There is nothing more satisfying than having your own home workshop and being able to do DIY or home maintenance projects. Those of us who have the desire for building, to fix, create, and repair things are a rare breed who like nothing more than to spend a rainy (or any) day in the workshop. Often we find that while our workshops contain all the gear for working with wood, having a welder on hand opens up a whole new field of creation. In this article, we will discuss what is the best welder for DIY projects and home maintenance.
The Best Welder For Diy
This is a common question and the bottom line is it depends on what DIY projects you are likely to be doing. DIYers are capable and creative people who can turn their hand to almost anything so the best welder for DIY is one that suits the type of DIY you are interested in.
- All-rounder workshop DIY. This can cover steel furniture making, metal frames, brackets, light structural metalwork, trailers, campers, workbenches, art, and autobody repairs or renovations. Here you would be best with a multi-purpose welder that can at minimum MIG and Stick welding in one machine. For those who require more precise and accurate welds having the TIG welding function is a bonus.
- Diy welding outdoors. Those who are wanting to weld outside on larger projects and maintenance work are best suited to using a stick welder or a flux-cored wire feed welder. Flux core arc welding can be a great alternative to a standard MIG welder. Mig welding requires gas shielding and for outdoor use in windy conditions, they are hopeless.
- General DIY workshop projects are fine with a stand-alone MIG welder. One of these would be my first choice as a general-purpose welder. You can weld almost all metals including stainless steel and aluminum. They can also be used outdoors when using gasless flux-cored wire.
- In specialized welding, some DIYers have the need to perform high-quality welds. This can be artwork, sculpture, cycle frames, and autobody renovations. Here TIG welding has the best finish welds of all the other types of welders. Using a Tig welder requires more skill to perform however the finished Tig welds are small neat and strong.
Best DIY Welder Quick Guide
Having a welder in the workshop is one thing, but what is the best welder for DIY projects? What do we wish to weld, what are we building, what are we repairing? Here we cover the four common types of welders for DIY, Mig welders, Tig welders, wire feed welders, and the basic Stick welder.
Stick welders and their uses
The stick welder is your basic and, original welding machine. Used for decades these machines were the builders of an industry. The first stick welding machine was invented around 1890, and the first coated welding electrodes were invented around the beginning of 1900.
Today stick welding is still being used in industry and in the home workshop. The new breed of arc welders is small, portable, and powerful. Often they are capable of not only Arc welding but Tig welding as well as combining Tig and stick welding in one machine.
Stick welders are commonly used in the construction and maintenance industry, specifically in areas of specialized welding such as pipe welding and underwater welding. While the home maintenance DIY guy or gal can use these machines for basic fabrication and machinery repair work.
Uses of Stick Welding
Compared to the other processes stick welding does have some unique advantages. A stick welder uses flux-coated electrodes to fuse two metal parts together. For general-purpose welding of mild steel, there are standard types of electrodes that are considered multi-purpose and can be used in a variety of applications. Including mild steel pipes, angles, flat bars, plates, and hollow sections. Low to medium-powered Diy stick welders can weld thicknesses from 1/8 inch (3 mm) up to 1/2 inch (12mm)
Stick welding can be used on galvanized steel as well as mild steel. The thickness of steel that can be welded with a stick welder is dependent on the power and amperage of the stick welder. As a general rule, use Lower amps on thin metals, and more amperage on thicker metals.
Stick welder amp chart
How many amps do you need to weld different thicknesses of mild steel with a stick welder?
Advantages of Stick Welding
- Very portable, New machines such as the 140 Forney easy weld, are extremely lightweight. Weighing in at only 10 pounds or so these machines are ideal for maintenance and general fabrication work. Many of these new welders also incorporate the TIG welder function.
- Arc welders aren’t fussy when it comes to the condition of the metal to be welded and will weld dirty materials, although some attempts to remove loose material, paint, or rust should be done. Also can weld galvanized steel, stainless steel, and with practice cast iron.
- Without shielding gas an arc welder can be used in any weather.
- Price. Most arc welders used for DIY are very affordable. A 140 amp welder can be bought for under two hundred dollars. The other cost-saving factor is that extra shielding gas used on machines like a MIG welder is not required.
- Ideal for pipework, especially all position pipe welding processes.
- Basic Arc welding can be learned in a relatively short time given good tuition. (U-tube has many videos on how to arc weld)
Disadvantages of Arc / Stick Welding
- Can require more clean-up than Mig welders, chipping slag deposits, or grinding when multiple weld passes are required. This also depends on the type of electrode being used.
- Hard to weld very thin steel and sheet metal
- Not as efficient as a Mig welder when productivity is concerned. They are slow to use as you are constantly replacing the electrodes.
- Not able to weld aluminum.
- For high-quality welding such as underwater or pipe welds, a high level of experience and training is required.
What Are The Best Stick Welders For DIY
- Forney Easy Weld
- Hobart Handler
- Lincoln Electric
Mig Welders -The Best Welder For DIY
Mig welding, for general DIY and home repairs, would be the most versatile of all three types, and for most, will be the best welder for DIY. These welders operate using a continuous wire feed that is the filler rod to the arc site. The MIG welder carries a wire spool within that can be bought in different spool sizes and wire thickness sizes. These wire spools are available in mild steel, aluminum, stainless steel, and in flux core wire for flux-cored arc welding of mild steel without the need for shielding gas.
Mig welders have a wire feed speed control that can be used in conjunction with the power setting to weld different metal or aluminum thicknesses.
They do however require the use of shielding gas in some applications. This can limit portability, but there is a way around this when welding mild steel.
Shielding gas is required with Mig welders if you are to weld, mild steel, stainless steel, and aluminum. There is another option for welding mild steel by using a flux-cored welding wire. Using flux core wire requires no shielding gas as the flux wire provides shielding for the weld pool.
Advantages of Mig Welders For DIY
- Well-priced for good quality machines
- Great hobby welders
- Modern Mig welders are smaller, lighter, and more compact for in some cases more power
- Mig welding would be the easiest of all welding types to learn
- Can weld much quicker than with arc or Tig welders
- Great for welding thin metals such as auto panels
- Welds have a good finish and are cleaner with no slag. (flux-cored wire can create a little slag and may require some cleanup by wire brushing or grinding)
- One machine can weld mild steel, aluminum, and stainless steel, and use flux-cored wires.
- Flux core welding can be done outdoors in breezy conditions
Disadvantages of Mig Welders
- Do require shielding gas unless using flux core wire.
- Using shielding gas requires very stable atmospheric conditions so as not to blow away the gas shielding
- Shielding gas bottles can be heavy and need cables attached. Best to use a welding cart to carry both the Mig welder and gas bottles.
- Best used for thinner metals. Depending on the power of your machine. To weld 2-inch plate, for example, requires at least a welder of 500 amps or more.
- Requires more preparation than with stick welders, weld area needs to be clean of any dirt, rust, or paint.
What Is The Best Budget MIG Welder
There are many lower-priced Mig welders on the market. Some of these are good value and get positive MIG welder reviews however some are rubbish and can’t be easily serviced or returned. The best budget MIG welder would for me be one that has at least some servicing available in the county you live in. For the USA there are several companies that have well-priced Mig welders and good servicing to boot. These include Hobart, Lincoln electric, Yes welding, Forney, Everlast, Esab, and Miller welding
Tig Welders, the Advantages and Disadvantages
Tig welders are precision machines. Probably not the best welder for DIY but if you are into precision work then you should consider it. Used commonly for industrial and manufacturing in industries like food and sports equipment. Your bike frame is most likely Tig welded.
Highly accurate welds done using a tig welder require little to zero clean-up. The welds are pure and clean as there is no flux used in the welding process.
Tig welds are an electrical version of gas welding at its simplest form where the parent metals are heated to the melting point and a filler rod of the same material is introduced to complete the weld.
- Welds require little or no cleanup, very clean
- Welds can be very small and delicate
- Excellent for welding thin metals and sheet metal
- Strong high-quality welds
- Heat applied to the weld can be controlled via a foot control
- Can weld steel, alloys, and stainless steel
- Requires shielding gas
- The welding process requires some degree of skill
- Not suited to welding thicker steel
What Type Of Welding is Best For Home Use
For those who want a general-purpose all-around welder then the Mig welder is your best bet.
If you are just welding heavier steel sections such as structural RHS, and thick plate around 1/4 inch then a Stick welder may be all you need. Stick welders are a cheaper option and with practice can be easily learned.
What Welder Is Best For Beginners
The best welder for beginners hands down would be a MIG welder. Easy to learn and easy to use. The options for buying include
- A standard MIG welder that can weld mild steel, stainless steel, and possibly aluminum if the budget allows.
- A stand-alone FCI (flux-cored only) wire feed welder. These work the same as a MIG but don’t require a gas bottle. Flux core welders will generally only weld mild steel.
- When starting out, look for a Mig welder with a power rating (measured in AMPS) of between 100 and 250. The higher the amperage value on MIG welders, or any welder, the more power and the thicker the material you are able to weld. As a guide, a 100 amp welder will weld steel plate up to about 3/16, or 4.8mm.
- The best MIG welder choices here would be the Hobart Handler 100 or Hobart handler 140
DIY Welder Conclusion
The bottom line is that Mig welders will be the best welder for DIY for most people. This is to say that they are the most versatile and will handle almost anything. Needless to say, the next best option is to go for an Arc Welder. These are more suited thought to perhaps farm maintenance and heavier construction projects.
Noel Davidson has been welding steel, cutting timber, and building cool stuff for eons, his blog habitatdiy.com is all about DIY and getting creative because you can.