Beginners Buying Guide To Their First Welder
ToolTally is reader-supported and earns a commission when you purchase a product through our partner links.
When you are a beginner welder, the types of welding options can be overwhelming. A lot of folks pick a welder at random, often choosing the cheapest option and hoping it works.
In this guide, I’m going to provide some guidance on the best options and will help you get one that is right for the type of work you usually do.
I’ve also selected several welders that are cheap, yet powerful enough to be easy for a beginner to master without frustration. The best welder for a beginner is typically a MIG welder. My buyer’s guide below explains all of the differences.
Considering that Welders make $53,000 per year in the US, it is a good skill to have.
- Beginners Buying Guide To Their First Welder
- The Top 7 Beginner Welders Reviewed
- Hobart Handler 210 MVP Wire Welder
- WeldPro 200 MultiProcess Welder
- Lotos MIG 140 Welder
- Forney Easy Weld 261
- Lincoln Electric K2278-1 Handy Core
- DekoPro 140a
- PrimeWeld TIG 225x
- Buyer’s Guide
- In Conclusion…
The Top 7 Beginner Welders Reviewed
Hobart Handler 210 MVP Wire Welder
In my opinion, the Hobart Handler series is one of the best for welding students to start with. It is a high-quality machine that delivers a consistent weld that is extremely predictable. That means the student welder can spend their time learning to weld instead of fighting with their welding machine.
Hobart is made by Miller Electric and gives you a chance to get brand name quality even as an entry-level user. They also sell a very popular Hobart Handler 140. However, I like this one better because it offers more power and the opportunity to upgrade to a spool gun.
There are several options to go with, but the 210 is one of my favorites for a few reasons. To begin with, this one offers heavy-duty power. You get 140 amps out of it at 110 volts and 210 amps with a 220-volt power supply for up to 3/8-inch welds on a single pass.
This means that you can do most of your tasks on a basic household power supply or even run it off of a 4-kilowatt generator with ease.
The Hobart Handler is designed to be super easy to use. All you need to do is to select your voltage for your welding width and the amperage to handle the thickness of your material. The wire feed is set inside the door of the welder and is one of those things that you won’t need to adjust too much once you find your sweet spot.
But then, you also have the ability to upgrade this welder. If you plan on doing aluminum welding, this welder will accept a spool gun so that you can use aluminum wire for the spray transfer technique you need when welding aluminum. It also has an easy polarity change-over for when you need to do alloy work.
Finally, this one has a top-quality automatic wire feeder. Made from cast aluminum, it delivers a more consistent wire feed than some of the cheaper models that use plastic wire feeding units. Additionally, the drive roll can be flipped around to handle two different wire sizes.
Overall, this is the best MIG welder to get started on and has the ability to be upgraded down the road for even more functionality.
WeldPro 200 MultiProcess Welder
This one and the Lotos below are two of my favorite machines for the DIY user who needs a reliable tool for doing occasional jobs around the shop or house.
As with the Hobart above, this one is a heavy-duty 200-amp machine. The higher amperage comes in handy when you are working with thicker metals. You should be able to do 1/5-inch thickness MIG welds and 1/4-inch thickness TIG welds with this unit.
This one is a multi-process welder that can offer MIG, DC TIG, and Stick welding. That means it is an excellent choice for steelwork. It is spool gun compatible, so it is also compatible with aluminum work as well if you buy the spool gun upgrade.
The digital display screen takes a couple of minutes to get used to, but keeps everything right in front of you and easily accessible for quick changes. Once you get used to it, everything makes sense, and you can easily switch between modes. It lets you set the amperage and wire-speed right there on the screen, as well as switch between modes.
The arc welding allows you to do some of those more esoteric repairs such as repairing cast iron or doing work on dirty or rusted metal where you can’t get a perfect prep.
The other neat feature is that it has a VRD inductance voltage setting that helps to keep a consistent voltage even as you go over different parts of the metal. It makes it easier to get a cleaner weld on material that hasn’t been perfectly prepped.
What is really cool about this welder is that it can easily do thinner metals. The TIG feature can get down to 25 gauge metal. If you are quick with your hands, you can probably work down to about 18 gauge on the MIG.
Finally, the 2T/4T feature provides the ability to let the MIG gun supply the wire without you holding the trigger down. For most beginners, that feature won’t mean as much, but it can be nice on bigger projects.
Overall, this is a stellar model and offers an all-in-one package making it a strong contender for the top pick.
Lotos MIG 140 Welder
Lotos offers some of the most popular entry-level welders. This little 140-amperage welder goes up against some of the more expensive brands and provides a surprising amount of value for the hobbyist.
The nice thing about this tool is that it is a 110-volt only tool. If you don’t have a 220-volt power supply, there isn’t much need to invest in a 220-volt machine. This one will run off any regular household current.
Surprisingly enough, this one can also be used on aluminum work if you buy a spool gun to go with it. You typically don’t find that feature on one of these more introductory models.
It also has the coveted aluminum wire drive. The welding quality that this one creates is just as consistent as some of the other models. If you were planning on doing flux-cored welding with this, I would purchase the knurled wire drive upgrade that works better with the flux-cored wire.
The Lotos MIG 140 is also a metal inert gas welder so you can do all types of MIG welding. The digital display makes it easier to get the identical setup time after time. Instead of guessing whether you had the knob closer to the “5” or the “6”, you can use the same settings time after time.
Backed by one-year parts and labor warranty, this is a pretty solid option for the user who is just getting into the craft.
Forney Easy Weld 261
This welder kicks off our gasless welding systems. These welders do not need a tank of inert gas to protect the weld. Instead, the shielding material is built into the flux core wire itself.
The downside with these flux-cored systems is that they can make slightly messier welds with more spatter. However, for the hobbyist welder, it is worth it to be required to keep Argon on hand.
The Forney Easy Weld is a simple, 140-amp machine that keeps pace with some of the more expensive models. Easy to use, you simply select the amperage, the voltage, and the wire speed and use a quick scratch start to get it going.
For cleaner welds, you will want to have some anti-spatter spray on hand. But you can weld just fine without it. It’s supposed to be able to handle up to 1/4-inch thick steel.
The other neat factor is that this welder is only 19 pounds, offering ultimate portability as you run around the garage working on projects.
One of the big selling points of the Forney is its customer support team. On the off-chance that you have an issue, you can talk to one of their knowledgeable techs by phone. It’s such a simple machine that they can typically diagnose the problem over the phone.
For the beginner who wants a welder that is easy to use with minimal fuss, this is an excellent option.
Lincoln Electric K2278-1 Handy Core
The Lincoln Electric is one of the oldest brand names that is sold in America. When you buy this brand, you are also getting a well-establish customer support team.
This is one of the flux-core-only models. There is no need to purchase an inert gas, meaning that this offers one of the easiest welding experiences for new machinists.
Simply load the spool of wire, plug it in, and get to work. It runs off of a 110-volt household circuit and can do up to 1/8-inch thick material. It does lack the heat for faster welding. You’ll want to run a speed 3 or 4 and take your time. It is great for thinner material.
Don’t forget that this one uses an odd spool size. The 1 pound spool is perfect, and this one uses the .035 thickness, which is readily common, but not what most people expect.
Buying a welder is a daunting expense. If you’ve read this far and feel that all of the welders are too expensive, I want you to take a look at the DekoPro. At 140 amps, it offers a lot of power while still being one of the cheapest welding machines on the market.
Most people just buy this little welder as a highly portable 110v stick welder. Load this thing up with a 6013 stick, and there is no project that is safe. It has a 60% duty cycle, which lets you work endlessly before you trip the thermal overload protection.
Then, it also has a little MIG gun inside the side door. Just pull it out when you want to do flux core welding.
It’s a surprising little tool for light-duty work. If you are ready to make the leap but don’t want to invest a lot of cash, this is a good tool to go with.
PrimeWeld TIG 225x
Those of you who read my buyer’s guide will know that I try to point my readers to a MIG welder instead of a TIG.
However, if you are doing a lot of aluminum work, welding thin material, and want the ability to create pretty weld beads, this TIG 225x is a consideration.
As with some of the more expensive welders, this one offers 225 Amps of power for welding a quarter-inch-thick aluminum and 3/8-inch-thick steel. It handles stainless steel, cold steel, and aluminum equally with ease. As with most of the welders, it can use either 110v or 220v of power.
The knobs on the front can be a little overwhelming. All of these control an expensive internal IGBT inverter that creates the sine wave that controls the electrical arc pattern. You can use these settings to dial in the shape of the electricity and get the pulse width modulation (PWM). There are few other tools in this price range that offer this much control.
As with the other tools on this list, it comes with everything that you need, including the ground clamp, gas regulator, and torches. You just want to add the tungsten electrodes and welding sticks to your checkout as well.
With a TIG machine, you have to move slower and take your time, but the finished product looks better.
If you are a perfectionist or artist who doesn’t mind the longer learning curve, this one can be a good choice.
When you are shopping for a new welder, you are bound to have a few questions. Reading this short guide will answer most of your questions and empower you to have a better understanding of the differences between the tools.
Additionally, I cover most of the welding basics so you can get up and going faster once your new welder arrives.
What Type Of Welder Is Best For A Beginner?
Mig welding (also called Gas Metal Arc Welding or GMAW) is the easiest to master. The wire filler feeds on its own, allowing you to focus on nothing but the welding pool and getting a good weld with minimal spatter. Growing up on the farm, we kids all took to the MIG welder really quickly. It is great for steel and can also be used for aluminum if your Welder has the reverse polarity option. MIG requires that you use an inert gas, or you can avoid the gas and use flux-cored welding wire. Flux core welding works pretty well on dirty metal.
A Stick or Arc welder uses a consumable electrode rod that has to be held just barely off the surface of the metal you are welding. If you get it too close to the metal, it tends to “grab” and can stick to the steel, making an ugly weld. Further increasing the challenge is that to get the arc started, you use a scratch start where you run the welding rod along with the steel piece for a moment before lifting it away. The upside of a stick welder is that it is the most economical option. A stick welder does not need an inert shielding gas.
TIG Welding (also called Gas Tungsten Arc Welding or GTAW)can be used for both steel and aluminum. The real advantage of the TIG is in the AC TIG that can do welds on thin aluminum. The TIG offers the prettiest finished welds of all of the above options as it requires the user to manually feed the filler metal in, offering the greatest control over the welding process. Unfortunately, this also makes the TIG the most challenging to learn, as the user has to master the contact tip, the filler material, and a foot pedal. It is recommended to master the MIG welder first. TIG welding requires an inert shielding gas that can be purchased locally.
The use type is also a major determining factor on which welder to buy. The first determining factor is the type of metal you are working with. Stainless Steel, Mild Steel, and Cold Steel can be welded with all of the above types of Welders.
Aluminum will require either a TIG welder or a MIG welder with reverse polarity. Other alloys such as Magnesium are going to need a TIG welder. TIG’s also do well on thin metals that won’t hold up to the hotter process required by some of the other systems.
Stick welding also brings some unique advantages as it can do cast iron welding with the proper electrodes. It also can weld thicker material with a smaller power supply making it one of the more affordable options for things like building steel fences.
The thickness of the material you are working with is another major determining factor. The higher the amperage, the thicker the material the welder can handle. Granted, you also need a power input that can support this higher rating. Assuming that you have access to a 220-volt power supply, the higher amperage can open the door for bigger jobs down the road.
An alternating current TIG welder is likely the most expensive tool for doing welds that are over 1/4-inch thick as it requires more power and a bigger machine. The MIG comes in second as it can easily handle welds slightly thicker than 1/4 of an inch, but is usually much more affordable. And then the ARC welder is typically the most cost-effective.
Unless you are working in the factory, it won’t matter much if you need to let the welder take a break. However, it can be frustrating.
A welder with higher amperage and a 220-volt power supply is going to be able to run longer without stopping to cool down than a smaller welder with a 110-volt power supply.
That said, pay attention to the duty cycle on your machine, and follow the recommended guidelines for letting the unit cool off while you work. This will keep you from tripping the thermal protection circuit, which can take 15 minutes to cool down and re-engage.
A higher duty cycle % is going to reduce the number of breaks you have to take.
There are a lot of great welders for beginners to choose from. If you want one that is easy to use, but that offers the opportunity to do professional work down the road, I recommend going with the __ . However, if you only need a goody hobby machine, the __ offers everything you need at an affordable price.