Welding, like any other skill, takes practice to perfect. However, it’s much easier to learn and master if you’re using the right tools. If the welding equipment that you’re using is not performing optimally, you’ll get poor results regardless of how much effort you put into it.
Thus, it’s very crucial that you have a quality welder. This way, you have a bit of assurance that the tool’s components will complement each other and provide utmost efficiency.
Unfortunately, most welding tools are not designed with the novice user in mind. If you’re just getting started on this trade, you’ll find this review incredibly helpful. We’ve scoured the web and found the best welders for beginners.
Many beginners struggle when they’re looking for the best welder for them because there are lots of good options on the market. Even if you’re a novice user looking for an upgrade, you might be overwhelmed by the number of options available. This is why I reviewed 5 of the best welders for beginners to help you choose the best one for your needs.
One of the best welding kits for the novice is the Lincoln K2185-1 Handy. It’s quite popular, which is expected given that it strikes a good balance between pricing and features.
Speaking of features, this welder is tailored for MIG and flux-cored welding. This makes it perfect for simple home repair projects and light gauge from 24 gauge to 1/8 -inch.
During our testing, we found this welder to be user-friendly. The only drawback is that it lacks some of the features you’ll find in higher-priced models. This entails aspects such as more voltage settings and an infinite wire feed speed control.
Still, it offers a decent power output of 88A. While this may not be as high as that of other welders, it’s enough for small workshop tasks. You also get 4 voltage settings to work with. If you configure it to the highest setting, you can weld the thickest metals. Lower voltage levels are designed for thinner metals.
In fact, the manufacturer has gone as far as incorporating a chart on the interior section of the welder. This shows each voltage setting and the corresponding metal thickness. This welder also sports a duty cycle of 20% at 70 Amps.
It’s designed to operate on a low input voltage of about 115v. The benefit of this feature is that you’ll be able to use it with any indoor outlet. On the downside, it implies that the welder shouldn’t be used with the more powerful remote site power outlets.
Being a beginner welder, you probably prefer to use lightweight and compact tools. Well, the Lincoln 2185-1 Handy checks both boxes. It tips the scales at 26 lbs.- an indication that it’s slightly difficult to carry around. Good news is, it’s equipped with a solid handle at the top making it all the more easier to transport.
If you’re interested in stick welding, the Forney Easy Weld 298 will make a fantastic addition to your arsenal of tools. Important to note is that it’s pricier than our top pick. However, it also offers cutting-edge features that justify the price.
Right off the bat, you’ll notice that it’s a light welder. Traditionally, stick welders have been massive and heavy equipment, so the lightweight design was a nice surprise from the manufacturer.
To be specific, this welder weighs a measly 9.5 lbs. The unit’s dimensions are 12 x 5.5 x 10.5 inches. Thanks to its lightweight, the welding equipment is suitable for individuals who are always on the go.
You can take this welder with you to your job sites and not have to worry about experiencing fatigue from transporting it. Also, its compact size means it will take up a very small space on your welding table.
Another noteworthy feature of this equipment is that it’s an inverter welder. Compared to transformer welders, inverter welders really shine when it comes to efficiency and stability. The fact that they can utilize AC and DC power makes them more efficient.
The welder provides a maximum output of 90 amps on a 120-volt input. This gives you more power than the Lincoln Handy Mig. Also included in the package is a 6-foot power cord, which enables you to move further if your welding task calls for it.
If you’re hell-bent on using equipment that are only made in the USA, this welder is worth making an exception.
Even though it’s made in China, it’s nothing like some of the flimsy tools made in this country. This welder is built to stand the test of time. The electrode clamps and other components are all durable units.
Are you looking to invest in a high-end welder that will last a long time? If you are, the Hobart Handler makes a strong contender.
One of its key highlights is that it offers a vast range of output levels starting from 25 amps to 190 amps; and a duty cycle of 30% at 130 amps. This shows the welder is capable of handling a variety of materials; be it stainless steel, aluminum, flux core steel or mild steel.
Apart from the type of metal, this welder works with varying metal thickness ranging from the 24-gauge to 5/16-inch. With such an attribute, it means the Handler is well suited for household repairs, auto repair as well as thick gauge materials like metal fence.
The additional power offered by this welding equipment gives you greater flexibility. Best part is, you’ll be able to adjust the voltage thanks to the 7-position control switch. There’s also an adjustable wire feed control, which makes it easy to get the perfect welding results.
This wire feeder employs a quick-release mechanism that’s simple to operate. This helps to prevent the issues that crop up when using softer aluminum wire. Its straightforward controls and user-friendly interface are why we recommend this unit for beginners. But, it’s equally a great choice for advanced welders.
Another point worth mentioning is the Handler’s weight. Well, this welder weighs about 79 lbs., meaning it’s on the higher side of the weight spectrum. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy to carry around, and this makes it more suitable for a shop environment as opposed to welding on the go.
The fact that it comes with several tools is another factor that sets this welding tool apart. It’s shipped with a 10-foot MIG gun, a 10-foot work cable 7 clamp, dual gauge regulator and gas hose and some extra 0.30 contact tips. You’ll also get an 8-inch spool adapter, a manual and easy set-up tutorial.
If you’re still learning the ropes of welding, it’s wise to get equipment with safety features. In that regard, the welder has a built-in contactor that ensures that the wire is not live when it’s not being used. There’s also an overload protection feature that prevents the gadget from overheating.
If you’re looking for a welder that’s really constructed with a beginner in mind, the K2278-1 Handy Core is your best bet. From efficiency to durability, this welder is certainly worth the investment.
Coming in at a mid-range price, the welder arrives when it’s partially assembled. Right out of the box, the MIG gun, cord and grounding clamp are all attached to the main unit. This saves you time on setup. But more importantly, it’s convenient for beginners.
So what kind of job is this welder built for? It’s suitable for mild steel repairs around your home, garage or workshop. It can also be used for light farm repairs, auto repair and small metal projects. Just be sure to set it to low voltage so that you don’t end up blowing through the metal with excess heat.
Unfortunately, this welder cannot handle heavy duty jobs. It also can’t tackle gappy or dirty welding repairs; it’s just not designed for high-powered burning such as welding through rusted metal.
The stipulated duty cycle is proof that the welder is best suited for light-to-medium welding tasks. The 70 amps at 20% duty cycle is not a very high voltage output. What this means is that over a 10-minute session, you’ll manage to weld for a continuous two minutes before the welding machine starts overheating. You’ll then have to rest it before continuing to weld.
The output range of the K2278-1 Handy Core is 88 amps on its highest setting and 35 amps on the lowest. Keep in mind that if you configure this welder to the highest setting, you’ll get a duty cycle of less than 20%.
One of the things you should check when purchasing a welder is the recommended thickness of metal that it can work with. In the case of this Lincoln unit, it can handle any 18 gauge to ⅛-inch mild steel.
When it comes to the power source, all you need is a 115v 20-amp fused outlet to connect the welder. The outlet should also have a stable ground connection to avoid tripping your fuse.
An area where this feeder seems to stand out is the provision of two switches to control your voltage settings. These are both rocker switches but they perform different functions. The first helps you set the high or low mode while the second allows you to choose between 1 and 2.
What I really like about the controls is that the manufacturer has incorporated a contractor safety feature. That is, the welding wire remains cold up to that point when you press the MIG gun to control the welding process. Most entry-level welders lack this feature so this is a bonus.
Funny fact: “amico” is an Italian word that translates to “friend”. Whether you’re an experienced or amateur welder, the Amico Stick Arc Welder makes a great friend and companion.
It’s an inverter welder, and is one of the lightest in our review. It weighs just 18 pounds, making it incredibly easy to carry and use on the go.
The inverter technology is another one of its key highlights. This design offers numerous benefits ranging from storage space to efficiency, stability and cost. Inverter welders are naturally smaller in size than their regular arc counterparts.
However, their greatest benefit is that they can weld twice the amount of material in the same duration as regular arc welders can. They’re also more stable.
We also like the duty cycle on this welding machine, which is estimated at 60% at 160 amps. This means that it welds continuously for about 6 minutes and then cools off for the remaining 4 minutes.
Also important to note is that Amico Welder is equipped with LED display. This is simpler to navigate than welders with standard digital controls. It also makes it easy to determine when there’s a problem as a light will flash in the faulty section.
Accessories are a nice addition in welding kits, particularly because you don’t have to pay any extra costs. In the case of this stick welder, the manufacturer provides an electrode holder alongside a 10-foot cable. You’ll also get a work clamp outfitted with a 10-foot cable, a plug and power adapter cable.
Choosing a welding machine for your first welding project doesn’t have to be difficult. By narrowing down some of the features, you’ll be able to find the perfect welder for your skill level. This entails aspects such as power source, amperage, type of metal and the welding process.
One welding machine we recommend for beginners is the Lincoln Electric K2185-1 Handy Mig Welder. We like that it’s affordable. It’s also very versatile as it can be used for either MIG or flux-cored welding. Plus, it comes in a compact and lightweight design, meaning it’s easy to carry.
Different welding processes are suited for different applications. So we’ll start with a detailed explanation of the different kinds of welding and their respective benefits. The most common are MIG, TIG and stick.
This entails using a wire welding electrode on a spool. The wire is fed automatically at a steady, predetermined speed. The arc causes the wire to melt; hence connect with the base. This results in a high-strength weld with crisp look and little need for cleanup.
In fact, the most cited reason for why welders prefer this technique is because it’s clean, simple and can be employed on both thin and thick metals.
Like MIG welding, flux-cored arc welding is also a wire-fed method. However, it varies in that it doesn’t need a shielding gas. Instead, the flux-cored wire is used to protect the arc from contamination.
Being a simple and efficient welding process, this method is mainly used for welding in the outdoors where you have to deal with windy conditions or dirty materials.
Both MIG and flux-cored welding approaches are easy for any beginner welder to get started on. Plus, they both create clean welds regardless of whether you’re working with mild steel, aluminum or stainless. With either technique, you can weld metals that are as thin as a 26-gauge.
Here’s a summary of the key benefits and features of each welding method.
The distinguishing characteristic of TIG welding is that it utilizes a non-consumable tungsten electrode to create the weld. In most cases, the weld surface is protected from atmospheric contamination using a shielding gas, primarily argon. But in the case of autogenous welds, no shielding gas is needed.
Often, this welding approach is used for thin portions of alloy steel, stainless steel as well as nonferrous metals like magnesium, copper alloys and aluminum.
Compared to other welding techniques, TIG welding gives you greater control of the process. This makes it easier to create stronger and higher-quality welds. Nevertheless, it’s also among the most difficult to master, and it’s considerably slower.
If you learned this art a long time ago, there’s a high possibility that the type of welding you were taught is stick welding. For many centuries, this was the most common welding, especially for home-based workshops.
This process involves using an electric current, which is transmitted from a gap between the metal and the welding stick. This is referred to as an arc-welding electrode.
What I like most about stick welding is that it can be used both indoors and outdoors as well as in draughty regions. It’s also the cheapest welding technique, and it enables you to create strong bonds even on rusty and dirty components.
Keep in mind though that it can only be used to weld metals with a minimum thickness of 18-gauge. It also calls for changing of rods on a regular basis and it emits considerable spatter.
Like TIG welding, stick welding is equally difficult to learn and practise. Most beginner welders struggle to learn how to strike and maintain an arc. This welding approach is meant for welding metals of 1/16-inch or higher.
Overall, stick welding is great for farmers, hobbyists and most DIY repair/maintenance tasks at home.
As a novice welder, it’s good to familiarize yourself with the various aspects of picking a suitable welding kit. Consider:
The first thing you should take into account is the type of metal you’ll be dealing with most of the time. Here’s a brief summary of the different welding processes and the corresponding metals that can be used with each:
|Exotic Metals (i.e., Magnesium/Titanium)|
Prior to purchasing any kind of welding machine, you should check the kind of power you have available (or one that you can have installed in your workshop or home). This way, you’ll be able to choose a welder that’s compatible with your outlet.
Be sure to check the manual of the welder you’re planning to purchase. Often, manufacturers include a specification sheet detailing the voltage requirements, that is, the range, phase and frequency. This shows you the minimum voltage required to achieve maximum output.
If the welder does not come with any specifications for the voltage, use the following guidelines:
Take note that some power sources can be used with a variety of welders. For instance, TIG welding inverters are compatible with 208 to 230v primary power.
Initially, carrying your welding equipment to the job site used to be very difficult because the machines were bulky and heavy. Luckily, manufacturers of these tools have shifted to creating more lightweight designs.
You can get small MIG welders that weigh about 70 lbs. However, stick welders are considerably heavier, tipping the scales at 100 lbs. or more. TIG welders are the heaviest, and they’re best used by experienced welders. With this type of welding machine, even transporting it in a wheeled cart over a long distance can cause back strain.
The output of a welder is determined using the amperage, volts and duty cycle.
Duty cycle is the length of time that a welder can be operated for without overheating any of its components. It’s usually assessed over a 10-minute welding session.
Let’s say a particular welder is described as having a duty cycle of 20% when MIG welding at 180 amps/23 volts. This means the device can provide a continuous welding for 2 minutes after which it should be rested and allowed to cool for the remaining 8 minutes.
The welding output and duty cycle vary inversely. In other words, the duty cycle increases at lower outputs. In the example mentioned previously, the same welder can achieve a duty cycle of 60% when MIG welding at 113 amps/19 volts.
When purchasing your first-time welder, consider these points:
Overall, you’ll need 1 amp of power per 0.001-inch of steel thickness. If you’re dealing with stainless steel or welding out-of-position, then you’ll need up to 15% less heat input. On the other hand, aluminum needs about 25% more.
As a novice welder, it’s good to familiarize yourself with the various aspects of picking a suitable welding kit. Consider:
For starters, it’s vital that you practise how to hold the gun without actually welding. Place the barrel of the gun in your hand and support yourself on the table. Bring the other hand to operate the gun’s trigger. Keep your hands as steady as you can to get smooth welding results.
You should also be standing in a comfortable position. Move the gun over the work area to determine if you’re standing at the ideal distance from the table. Adjust your posture accordingly up to that point where you can move the gun steadily without straining.
Connect the work lead to the workpiece and hold the gun, allowing the welding wire to come into contact with the weld surface at a near 30-degree angle. Attach the wire slightly on the surface and squeeze the trigger. Next, pull the gun in your direction to start your first weld.
This should cause the wire to melt off into the weld puddle at a uniform pace. You should also hear a constant crackling noise as you proceed welding. You’re free to make adjustments on the settings.
Using a carbide scribe, mark a line on the metal and cut using a metal-specific saw or hacksaw. To get precise welding results, it’s wise that you first clean the metal with a degreaser.
The next step in the preparation process is to grind or file a small bevel along the edges that you’re welding. This will help the weld to penetrate more deeply. However, you need to be careful not to go overboard. If you do, you’ll end up burning through the metal as you weld.
Depending on the welding project at hand, you’ll have to form precise 90-degree angles. Connect the mitered surfaces while leaving adequate space for putting down a tack weld.
The pieces should be in a horizontal position and fit snugly without a metal burr disrupting their position. You can use a carpenter’s triangle square to check how accurately the pieces are positioned.
Look for areas along either joint where you’ll tack the pieces together. Double-check for square corners. If any piece happens to shift and put the assembly out of the angular position, you’ll have to grind away the tack weld, reposition them and then try again.
Once everything is nicely tacked together, put your final weld beads. At this point, it may be tempting to continue welding for as long as possible. But you shouldn’t overdo it as this will hinder you from getting those nice and smooth welds that you hope to achieve.
If you want to get a really smooth finish, consider grinding along the weld path. Use the 36-grit grinding wheel that’s connected to your right-angle grinder for this task. Progress very slowly. If you end up grinding it too hard, you’ll have to start from scratch.
The easiest way to know whether you’re being too aggressive is to check the color of the sparks. If there are orange sparks, you’re grinding lightly. However, blue sparks indicate that you’re pushing it too hard. When you’re done flush-grinding, use a zirconia flap disc for accurate shaping and finishing.