12 Welding Tips from Factory Five

Factory Five Racing of Wareham, Mass., produces the world's best-selling kit car, the Mk4 Roadster. With their penchant for precise, repeatable manufacturing techniques, Factory Five hires skilled welders who have typically graduated from the area's local technical high schools and colleges. The company employs 10 welders who burn through more than 2,800 rolls of ESAB's OK AristoRod 12.50 MIG wire each year. In short, these welders are good, fast and extremely skilled.

Courtesy of Operations Manager Nate Johnson, Welding Manager Chad Gonsalves and welder Josh Giusti, here are some tips to improve your own MIG welding performance


1. Apply anti-spatter spray, and use an environmentally-friendly spray if possible. Using an anti-spray will help prevent the spatter from sticking, and that reduces the amount of time it takes to remove the spatter after welding.


2. Using a quality GMAW wire also reduces spatter. Before switching to OK AristoRod 12.50, Gonsalves says, "The guys would call me with problems, and a lot of times it would be the wire not feeding through the liner correctly. The gun would pulse and they would get a lot of wire slipping sticking and spatter, but that isn't happening now. With the AristoRod wire and anti-spatter spray, I could probably pick any spatter off with my fingernail."


3. Position your head so that you can get a clear view of the arc so that you can keep the wire directed into front third of the molten weld pool.
4. To keep your hand as steady as possible, brace your arms, elbows and hands wherever possible.


5. For extreme control over the gun, hold it as close to the contact tip as heat allows. The helps welders like Giusti create a weld bead pattern that's as distinct as their signature.


6. Good fit-up produces consistent penetration and sound welds. Or put another way, you can't weld air. If you try to weld with a large gap, you'll just catch the edge of the plate and possibly burn-through.


7. When welding on extremely complex structures, such as a complete car frame in a jig, practice your moves along the actual welding path before pulling the trigger. This will prevent you from accidentally banging your elbow or getting in an awkward position that could throw your bead off the centerline of the joint.


8. The order of how you weld a part is important. In this case, Giusti stops after completing half of the weld so that the part will have a chance to cool and so he can re-apply anti-spatter spray to the other side of the joint (the heat of welding would have burned it off had he applied it previously).
9. If the joint configuration, part size and blueprints allow it, create a little shelf on which to weld. That makes it easier to get good penetration compared a weld that flush fit. Here, you can see how the horizontal plate is set in just a touch from the vertical.
10. To reduce burnbacks, use a wire that provides smooth feeding performance. After switching to OK AristoRod 12.50, "I noticed that our everyday welding problems were tapering off," says Gonsalves. "We don't go through as many contact tips and the wire feeds more easily through the liner. We were blowing through contact tips like crazy with some of the other wire."


11. The two most likely spots for weld failure are at the beginning and end of a weld. Grind out the starts and stops if you think you got a cold start or see a crater at the end of the weld that could promote cracking. Also, pay close attention to how you tie two welds together. Here, as the weld wraps around the corner, Giusti had to stop to reposition his body. He starts the new weld just on the edge old weld, remelts the edge of first weld and then brings the hot puddle onto new metal.


12. To improve joint access, learn how to trigger the gun in different ways. In this side-by-side photo, you can see how Giusti triggers the gun with his index finger extending in one case and with his thumb in another.