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Flux Core Arc Welding (FCAW) generally refers to the self-shielded welding wire that allows you to weld without an inert shielding gas. It can also refer to a dual shielded wire which still requires external shielding gas to protect the weld.
With these machines, a wire feeding device sends the highly electrified wire to the tip of the welding gun, where it fills the weld joint.
With the self-shielded wire (FCAW-S), there is an internal flux compound that fills the wire. As the wire is heated, that flux is released as a gas. Between the gas and the slag that is created, you get sufficient, if imperfect, shielding of gas that protects the active weld from impurities in the surrounding atmosphere that can cause cracking of the weld as it cools.
With dual shielded wire (FCAW-G), the flux does not contain the release of gas and only exists to create the protective slag. In this case, a supply of protective gas such as an argon or helium mixture is still required to protect the weld.
Both of these systems are good for those times when you need to weld out of position. However, the finished weld is not as “pretty” due to the slag that is created in the process of welding.
The FCAW-S is extremely popular among do-it-yourself individuals as it is similar to arc welding but is easier to use than an arc welder and offers a much simpler setup without gas.
Most GMAW (or MIG) welders can use FCAW wire. It is recommended that you switch our the drive rollers with knurled rollers that grip the flux core wire better. Since flux core wire is hollow, the knurled roller allows for a better grip without crushing the wire, which can occur when flux wire is loaded into a standard MIG welder.
However, if you simply want a system that gives you the convenience of a MIG welder without requiring a bottle of inert gas, this is the list for you.
- Top Picks For Flux-Core Welders
- Hobart Handler 125 Flux Core Welder
- Lotos MIG 140 Gas/Flux Automatic Feed Welder
- Forney Easy Weld 299
- Display4Top No Gas Flux Core Wire Welder
- Lincoln K2278-1 Handy Core
- Super Deal MIG 130
- Frequently Asked Questions About Flux Cored Arc Welding
- How Does Flux Core Welding work?
- Should you push or pull Flux Core Wire?
- Can You Weld Stainless Steel With Flux Core?
- Do I Need A Welding Mask?
- Advantages of Flux Core Welding
- What Gas is Used For Flux Core Welding?
Top Picks For Flux-Core Welders
All of these welders should come with a ground clamp, welding gun and may include a spool of wire. If you have to buy wire, make sure that it matches.
Hobart Handler 125 Flux Core Welder
The Hobart Handler 125 should be the top pick of anyone who wants a heavy-duty welder. Hobart is one of the most well-known brands in the country and delivers an unbeatable quality of work. Their Handler 140 is my favorite MIG tool for introducing new welders to the craft.
For the novice, this means that it is easier to get that “perfect” weld, and shortens your learning term.
In the mechanic shop, the Hobart Handler allows your shop staff to do repairs with the least amount of learning curve. It also has a “cool” electrode that disconnects the power to the tip of the welder anytime the trigger is released. This helps prevent painful accidents and is a feature that the cheaper welders do not have.
As a 125-amp welder, this one can easily weld mild steel in up to 1/8-inch thickness. With some practice, you can lay down multiple beads, which will let you weld even thicker material (up to 1/4-inch thick with a little practice).
This is also one of the only welders with voltage settings. The voltage settings allow you to adjust the arc to control how deep and wide it is. This can allow you to get deeper penetration on a thicker metal and keep from burning through thin metal.
As a Flux core welder, it is great for carrying to remote job sites. It only weighs 57.5 pounds. While that isn’t the lightest welder out there, it is on the lighter side of the high-quality welders. It runs off a 110-volt power supply, and while a 20 amp circuit is ideal, you could probably pull off some jobs with about 15 amps.
This little machine runs hot. So you are going to be able to get a good connection every time and generate a consistent weld puddle. This does mean that if you are working on thin material, you’ll want to practice with a faster wire speed and a lower amperage to make sure that you don’t burn through the material.
If you are tired of the Harbor Freight quality of tools and want that upgrade, this one fits the bill. For a tool that you can hand to your crew and expect them to get the job done, this is a nearly unbeatable option. The five-year limited warranty gives you peace of mind on your investment.
Additionally, if you ever get fed up with the spatter that flux welding creates, there is a gas solenoid installed. Simply pop the hole off the back and connect your inter gas bottle with the regulator and hose that you purchased separately to start MIG welding.
Lotos MIG 140 Gas/Flux Automatic Feed Welder
Most of the welders on this list will be dedicated flux-only machines. This is an attractively priced tool for MIG welding that does allow gas metal arc welding. However, it will also do Flux welding, which lands it a deserving spot on this list.
With that in mind, we wanted to include it on the list, even if it won’t be the top pick for most of our readers.
This little tool does it all. It is a 140 amp MIG, making it one of the strongest ones on this list and capable of handling material up to 3/16-inches thick. However, it only requires a 110-volt power supply, making it ideal for use around the house.
This system sets up simply. You load your wire into the aluminum wire feeder, set the wire feed speed, and get to work. It uses old-school transformer technology to create the arc. A lot of the new welders are proud of the IGBT inverter technology, but the transformer is a long-tested and reliable design.
The 2T/4T trigger settings are not something that most folks will use but does come in handy when laying down long stretches of welding.
The biggest advantage of this model is that you can also purchase a spool gun and use it for aluminum welding. So, while this is a hobby tool, it can be used for all of the most common types of welding work.
If you have a little more money to spend and want to invest, it is a tool that can do more than one welding process. This should be your top consideration. A few years ago, the Hobart did not have the gas capability. If I were using one of these welders on a daily basis, I think I would still go with the Hobart. But this Lotos is going to hold up well to home and farm use.
Forney Easy Weld 299
The Forney Easy Weld systems are an excellent introduction to welding and might be the tool that introduces more people to welding than just about any other.
This system is just like the MIG welders but only accepts flux-cored wires. It does not allow you to use gas.
As a dedicated welder, it is an extremely affordable tool that offers a lot of power for the money. It only requires 110-volt circuitry, which means that you can plug it into any household circuit. It also delivers 125 amps, which is enough to weld 1/8″ thick steel on a single pass.
The controls are very easy to understand. If you are working with a thin material, set the welder to “thin plate” and use a higher wire feed speed. This lets you move quickly across the thin material without burning a hole in it. If you are working on thicker material, the “sheet metal” setting and a lower wire speed will let you slow down and deliver more heat to get a better bond.
With all flux core welding machines, it is recommended to drag the stick instead of pushing it (if it causes slag, you drag). This welder is very intuitive and will have you handling most projects like a pro with less than an hour of practice.
What is attractive about this welder is that it offers some of the most power output (highest amps) for a 110-volt power supply. The power draw is too much to plug it into an extension cord. Don’t plug it into an extension cord (that goes for all welders).
It is also lightweight, making it easy to move around from job to job.
With a six month warranty, The Forney Easy Weld is the perfect tool to have around the house.
Display4Top No Gas Flux Core Wire Welder
Hopefully, I’m not confusing you with the options out there. For most of my readers who want a dedicated FCAW machine, I’m going to suggest getting the Forney unless you plan on using the welder on a weekly basis. If that is the case, go for the Hobart above.
However, one of the beautiful things about flux-cored arc welding is that these tools are extremely affordable. If you are a high schooler who has always dreamed of owning a welder, these tools are priced in such a way that you could pay for them with your paper route money (that is how I bought my first welder).
The Display4Top offers the ability to do a lot of welding without breaking the bank. It is one of the simplest models here. There is a single knob that controls all settings. You simply turn it to the right for thicker metals and to the left for thinner work. The automatic feed with adjust to match the amperage.
It is a 110-volt welder and can work off of as little as 15 amps. Unlike some of the cheaper models that have power surges, this one does not seem to trip breakers as often.
If you want a trouble-free welder, this should be a top consideration. Pull it out of the box, load the included .031 wire, don the proper protection and get to work. You’ll be welding in 10 minutes. The instruction manual is a little light, so don’t expect a lot of hand-holding.
Lincoln K2278-1 Handy Core
If you have shopped welders at Lowe’s, you’ve probably eyed the Lincoln Electric welders.
This compact welder is extremely simple for beginners to get started with and is ideal for artistic welding projects and working with thin material.
You can choose from 35 to 88 amps of power. While the output rating on this one is lower than the others on this list, it is still rated for welding 1/8-inch thick mild steel in a single pass. The fact that they can do this with a lower power rating is nice in that it helps prevent tripping a breaker. As long as you can find a 110-volt power outlet with a 20 amp breaker, you’ll be fine.
It also has a 20% duty cycle at 70 amps, which should be enough to not constantly trip the thermal overload protection.
The other advantage of this welder is that it can handle the thicker, .035 inch thick wire. For most welding around the house, you don’t need the thicker wire, but if you think will try to work with thicker materials or stainless steel, it is nice to have an automatic feed welding machine that can use the thicker core.
This is a perfect welder for setting on the garage shelf and handling all of those little tasks that come up. If you appreciate the Lincoln brand name or are eyeing the HOBART model but don’t want to spend as much money, this is an excellent option. One year warranty on parts and labor.
It comes with a cool little chipping hammer for removing slag. You might find yourself using the chipping hammer as much as you use anything else.
Super Deal MIG 130
This is one of the most common household level welders for doing small tasks around the property. My first concern is that they call it a “MIG welder” without equipping it with a gas solenoid. So you are working with a company that does not understand the basic naming structure used in the welding industry.
That said, there is a lot of intriguing value packed into this little box. You have a ten-speed wire feed control and four amperage settings. The amperage settings are a little weird in that you have a #1 and #2 (higher) setting. But then there is a “min” and “max” setting that allows you to bump the power higher when you need it inside of each setting. If you wanted to weld 1/8-inch thick mild steel (maximum recommended), you would use “#1” and “max.”
The electrode stays hot anytime the box is on with the trigger, only controlling the wire feeding. This system works out fine, but you’ll want to be careful where you lay the gun down.
Now, this little box is a major power hog. It is likely going to trip the breaker, which is one of the most maddening things about it. Additionally, it has fuses in it that may need replacement depending on what you are doing.
There is a built-in thermal overload to protect the machine, and your risks of overloading the welder itself are pretty low. It offers a 35% duty cycle at 60 amps and a 10% duty cycle at 105 amps.
So, my first concern with this is that this little welder can do both MIG and FCAW welding on a 110v power supply.
The price of this little machine is one of the most attractive features and is one of the reasons why we see so many of them in the real world. However, there are a lot of other options on the market that would be less frustrating to work with.
Frequently Asked Questions About Flux Cored Arc Welding
How Does Flux Core Welding work?
The flux that is inside the welding wire helps to clear away debris as you weld. Additionally, in self-shielding wire, the gas the flux releases as it melts helps to shield the weld. The end result is a decent weld with more spatter than a standard MIG, but without the need for bottled gas.
In industrial settings, flux wire is sometimes used along with the gas to help clean the surface and create a fast yet strong bead.
Should you push or pull Flux Core Wire?
When you are welding with Flux core, you will want to hold the contact tip at a 45 degree to 60 degrees and pull away from the weld bead. It is possible to push, for example, when welding out of position. But for best results, you will want the gun to lead the weld puddle. “If it slags, you drag” is the saying in the industry.
Can You Weld Stainless Steel With Flux Core?
You certainly can. It is recommended to get a 308L wire which works for both 300 series stainless steel and 430 stainless. These wires are the bigger .035 diameter, which means that it will only work on the better-quality welders on this list.
Do I Need A Welding Mask?
Some of these tools offer a very poorly made welding mask that you have to hold with your hand while you try to weld. Eye protection is never something that you should try to skimp on. I have a review of all of the best welding masks. You can scroll down to the end of that list and get one of the cheap yet high-quality mask options.
Advantages of Flux Core Welding
- No Need For Inert Gas. Most people only weld sporadically and don’t want to chase down a bottle of inert shielding gas every time they have a project.
- Dirtier welding. MIG wire requires a very clean surface. While the FCAW welding process also would prefer a clean surface to weld on, it can work in less-than-perfect conditions.
- Faster. These little tools can lay down quality welds at a faster rate. Industrial welding will sometimes use FCAW with a shielding gas to speed production.
- Easy. For first-time welders, it might be the easiest welding process.
The downside is that there is more splatter with FCAW, but less splatter than welding with 100% CO2 on MIG wire. You also get more smoke and noxious fumes.
What Gas is Used For Flux Core Welding?
A self-shielding wire does not need a shielding gas.
For industrial fabrication, such as shipbuilding, it is common to use 100% Carbon dioxide or a 75% Argon/ 25% Carbon dioxide mixture, which will deliver a cleaner bead.
FCAW-G (gas-shielded) welding process is commonly used for mild steel and low-alloy steel.
FCAW is a favorite home welder. However, it also has it’s placed in fabrication.
My top pick is the Hobart, but the Fourney 299 is going to do most welding jobs while being one of the easiest welders to work with.