Things to consider before buying a welder for beginners
Before you buy a welder, you need to know what tasks you plan on completing. Is it a small household job, or are you looking to weld something substantial? The type and amperage may be the most important features to some, but others may value portability higher. It could be that you’re not sure what you want. Either way, it’s a good idea to make a note of each section to see how important it is to you. By the end, you’ll have a much clearer picture.
Different types of welders specialize in different things. You want to ensure you’re getting a welder, which is going to be suitable for your needs. Here, we take a brief overview of the various types out there.
MIG – This is the most common type of industrial process and stands for ‘metal inert gas’. This involves wire and an electrode with a controlled supply of gas. This is going to be the most suitable for aluminum, mild steel, and also stainless steel. It’s also seen as the easiest form of welding to learn. The Chicago Electric Welding Systems 170 Amp MIG/Flux Wire Welder is a fantastic example of a MIG welder, which is a breeze to learn to use.
Stick – Stick welding (also known as arc welding) is commonly used for iron and steel. This is where a hot arc will be created between the surface and the stick, which will then melt the metal and join them together. It’s a more durable method that is ideal for difficult conditions. For exceptional results with stick welding, we recommend the Forney Easy Weld 100 ST Stick Machine, which is also TIG capable.
TIG – This stands for ‘tungsten inert gas’ and is where the electrode heats the base metal and enables a molten weld between the two. This is generally a more complicated process, which will take longer to complete. It is highly versatile, however, and can be used with all types of metal, excluding iron.
It’s important to check just how much power your welder is going to draw if you want to be able to use its full potential. If you plan on using outlets in your home, then there is a good chance you will blow your fuse if you try and take it to full power if you’re using a very powerful welder.
If your home outlet provides 115V, this would require a breaker of at least 20A to be capable of handling welds up to 140amps. Some homes and businesses will have 220v or more where you’d need a 4-prong or heavy-duty 3-prong outlet.
If you want a high-powered welder, then it may be best to get a generator that can cope with a high-amp welder.
The duty cycle is a parameter that refers to the amount of time that the welder can be used continuously on full power. This is rated on a 10 minute period, and if there is a duty cycle of 50%, this means it can be used at full amperage for 5 minutes.
After this time, it then needs to be rested for the remaining time. Different welders will have different duty cycles. It’s important that you know the limitations of your machine before using it as otherwise you can cause heat damages. For those looking for the best duty cycle, it’s hard to look past the AmicoPower Arc-160 with an 80% duty cycle at 160A, as it can work a lot longer compared to other models.
The amperage range is essential in welding, as this is going to dictate the type of material you’re going to be able to work with.
A lower amperage is going to be better for more delicate materials, and a higher amperage will be needed in order to weld thick metals. If you plan on welding a wide range of metals, then you’ll need to look for a welder that has a wide amperage range to be able to cover everything.
As mentioned, for amperage levels above 140, you’ll need more power than regular outlets are capable of. Therefore, if you have high welding requirements, you may need an alternate power source to cope with the amperage.
It’s important to know what materials you can weld with your particular machine. Here, we will look at a basic list:
MIG – Steel, stainless steel, aluminum alloys
Stick – Steel, stainless steel, cast iron
TIG – Steel, stainless steel, aluminum alloys, chromoly, copper, brass, exotic metals
If you go against this, then you are going to be setting yourself up to fail. There are also other materials that can be welded such as thermoplastics and ceramic, but they require different technology with different types of welders.
Where are you going to be using your welder? Do you want it to be portable, or is it simply going to sit in your garage? Whatever the answer is, you need to know how portable you need it to be as the weight of these welders can vary hugely from one product to the other.
The Forney Easy Weld 100 ST Stick Machine is less than 10lbs and extremely easy to carry, while the Hobart Handler 140 MIG Welder, on the other hand, is heavy-duty and much harder to carry at 57lbs. Generally, heavier models have a better capability, but that isn’t always the case. Don’t forget to check the product description to find out how heavy is your unit.
Having a good warranty is important, especially for a device such as a welder where high temperatures are used, and safety is paramount. Most of these welders come with a good warranty, but it’s always a good idea to look beyond the headline and see what it covers.
Some warranties are limited and only cover you if there is something wrong on delivery rather than something failing after a few uses.
It’s a good idea to check just exactly how the product is protected. A 5-year warranty may sound great, but you need to check what it covers.
It’s frustrating when you go to start welding and then suddenly realize you don’t have everything you need to get the job done. What you need for the job will depend on what type of welder you are using.
Stick welder – Filler rod, electrode clamp, ground clamp, welding machine.
TIG welder – Bottled gas, foot pedal, filler rod, welding gun, ground clamp.
MIG welder – Bottled gas, welding gun, ground clamp, and wire feed.
The manufacturers usually include information about the accessories in the product description. With some of the models that we have reviewed above, you can expect to find TIG torches, electrode holders, ground clamps, needle holders, brush hammers, flux wires, handheld face shields, and more.
When you’re a beginner, you often don’t want to pay a lot as you either don’t need a top-end model or are not sure you’ll enjoy it. If that doesn’t apply to you, and you want a premium quality beginner welder, then the Hobart Handler 140 MIG Welder would be the perfect choice at around $500.
The EVERLAST PowerARC 140Sti is a wonderful compact model that runs around $300, but there are some welders around the $200 range, such as the Forney Easy Weld 100 ST Stick Machine, which you can start using right upon the delivery.
If you’re really on a budget, then you can opt for the Campbell Hausfeld 115V Arc/Stick Welder, which is a little over $100. This is still a great option that we loved using.
Whichever welder you choose, we’ve made sure here that we have only shown models that represent good value for money.