Welding Machine Buyer’s Guide

Choosing the right welding machine can be incredibly difficult. There are so many options for so many different purposes, including:

  • What you’re welding
  • How you’re welding
  • Where you’re welding
  • How advanced your skills are

And plenty more considerations.

But after considering more than a dozen different welding machines, I decided to buy the Forney Easy Weld 261 MIG Welder, which I am using for nearly every one of my welding projects. I find this welding machine to be the exact right balance between quality and pricey. It has all of the features I need (and you’ll need, too) to do essentially any project – plus it looks pretty sweet in my shop.

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Forney Easy Weld 261, 140 FC-i Welder, 120V, Green
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Forney Easy Weld 261, 140 FC-i Welder, 120V, Green
  • EASY TO USE-140 FC-I MIG machine uses 0.30, flux core wire. It has infinite voltage and wire feed...
  • POWERFUL- Up to 140 Amp output that allows you to weld mild steel up to 1/4 in plate
  • PORTABLE WELDER- Lightweight 19 lbs. easily carried to any Do-It-Yourself, Maintenance, Repair,...

How to choose the right welding machine

You need to explore all necessary factors associated with your welding requirements. This way, you will be able to understand how to choose the right welding machine.

Using the right welding machine can provide you with a good return on investment, save maintenance costs and allow you to complete all kinds of welding tasks.

This guide will help you to navigate the best welding machine options for your requirements.

Determine your requirements

You must ask yourself a few questions. One important question is: what kind of materials will you weld in the future?

Some people are interested in welding thin metal sheets. They just want to join metal sheets and do not need to learn advanced welding techniques. For such people, the MIG welder ranging between 110 and 115 volts is suitable.

However, this machine is not suitable for more serious welders who want to complete more advanced projects. The 110-volt MIG welding machine is inadequate for welding together heavy objects. It is also less versatile. Such people who need to work on a wide range of materials require a more powerful welding machine.

The 220-volt stick welder and the MIG welder ranging between 175 and 251 volt are better options. But keep in mind that higher power machines require higher voltage power supply to work correctly. This will increase the cost of your investment.

Make a prudent choice

It might be tempting for new welders to choose the most powerful welding machine or the cheapest option. However, you must consider different factors, such as materials, portability and versatility before finalizing your choice.

As the saying goes, you get what you pay for. Therefore, it is advisable to be prudent while investing in a welding machine. If you are new to the field, you may not have a clear idea of welding machines.

For new users, it is advisable to test the welding machine before making a decision. This will help you to choose the most appropriate welding machine and save money and effort in the long-term.

You must also know which welding process you will likely adhere to both in the present and the future. Each technique has its own set of benefits and limitations. For instance, the MIG welding technique is fairly versatile and easy to master. On the other hand, the TIG welding method is versatile, produces the best welds, but is difficult to master.

No welding process is suitable for all scenarios. You should be aware of the strengths and weaknesses of each welding process to understand which welding machine is most suitable for your situation.

Factors to help you choose the right welding machine

You must ascertain the most suitable welding process to complete your projects. Here are the factors that you should consider:

  • The kind of material that is being welded (the reflective nature of the surface also matters)
  • The material thickness
  • How quickly the welding operator must do the job (there can be a significant difference in speed between welding processes)
  • The welding current required and the welding power supply

The attributes, applications and limitations of the most commonly used welding machines have been mentioned below. This will help you to determine the right welding machine for your needs.

MIG welding machine

MIG stands for Metal Inert Gas. This welding process is also called gas metal arc welding or GMAW. MIG welding was initially developed to join aluminum. But it was soon found to be suitable for steel alloys as well.

In MIG welding, a wire electrode wound on a spool is automatically fed at a constant predetermined rate. The wire material is the same as the material being welded. Owing to the arc, the electric current flows between the wire electrode and the base metal. The welded surface is covered with an inert gas to protect it from corrosion.

MIG welding machines are very popular due to their fine balance of versatility and cost-effectiveness. For comparable features and power, they cost less than TIG welders. MIG welding machines are relatively easy to use. They are suitable and sufficient for a wide array of welding jobs.

The MIG welding torch automatically feeds the filler metal. Hence, both hands can be used to keep the torch steady for extra accuracy and dexterity. This is much easier than TIG welding where one hand is used to manage the filler metal. Thanks to the wire feeder, MIG welding can be up to four times faster than TIG welding.

Inert gas is employed in the MIG welding process to protect the weld against impurities. MIG welding is, hence, easier to clean up than stick welding where the solidified protective layer has to be chipped off from the weld.

MIG welding is suitable for different materials, including aluminum. It is frequently used in automotive processes. However, MIG welding requires inert gas and other materials, which is why it can be more expensive than stick welding.

One major advantage of MIG welding is that it is a relatively fast process. It is, therefore, ideal for production processes that need to be carried out in a short time span. MIG welding can speed up manufacturing.

Due to their automatic feeding feature and design, MIG welding machines are the easiest for novices to use. Even new welding operators can conveniently use these machines to create durable and robust joints.

MIG welding is also suitable for joining thin sheets of metal. It has an advantage over stick welding, which is not suitable for welding thin metal sheets. Unlike stick welding, there is no slag in MIG welding. Hence, the weld pool is clearly visible and requires no cleanup.

However, since MIG welding requires a constant supply of inert gas, it is not the best method for windy conditions in an outdoor environment. For working on thicker metal sections, higher voltage machines must be used.

MIG welding machines also offer you the ability to approach the weld from a variety of different positions. It is, therefore, appropriate for overhead welding.

Owing to the ease of use and versatility, most novice welders start with MIG welding. It allows them to create professional looking and reliable joints with little practice.

TIG welding machine

When it comes to aesthetics, TIG welding is the superior choice by far. The TIG welding process employs a non reactive tungsten electrode. This produces less distortion in the welded area.

Since the right amount of filler material is used, there is no danger of splattering. Since inert gas is used to cover the weld from the atmosphere, no slag is created. As a result, the highest quality blemish-free weld is created. Well-aligned weld beads can produce an aesthetic and seamless facade.

Since TIG welding is highly specialized, it requires a fair amount of training. The TIG welding budget should, therefore, include the cost of training, in addition to the TIG welding machine price.

A foot pedal may be used to control the welding current. One hand must be used to manually feed the filler material, which is separate from the torch. This makes TIG welding harder than the MIG welding process. MIG welding is much simpler because it feeds the filler metal automatically through the nozzle itself.

TIG welding is suitable for a wide range of metals. It also creates robust and high quality welds. Hence, TIG welding is preferred by many professional welders.

Argon gas provides extra benefits. It does not obscure the view of the weld pool, as slag does in stick welding. Argon gas can be used for an array of metal thicknesses. Changing the gas according to project type is not required in TIG welding.

Although weld quality is high, the speed of TIG welding is quite slow. TIG welding is suitable for steel, stainless steel, aluminum, cast iron and copper/brass alloys. Since it can be used for such a wide selection of alloys, it is a very versatile welding method.

High-end TIG welding machines are also available, which feature the pulse function. This enables the creation of fine welds with relatively small heat affected zones. This makes it highly suited for exotic materials, for instance, titanium and magnesium alloys.

After learning MIG welding, new welding operators move on to TIG welding due to its accuracy and quality weld joint.

However, the fine details and joint resilience come at a price. First, you should be prepared to pay for training since this is not an easy process to learn on your own. You should also set aside a budget to purchase extra equipment. This includes gas supply, inert gas cylinder, TIG torch, welding cables, power supply, regulators and hoses.

Stick welding machine

This is the most economical welding method. However, it is also the least efficient welding process. A consumable electrode is employed for stick welding, which provides the simplest configuration. Shielding gas is not required separately. The electrode is coated with flux. This material melts to create a slag that protects the hot weld from corrosion. As the weld cools, the slag solidifies. When the weld has cooled down, the solid protective coating can be chipped off to reveal the joint.

Since no separate shielding gas is required, stick welding is the most cost-effective method. It can also be fairly accurate since the welding operator can use both hands to control the holder. The welder must aim the consumable electrode at the target area to create the arc for welding. However, the initial strike to create an arc requires a fair amount of skill.

Since stick welding does not rely on a gas shield to safeguard the joint, it is suitable for windy outdoor environments. Stick welding is unaffected by strong winds as the welded joint is covered by a protective layer. It is also less problematic compared to other methods where rusty metal or dirty surfaces must be welded. As a result, it is a popular choice for industrial fabrication and construction work involving steel structures.

Stick welding is suitable for cast iron, stainless steel and carbon steel. Stick welding machines are preferred by those who need to weld on a budget. The equipment comprises just a power source, work clamp and electrode holder. The consumable electrodes for stick welding are very cheap. There is no need to purchase expensive inert gas since the flux from the electrode creates protective coating for the welded joint.

However, stick welding has certain disadvantages as well. It is not the best choice for welding thin sheets. It is also difficult to use in the overhead position. There may also be weld quality issues, such as porosity and inclusion. Stick welding is also slower as compared to MIG welding. It also takes a certain amount of skill to join certain alloys using a stick welding machine.

However, if used wisely, stick welding is a cost-effective solution. It is a good option for those who need to weld sporadically or carry out occasional repair work.

What factors should be considered for your welding budget?

You will already have some idea of your welding budget keeping in view your finances and immediate welding needs.

Your choice of welding machine depends on your present and future welding projects. You should envisage your future welding needs. For instance, will you need higher amperage in the future for welding thicker sections? Will you need to cut down the welding time or is weld quality more important than speed?

If you need high quality welds and speed is not an issue, then a TIG welding machine may be a fine option. Choose this machine if your finances can allow it and if you are willing to put in the effort for training.

Stick welding machine is suitable for occasional use if you will not be welding thin sheets. It is better for one-off repairs.

A MIG welding machine is an excellent all-round equipment for ease of use, versatility and speed.

You should also consider the cost of accessories, such as jacket, gloves and helmet.