How to Find the Best Welders: Guide to Welder Types and Applications
The first thing that you have to understand when looking at welders is that there is not just one type of welder that is available for all of the different applications. The best thing to do is to look at the process, understand the different types of welders and what jobs they are good for, and to choose the welder that you need based on the advantages and capabilities that match your needs. By doing this, you will be ensured that you are getting the welder that you want.
Of course, if you are an experienced welder then you might want to skip over a few of the categories. There is still a lot of good information for you. There is still a lot that you can learn. The biggest thing to remember is that you have to be able to match your needs, welding skill level, and the welder that you will have the most success with. There are several different featured Welders in this article. We really loved the ones from the manufacturer Miller and were happy to include their top models in each category. If you are looking for any type of welder, our biggest suggestion is to check out Miller for the type of welder that you are looking for and the exact specifications that you need. You will not be disappointed with a product that comes from this company that has a long-standing dedication to value and quality.
What are the 4 Different Types of Welders?
There are four different types of welders. These include the Shielded Metal Arc Welder (SMAW and/or Stick Welder), Gas Metal Arc Welder (GMAW and/or MIG Welder), Flux-Cored Arc Welder (FCAW), and Gas Tungsten Arc Gas Welder (GTAW and/or TIG Welder). Each of these has its own uses and things that they are used for. They are each better for different types of welding and different welding styles.
A Quick Look at the Welding Process
There are four different welding processes. These include SMAW and/or Stick (Shielded Metal Arc Welding), GMAW and/or MIG (Gas Metal Arc Welding), FCAW (Flux Cored Arc Welding), and GTAW and/or TIG (Gas Tungsten Arc Gas Welding). Each one is a process that has limitations but also has benefits for different jobs. Being able to know what you need is a very important process.
- SMAW and/or Stick Welding — If you are a welder who learned to weld using an arc welder, then you learn stick welding. This was the most common type of welding to teach in the past. It is the most popular type of welding for home welders. There is an electric current that flows from the gap that is between the metal and welding stick, which is known as the arc-welding electrode. This type of welding is great for creating joints and with alloys, which means that it is perfect for both indoor and outdoor welding. You cannot use this method with metals that are thinner than 18-gauge. You have to frequently charge the rod and there is quite a bit of clean up that is needed afterward. This is a harder type of welding to learn. You can purchase arc welders that are AC, DC, or AC/DC powered; the most efficient of which is AC.
- GMAW and/or MIG Welding — Shielded Metal Arc Welding uses a MIG welder which has a wire welding electrode that is on a spool and is fed through at a constant speed that is pre-selected. When it is used there is an art that is created by the electrical current that travels between the base metal and the wire, it works to melt the wire and join it with the base. This produces a high-strength weld that is going to look great and does not require as much cleaning as some of the other methods. MIG Welding is one of the easiest forms of welding as well and you can use it with thin or thick plate metals. It is a simple type of welding that you can easily learn and it is going to allow for you to easily create a clean weld on materials as thin as 26 gauge that is made from steel, stainless, and/or aluminum.
- FCAW and/or Flux-Cored Welding — Flux Cored Arc Welding is another process of welding that is similar to the wire-feed process, but different. One of the biggest differences is that the flux-cored welding does not require that you use a shielding gas. What happens is that the flux-covered wire is actually used and able to keep the arc from becoming contaminated. This welding approach is one of the easiest and most efficient. This is really the best choice if you are going to be doing welding outdoors when it is windy or if the materials are dirty. It is the main type of welding that is used in construction. It is an easy type of welding to learn and it will help you to create a very clean weld on aluminum, stainless, and steel. You can weld something as thin as 26-gauge.
- GTAW and/or TIG Welding — Gas Tungsten Arc Welding is a type of welding that uses a non-consumable tungsten electrode that produces the welds. There is a shielding gas, typically argon is used, that protects the weld area from contamination from the atmosphere. There is also a filler metal that sometimes protects some welds. However, there some welds called autogenous welds, that are not required to use this. One of the things that makes TIG welding unique is that it uses a constant-current power supply that produces energy that moves across the arc through a column of ionized gas and metal vapors, called plasma. It is the type of welding that you use when welding thin sections of stainless steel, alloy steel, and nonferrous metals (aluminum, copper alloys, and magnesium). You have a lot of control with this type of welding which produces the highest quality welds. It is a more difficult type of welding to learn and one that is much slower than other types of welding.
A Quick Breakdown of the Welding Process
SMAW and/or Stick Welding
- Can be used in windy/outdoor conditions.
- Can be used with dirty or rusty metals.
- Used on thicker materials.
GMAW and/or MIG Welding
- The easiest type of welding to learn.
- Very high welding speeds are possible.
- Better control of metals that are thinner.
- No slag to clean with cleaner welds.
- Uses the same equipment as FCAW.
FCAW and/or Flux-Cored Welding
- Works well on dirty/rusty materials.
- Welding out of position.
- Able to use deep penetration for welding thick materials.
- The metal deposition rate is increased.
- More forgiving with dirty/rusty materials.
GTAW and/or TIG Welding
- Very precise and high-quality welds.
- Weld beads are highly aesthetic.
- Foot control allows adjustable heat input while welding.
The Best Welders
Finding the best welders can be tough. You have to know what to look for and how to find it. Once you understand the welding process, you will be able to figure out what your needs are for purchasing a welder. Here are some of our favorites from each category. One note to make is that the Miller brand seems to be the best option when purchasing welders for the home.
GMAW and FCAW Top Picks
The Millermatic 211 helps to weld materials that are up to 3/8 in thickness and 24 gauge in a single pass. It offers an MVP (multi-voltage plug) which can help to provide versatility so that you can use 120 volt or 240-volt input power.
Where to purchase? You can purchase the MIllermatic 211 from Amazon here.
What should you expect? The MIllermatic 211 offers advanced auto-set with special running gear and a cylinder rack that offers multi-voltage options. It is a 230 amp portable welder that runs with both 120 volts and 240 volts output. Thanks to the inverter design the welder requires less power but still maintains a superior arc.
It weighs just 38 pounds and is capable of welding metal that is up to 3/8 inch thick. It also has an advanced auto-set that allows you to have the voltage that you need without having to worry about how you will use it.
The Millermatic 141 is a great choice for someone looking for a welder that is easy to use and operate. It features an all-in-one 120-volt capacity. It can weld 24 gauge to 3/16 inch thickness. It works best with mild steel and allows you to be able to get the results in one pass.
Where to purchase? You can purchase the Millermatic 141 online here.
What should you expect? The Millermatic 141 operates on a 120-volt input. It has an all-aluminum housing and features all-aluminum housing. It is the perfect option for contractors and farmers who are trying to make sure that they have something for speedy repairs. The auto-set option allows for control with automatic settings to help you weld properly each time.
The unit also features a wire drive with a quick-select drive roll that works with the angled all aluminum drive system. There is a quick-select drive roll that allows for two different sizes of wire to be used as well as the third flux-cored wire. There are many different features that make for simple welding.
The Millermatic 212 is an all-in-one welder that allows for you to weld materials that range from 22 gauge to 3/8 inch thickness. This can all be done in a single pass. Plus, there are many features like the auto-set which allows for quick and easy setup.
Where to purchase? The Millermatic 212 can be purchased online, here.
What should you expect? The Millermatic 212 is a high voltage welder that uses a 208 and/or 230 input voltage. It has fifteen-foot leads and factory-installed running gear which work with the auto-set feature to help you set weld parameters for easy welding. There is an infinite voltage control that eliminates or replaces the tap settings so that you can feed the wire in the manual mode if you would like to have more control.
The Millermatic 212 is compatible with the 200 spool gun and the 200 wire speed control on the gun will save time for you when you are operating. In addition, it will reduce needed maintenance and operating costs.
GTAW Top Picks
Miller Diversion 180
The Diversion 180 is a perfect personal use welder. This machine uses AC/DC power and operates at both the 120-volt and 240-volt inputs for power.
Where to purchase? You can purchase the Miller Diversion 180 online, here.
What should you expect? The Miller Diversion 180 is the perfect choice for being able to create projects at home. It is the perfect welder for home repairs, garage or shop jobs, auto body repair, chassis/frame fabrication, aluminum oil pans, stainless exhaust, metal art, vocational training, and sheet metal work. There is really nothing that you cannot do with this welder. It also features a compact and durable design.
Miller Syncrowave 210
The Syncrowave 210 is perfect for light-industrial applications as well as personal use. This welder operates as a TIG welder with AC/DC power input and operates as a stick welder with DC input. This allows for the right performance and allows for you to be able to afford an inverter.
Where to purchase? The Miller Syncrowave 210 can be purchased here, online.
What should you expect? The Miller Syncrowave 210 has all of the features that you are looking for as well as a special front-panel memory card data port so that you can update the software and add additional features to the machine. There is a Pro-Set feature that allows the speed to be controlled with pre-set controls. In addition, you can use the voltage plug to use a common 120-volt or 230-volt power receptacle without having to change anything. Plus there is an AC balance control that allows for easier cleaning.
In addition to all of this, you will find that there is a pulse control that enhances the welding bead and helps to improve appearances and quality with a puddle control. You can burn through materials without warping effects that you might experience with other welders as well.
Dynasty 210 has the most flexibility and offers advanced inverter technology. In addition, there is an Auto-Line feature that allows you to be able to get the most from this welder. It features an AC/DC power source and can be used for both TIG and stick welding.
Where to purchase? The Miller Dynasty 210 is available online, here.
What should you expect? With the Miller Dynasty 210, you should expect a professional welder. This welder is really intended for those who are going to use it a lot and specifically for those who use a welder daily for their jobs. It uses an advanced 210 amp AC/DC output. It is capable of both AC and DC welding. There are extensive controls and features that make this one of the top welders on the market today.
There are actually four different advanced TIG arc waveforms that you can use this welder to create. You are able to update and expand the welder to do more with the memory card adapter. There is a Pro-Set feature so you can use professional settings easily. There is also a sleep timer that automatically powers off the machine if you are not using it for so long. You never have to worry about walking away from a project and having your welder still be on when you return.
In addition, there are many features like the Auto-Line, Lift-Arc, Wind Tunnel Technology, Line Voltage Compensation (LVC), Squarewave Technology, and Thermal Overload Protection which are just a few of the things that make this a great welder to purchase.
SMAW Top Picks
The Thunderbolt 160 is one of the best welders in the SMAW class. It is known for being portable, being a powerful stick welder, and even includes both 120-volt and 240-volt input power capabilities thanks to the MVP (multi-voltage plug).
Where to purchase? The Thunderbolt 160 by Miller is available for you online, here.
What should you expect? The Thunderbolt 160 is a powerful and sophisticated stick welder. It is portable and you can use it easily. One of the things that makes this welder so convenient to use is that it weighs about one hundred pounds less than most welders in this class.
It is versatile and offers both 120-volt and 240-volt options. You get everything that you need to start welding as well. There is even a shoulder strap on this one because it is so easily carried around.
The Thunderbolt 210 offers welds up to 210 amps and has more power. It is a lightweight and portable unit that allows you to use it in a variety of light industrial applications.
Where to purchase? The easiest way to purchase the Thunderbolt 210 is online, here.
What should you expect? There are a few different things that you can expect when you are using the Thunderbolt 210. One is that you are not going to have to lug the unit around. It actually only weighs about fifteen pounds, but it is still capable of welding up to 3/16 inch steel. It can carry a 20% cycle with the 210 amp output.
One of the best features that Miller put into this unit is the specialized hot start technology that allows for easy and quick starts. It is a welder that will not disappoint and one that you can rely on for years to come.
Top Multi-purpose Welder Pick
The Multimatic 215 is one of the best multi-purpose welders available today. This machine has a special feature that allows for MIG, TIG, and stick welding. This versatility and the fact that it is easy to use makes it one of the top choices. It is an all-in-one welder that allows you to connect to a 120-volt or 240-volt input power and will weld up to 8-inch mild steel.
Where to purchase? The Miller Multimatic 215 is affordable and available here.
What you should expect? The Miller Multimatic 215 features a 230 amp output. It is the perfect welder for all four of the welding types and can handle all types of jobs with ease. Surprisingly, this unit is very affordable and cheaper than many of the other welders featured. It weighs in under forty pounds and features the ability to cut metals between 24 gauge and ? of an inch. This means that you can literally do all of the jobs that you want with just one unit.
It is a great purchase if you are not sure what type of welding you will be doing or what you will want to do with your welder. It has many of the same features as the other units with a special Auto-Set Elite that allows for the easiest automatic settings and features.
How to Pick a Welder for the Job
There are many different types of welders for the job and depending on the types of projects that you are going to be doing and the materials that you will be welding, there is certain to be a model or type of welder that is better suited to meet your needs. There are so many things that you can use your new welder for from creating metal sculptures to restoring old cars, fabricating a motorcycle to repairing farm and home equipment. Regardless of what you want, there is sure to be a welder for the job.
Some facts that you should know center around metal thickness. Depending on the welder that you purchase, you will be able to use it on different sizes of metal. Some welders work better for thinner metals, while others are meant for the thicker metals. Finding the right welder for your needs can be simple and easy.
Average Metal Thickness for Possible Projects
- Auto bodywork — 3/16 inch or less
- Fencing — ¼ inch to 5/16 inch
- Trailer Frames — ¼ inch to 5/16 inch
- Farm Work — 5/16 inch to ? inch
- Ranch Work — 5/16 inch to ? inch
- Landscape Work — 5/16 inch to ? inch
- Structural Components (those that are thicker) — Over ? inch
- Tube Frames — 1/16 inch
- Bicycles — 1/16 inch
- Lawnmowers — 1/16 inch
- Boats — 1/16 inch to ? inch
- Motorcycles — 1/16 inch to ? inch
- Cars — 1/16 inch to ? inch
- Hunting Stands — 1/16 inch to ? inch
- Utility Trailers — 1/16 inch to ? inch
- General Repair to Heavy Repair — 3/16 inch to ¼ inch
Of course, the first thing that you will want to do before you start purchasing a welder is to identify the type of projects that you are going to be working on. This will include knowing the specific thickness of metals that are associated with these jobs as well as knowing what type of metal these welders are made out of.
There is some additional information that you should consider and check out. One of these is that you will want to know the type of welding for each type of metal. This is going to help you to come up with the right type of welder for the metal that you will be cutting and/or putting together. It will help you to ensure that you have the best function and strength.
Type of Metal and Appropriate Welding Process
- Steel — MIG, TIG, and Stick
- Stainless Steel — MIG, TIG, and Stick
- Aluminum Alloys — MIG and TIG
- Cast Iron — Stick
- Chromoly — TIG
- Copper — TIG
- Brass — TIG
Questions and Answers
Here are a few common questions associated with finding a new welder.
The amount of money that you spend on a welder can vary drastically. Most people will tell you that the more expensive the welder, the better it is, but that is not always the case. You can find a basic welder for under $1000, but some of the more elite and higher quality welders that are meant for industry jobs will run you around $5000. So, really what you spend can be dependent upon how much money you have, the type of metal that you are working with and the job type.
If you choose a multi-functioning welder that will do all types of welding, you will be looking in the $1000-1500 price range for a basic, but a high-quality model. For a basic Stick or MIG welder, you can get always with spending less than $1000, but for the top of the line models, you will spend over $1500. For the TIG welding, you are looking at around $1200 to $3000. For Flux Capacitor welding you will be looking at even more expensive units ranging from $2000 to more than $5000.
Being a beginner as a welder can be tough. You might not even know where to begin. However, the best thing to consider is looking at a welder that you can use for multiple different types of jobs. You should consider all of the work that you might want to do and buy the welder that is going to work with that. If you are trying to start your own business or learn for employment purposes, it is a great idea to take the time to enroll in a welding program. There are programs that are even offered on an internship basis if you are not able to afford to go to school. Just do not set yourself up for failure by profession to know more about welding than you actually do.
No matter how quick of a learner that you are, you are going to need to be honest about your skill level to ensure that you remain safe and do not put others at risk. Even if you are just going to be welding around your home for repairs or art, you might want to consider taking a short class, many communities have community-based classes so that you are always operating safely.
Finding the best welder to use in the home really depends strongly on how you will be using the unit and what type of home you have. If you are going to be working in your garage or around your property on jobs, look into those jobs and find the welder that will suit all of your needs. Most homeowners find that they prefer a multi-purpose unit.
While the initial investment is a few hundred dollars more than the base models, there are many reasons that you can save money in the long run. One is that you will be able to do all of the jobs that come your way without having to purchase a second or third welder. However, if you know specific jobs that you will be doing and you will not be trying to do other things with your welder, then you can find the specific style of welder that will get your jobs done.
Finding the best MIG welder can be a tough thing to do if you are not familiar with welders or the process of welding. The things that you should look for when trying to find the best MIG welders include knowing what type of welding you will be doing and the types of materials that you will be trying to weld. You will want to know the thickness of different projects so that you can choose the different MIG welder that will meet these needs. Reading reviews on MIG welders is a good place to start.
You will want to look for welders that have the features that matter to you. If you are looking to quickly weld, look for units that are able to hold automatic settings to ensure that your welder is always ready to go. For those who are prone to forgetting things, find a welder that has an auto-shutoff so that you do not cause any property damage by forgetting to turn off your welder. The best welders will be able to do your job, fit into your budget, and have the features that you are looking for.
Conclusion – Some Final Thoughts on How to Buy a Welder
When trying to find the best welder there are several considerations that need to be made. The first of these is the type of welder that you will need. The best way to be able to understand what you need is to look at the jobs that you will be doing and choose the welder that is made for those jobs. There are some basic steps that you can take to ensure that you are going to have a welder that is not only going to work to meet your needs, but will also keep you happy for years to come. One thing is for certain, you will not want to purchase a new welder anytime in the near future because you forgot something that you wanted your welder to do. A welder is an investment and one that you should take the time to put thought and research into.
Safety should be the number one priority of anyone who is trying to start with welding. There are some safety considerations to make if you are going to start welding. The first thing that you should consider is what you are wearing. You do not want to have any skin that is exposed and you do not want to be wearing any synthetic materials that catch on fire quickly. You will want a protective helmet, safety goggles that are specifically for welding, welding jacket, welding pants, boots or other heavy and protective footwear, gloves, and more. You do not want any skin to be exposed and you want to make sure that you are well protected from sparks and other dangers. While welding is a very dangerous thing to do, with these protections you are not going to have to worry about whether or not you will be safe and protected.