If you recently purchased a MIG welder, you’re probably eager to get started on one of the many projects buzzing around your brain. However, welding is a high-intensity hobby. It requires specific protective gear to keep you working safely for years to come. In addition to these items, there are a handful of other key tools that will allow you to create more precise welds and complete higher-quality projects. Read on for a comprehensive list of must-have MIG welding accessories and optional equipment to outfit your shop.
MIG Welding Accessories: Safety Essentials
MIG Welding exposes you to potentially dangerous electrical currents, gas, heat and bright light. This raises the risks of burns, blindness and even explosions. To protect your eyes, hands and other exposed skin, you absolutely must wear a good helmet, gloves and jacket anytime you pick up your welder.
MIG Welding Helmets
A quality welding helmet shields your face and eyes from hot sparks, UV radiation and metal spatter while you’re working. Make sure it includes proper shading to help prevent the painful condition known as “arc eye,” a painful inflammation of the cornea that can result from exposure to the UV light produced by welding torches. The models below are excellent choices for beginning or experienced welders.
This helmet may first catch your eye thanks to its bold patriotic design. However, the Coocheer Solar Arc Helmet is more than just a good-looking exterior. You’ll be floored by its powerful performance and convenient features that make every weld a safe, comfortable experience.
Its auto-darkening feature takes 1/30,000th of a second to kick in, so your eyes stay protected from harmful UV rays, and the transition from dark to light takes less than a single second. The 10-year battery life means it’s always ready to go when you are, and the wide field of vision allows you to easily see your entire project area.
This striking helmet’s auto-darkening feature is powered by a lithium battery with a solar boost. It offers a range of shade levels (albeit without a grinding setting) and goes from light to dark in 1/25,000th of a second.
This option provides ample UV and infrared protection for your eyes and face and includes an extra cover lens and lithium battery for extended use.
Eye Protection for MIG Welding
A helmet alone simply isn’t sufficient to protect your eyes from the potential hazards of welding. Welders should always wear goggles or safety glasses with side shields under helmets. This provides additional protection from flying particles and chipped slag.
It also protects against irritation and chemical burns from fumes and chemicals and photochemical damage from ultraviolet radiation (UVR). Proper eye protection also alleviates issues stemming from infrared radiation and intense blue light.
Goggles such as Lincoln Electric Cutting and Grinding Goggles provide the highest level of protection from these threats, but any safety glasses that conform to ANSI Z87.1 will also work. Here are some other options that conform to all necessary standards:
- Best Option: Hobart 770726 Shade 5
- Top Alternative: NoCry Safety Glasses
- Budget Option: Insight Safety Welding Glasses Shade 12
MIG Welding Ear Protection
While the welding process itself isn’t particularly loud, the cutting and grinding involved in preparing your materials can reach unsafe levels.
Additionally, any industrial and commercial applications of MIG welding is oftentimes performed in louder work environments.
It is crucial to always wear a good-quality pair of ear plugs or ear muffs to prevent permanent hearing damage. Here are three recommendations for these MIG welding accessories:
- Best Option: Decibullz Custom Molded Earplugs
- Top Alternative: Alegante Ear Plugs Noise Reduction
- Budget Option: Mack’s Ultra Soft Foam Earplugs, 50 Pair
Best MIG Welding Gloves
Welding uses intense heat to melt steel. For this reason, you’ll need to protect the body part closest to that heat source: your hands. In contrast to TIG welding gloves, which are thinner and allow for greater dexterity, MIG gloves are thicker to provide increased insulation and can make fine movements challenging.
The best MIG gloves take that challenge into account in their design to maximize both heat protection and dexterity. These are ideal MIG welding accessories.
The bright blue US Forge 400 welding gloves are made of soft, supple top-grain leather for enhanced dexterity, while their lock-stitching keeps them in great shape, weld after weld. Cotton lining makes them comfortable to wear for extended stretches of time, and their low price tag is hard to beat.
If you’re ready to splurge a bit, the Caiman 1878-5 Deerskin Welding Gloves are worth every penny. The buttery deerskin leather conforms perfectly to your hand for proper finger alignment and excellent dexterity. The gloves extend up the forearm for maximum protection. Also, the Kevlar stitching and reinforced wrist patch guarantee these gloves will hold up to years of wear.
- Best Option: Caiman 1878-5 Deerskin Welding Gloves
- Top Alternative: Steiner 0235-M Pro-Series MegaMIG
- Budget Option: US Forge 400 Welding Gloves
Best MIG Welding Jacket
A welding jacket provides critical upper body protection from the welding torch’s intense heat and sparks. It is crucial on a list of MIG welding accessories. Jackets for lightweight jobs or warm climates may use layers of specially treated flame-resistant cotton to keep heat away from your skin. Meanwhile, heavy-duty jobs call for a more robust jacket made of pigskin or calfskin leather. The best welding jacket protects your upper body from the heat produced by a welding torch.
It’s important to get the fit right when selecting your jacket. This is because a loose-fitting jacket can leave gaps that expose your skin. Jackets that fit too tightly can restrict your range of motion as you work. Ideally, your jacket will allow you to move freely while shielding your skin and clothing from heat.
If work demands or weather call for a lightweight jacket, the Miller Electric Cotton Welding Jacket is a reliable choice. It is popular with both hobby and professional welders. The jacket consists of 88% cotton and 12% nylon, minimizing the risk that synthetic fibers will melt under high heat. The snap closures keep the jacket securely fitted to your body. Snaps on the cuffs keep them tightly closed for a seamless fit under your gloves.
For high-intensity welding, you can’t go wrong with the Lincoln Electric Heavy-Duty Leather Welding Jacket. It’s crafted from premium cowhide leather to provide ultimate protection from the elements of welding, while the cotton lining helps keep you cool in high-heat situations. The jacket’s design also incorporates a multitude of protected pockets to keep tools and accessories handy.
- Best Option: Lincoln Electric Heavy-Duty Leather Welding Jacket
- Top Alternative: Standard Miller Welding Jacket
- Budget Option: Miller Electric Cotton Welding Jacket
In case of fire, be sure to keep a regularly inspected, A-B-C rated fire extinguisher within reach of your work space.
- An “A” rating means the chemicals will put out fires fueled by paper, wood, textiles and plastics.
- The “B” rating means it will extinguish flammable liquid fires involving oil, gasoline, kerosene or paint.
- “C” rated extinguishers are effective against fires involving live electric equipment.
Two top options that we recommend are the First Alert 1038789 Standard Home Fire Extinguisher and the Kidde FA110 Multi Purpose Fire Extinguisher 1A10BC.
Optional Tools for Better MIG Welding Performance
These “nice to have” items can help make your welding more precise, more convenient and more productive.
After welding a joint, an angle grinder can be useful for grinding the weld bead down. This is true especially in root and fill passes in pipe welding. Angle grinders can also be used in creating beveled edges for plate or pipe joints. They are also for preparing base metal surfaces by removing rust and other oxides prior to grinding.
Angle grinders may be used with a variety of discs, which fall into five basic categories:
- Grinding discs are used to remove excess weld metal, weld spatter, burrs and rough edges.
- Cutting discs function as a small circular saw to cut metal.
- Flap discs polish and smooth surfaces in preparation for painting, powder coating or bend testing.
- Wire brush discs remove weld spatter and slag without affecting the base or weld metal.
- Sanding discs use flat, round sheets of sandpaper to grind down surfaces. They require a spindle adapter for use with the angle grinder.
A high-quality chop saw allows you to cut stainless steel, aluminum and other metals with precision. When combined with strategic clamp use, chop saws can help you generate consistent 45-degree miters. The Makita LC1230 12’’ Metal Cutting Saw is a bit of an investment. However, its performance and longevity make it an excellent value for long-term use.
Makita’s industrial-grade equipment has a well-deserved reputation for top-tier engineering, safety and customer service. The LC1230 is no exception. Cold saws like this one deliver clean cuts with no sparks, requiring minimal finishing once the cut is made.
It also leaves the metal cool to the touch almost immediately, eliminating any wait time before you’re ready to move on to the next stage of your project. Its small-but-mighty 15-amp motor produces a steady speed of 1300 RPM, making it the ideal tool for thick metals.
- Use carpentry squares like this option from Swanson to double-check joints and miters and mark pieces prior to cutting. Fabrication-grade squares may be clamped right onto your project to keep joints square as you weld.
- Used in tandem with squares, a good level like this one from Qooltek keeps your work on the straight and narrow.
- A retractable tape measure like this classic option from Stanley ensures longer pieces of metal are cut properly. Meanwhile a basic flat ruler works well for small parts and fine details.
- Soapstone like these from Ally Tools is the welder’s go-to for making marks on steel that remain visible once the metal heats up.
A good pair of pliers will become one of the workhorses of your welding shop, both for cutting wire and clearing the contact tip. Made with high-strength, drop-forged steel, the Lincoln Electric Multi-Function MIG/TIG Welding Pliers are designed specifically for demanding welding and fabrication environments.
The pre-curved handles and silicone grip provide a comfortable fit, and the spring-loaded plier hinge reduces hand fatigue. Don’t let the plush feel fool you, though: this set of pliers can power through six different functions, including nozzle installation and cleaning, tip installation, slag hammer, wire cutting and spatter removal.
No matter what type of project you may be working on, having a variety of clamps on hand—C-clamps, vise-grips, pipe clamps—will make it easier. The best of all worlds may be found in the versatile IRWIN VISE-GRIP Original Locking C-Clamp with Swivel Pads, whose wide-opening jaws allow you to clamp a variety of small items with a single tool.
An adjustable turn screw makes it easy to modify pressure and fit, while the classic trigger-release design maintains maximum locking force where needed. Made of high-grade, heat-treated alloy steel, this is the clamp you’ll turn to for years to come.
Welding magnets make the soldering process easier by holding pieces of metal together at various angles. Fixed-angle magnets come in 45-, 90- and 135-degree versions, while adjustable models can be set to maintain any angle.
Nozzle dip can be applied to MIG gun nozzles and tips to prevent buildup of spatter, which can lead to blockages that keep shield gas from flowing and stop wire from unspooling. You can also apply it to jigs and weld fixtures to extend the life of the weld and make cleaning easier.
A good consumables kit keeps you working once your contact tips wear out. This Eastwood model includes two gas nozzles, 20 contact tips (10 0.023″/0.6mm and 10 0.030″/0.8mm) and a plastic case.
A MIG light illuminates your work area before you strike an arc, making it easier to see when welding in tight, low-light areas (such as under a car). This battery-powered LED light from Steck—which is compatible with most ½-inch to ¾-inch MIG torches—mounts easily using a flexible bracket and offers intuitive controls.
The weight of the tools and accessories you’ll eventually accumulate for welding adds up fast. Sooner or later you’re going to want a cart to help you move them around as you work. When choosing a cart, make sure it’s large enough to accommodate your welder and tanks as well as smaller accessories and equipment. A few highly-rated options include:
- Hot Max WC100 Welding Cart: This durable cart is intelligently designed and boasts plenty of storage space with a 125-pound capacity. At just under 34 pounds, it’s easy to transport throughout your work space. Assembling the cart is a breeze thanks to the inclusion of self-locking washer nuts. Two safety chains on the back of the cart keep gas tanks secured, and the steel handle is strategically placed to avoid interfering with wiring.
- MIG TIG Plasma Cutter Arc Welding Cart: This budget-friendly cart accommodates a welder, gas tanks and a variety of gear with a respectable 100-pound capacity. Three shelves provide convenient access to supplies, while two safety chains hold gas tanks in place. Heavy-duty casters keep you rolling securely from job to job.
If your budget is tight, be sure to check off the list of safety accessories before investing in the “nice to have” tools and gadgets. While the latter items will certainly enhance the quality and efficiency of your work, maintaining a safe working environment should always be your top priority. When done safely, welding can be a lifelong hobby, giving you plenty of time to add all the bells and whistles to your shop shelves.