Lincoln Nozzle Gel
It's war on those little spatter bb's!
Text, photos and video by Tom Hintz
Posted – 2-5-2011
The other day I happened to enter a chat room frequented by welding types and cyber-strolled right into an argument about nozzle gels. Nozzle gels are supposed to help prevent spatter from sticking to MIG (and others) nozzles and contact tips. One side said that the gel works, the other said they don’t. All I could say with certainty was that I didn’t know so I needed to get some and try it myself. Perhaps that would get me on one side or the other of this debate. If nozzle gels actually do work I can see them saving some “expendable” parts money.
I got a 1-lb container of Lincoln Nozzle Gel and noted that the label says that it is non-toxic, contains no fluorocarbons or harsh chemicals and it doesn’t sneak up on the ozone layer. I always doubt the effectiveness of something that is so safe so I needed to see the Lincoln Nozzle Gel work in my shop under real home-shop conditions.
As the name suggests, the Lincoln Nozzle Gel is a waxy-looking, blue gel that melts onto the hot MIG gun tip. The gel has no distinct odor before or after being melted. It appears to smoke or steam off slightly when you go back to welding immediately after dipping the tip in the Lincoln Nozzle Gel.
I have gone through quite a few MIG nozzles and contact tips because of contamination. Early in my learning to weld quest with my Lincoln Pro-Mig 180 Welder I was having beginner issues with arc lengths which can help generate more spatter than necessary. I could chip much of that spatter off easy enough but there was always some that stayed behind and eventually it built up enough that my MIG gun just quit working altogether or became erratic.
The instructions on the Lincoln Nozzle Gel say “Dip hot nozzles into Gel as Required”. It’s not hard to imagine the wheels coming off right here for some people. Without a defined frequency of dipping the nozzle some are going to do it more often than needed and others will wait way too long. I suspect that the best frequency for any one welder depends on their situation. Along the way I will also try to identify indicators that mean dipping your nozzle is needed.
To start with I picked up a new nozzle and contact tip. After removing the old ones (they worked fine but I wanted to start fresh) I cleaned the threads and everything on the end of the gun before installing the new parts. Then, I sat down to practice some of my out-of-position MIG welding. I will check the nozzle frequently and dip it in the Lincoln Nozzle Gel as soon as I notice spatter clinging to the gun.
After several minutes of welding I dipped the tip into the Lincoln Nozzle Gel even though it really had not collected much spatter. I could see a few small bb’s of spatter but after welding a few minutes with the Lincoln Nozzle Gel on the tip the spatters were gone! I’m not sure spatter bb’s fell off before I started using the Lincoln Nozzle Gel but I never noticed it.
I put in around four hours of welding during the first day of this test. I was doing flat, fillet and uphill welds to make sure I was giving myself ample opportunity to mess up with the arc length to maximize the spatter. I was giving the gun a quick dip in the Lincoln Nozzle Gel after every 10 minutes or so and that seemed to keep the nozzle and the contact tip protected. I am certain that left untreated I would have been digging spatter out of the nozzle with my awl.
After that days’ worth of welding the nozzle and contact tip had a shiny black coating that did not seem to be effecting the welding at all. There was no spatter to be seen on or near the black coating. I have kept an eye on that coating over the next few days during which I did several more hours of welding. The coating does not appear to be building up and again, no spatter bb’s were stuck to the nozzle or contact tip.
The only difference noted during the test was immediately after dipping the tip in the Lincoln Nozzle Gel the arc would stutter for less than a second and then establish as it always does. I expect that it is blowing the excess Lincoln Nozzle Gel out of the way but once that partial-second clearing finishes the Lincoln Pro-Mig 180 Welder performed smoothly as it always does with a new nozzle and contact tip. The welds themselves show no influence of the Lincoln Nozzle Gel at all. Though I hoped that using the Lincoln Nozzle Gel might be the secret to perfect welds it does no such thing. In fact it appears to do absolutely nothing to the weld other than letting you do it without changing so many parts.
I am sold on the Lincoln Nozzle Gel. I have been changing nozzles and contact tips pretty regularly in my pre Lincoln Nozzle Gel days and have already doubled the life of the new ones installed at the beginning of this test. Now five days later the Lincoln Nozzle Gel continues to protect those often-changed pieces. The ones I installed at the beginning of this test still look and perform perfectly except for the shiny black coating.
I also noticed this morning that though there are a bunch of nozzle-shaped holes in the Lincoln Nozzle Gel container, it doesn’t appear that much has been used over the last five days. With a street price of just under $8.00 for the 1-lb container the cost of using the Lincoln Nozzle Gel pales when compared to the cost of new nozzles and contact tips. As far as I am concerned using Lincoln Nozzle Gel is not a dumb thing to do. Not using it appears to be very dumb.
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