For beginner welders, you’ll often get the feeling that you’re learning more about grinding than you are about welding.
With MIG and arc welding, you can always expect a certain amount of spatter that you’ll need to tidy up. In this post, I’ll share how to keep this to a minimum, along with what tools and techniques are effective at making a cleanup look professional.
Check Your Settings and Technique
If you’re getting an excessive amount of spatter, you should spend a few minutes reviewing how you’re welding. If the settings aren’t right, or there’s a problem with your setup, or your technique is off, things can get pretty ugly.
Generally, the most common causes of excessive spatter is a problem with shielding gas, power, or wire speed. If you’re MIG welding, check the following:
- Shielding gas is flowing correctly
- Nozzle is clean and unobstructed
- Nozzle is not further than 3/8″ away from work
- Wire angle does not exceed 15 degrees from vertical from work
- Wire speed should be set so that the wire doesn’t push against the melt pool. The sound of the arc should be consistent.
- Low voltage and high amperage can also cause excessive spatter.
Once you have your settings and technique dialed in, your spatter should be pretty minimal. Sometimes, though, there’s no way around it. Welding from an awkward angle be messy no matter what you do. Either way, you’ll need to do a little bit of cleaning if you want your weld to be pristine.
Pro Tip: Check your welder’s manual to see if there’s a chart for recommended settings. They’ll usually tell you things like amperage and wire speed for different applications. If you don’t have the manual, see if you can find a digital copy online.
This is a quick and easy fix to get rid of 95% of the problem. All you need to do is spray the area and the large majority of spatter will just bounce away.
There are lots of products on the market, and your local welding supply shop probably has some on the shelf. This one on Amazon works great. In addition to spraying your workpiece, you can also spray your MIG nozzle to prevent spatter from building up and restricting gas flow.
This is one of those easy solutions where you can spend a few bucks and pretty nearly eliminate the problem. That’s a win in my books.
Chipping Hammer and Chisel
Spatter usually has a fairly weak connection to the base metal since it doesn’t really get good penetration. That means that a lot of it can just be knocked off with a chipping hammer or chisel.
Coil spring chipping hammers work great for getting the majority off. The handle absorbs most of the shock of hammering, and you can get focused enough blows to knock off most spatter. This hammer will do the trick for you, if you don’t already have one.
If the spatter is stuck a little harder and you need a bit more force, try using a cold chisel. I like chisels because it’s easier to get a hit exactly where you want it, and it can reach in more awkward places. A set like this is cheap and works great.
The down side to chisels and hammers is that they’ll still leave small scars where the spatter was. If you really want the weld area to look great, you’ll have to go one step further.
Grinding and Sanding
There are a ton of tools for grinding and sanding down weld areas. I’ll just go over a couple of my favorites.
An angle grinder with a flap disc is ideal for areas that are easily accessible. If you’re welding tube or sheet metal, this will handle the majority of the work with ease. You can also use it to grind down the welds themselves if that’s the look you want.
This is a set of flap discs that have great bang for the buck. They don’t last quite as long as some of the brand name ones but they’re much cheaper. Overall, really good product.
A power file (also goes by a few other names) is great for reaching in tight places. If you’re working on something that doesn’t have easy access, these are well worth the money.
If you’re looking for something cheap but light-duty, then this one from Wen is probably what you’re after. The 2-amp motor is totally fine for hobbyists and occasional welders.
If you’re planning on doing heavier welding, though, check out this one from Makita. It’s got over twice the power as the other one, and it’s a bit more versatile.
Before you make your final purchase though, just take a minute to think about what kind of areas you need to reach into. At work, I most commonly use the 3/4″ wide belts, but the 3/8″ wide power filers come in handy every so often.
Whatever you choose, make sure you pick up a few extra belts. Worn out belts can take ten times longer to do the same job as a fresh one, so it’s worth it to not overuse them. They’re also more likely to snap and go flying if you wear them out too much.
Slide Hammer Chisel
This is one that I found while binge watching YouTube, and I haven’t found anyone that actually makes these.
It’s just a regular slide hammer with a chisel on the end. So instead of doing the regular pulling that slide hammers do, you can use it do place really controlled taps in next to impossible to reach places.
Again, no clue where you could just buy one, but they’re easy to make if you have a slide hammer. Just weld a nut on to the end of a stubby cold chisel and screw it onto the hammer. Generally, you’ll never need to put too much force into it so it should last you a long time.
Here’s a shot of the one that I made:
Really, you don’t need much to get rid of welding spatter. The anti-spatter spray, a chipping hammer, a cold chisel, a flap disc and a power filer should take care of pretty well any situation that you find yourself in.