The art of car crafting can be traced all the way back to those earlyenthusiasts who weren't afraid to dive right in and build what theycouldn't buy. Today, there seems to be a kit for just about any projectyou can contemplate, but there's still a place for those hardy soulswilling to build stuff cheaper themselves.
Fabricating usually entails fusing metal. In the old days, that meantusing an AC stick welder. The problem with stick welders is that they'realmost impossible to use for joining thin sheetmetal. About 20 yearsago, the welding companies hit upon the idea of building affordable MIGwelders that run on common 120-volt house current for thedo-it-yourselfer.
The term "MIG" is an acronym for "metal inert gas" welding whereelectrical current is fed down a thin, flexible wire instead of a large-diameter stick. All quality welding requires a process that will purgeambient air from around the weld puddle to create an environmentconducive to good penetration and prevent inclusions, which are holes orvoids in the weld. Stick welders use a flux material that melts,creating a protective covering over the molten puddle of metal until itcools. Once cooled, the flux can then be chipped away to reveal the weldfor inspection.
MIG welding replaces the flux material with an inert gas (either carbondioxide or a mixture of argon and carbon dioxide) that is introducedaround the weld puddle during the welding process. MIG welders use aflexible sleeve to direct the metal wire onto the welding surface. Thegas is transported between the inner and outer sleeves and introducedaround the work surface. This means that a typical MIG welder must alsohave a separate high-pressure gas bottle and regulator. Budget versionsof basic MIG welders use a flux-core wire that eliminates the need forthe high-pressure tank, but these require cleaning the flux from theweld once the weld cools much like a stick welder.
The unit we chose to do our homespun welding is this Craftsman 120-voltMIG welder. The wel