Wire feed welding primer

I need some help deciphering my welding problems. I violated a cardinal rule and bought a cheap welder from you-know-where and am trying to teach myself how to weld with it. I know, I know, but I couldn’t resist the discount coupon, which essentially paid for the 1-year “if anything goes wrong return it and we’ll give you a new one” extended warranty. So, I figured I’d at least give it a try.

I was TAUGHT (notice I didn’t say LEARNED) how to stick weld as a junior in high school (in 1978) but have not picked up a welder from then until now.

The first picture is of my “welding table” which consists of my redneck homemade flatbed trailer backed up to my service pole which is where the 240V plug is wired.
The second picture is my first attempt at flux core welding. I am trying to attach a saw blade to section of 3/16” angle iron. Every time I pull the trigger, all I get is one big “pop” then nothing. I pull back from the metal, then move in again, another “pop.” Repeat ad infinitum.

I have a gut feeling it has something to do with wire speed current setting. It’s got four discreet current settings, from 30A up to 170A, and an infinite adjustment on the wire speed. Thus far, all I’ve tried is flux core. Need to learn the mechanics before I plunge into buying gas cylinders.

Any opinions about what my initial settings should be as a starting point?

Alex, if your wire speed is too slow for your current setting, the pop you hear may be the welding wire striking the weld surface and then burning back so fast that the arc is not sustained. Do you have the polarity setting for flux wire on the + ground terminal? Clean ground connection to the work piece? Maybe Johnny C will chip in with advice as he built his whole system with an inexpensive flux core welder.

What settings did you use ? amps speed ?
I used flux core and a cheap welder to build my gasifier …The best advice I can give is make sure the area you are welding is clean ,this makes a huge difference ,and to get your wire speed right , just start welding on a piece and adjust the wire speed until the sound is like a sizzle kinda like bacon frying.
You will have to adjust the wire speed for what ever amp setting you are using .
Usually on my welder at 40 amps my wire speed is about 5 …
Another thing is to not get ahead of your weld puddle , just move at a steady rate …
And also with flux core , if you stop and it cools , that a wire brush and clean the slag off before y9ou start welding again …
Another thing that might help is to look up videos on YouTube on how to weld with flux core wire …

my understanding is you should be electrode - (negative) for flux core. make sure what you are welding is fairly clean… make sure you have a really good ground… and I do think you need to increase your wire speed… I’d also turn your heat up to it’s highest setting… you’ll know your wire feed it too fast when you feel it pushing your welding hand… lol… i’ve only had that happen once or twice.

move your ground closer if you are trying to weld it like you have it in the pic… ground clamp far away, welding on closer part… I can garantee you’re not getting a good ground that way.

Howdy Alex,
I think Don is on track.
Flux core is very similar to Stick welding… Looks like perhaps to little feed and the polarity is reversed or maybe non flux core wire?
Is the Welder set to 25% wire feed and 3/4 power?
You’ll get it.
Remember when welding something that needs to hold air/water… Chip the slag and wire brush where the welds will connect… A wire wheel on a battery drill works good.
If ya don’t, you will have a leak at the end of most if not all welds.
Ditch the flux core as soon as possible… It’s great for structural and things that are hard to get at, that don’t need to hold air/woodgas.

You guys are awesome!

Ok, five things to try:

  1. Move ground closer to work.
  2. Clean my material better.
  3. Check polarity (electrode negative is supposed to be the factory default).
  4. Increase my wire speed (I’ve been too timid and have erred on the slow side).
  5. Grit my teeth and don’t give up so easy!

I’ll let you know how it goes . . . .

Is it just going “POP” once but continues to feed wire slowly or is the wirefeed stopping with every “POP”? You also might need to hold your tip closer to your work material. On my little unit, I get the best welds with my tip about 1/4-3/8ths of an inch away. When I started welding, I would try too hard to see everything the puddle is doing and catch myself with the tip over an inch from the work piece. I’d just get “POPPOPPOP…” at about 1 second intervals.

What thickness wire are you using?

Is this welder capable of a MIG set up? If so throw that flux core as hard as you can through it and get shielding gas and new wire. I bet that welder will weld just fine after that.

If your liner has any flaw or resistance you will experience burn backs like this. My brand new Miller came straight out of the box like this and we delt with it for a year. I finally bit the bullet and got a new liner and it welds just as it is supposed too.

But yes first check your polarity and all the things mentioned above.If it still wont weld then I would suspect the liner.

If you are having liner issues, try THIS TRICK before getting a new liner. It worked well for me for about 2 months before I had to reapply.

Pull the trigger with the torch away from the job and watch the wire feed, it should be smooth and consistent. Any thing other than that and you will never get a good weld.
A flap type grinding disc is great for preparing the material, you will get much better welds with shiny metal to weld on. Another thing to try is set your job next to the welder and and turn the wire speed while attempting to weld with the other hand. This way you can adjust the speed until you get a nice bacon frying sound. Adjust your voltage to get good penetration but not so much it melts out the other side.

You need to change settings for different welds but once you get started you will soon get the hang of it and be able to pretty much guess the settings with minor adjustments to fine tune. Lots of videos on youtube that will help you.

Hi Alex,
All good comments and I would add one for safety. I noticed you are working/standing on a soil floor making you a good grounding source in one of those “how the blank did that happen” moments. Insure that your unit is plugged into a properly wired ground fault interrupter circuit. Be safe, you’ll only be unsafe once.
Does your unit have a set up for shielded gas welding? I haven’t used flux core but the shielded gas unit is easy and clean and welding becomes fun. Also very helpful is an auto darkening hood. Practice running beads on scraps of the same thickness metal to narrow down your speed and power settings. Hold your wire almost perpendicular to the surface. The puddle will form at the end of the wirel. Try using peripheril vision( don’t look right at the pool) to observe the pool formation and move to keep the pool the same size and on line. Burn through, move faster, could be too much amp also, but try moving faster before you make machine adjustments. Make your mistakes on scrap. Have fun.

Is this a good welder?
I have a limited price range and this fits in it.


I’ve used ones at work several times after hours but need one for myself. Getting tired of never having it when I need it.

I am guessing you can find a better one cheaper. It seems expensive for the campbell, which IIRC that one uses the chinese circuitry. The better welder is the eastwood, on your list for 400 with all the goodies, but probably out of your price range (and a few variables like condition and tank condition, etc.) You might check this listing out since it is in your price range.

Im trying to sell a Remington 11-87 super mag special purpose. So my range is about 500$ id like to get a new air compressor with it. I used to have a lot of air tool and wood working tools but when my ex an I split up the inlaws helped themselves while I was traveling for work. Needless to say im trying to replace a lot on a tight budget hahaha. Im counting a lot on my return of investment in this project over the summer. Would give me a lot of breathing room financially driving on wood. 60% of my income is reimbursed via mileage for work. Using a poker analogy, im all in on this project. With that price range do you suspect I could find a decent welder and compressor? Im a techy with enough car knowledge to keep it on the road and running. Metal working is a new frontier for me.

I took a welding course at the local tec school. I learned that I needed a good welder? I found it to be easy with a quality machine and agervating with a cheap one. Spend the money on a quality tool or you will never be a quality welder! You will have it the rest of your life if you buy a good one, they don’t wear out! I would stay with Miller or Lincon and 220 volt. I would go to a welding shop near or 3 meet the staf ,ask questions about the machines and consumables, gas , tanks and such. These are all things you will need, close to home with expert advice. What more could one ask for. I prefer to deal with someone who uses these things on a daily bases as opposed to buying from someone who rarly if ever used one. Who do you think will be more help?

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maybe look for a used red or blue one. my 200 miller over 40 years old welds like a new one.

It really depends on if you want to just wire feed or the potential to TIG as well. I haven’t learned to TIG yet but bought a unit and accessories to do so. I think the welds look a lot better but the MIG should be able to do anything needed here.