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MIG Welder Spool Gun | Spool Gun Welder Do You Need One?

A MIG Welder spool gun is one of those welding attachments for MIG machines that most welders know about yet seemingly not many have actually used or even know how useful the addition of a spool gun welder is to their welding kit could be .

If you’re serious about becoming an experienced welder, you must understand why and how to utilise a spool gun. If you’re using a spool gun for the first time, learning how and why to utilise it might be crucial in achieving the best possible welds.

Why Use a A MIG Welder Spool Gun Spool Gun

To understand why you would want to use a spool gun first we must understand what it actually is and how it differs from a normal gas metal arc welding (MIG) set up.

What is a MIG Welder Spool Gun?

MIG Welder Spool Gun

A MIG spool gun is, a specially designed MIG gun that has a spool integrated behind the gun’s head onto which you mount the drive rolls of filler wire. This, means that during the welding procedure the wire is fed directly from the MIG gun itself.

The principle reason that you would do this is because by doing so you minimize the distance of travel for the wire which ordinarily has to move between the machine and the gun.  

Why Use a MIG Welder Spool Gun?

When welding certain materials the standard set up using a standard MIG gun can cause poor feedability,  burnback, bird nesting, or clogging of the gun liner inhibiting the welding process. This is particularly a problem when welding softer metals such as aluminum if you are looking to push through long lengths of wire.

Generally, It will no longer feed through the gun if the wire is distorted, and it will begin wrapping itself around the cable or the driving rollers. Employing a spool gun will substantially reduce the risk of wire clogging by allowing wire to be fed just five to ten cementers at a time.

A steady arc is necessary for successful aluminium welding. Using a spool gun to feed the soft aluminium wire ensures a continuous and dependable supply. The smooth arc can only be achieved with a smooth feed to the weld.

A second reason for using a MIG welder spool gun  is when working with welders/generators. Engine-powered MIG machines have developed over recent years particularly in the reduction of their size and weight, that being said they are still difficult to move around easily. Because of this a lot of welders  install their welder/generator on a trailer or vehicle to help with maneuverability. The problem with doing this is that often extended cables are necessary to bridge the distance between the equipment and the actual welding location.

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This creates a difficulty if the welder/generator is set up to have the drive rolls within the machine. It would sometimes have to push the filler wire a long distances. As a consequence, there is a significant chance that the wire would end up bird nesting, tangling or clogging . As a result, many welder/generators do not have drive rollers. Because of this you need to use either a spool gun or a wire feeder, a small suitcase size box, that is positioned between the welder/generator and the MIG gun.

Using a MIG Welder Spool Gun

Once you’ve figured out how to use a spool gun, it’s really rather straightforward. Most spool guns operate in the same way as a MIG gun does: just squeeze the trigger. However, buying the appropriate gun and properly setting it up is where the most of the issues tend to arise. As a result, understanding some basic pointers is critical to success.

The first thing to consider is compatibility, your spool gun must be compatible with your welding equipment in order to function. Sadly, there isn’t a “universal” spool gun standard. Each manufacturer tends to build their spool guns differently this can even happen within manufacturers range itself, just because a spool gun will fit one machine in the range does not mean it will fit them all. Therefore, prior to buying, make sure your machine is compatible with the spool guns you want to use, otherwise your spool gun will be useless.

There are of course workarounds, but this is far from an ideal solution and can in the long run end up costing you more as you will probably need to eventually get the correct spool gun for it to worth seamlessly. An alternative could be the second hand market or instead use a wire feeder suitcase although even these usually only function with suitable equipment.

The weight of a spool gun and spool is another consideration. In theory,  a spool gun that can accommodate 5-pound spool my seem like a good idea. The advantage being that you wouldn’t need to change it out very often. However when you add the spool weight to the spool gun weight suddenly you have quite a load to maneuver especially if you will be using the gun for extended periods of time. From a practical perspective it is probably advisable to use 1-pound wire spools. 

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Finally , it is important to remember  that your settings are likely to be different with a spool gun compared to a standard MIG gun. In addition, the spool gun needs to be calibrated and this process is machine dependent, so it will be different with each machine manufacturer. Parameters like wire speed tend to differ so it is important that  you start with some test lines before you your the spool gun in anger.

Disadvantages of Welding Wire Spool Guns

Disadvantages of Welding Wire Spool Guns

The first and the most obvious disadvantage of a welding wire spool gun is cost. Unfortunately, they are not cheap and sometimes you are tied into the welding manufacturers device which can inflate the price even more. You probably wont find any good spool guns under $250 unless there is a particular offer on.

Having said that about the cost, it also has to be put into perspective in relation to the avoidance of problems you might encounter without one and thus increase in productivity.

The second disadvantage is that spool guns are large and cumbersome, making them unsuitable for usage in cramped places. Furthermore, capacity is restricted to tiny, one-five pound spools.

If you’re working in confined locations or on bigger jobs, a smaller, lighter MIG torch fed from a larger spool may sometimes be preferable.

Thirdly, you have to consider the duty cycle of a spool gun. The majority of machines you see them being used with have duty cycles ranging from 60% to 100%,  something that needs to be born in mind.

Finally a spool gun requires a lot of maintenance. There are several things have to be considered, making the whole procedure more time-consuming. However, you will have successful runs once you get it functioning.

Do I Need A Spool Gun to Weld Aluminum?

The definitive answer to this question is no, you don’t necessarily need a spool gun to weld aluminum . However, after reading the advice below you may well decide that using a MIG welder spool gun is generally the right option to take.

Aluminum has unique properties that need it being welded differently than other metals. It is a soft metal with a high melting point that necessitates the use of high voltages. Aluminum is easily distorted and may happen rapidly, since the wire oxidises nearly instantly, causing a slew of problems.

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One of the most crucial aspects of welding is consistent wire feeding. Spool guns were created to aid in the feeding of the soft wire in order to minimise sloppy welding by mounting the feeder directly on the MIG Gun.

The main advantage of a spool gun is that the spool sits right behind the gun, which means there is reduced friction and thus less feed ability issues. You find that many trailer or boat manufacturers tend make use spool guns as they can running wire 25-feet or longer.

A spool gun is ideal for someone who does a lot of lengthy runs and need something portable. Because it needs to feed “x” number of feet and everything is powered by the welder, the spool gun is less likely to have a burn back problem than a standard MIG gun. You also have a motor directly on the spool gun, as well as some driving rollers, which aids in pushing the wire.

What to Consider When Deciding Whether to Use a Spool Gun?

What are you welding?

Are you welding in your shed or garage or for a production run?

Some beginners, particularly those learning about the welding process, may benefit from the usage of a spool gun. Once set up they’re simple to operate and just need a little fine tweaking, resulting in fewer feeding troubles up front and decreased burn back concerns. 

What is the Best Spool Gun Welder?

For each brand of MIG machine there tends to be only one option when it comes to the spool gun as the spool gun attachments are particular to specific brands and even specific models. There is no universal fitting so you are essentially tied into the brand or even the range of a particular brand and the spools guns can’t be use with alternative brands.