Being able to weld metal at home is one of the nicest luxuries. MIG welding (also called Gas Metal Arc Welding) can handle most of the tasks you’ll face.
As a child, the first time I realized that metal could be broken, I was highly disturbed. I wanted it to be put back together again as quickly as possible.
Thankfully, my grandfather had a magical tool called a “welder.”
If you’ve ever had to fight with a poorly-made welder, you’ll understand how critical it is to get the right one. Likely, you will only use it occasionally, but you need one that is easy to use and reliable.
There are a lot of nuances to welding. However, this guide will cover essential points so that you can get started right away. We’ll discuss the 110v/220v dual voltage welders, as well as some of the different variants.
It doesn’t need to be complicated. Read this guide, grab a welder, and then start practicing. I don’t know anyone who got good at running a welder without a lot of practice.
Welding is extremely bright and will cause eye damage.
- What Is the Easiest Welder To Get Started With?
- Zachary’s 8 Best Welders For At-Home Use
- Lotos MIG175 175Amp Welding Machine
- Everlast PowerMig 200 Welder
- Hobart 500559 Mig
- Hobart 500559 Handler 140 Welder
- Lotos MIG140 Welding Machine
- Miller Electric 907614 Welder
- Forney Easy Weld 110v 261 Flux Core Welder
- Lincoln Electric K2278-1 Handy Core
- What Is MIG Welding?
- Shielding Gasses
- Gasless Welding
What Is the Easiest Welder To Get Started With?
Most folks either start with the Mig or the stick. The stick welder is relatively easy to master and is quite affordable, but it is difficult to get nice, clean welds with it. You can also buy different sticks for aluminum and cast iron to match the type of work you are doing.
The MIG or Gas Metal Arc Welding (GMAW) is even more comfortable, and also delivers a smoother finish. You can either do use an inert gas or stick with flux core welding (FCAW) wire, which does not need a shielding gas.
TIG welders are the last category. They are probably the hardest to master, but, even then, they are the best choice for thin metalwork.
As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I grew up on the farm. From 10 years old on, we were allowed to use Dad’s MIG welding machine. It’s easy to master and handles the most common jobs. Plus, if you buy a spool feed and flux core wire, you can do aluminum welding.
Zachary’s 8 Best Welders For At-Home Use
Lotos MIG175 175Amp Welding Machine
This one is by no means the best welder on the list. However, it offers an incredible collection of features, making it the best welding machine for use by hobbyists.
You wouldn’t expect it on a welder this cheap, but this one has an all-aluminum wire feeder. The feature gives you that high-end, smooth feed that is essential for getting a pretty bead.
This welder is also a little more powerful than most of the other options on our list at 175 amps of power. You are going to have no difficulty getting excellent penetration on stainless steel and mild steel that is a quarter-inch thick.
Built-in thermal overload protection helps guarantee that you can’t overheat this tool by pushing it too hard. The 20% duty rating means that when you are welding the thickest metals, you need to let the welder rest for 8 out of every 10 minutes.
The reliable IGBT inverter helps deliver consistent power without any problems.
You are also getting a lot more features to help you do more welding types. For example, it comes with a spool gun for doing aluminum work. Most other brands require you to pay an additional amount for that.
And then, as with the others, you get the MIG gun and ground clamp. It also comes with a hose and regulator, so once you buy the shielding gas locally, you are ready to go.
The two downsides are minor. First, it handles 6-inch spools of MIG wire, not 8-inch spools. The smaller spool means that you are going to be swapping a little faster. And then the warranty requires that you register it on the Lotos website.
One crucial point is that this one requires 220v power. Make sure that you have an appropriate outlet that you can use to power it.
There are a lot of heavy-duty features on this model that is priced for at-home use, making it my top pick for the DIY user.
Everlast PowerMig 200 Welder
Everlast is one of the big manufacturers of high-end welders. Its iconic green is seen lurking around the workbenches of many a tradesman in the professional environment.
The key advantage of the PowerMig that sets it apart from the pack is all the control given to the operator.
The amperage control is standard on all of these tools and is right where you would expect it on the Power Mig. And then, it has voltage control. This choice isn’t as typical of a control, and it lets you set the depth and width of the weld bead to get the best connection for the type of metal you are working with.
And then, this one also has arc control to manage force control to adjust the shape of the arc and to increase the consistency when welding with a stick. Anytime there is a fluctuation in the arc, the Everlast automatically kicks up the power to create a more consistent arc. You can set this dial to match the type of material you are working with.
The ability to switch is a beneficial feature when you are working on metals that don’t have a perfectly prepared finish.
You also get the ability to use this welder with a stick, and it comes with the work cable and clamp for stick welding, as well as the gear you need to do MIG work.
As a 110v/220v dual voltage welder, you’ll get the best performance out of 220v work. But on those days when you need it to act as a flux wire welder, it can do just that, giving this machine as much portability as any of them.
Hobart 500559 Mig
I think I’ve mentioned this before, but the Hobart is one of the best off-the-shelf welders for new craftsmen to work with. This 210 MVP welder offers the perfect mix of performance, price, and dependability.
While it has excellent control over the amperage settings and offers you a wide range to choose from, you have seven easy preset voltage settings to choose from. You can weld from a thin 24 gauge metal up to a 3/8 inch thickness on a single pass with it cranked up to 150 amps. You can do thicker metals, too, as long as you are ok with doing multiple passes.
The internal gas regulator is one of the better ones on the market, and you are going to have more control with less risk of a leaky solenoid.
One of the big things that set these high-quality machines apart from the more entry-level options is the high-end cast aluminum wire feeding option. This internal wire drive ensures that your spool flows steadily and consistently, eliminating sputtering and a lot of the slag problems.
As with the other welders on this list, it is going to work best with a 230-volt power supply. It is rated for a 30% duty cycle, which means it needs to rest for 7 out of every 10 minutes that it is running.
As if the quality and the excellent warranty isn’t enough incentive to choose the Hobart, it is also designed to grow with you as your skills develop. You can add a better MIG gun down the road, or their highly affordable spool runner.
Hobart 500559 Handler 140 Welder
If you like the features on the Hobart 210, but want to save some money, the Hobart Handler 140 offers an ideal welder for the DIY mechanic. If you are a DIY at-home user, it is not likely that you will need to do a lot of work on 1/2-inch metals.
By going with a lower-powered machine, you can save a lot of money.
As with the above model, this one is very straightforward to adjust. You get the amperage control so that you can adjust the power for the thickness of the metal.
This one also has the voltage control for leveling out the welding arc. This choice allows you to control the width and depth of the welding bead, so you can get the right bead for the project you are doing.
And then it also has the wire feed speed that can be adjusted.
This welder is 115-volt only, that plugs into a normal household outlet. However, unlike the Forney that we talk about below, this one comes with a gas hose and regulator, so you get the better welds that come from using a shielding gas.
If you add a spool gun or use aluminum flux wire with the wire speed turned all the way down, this one will even weld aluminum.
The biggest downside with this model is the 20% duty cycle. You’ll notice with the last couple models on this list that the duty cycle rating drops a little to prevent overheating.
There is a reason that the Handler140 is one of the most popular models that Hobart sells. If you want an affordable 140 amp MIG welder without compromising on quality, this is a great one to go with.
Lotos MIG140 Welding Machine
As with the Handler140 above, here is a lower-powered version of the Lotos that we already talked about.
What I like about this model is that it still gives you the ability to use a shielding gas for your welds and even comes with a gas hose and regulator. I find that to be an excellent value for how entry-level this machine is.
The torch comes with a new feature called 4T, which allows for a semi-auto mode. This mode means that you can take your finger off the trigger and let it rest during longer welding jobs.
For 2019, they also upgraded the wire feed to be metal instead of plastic. Since this is such a critical part, the upgrade here makes this one a top contender with some of the pricier models.
This is one of the most out-of-the-box welding options available. It even comes with a hand-held welding mask for those shorter projects. This handy MIG welder is great for all of the steelwork you would be doing and can be upgraded to do aluminum by adding a spool gun.
As with the Hobart above, you are sacrificing a little power, and the duty cycle drops to 15% to prevent overheating. This is not a concern for the patient DIY person.
Miller Electric 907614 Welder
This is one of the more premium options on the list. I absolutely love everything about this welder, but the sticker shock is going to be hard for a lot of my readers. If you are looking for a better value, skip on down to one of the welders below.
Miller Electric is a mainstay in fabrication shops. Many steelworkers want the same quality of performance at their home, and this little tool delivers.
As with most of the options on my list, this one is going to offer 150 amps of power. That should let you, with patience and multiple passes, weld up to 1/2-inch in thickness. Like the Hobart above, it is rated for up to 3/8-inch of welding. On stainless steel, they recommend keeping the thickness to 1/4-inch or thinner.
This one has one of the more aggressive duty cycles at 40%. That means you can weld for 4 minutes out of every 10, and it gives you that little bit extra margin before you risk tripping the heat sensor.
This one has the most natural settings to work with. You don’t have to worry about wire feed speed and those other nuances. Just choose the material thickness and the type of material that you are working on. If the little sensor light is glowing blue, then you are ready to start welding.
This one has high-end parts internally. The full-metal wire drive ensures smooth, consistent feeding to give you quality weld beads.
The one thing I dislike about this model is that you have to pay a lot more for the spool feed option if you plan on doing aluminum work. With the Hobart, that upgrade is more affordable for the homeowner.
But, for the welding professional who wants to work from home, the Miller is going to give the best feel.
Backed by a one-year part and labor warranty and over 800 distributors across the country who might be able to help service it locally.
Forney Easy Weld 110v 261 Flux Core Welder
I am not a huge fan of gasless flux core welding. It tends to be a messier process that requires more post-production work to clean up the excess spatter.
However, for my readers who keep borrowing their buddy’s welder for one-off jobs, this Fourney is a solid option that will protect the wallet.
The Forney Easy Weld has a 140 amp rating. Theoretically, this only makes it good for 1/4-inch thick metal. However, if you move a little slower and are willing to do a second pass, you can handle thicker metal.
The big selling point is that this is solely a 110v model. The advantage of the 110v model is that you can weld off of almost any circuit. This makes it one of the best 110v MIG welders on the market.
From auto bodywork to building fences, this welder is going to get the job done. Additionally, since it does not use gasses, that is one less thing to buy and learn about.
Simply load it with your flux core wire, plug it in, and get to work.
If you are torn between a stick welder or a flux-cored welder, the latter will save you a lot of mess and is more fun to use. Skip the stick and go with this one. The fact that you don’t need a shield gas dramatically increases the portability of this machine.
This one also draws very little power. If you have an outlet with 120-volts and 20-amps of power for the input, you will have no difficulty getting the maximum performance out of this machine. That means that you can feasibly use it with a generator as small as 3 kilowatts for remote work.
However, if you think you might get serious about your craft and will be doing most of your work from the home garage, then go ahead and get one of the options above that use a shielding gas.
Lincoln Electric K2278-1 Handy Core
Here is another flux-cored welding machine. Lincoln Electric is one of the best brands out there and is one of the first ones that I worked with. In fact, my grandfather always had a Lincoln Electric stick welder. So when it comes to brand longevity, they are one of the oldest ones.
You could make a strong argument that this is a better-quality welder than the Forney above. However, the wire feed speed seems to be very finicky. There are a lot of people who report that their Lincoln welder sputters a lot and creates slag. Almost every time, it ends up being the wire feed speed.
It seems that sometimes the different nuts are too tight, which slows the speed feeding.
This flaw is an extremely intermittent issue, which points to an internal quality-control problem with the company.
It is also possible that they are trying to make their wire feed extremely adjustable to each scenario. Unfortunately, that means casual welders are losing hours learning how to adjust this one part of their welder.
This welder is also much smaller, with a max amperage of 88 amps. At max, it’s just enough power to do about a 1/8-inch thickness of mild steel.
As with the Forney above, this is a 115v power supply only. It’s a great choice, but portability is a concern.
The brand name of this tool is the most significant selling point. With the one year warranty, there is a lot of peace of mind in choosing this model.
But it also has a lot going against it, in my opinion.
What Is MIG Welding?
Metal inert gas welding is where a consumable wire is fed through a MIG gun, which delivers the extremely high voltage to it. An arc is created between the tip of the wire and the metal you are working on.
The key feature of this style is a sort of shielding from the surrounding air that goes on. This can be supplied via a flow of inert gas, such as Argon. Or it can be done with Flux Core wire that has the shielding built into the wire.
When air touches the hot metal that you are working on, it can create slag, holes, cracks, and ruin the piece you are working on.
Most machines allow you to supply a second or two of air to the area before you begin welding to push the atmospheric air away. And then you will want to supply a second or two of air to the surface when you finish the weld.
These gasses need to be purchased locally and are quite affordable.
Here are some of the common ones:
Argon: This is one of the most common options. As an inert gas, it does not react to other elements in the air. If you don’t have any preference, then this is an excellent option to start with. It is often mixed with other gasses.
CO2: As with Argon above, carbon dioxide is quite affordable. One advantage of Carbon Dioxide is that you can get a hotter weld. It is often mixed with Argon or can be purchased in a 100% mixture if you are working with thicker metals.
Blended Gasses: As already mentioned, most of these gasses are sold in a mixture. Check with your local supplier to see what is affordable in your area.
Some of the last few machines that we discussed do not have an option to use an inert gas. These require you to purchase a particular type of welding wire that has the atmospheric protection built into it. This wire is referred to as FCAW.
The downside of this style is that it does create more slag. The upside is that you can also weld aluminum, and you don’t need to buy a tank of gas.
If you are only doing the occasional project around the house, these gasless welders are more affordable.
Most of us are worried about not having enough power. However, there are a lot of thin projects that require you to use a low-power welder.
If you can find one that will go down as low as 25 amps, you will be able to do some of these finer repairs without burning a hole through the material.
The trick is finding one with a wide enough range.
In my experience, the average homeowner rarely needs to commonly weld 1/2-inch metal.