Many people don’t have the luxury of buying the best welding equipment to prevent welding spatter. Luckily, there are many things that you can do to reduce the Spatter from welding drastically. If you follow these steps, you can reduce the time you spend grinding down the spatter spots on your welding joints.
So, how can you weld without spatter? Nine suggestions can help you can reduce the spatter that you experience while welding. They are:
- Use the proper voltage and amperage setting on your welder when setting up to weld.
- Hold the welding gun at the correct angle.
- Properly prepare the metal that you are going to weld.
- Use the proper methods and techniques for the job.
- Keep a clean work station.
- Handle and set up the welder for the job you are doing.
- Use the right materials for the job.
- Select the correct type of current.
- Choose the correct style of weld.
Welding spatter is going to be different depending on the type of welding that you are doing. Different types of welding will have various reasons for the spatter because the spatter itself is feedback from the weld itself.
The metal is spitting back the molten filler all over the place, making your project look like amateur hour.
Spatter is most common in Gas Metal Arc Welding (GMAW, also known as Metal Inert Gas, or MIG for short). However, spatter can occur in most types of welding that you would do in a small shop or warehouse.
The Root Causes of Spatter
There are several different causes of spatter that can occur while you’re welding, and knowing the root cause of the excess Spatter can help eliminate or reduce the amount of spatter you are producing.
Spatter is a problem (especially for a professional welder) when welding for several reasons. The primary reason being safety. Spatter balls can burn through welders’ clothing and skin. Spatter balls also stick to welding equipment and tools.
Reducing your welding spatter has several benefits, the main one being the material that you are using. By reducing the content wasted, you save money not only on the content itself but the time it takes to clean up the excess spatter as well.
You can never eliminate spatter entirely, but you can reduce the spatter to a manageable level. For the sake of this article, we are only going to discuss the four most common types of welding.
Andy Fogerty has a great video about reducing MIG welding spatter. Check it out:
MIG welding is the most common type of welding using argon gas and CO2. The gas serves the purpose of conditioning the weld type and making it look nice. If you weld without the Argon gas, your weld would turn brown.
MIG Welding is also known as Gas Metal Arc Welding and is only one type of arc welding that results in spatter. The gas that is used is there to shield the weld from the elements. You will find this trait common amongst gas welding types.
The type of gas and the type of electrode that you use depends on the type of material and weld that you are trying to accomplish. MIG welding is primarily used for welding two pieces of light metals together.
With MIG welding, spatter occurs when the electrode melts before reaching the pool of material that is melting both pieces of metal together.
Science Direct has a great image explaining Metal Inert Welding here.
Having the Correct Voltage and Amperage For the Type of Metal, You are Welding.
Different materials are going to have different melting points, so you are going to need a welding chart or, more importantly, a Millermatic Calculator to determine the proper settings you need for your welding material.
The Millermatic Calculator will help you figure out the correct voltage, based on the type of material and the type of gas that you are using in your weld. The calculator will also help you determine the correct gas mixture to apply for the materials.
The Millermatic Calculator is an essential tool to have when doing any MIG welding. You can set the wire speed based on the thickness of the wire, and the calculator will do the rest.
If you don’t have a calculator, I would suggest getting one. Wire feed speed is essential to the heat factor of your weld.
With MIG welding, the voltage is what is constant, and the amperage is adjusted based on the wire feed speed from the welder. If your feed rate is too low, then you will have a lot of spatter.
Also, the joints could be too weak to hold the material together.
Travel Angle needs to be 5-15 Degrees
Hold the gun straight, and you should get this one automatically.
The barrel of the welding gun is already angled for the proper welding travel angle. Travel angle is one of those things that is simpler than it sounds.
Travel angle is the angle in which the gun is perpendicular to the piece you need to weld. For more definitions, you can check out Millerwelds.
It is easy to think that you need to move the gun overhead on a 90-degree joint you are trying to weld on your table. You only need to hold the welding gun in a manner that it can travel at 5-15 degrees from the nozzle to the weld.
This rule of thumb doesn’t need to be an exact science either, Millerwelds claims that you can go up to 25 degrees and not contribute to excess spatter. You can use a speed square to find the angle in which you need to hold the nozzle to weld your piece.
Another not so accurate way of determining how to hold the welding gun is to take your 90-degree angle (from the nozzle) and mentally create three zones between the 90-degree mark and the 0-degree mark — making the 0 degrees mark the final 4th line. That first section line will be 11.25 degrees, which is within your 5-15 degree target.
If you want to see how to find a 15-degree angle, check this out:
Properly preparing the metal that you are going to be welding is a crucial step to reduce spatter while MIG welding. The wire does have the same additives that Flux core welding has.
To combat rust, oil, and other containments, you are going to want to sand down the areas that you want to weld.
Taking this one step helps reduce the amount of spatter that you get from welding in a big way. Spatter is feedback from the ark telling you that it is not taking to the metal.
The more dirt, sand, grit, oil, and other things that prevent the bond from occurring between the two metals, the more spatter that job is going to have.
Some welders are a fan of anti-spatter spray. You spray the work area, and the welding gun before you strike an arc. The Anti Spatter spray provides and easy to clean up coating made of silicon to prevent the bbs from sticking to your workspace.
You can find Anti spatter spray here on Amazon.
Grinding down and creating a smooth work edge for any pieces that you are preparing to weld will help your welds stick better with Mig Welding, as well as help reduce the spatter from welding.
If you are connecting two joints at an angle, this step is crucial for your safety as well. If the weld doesn’t stick, it can cause injuries when someone is using the item.
Home Depot has some cool tips on how to prepare for any welding project.
PRO-TIP— “ Keeping your workspace free from other containments can help reduce the time you spend preparing for a weld.” Keeping your space and equipment updated and clean is only going to help. Take that few extra minutes a day to clean up when you are done.”
Spray Arc Transfer Method
The spray arc transfer method uses a high voltage setting and requires a steady hand. The metal is melted from the electrode and then drips onto the base surface. The arc is continuously going, but this reduces or eliminates spatter all together.
The “spray” is the droplets coming out of the end of the nozzle. The welding machine is set to a high voltage and high wire feed speed. Since the droplets are thinner in diameter than the wire, they almost meld together instantly.
The downside to Spray arc transfer is that you cannot use it on thin metals. This transfer method is similar to the globular transfer method, with the exception that the droplets are pulled towards the weld pool using magnetism instead of gravity.
According to Science Direct, the minimum current for Spray Arc Transfer is 220 Volts. You can also only use this method on flat horizontal surfaces only.
This video explains Spray Arc Transfer in the simplest way possible.
Globular and Short Circuit Transfer Methods
These two transfer methods are more likely than not to create spatter. When the droplet of metal interacts with the weld pool, it creates spatter.
The only thing you can do with these two transfer methods is trying to reduce your spatter using the above techniques.
Use the correct method for the job that you are doing at the time. Doing a little research on the type of material that you are going to be welding will help you plan your job better.
This method will help reduce spatter. The fabricator gives a detailed definition of these two methods here.
Even with globular spatter, if you can reduce spatter by using the buried arc method, which is just extending the wire feed into the weld puddle.
|Short Circuit||Globular||Spray Transfer|
|Shielding gas||75 Argon 25 CO2||CO2 ONLY||80-98% argon 15-20 CO2 2-5% OX|
|Est Spatter Level||Medium||High||Low/non-existant|
Dealing with An Erratic Feed
It’s no surprise that if the feed is not flowing correctly through the hose, that it will cause dissonance between the weld pool and the hot metal dripping into it.
Your feed can slow down for several reasons, one being that the feed speed is too fast or slow for the diameter that you are welding.
An excellent way to check this is to see if the wire comes out consistently from the gun as it is turning in the spool. What you are looking for is slack in the line of the cable.
If the line is too steady, then the wire will skip and come out in a jabbing motion if it doesn’t snap.
If you have too much drag, then you will get a bird’s nest, and the wire will stop altogether. You have to make sure that the cable is coming out of the nozzle at a consistent speed.
The contact tip can sometimes weld over if the feed is not consistent, which will cause spatter, and you’ll probably have to replace the contact tip to continue welding.
Using The Right Materials
You want to use suitable quality materials when you are welding to lower the amount of excess spatter that you have during your weld. Using a good quality rod, gas, and solid wire will help the melting point and pool operate at an ideal level.
Some manufacturers use different fillers, and materials for their gases, rods, and solid wire feeds. It will help if you trust the manufacturer that you are getting your welding materials from.
The better the quality of the materials, the less room for error there is.
You can limit or eliminate spatter with cheaper wires and gas; however, it will be a lot easier to spot mistakes and easy fixes if you don’t have to worry about the quality of materials that you are welding with.
Always do your homework on the solid wire that you plan to use before welding. Some wire is meant for specific types of metals, and other wire can be used on almost anything.
You also want to make sure the diameter of the cable that you are using matches the job that you are doing.
Stick welding, or Shielded Metal Arc Welding (SMAW), is a form of welding that uses an electrode to provide a bind between two metal pieces. Shielded Metal Arc welding melts both the base piece as well as the filler rod to fill in space.
You can use any method you like with SMAW as long as you select the correct properly maintained welding rod.
There are four numbers on every rod.
The first two explain the weight of pressure on a vertical ledge that a rod can handle in Pounds Per Square inch. This measurement is also known as Tensile Strength. This measurement is essential to what you are constructing.
The third number tells you how you can use the rod, and finally, the last digit is the flux material in the rod. Knowing the coating material tells you what current you need to use on that electrode to weld it properly. Tulsa Welding School has a helpful reference chart on their blog.
Failure to follow any of these recommendations can not only lead to excess spatter but injury as well. You need to hold the arc in a particular part to have the correct current. If the arc is too high, then the spatter will increase drastically.
Each electrode is going to have different characteristics that will affect the Spatter that it releases, similar to MIG Welding. You want to make sure that you have the correct polarity for the rod that you are using.
Here is an excellent video on Shielded Metal Arc Welding:
Flux Cored Arc Welding
Flux is a cleaning agent in metallurgy which helps keep a surface from becoming contaminated during the welding process. Flux Cored Arc Welding is similar to stick welding; the electrode in this manner has a flux core that helps protect the weld.
The Flux core provides the shielding gas as it melts and joins the metals together. Flux-cored welding is usually what is used in construction as it can be versatile and doesn’t require a lot of working space. Flux core strategies are the same as they are with MIG welding.
One of the most common mistakes people make with flux core welding is forgetting to reverse the polarity on the machines. If you do forget to change the polarity on your welding machine, then the flux core will spatter a whole bunch (don’t forget to check out the 9 most common welding mistakes here for more info).
The weld will also suffer from a lack of strength if the polarity is not reversed when wiring with a flux core wire. The forum on millerwelds gives some great advice from fellow welders on the subject here.
This video shows you how Flux Cored Arc Welding Works.
Filler Rods versus Fast freeze
There are two different types of rods, fast freeze and filler rods. The fast freeze rods are designed to produce a lot of spatter, simply because of the nature of the rod.
The fast freeze rods are numbers 6010 and 6011. These two rods are designed for higher amperage, and they naturally throw off a lot of spatter.
With these two rods that have a light flux coating that covers the weld puddle relatively quickly, after you move the weld away from the pool, it instantly freezes or cures.
Then the Flux gas covers up the weld to protect it from the elements even further. The reason that these two rods throw more spatter is that as the new spray is formed, the previous metal droplets have already cured.
The filler rods are not designed for penetration and are a mild arc with heavy slag. This term means that the arc is going to be smaller, but the slag (flux gas residue covering the weld) is going to be heavy.
These rods are great for filling holes, or even taking a second pass over a joint that you used a 6011 rod with.
These rods are designed to provide a smoother welding bead, and since the arc is lower than the Fast Freeze rods and the molten pool has more contact with liquid metal that is the same temperature, then the spatter is lower.
Each of these rods also comes in different diameters and amperage range. You can find a chart in a reference pocketbook explicitly made for welders similar to the one below.
Selecting the Correct Type of Current
Each of the rods is going to use a different type of current to work properly. The current flow is directly related to heat transfer from the stick to the base metal. Different polarity ratings depend on the rod that you are going to use.
The polarity that you need to properly weld and limit spatter is based on the rod that you choose to use. Having your polarity the wrong way for the type of rod that you are using is going to cause an improper, unsafe weld and possibly some excess spatter.
Check the polarity rating for the rod that you are using. A/C is only one setting and is used with standard stick welding. The only parameter that allows for magnetized parts to be welded is the A/C setting. For most other rods, they will be D/C.
D/C has different polarity flows from the machine to the rod. This means that the flow of electricity is either going from the rod to the base metal or from the base metal to the rod.
You have to select the correct amperage and current style to limit the spatter that you receive.
Direct Current Electrode Positive (DCEP) is when the flow of electricity goes from the base metal up the welding rod. The electric current flows from the negative to the positive. This heats the tip of the welding rod.
Most around the house jobs or everyday shop jobs will use DCEP, or electrode positive, as a means of completing the task.
Since the tip of the rod is heating more than the base metal, the rod is melting onto the base metal, creating a pool of molten liquid known as the weld pool.
As the base metal cools and the hot metal from the rod comes in contact with the colder metal on the base, the sparks begin to fly.
When you use DCEN or Direct Current Electrode negative, the reverse flow of electricity occurs. The electrical current flows from the rod onto the base metal. This reaction causes the base metal to melt faster than the rod.
The rod is cooler than the base metal; this is used for faster jobs and thinner metals. You can use this setting to fill spots quickly, or even do tack welds super fast. DCEN is what is called straight polarity, and DCEP is what is known as reverse polarity.
Check out this video for a more detailed explanation.
There are several different styles and techniques that you can try out. The object is to get one piece of metal bound with another piece of metal. Sometimes just switching your method, or holding position can change the amount of spatter that you get.
Even with other types of welding, such as TIG welding, you can still get some spatter. Spatter is reasonable, and there is nothing that you can do to eliminate it 100% of the time. There are a million forums with twice as many people telling you to push/pull and which one is better etc.
The technique that you chose to use should match the job that you are doing. The materials that you are using will also affect the method that you want to use. Only experience can teach these tiny tidbits of knowledge.
Maybe you are using the E6101 rod on a vertical incline, and you notice that the weld pool is getting too far ahead of you.
Instead of moving up on that weld, you could try to move down and get ahead of the weld pool.
These little tricks of the trade, are things that you will learn as you do them. As you get better at welding, the spatter you used to see consistently will start to decline.
Welding is a unique art form. Experience takes time and trials, but you get that experience from making mistakes. Knowing the exact settings to prevent weld spatter is not going to be the same with every weld.
There is a lot that goes into why you are experiencing the spatter levels that you are. Don’t try to do everything in one setting; make smaller changes until you find what works best for you.
“Life is made of ever so many partings welded together.”