Can I MIG Weld Aluminum Without a Spool Gun?

Hello there!

All ready for yet another interesting episode? Well, come on then. Let’s talk about MIG welding today. Well, it is ‘MIG welding aluminum without a spool gun’ to be the exact topic. I am going to tell you all about this interesting and easy method of welding, that by the time you finish reading this blog you are going to thank me!

Can I MIG Weld Aluminum Without a Spool Gun

Although aluminum is a soft metal, it is possible to weld the metal without the aid of a spool gun. A welder needs to learn the trick and practice to ace this method. There are many ways to weld aluminum without a spool gun, yet MIG holds the top position. 

So shall we?

Isn’t a spool gun a necessity in MIG welding aluminum?

If you put your mind to it and try tweaking the conventional MIG welding method spool gun can become an avoidable tool in welding aluminum. A spool gun is primarily used for aluminum because the aluminum wires that are used to feed the electrode tend to get easily tangled or stuck due to its flexible nature.

Especially, if the welding machine is placed far; the wire needs to travel a distance before reaching the MIG gun. This increases the risk of birdnesting. Birdnesting is the process of welding wire getting stuck while being fed. Spool guns are used to avoid such troubles as the spool of aluminum placed along with the gun reduces the length the wire needs to travel to reach the electrode tip.

MIG welding method spool gunWhat are the advantages and disadvantages of using a spool gun for MIG welding?

Spool gun has its advantages and disadvantages. They are:


1.) Speeds up the work: With less trouble, you tend to finish the work fast. As a spool gun reduces the complexities of MIG welding, the person welding needs not to spend much time adjusting the length of the wire and can finish the task with ease.

2.) Gives a neat weld: The stability offered by spool guns is one of the major factors why the tool is recommended for MIG welding aluminum. A stable arc can ensure that the weld beads have a good profile and that the welding happens with minimal spatter and undercuts.

3.) Saves trouble: Yes, if the welder is at a distance or placed at a higher level, it is difficult to make the wire roll and to feed the gun and with a spool gun you can save all the trouble. The former takes a lot of your attention and keeps you hooked with the wire pulling whereas the latter can make you feel at ease and less stressed.

4.) Convenient and cost-effective: Using a spool gun can help you jump from aluminum to steel without much fuss. All you have to do is to replace the spool as and when needed. In addition to this, the expense also gets reduced as the wire pulling does not need any extra setup.


1.) Bulkier than MIG gun: Spool guns are much bulkier than MIG guns. With the additional setup to hold the spool of metal, the gun is heavier too. One needs the practice to use these guns comfortably to weld aluminum. Do not worry; it will get easier with each try.

2.) Relatively expensive: With the extra provisions to set the pool and the similar enhancements from the normal MIG gun, most of the spool guns available in the market are relatively costlier than MIG guns.  

3.) Poor accessibility: If you are going for a lot of welding at one go, then you are in for a difficult time. With the amount of aluminum available in a small spool located inside the spool gun, you will need to have multiple replacements of spools. 

4.) Confusing configuration: Yes, that is right. Many who have used spool guns have complained how tricky they are in terms of working. With the additional setup of a spool gun, the usage is more complicated  than a MIG gun.

Unlike the latter, to use the former you need to make sure that the welder is compatible with it. If not, the process will not happen. Therefore, spool guns are not for everyone. Many choose MIG guns over spool guns primarily for this factor.

5.) A lot of maintenance involved: Spool guns have a lot of minute parts that make up the whole gun. Due to this, maintenance is something that you need to keep in mind while buying these. There is often the risk of some wear and tear in welding equipment and for a spool gun, the chances are more.

See also: MIG Vs TIG Welding Aluminium: Which One is Better?

How can I MIG weld aluminum without a spool gun?

In layman’s words, you need to get the aluminum wire fed through the electrode tip of the MIG gun. For this, you will have to place the aluminum spool inside the welder like you normally do for any other metal.

The risk as I have already said is the potential contamination of the wire. Given below is the link to a video where it is clearly explained how to MIG weld aluminum without a spool gun. He pretty much sums up the whole process; easy enough for a beginner to learn!

Welding Aluminum without a MIG spool gun for the first time

You can see how in the end he tests his weld and reveals how well his method worked.

Can I adopt other methods to weld aluminum without a spool gun?

Yes, you can! Apart from MIG, you can weld aluminum without a spool gun using other methods. They are:

TIG: TIG welding aluminum is a viable method. But here you need to feed the filler material with your hands and your legs will also be occupied controlling the pedal. With TIG welding you have to be extra careful and the process is time taking.

Unlike MIG, this method requires years of expertise to get the weld perfect without any flaws. You need to learn the requirements to weld the particular metal (aluminum in this case) such as the arc of the electrode, the amperage, efficient control of the weld puddle, filler metal feeding speed are just a few.

To know more about TIG welding visit 

Oxy-acetylene welding: This method is also called ‘gas welding’ or ‘torch welding’. Acetylene gas along with oxygen is an excellent choice to create a high temperature for that close to perfect and smooth weld. With aluminum, oxy-acetylene can give you that aesthetic look that you are rooting for. No spool gun or anything!

See also: Can Acetylene Gas be Used for TIG Welding?

What are the tips and tricks to be kept in mind while MIG weld aluminum without a spool gun?

Coming to our last yet very important topic in this blog- the tricks and tips! MIG welding without a spool gun can be a smooth process if you look into the following:

1.) Do multiple tests: Multiple tests before the actual welding to see whether the setup is working properly is an essential element. You cannot master welding a soft metal without the aid of a spool gun in one day. You need to learn and apply the method multiple times and see whether the weld is close to what you desire before going for the real welds.

2.) Keep the hose straight: Always try to keep the welder machine a little farther from the electrode so there is enough space for the wire inside the hose to stay kink-free thereby reducing the risk of birdnesting.

3.) Focus on the resistance: Yes, a tip to keep the process smooth is by ensuring that the resistance on the wire is kept at bay. For this, you can regulate the feed speed and tension of the wire. Try to keep the speed of feeding the wire at the optimal level and always take intervals in between the welds.

4.) Be extra vigilant: Aluminium being soft, you need to be pretty sure with the settings. A little too much heat or wire speed can cost you a good weld. Steel and aluminum demand different settings. Some make the mistake of going with the same settings for both.

5.) Be careful with the pull: Always try not to go overboard with the pulling of the hose. This is a mistake that is often committed and many forget as they get indulged in the process. 

To sum it up

In a nutshell, MIG welding aluminium without spool guns can be your one of the good choices you make in your welding venture, if you are wise enough to keep the wire trouble free. If you are not comfortable with taking such a huge risk, better go with the conventional method.

Bye folks for now. Hope you had a good read!

See you in the next blog!

Steve Goodman
Experienced welder with 7+ years of expertise in all the latest welding techniques MIG, flux and stick welding, drill press, crane operation and metal fabrication. Welding certificate course graduate and 2018 Excellence in Welding award winner.

Related Posts: