Whether you work on your classic truck for a hobby or you're a hardcore collector aiming for a perfect restoration, welding can be a challenging skill to master and requires different equipment for heavier work. Once you've honed this talent, though, the world of custom fabrication and design is limited only by your own creativity.

Welding is mastered through practice and technique. Trial and error is the way we all learn, but you have to understand the basics first. At CCT, we decided it was time to take up the MIG gun and show you a few tips to steer you in the right direction, beginning with MIG welding. In upcoming issues, we'll also cover TIG and plasma cutting, and we'll even tell you what you'll need to stay safe as the sparks fly.

MIG Welding: A Brief Introduction
Metal inert gas (MIG) welding is a fairly easy process to learn. The welding machine creates an arc between the work piece (what you want to weld) and a continuously consumable electrode (the wire in the MIG gun). The operator need only focus on directing the MIG gun at the joint and proper motion, which is what we'll be looking at more in depth. Mild steel, stainless, and even aluminum can all be welded using the MIG process.

Selecting The Right EquipmentMIG welding is easier with the right machine. Your requirements are based on the level of your welding needs and what you want to do to your truck. To begin our look at MIG welding, we'll discuss two extremes: the latest entry-level welder for welding in your home shop, and one for the more experienced welder who may want to weld thicker metal and aluminum.

Setting your weld parameters can be tricky when you are starting out. The folks over at Miller recently introduced the Millermatic 140 with Auto-Set to take the guesswork out of setup and operation. Auto-Set technology allows the operator to simply set the wire diameter and the material thickness and the machine is ready to weld. It automatically sets wire feed speed and voltage for optimal welding results with relatively no spatter for welding 24-gauge up to 3/16-inch mild steel. Right out of the box, this 30-140-amp, 115V machine is designed to grow with the operator. When desired, the Auto-Set feature can be turned off and the operator can select voltage and wire feed speed in manual mode. List price for this welder is $789.

For those looking for the flexibility to MIG thicker materials (22-gauge to 1/2-inch) or aluminum, the Millermatic 251 connects to 208V/230V or 230V/460V/575V power and offers an optional direct-connect spool gun. The 251 doesn't have the 140's Auto-Set feature, but it has a higher amperage range (30-300), plus the ability to weld aluminum is really cool. The base list price for the Millermatic 251 is $2,342. The optional spool gun is an additional cost.

The recipe for making a sound MIG weld is the same whether you are just starting out or you have years of fabrication experience: technique. Both machines will give you a great weld provided you use the right technique. MIG welding on steel is different than welding aluminum with a spool gun, not to mention the various angles you'll be welding.

Depending on what stage your truck is in, you'll most likely find yourself welding in a horizontal, vertical, or overhead position versus the more desirable flat position. The angle you hold the gun at will change with the type of joint being welded (e.g., butt joint, T-joint, lap joint, or plug weld). Gun angles help shape the weld bead and determine the degree of penetration into the work piece. We'll discuss what angles you should use for various positions.