of the metal type, metal thickness, and joint type. When considering the above factors, we can categorize four different weld positions.

  • Flat position
  • Horizontal position
  • Vertical position
  • Overhead position

Angle for Different Types of Joints

angle the joints
Video | Brandon Lund

For a butt joint, the suitable angle is 90 degrees.

Maintain an angle between 60 to 70 degrees for lap joints.

Maintain an angle of 45 degrees For T joints. All of these three joints are related to the flat position.

When it comes to the horizontal position, gravity plays a major role. So, maintain a 0 to 15-degree work angle.

For vertical position, maintain a 5 to 15-degree work angle. Overhead positions are a little hard to handle. There is no specific work angle for this position. So use your expertise for this.

Travel Angle

The angle between the welding gun and weld in the plate is known as the travel angle. However, the plate should be positioned parallel to the travel direction. Most welders maintain this angle between 5 to 15 degrees. Here are some benefits of a proper traveling angle.

  • Produce less spatter
  • Increased level of arc stability
  • Higher penetration level

Angles over 20 degrees have lower productivity. They produce a large amount of spatter and lesser penetration.

Wire Selection

Selecting the correct wire for your welding task is highly important. There are two types of wires for wire feed welders. So, choosing one is not difficult at all.

ER70S-3

ER70S-3 is a perfect fit for your all-purpose welding tasks.

ER70S-6

This is a perfect choice for dirty or rusty steel. So, use this wire for repairs and maintenance work.

Wire Size

For thicker metals, choose from 0.035 inches or 0.045-inch wire. Use 0.030-inch wire for all-around tasks. The 0.023-inch wire is most suitable for thinner wires. So, depending on your job, choose a suitable size from ER70S-3 and ER70S-6 wire electrodes.

Gas Selection

welder in action
Video | Brandon Lund

Similar to the wire electrodes, choosing the right kind of shielding gas will decide the quality of your weld. A combination of 25% Carbon Dioxide and 75% Argon is the perfect mixture for a high-quality weld. Using such a combination will reduce the spatter level. Also, it will prevent metal burn through a great deal. Using the wrong gas might cause a porous weld and create toxic fumes.

Tip: Using 100% CO2 is an alternative for the above mixture. But CO2 produces a large amount of spatter. So, you’ll be better off with the Ar and CO2 mixture.

Wire Length

The wire length that sticks out of the welding gun is much more important than one might think. It directly affects the arc stability. So, leave 3/8 inch length sticking out. This value is a standard that most welders use.

Keep in mind: Longer wire length might produce a sizzling sound from the arc.

10-Step Guide on How to Use a Wire Feed Welder

You now know about the angles, wire, and gas selection from the above section. This basic knowledge is enough to continue with our wire feed welder direct use steps.

Step 1 – Connect to an Electrical Outlet

connecting to an electrical outlet
Video | Brandon Lund

For a wire feed welder, you’ll need a dedicated outlet. Most welders come with a 13 amp socket. So, find a 13 amp outlet and connect the wire feed welder.

Tip: Depending on the power of the welder socket, the amperage of the outlet might vary.

Step 2 – Turn ON the Gas Flow

turning on gas flow
Video | Brandon Lund

Then, go to the gas tank and release the valve. Turn the valve counterclockwise.

releasing the valve of a gas tank
Video | Brandon Lund

Set the CFH value to around 25. CFH value refers to the rate of gas flow.

Keep in mind: Choose a gas according to the instructions in the previous section.

Step 3 – Measure Thickness of the Plates

measuring thickness of the plates
Video | Brandon Lund

Next, take the two plates that you will use for this welding job and measure the thickness.

To measure the thickness of this plate, you’ll need a gauge similar to the above image. Sometimes, you’ll get this gauge with the welding machine. Or you can buy one from the local hardware store.

Place the gauge on the plate and determine the thickness of the plate. For our example, the plate thickness is 0.125 inches. Note down this value. You’ll need it later when you set up the speed and voltage.

Step 4 – Ground the Welding Table

Most welding machines come with a grounding clamp. Use this clamp to ground the welding table. This is a must-follow safety precaution. Otherwise, you might get electrocuted.

Step 5 – Set the Speed and Voltage

Pop up the lid that is located on the side of the welding machine.

speed and voltage table
Video | Brandon Lund

On the lid, you can find a chart that gives you the speed and voltage of each material. To find these two values, you need the below information.

  • Type of material
  • Type of Gas
  • Wire thickness
  • Diameter of the plate

steel plate with a 0.125 inch diameter
Video | Brandon Lund

I used a steel plate with a 0.125-inch diameter and C25 gas for this demonstration. C25 gas includes Ar 75% and CO2 25%. Also, the wire thickness is 0.03 inches.

gauge wire table: changing polarity
Video | Brandon Lund

According to those parameters, you need to set the voltage to 4 and speed to 45. Inspect the above image to get a clear idea about it.

setting the welding machine
Video | Brandon Lund

Now turn on the switch on the welding machine and set the voltage and speed on the gauges.

Step 6 – Wear the Required Safety Gear

The process of welding is a dangerous activity. You’ll need plenty of safety gear for this. So, wear the following safety gear.

  • Respirator
  • Safety Glass
  • Safety gloves
  • Welding helmet

Note: Don’t risk your health, wear the above safety gear before starting the welding process.

Step 7 – Position the Torch in the Correct Angle

positioning the torch in the correct angle
Video | Brandon Lund

Consider the work angle & travel angle and position the welding torch at the correct angle.

For instance, maintain a 5 to 15 degrees travel angle and decide the working angle according to the metal type, thickness, and joint type. For this demonstration, I’m welding a butt joint for two steel plates.

Step 8 – Push or Pull

push / pull the torch
Video | Brandon Lund

Now decide the welding technique for this task; pull or push. As you already know, welding with the push technique is the best option for wire-feed welders. So, place the welding torch accordingly.

Step 9 – Press the Trigger Switch

pressing the trigger switch
Video | Brandon Lund

Now press the trigger switch on the torch and start the welding process. Remember to hold the welding torch tightly during this step.

Step 10 – Complete the Welding

running the welding torch through the welding line
Video | Brandon Lund

Run the welding torch through the welding line of the steel plates and complete the process properly.

steel plates
Video | Brandon Lund

Tip: Don’t touch the welded plate immediately. Leave the plate for 2 or 3 minutes on the welding table and let it cool. Touching the welded plate while it is still hot will burn your skin.

Safety Issues Related to Welding

There is plenty of safety issues that come with welding. Knowing these issues earlier can be quite beneficial. So here are some of the significant safety issues.

  • Sometimes, welding machines might produce harmful fumes.
  • You could get an electric shock.
  • Eye Problems
  • You might have to face some radiation burns.
  • Your clothes might catch fire.
  • You can catch metal fume fever
  • Exposure to metals such as nickel or chromium might lead to occupational asthma.
  • Without proper ventilation, the noise level might be too much for you.

To prevent such safety issues, always wear suitable safety gear. So, here are some steps to protect yourself.

  • Wearing gloves and boots will protect you from skin burns. (1)
  • Wear a welding helmet to protect your eyes and face.
  • Using a respirator will protect you from toxic gases.
  • Maintaining proper ventilation in the welding area will reduce the noise level.
  • Grounding the welding table will protect you from any shock.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher in your workshop. It will come in handy during a fire.
  • Wear flame-resistant clothes during the welding process.

If you follow the above safety precautions accordingly, you can complete the welding process without getting hurt.

Wrapping Up

Whenever you use a wire feed welder, follow the above 10-step guide. Remember, becoming an expert welder is a time-consuming task. So, be patient and follow the correct technique while welding.

The welding process depends on your skills, direction, travel angle, wire type, and gas type. Consider all of these factors while wire feed welding. (2)

Take a look at some of our related articles below.




References
(1) skin burns – https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/burns/symptoms-causes/syc-20370539
(2) gas type – https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/gasoline/octane-in-depth.php

Video References

Hobart Welding Products

Brandon Lund

Eastwood Company

Magswitch Technology

Mr. Sandhu Tech Ed

About Sam Orlovsky

b1d87d2ee85af3e51479df87928bdc88?s=90&d=mm&r=gI realized early on carpentry was a huge passion for me and I’ve stayed in the industry for over 20 years now. This gives me a unique ability to really be able to tell you what the best tools and recommendations are. I’m not only a carpenter but I also like machinery and anything to do with electrics. One of my career paths starting off was as an apprentice electrician so I also have a lot of experience with electrical products and anything related.