Best 120v Welder (MIG, TIG, Stick) – Top Picks 2020
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The best 120-volt welding machine will allow you to repair metal using a normal household circuit as the power supply. It is a tool that is affordable, well made, easy to use, and that won’t trip the breaker.
My first Mig welder was a 120-volt machine that we mostly ran Flux core wire through. It was easy to use and cheap enough to buy on a paperboy’s salary.
Too bad it got stolen.
I’ve sorted through best-selling 120v welders on the market to compare their specifications and provide you my thoughts on which one I would buy.
Hopefully, this research saves you hours of time and gets you a better machine.
- Best 120v Welder (MIG, TIG, Stick) – Top Picks 2020
- 7 Best 120V Stick, Flux, TIG, and MIG Welder Reviews
- Forney Easy Weld 261 Flux-Core Welder
- Hobart 500573 Handler 125
- Hobart 500559 Handler 140 MIG
- Lotos MIG140 Welding Machine
- Lincoln Electric k2185-1 Handy Mig Welder
- Everlast TIG/Stick Combo Welder – More Metal Types
- YESWelder Arc IGBT Stick MMA
- Buying Guide For 120v Welders
7 Best 120V Stick, Flux, TIG, and MIG Welder Reviews
Forney Easy Weld 261 Flux-Core Welder
Forney is taking over the market with its bright green welders. Located in Fort Collins, Colorado, they have been in business for nearly 100 years. This makes them one of the longest-running American distributors of metalworking products.
With over 5,000 SKU’s, these guys are quickly becoming the go-to shop when you need to choose a welder, and I think that the Forney Easy Weld 261 is the best MIG welder for most of my readers.
This is a flux core machine. This means that all you need is the flux core welding wire. There is no external shielding gas needed. For home use, the DIY person, and the hobbyist, this is a massive advantage.
The next thing that I love is the 30% duty cycle. This duty cycle means that you can weld for 3 minutes out of every 10 minutes. If you have the welder cranked up all the way to 140 amps, you will need to take more frequent breaks.
The thing is, 90 amps will do most of the welding that you need. There are folks who even join 1/4-inch steel with as little as 90 amps. So this one is optimized to work in the sweet spot.
However, it isn’t shy on power. You can crank it up to 140 amps to get that deep penetration you need. It’s a surprisingly heavy-duty machine. The internal mechanisms keep it from overheating, which lets you work quickly without having to take a lot of proactive breaks.
If you crank the wire speed control up and the amperage down (it goes as low as 32 amps), you can weld thinner 24 gauge metal.
Side note: one of my fellow bloggers wanted to point out that you “avoid explosions” because it “doesn’t use gas.” That’s the dumbest thing ever. Mig welders use Argon, Carbon Dioxide, or Helium non-flammable gasses.
This Forney model is easier to use since you don’t have to purchase shielding gas. However, the downside with Flux welding is that it is slightly messier with a bit more spatter.
Still, for a beginner, this one should be a strong consideration.
Hobart 500573 Handler 125
This 120v gem doesn’t get enough attention.
At first glance, it is just another 125 amp flux core welder. If you are going to be welding a lot of thick steel, skip this one and go back up to the Forney above or the Hobart Handler 140 below that both offer more power.
But most of us are going to be working with thinner metals, we want a lot of control, we want our welds to look good, and we want the machine to be easy to use.
This Hobart Handler 125 checks all of those boxes. It comes as a flux core welder for gasless welding. You have more than enough power for most of the everyday tasks that you are going to run into.
But, if you need MIG welding capabilities, all you have to do is buy a regulator and a bottle of shielding gas. It converts over, and now you can do both types of welding.
There are two other features that might make you choose this one over the Forney. The first one is that the welding tip isn’t hot until the trigger is pulled. With most welders, the tip is hot at all times, and this is a nice feature that keeps you from accidentally welding something.
The other feature is the 4-setting voltage knob. This lets you control the arc pattern so you can create a more penetrating weld on thick material and a shallower weld on thin metals.
Finally, it also drops to a super-low 25 amps, which keeps you from burning through the projects with thinner, 24-gauge metal.
The duty cycle is 25% at 80 amps, and the self-resetting thermal overload keeps you from damaging the machine. It also comes with a 5-year warranty.
This is the best flux core welder for those who plan to use their machine heavily, but who don’t want to deal with the hassle of shielding gas.
Hobart 500559 Handler 140 MIG
This is a better tool than the ‘125’ model that I reviewed above. It has more power and is an overall more robust machine—this the best 120v welder for those who plan to use it heavily.
If you need a 120v MIG welder, but that will also be highly durable for years of daily use, I would recommend this one. A lot of muffler shops and small auto body shops choose this Hobart model since you can be trained to use it in less than a day.
The Hobart 140 amp MIG welder will deliver up to 140 amps of power. This makes it easy to weld steels up to 1/4-inch thick. The duty cycle is a little lower than the Forney, with a rating of 20% at 90 amps. However, in everyday use, it doesn’t seem that short, and it makes me think they are underpromising and over-delivering.
Most of you will be using shielding gas with this model. It comes with the regulator and hose, so just reach out to a local welding supply shop to pick up the welding gas that you need. An argon/carbon dioxide mixture is an excellent choice.
It also comes with a 5-year warranty, and Hobart is well-known for both their durability and their superb customer service should something go wrong. The thermal overload protection help to protect the internal mechanism of this welder.
The big selling point with this model is the 5-position voltage control. While all of these models have wire speed and amperage control, this one lets you choose different voltage settings that change the penetration of the weld. This lets you create a shallower, wider weld for sheet metal, and a deeper, more penetrating weld for thicker joints.
As with most of the Mig units, you can skip the shielding gas and load flux core wire into the machine for gasless welding.
Lotos MIG140 Welding Machine
This Lotos MIG140 makes it on almost every one of my lists of MIG welding machines. It’s one of the best and capable of welding aluminum with the additional attachments.
Where I wouldn’t want to use this one is where I am using it every day and need to get a lot of performance out of the tool It’s likely the Lotos would do a decent job, but if something goes wrong, the warranty process might be more challenging than the Hobart or Forney’s.
That said, this welder offers more features than most of them on this list. For one, it is compatible with a spool gun (sold separately). Spool guns are needed to weld aluminum since the solid wire is too thin and gets kinked if you try to run it through the entire length of the Mig torch hose. So with this model, you can add a spool gun.
The manufacturer recommends this welder for stainless and mild steel metals from 24 gauges up to 3/16-inches.
The digital display model means that you can dial the amperage in properly, and get the same performance every time. There is a 2T/4T mode that lets you choose the ability to do long stretches of welding without holding the trigger on the MIG gun down.
This 120v MIG is best for the serious hobbyist who wants to save money but who still wants a powerful tool.
Lincoln Electric k2185-1 Handy Mig Welder
Wrapping up our MIG welders is this wonderful little Lincoln Electric Mig Welder.
Lincoln Electric is sold heavily in local stores, and is one of the older brands in America, having been in the business for 120 years. If you need to grab a high-quality welder that you will have local support for should something go wrong, this is the brand to go with. In a lot of cases, warranty issues can be handled at a local dealer.
This is a handy, entry-level Mig welding machine.
The amperage on this 120v MIG is lower, with a high of 88 amps. This is enough to weld about 1/8-inch thick material. In my experience, you can cheat and weld thicker if you don’t end up stressing the load. But thicker material should not be your main use for this welder.
The wire drive system may need a little adjustment to get it dialed right, but once you get everything set up, this welder is extremely reliable. Just turn your gas on, set the wire feed speed and amperage, and start welding.
Or, load it with flux-cored wire and don’t use any shielding gas.
Since it goes down to 35 amps, it can handle metal as thin as 24 gauge.
Backed by a 3-year warranty, this little welder is the best for scenarios where you don’t need as much power.
Everlast TIG/Stick Combo Welder – More Metal Types
Most of the welders on this list will work on stainless steel and mild steel. However, a lot of us have dreams of working on aluminum. This welder starts to unlock those capabilities for you.
If you wanted to weld aluminum, you would need to switch the shielding gas out for helium or use a 4043 aluminum welding rod with the stick welding option. This might be the best 120v aluminum welder.
TIG welding machines are better on thin metal. While they can handle thick metals, it requires more amperage, and you generally have to move a little more slowly. At 140 amps, it is recommended to work up to 1/4-inches of thickness. There are youtube videos with people welding thicker material by making several passes on it.
There is a bigger learning curve for TIG. You have to feed the filler wire with one hand and run the TIG torch with the other hand. Generally, there is also a foot pedal that you control. With this model, there is no foot pedal. This takes away a little bit of control but isn’t a big concern for most tasks.
The ground clamp that comes with this is good, but the torch is a little weak to get started, and you have to be patient. Some folks like to upgrade the TIG torch to get a more consistent arc start.
Everlast stands behind its products with a five-year warranty. So if something goes wrong, you have support from the manufacturer.
A lot of folks compare the performance of Everlast to the Miller welders With Everlast; you get a lot of power and a price that every startup can afford.
YESWelder Arc IGBT Stick MMA
Shielded metal arc welding (SMAW) is one of the older welding processes. As a result, it is also one of the cheapest welding processes available.
YESWelder makes an excellent little stick welder. It weighs less than 12 pounds, making it an excellent choice where portability is a top concern.
This stick welder is one of the few dual voltage models on this list. While you can run it off of 120v power, the duty cycle increases when it is running on a 220v power supply. Since it is rated for 120v power, so there is no worry with it tripping a breaker. This one does come with a 220v plug, in case that is all you have available. However, 120v should be more than enough.
The nice selling point on this welder is the hot start. This helps you strike an arc more quickly, and begin welding with less finagling.
There are also a lot of safety features built in to protect the IGBT inverter. The overload protection and voltage fluctuation protection does a lot keep everything working smoothly, even if your power supply is less than perfect.
With 125 amps of power output, you can weld up to 1/4-inches thick, as long as you are OK with the weld being a little messy. It can strike a 1/8-inch welding stick but is probably going to be happiest with a 3/32-inch welding rod instead.
If you want a lightweight welder that is super reliable and dirt cheap, this YESWelder fits the bill.
When stick welding, you have a wide choice of rods to go with. The choice of rod helps dictate what metal you can work with. This means that with the correct rod, you can even weld cast iron. These welders are also great for mild steel and stainless steel (although it might be messier than Mig welding).
Stick welding is a tiny bit harder to master than wire. You have to scratch the stick on the metal to get it started, but then you also want to hold it a slight distance away, or the metal will “grab” it. This correct distance takes a little practice to master.
Buying Guide For 120v Welders
Too often, homeowners think welding is “too complicated,” “too expensive,” or they require “too much power.”
Hopefully, this list helps demonstrate how accessible welding is. You could buy the cheapest model from this list and begin welding most common metals, right in your home garage.
From DIY Projects to repairs, these welders unlock a world for you.
Here, I answer some of the most common questions.
Are 120 Volt Welders Any Good?
Most fabrication shops have huge, 240-volt welders. The average homeowner couldn’t ever hope to afford one of these commercial welding machines. The question often arises: ” Are 120 volt welders strong enough”?
120v welders are excellent for most jobs where the metal is under 1/4-inch thick. You might need to let the tool rest frequently while you work, but it will get the job done. They offer an excellent way for home DIYers to take on welding without installing a 220v power outlet.
Can You Run a 120-Volt Welder Off a Generator?
Very few manufacturers will support the idea of their welders being powered by a generator. Generators tend to have voltage fluctuations that are harmful to the internal components of a welder. If you hope to do that, they will likely want you to buy one of their welding generators to power it.
That said, if you are willing to take the risk of damaging your welder, you can certainly give it a try. The calculation is Amps x Volts = Watts. For a 140 amp welder, you will need a generator with at least a 16,800-watt output. It would be recommended to buy one that has 20% more power than you need.
Is a 120v Welder Good For Beginners?
These tools are very easy to master. While a 220-volt TIG might be a little easier to get the arc started, with most of these tools, the arc is going to start easily, and they will maintain a dependable weld puddle. Any beginner can pick up one of these tools and begin learning it.
The best 120v MIG welders are going to be easier to learn on, with the stick being the second-easiest. TIG welders are harder but deliver a pretty bead when finished.
What Amperage Do I Need?
For most work around the house, 80 amps are enough to get a good bead and to start welding material. However, if you are working on thicker metal, you need more amperage in order to get better penetration.
Most of these tools have an adjustable amperage knob that lets you adjust the “heat” in order to heat through the metal without “burning” through it.
This adjust-ability will help you control the weld puddle and get a more professional-looking weld.
Wire Feed Speed
These wire welders offer a way to control the rate at which the welding wire is being fed into your job.
Being able to adjust this is critical. Depending on your skill level, you will want to adjust the speed to make sure you can keep up with the wire.
As your skill develops, you will want to use the fastest speed that also lets you get a good heating depth on the metal without burning through. For example, it is common to run a higher feed rate when working with thin metal as you are able to just skim it along and get a good bead.
Lingering in one place for too long on thin metal will burn holes in the metal and ruin the junction.
All of these welders have a prescribed duty cycle to prevent overloading the machine and hurting the transformer or inverter. Most of these welders also have internal thermal overload protection that will turn the welder off if it overheats. You will then need to give it about 30 minutes of rest until the internal protection cools and resets.
To avoid this hassle, pay attention to the duty cycle and make sure that the welder gets frequent breaks while you are working.
When welding on a vehicle, you will also want to unplug the main computer and the battery to keep from frying important (and expensive) components. Don’t forget to put the work clamp as close to your job as it is safely possible to reduce the area of the metal that has to be energized.