Buying Your First Welder: Handy Guide for Do-It-Yourselfers

Are you getting seriously into DIY? Are you finally ready to tackle that muscle car project in your garage? Well, you need a good welder before you even start touching metal. But as a beginner, it’s understandable that you don’t know anything about buying a welding machine. Well, it’s time to learn a few things and pick out the best model for you. 

Types of welding processes

Before you hit the store, you need to understand that there are several welding processes: MIG welding, TIG welding, and stick welding. The first one uses a wire welding electrode that’s fed automatically at a speed you can program. The electric current that’s created between the wire and the metal melts the wire and joins it with the base. This welding process creates a strong joint that looks pretty good and doesn’t have to be cleaned too much. Very similar to MIG welding is FCAW welding, but there’s one difference: the latter doesn’t require a shielding gas. Instead, a wire is shielding the arc from contamination. When you need to weld outdoors or handle dirty materials, this feature is very helpful. All in all, both processes are easy to learn, suitable for various material thicknesses and create clean welds. 

TIG welding uses a non-consumable tungsten electrode in the process of welding. In order to prevent contamination, this process uses a shielding gas, mostly argon, and a filler metal (some welds—autogenous welds—don’t need this). A constant current is created that produces energy that’s conducted via the arc through a column of gas and metal vapor AKA plasma. Most commonly, people use TIG welding to weld thin sheets of alloy steel, stainless steel, aluminum, magnesium and copper alloys. Since it offers great control over the weld, this process produces strong and precise welds, but it’s also more complex and difficult to learn for beginners. 

Stick welding is a quite popular method for DIYers and most people who know how to weld probably used this technique. This method uses an electric current that flows from the gap between the stick and metal (the stick is called the arc-welding electrode). Stick welding is suitable for welding alloys and joints and can be safely used both indoors and outdoors. It can also create bonds on rusty and dirty materials which makes it highly economic. However, it’s not suitable for thin metals and it requires frequent electrode changes. The welds also need to be cleaned up and the entire process is hard to lean, especially when it comes to maintaining a stable arc. 

When it comes to choosing your machine, stick welding is most suitable for hobbyists and DIY lovers, but you can also invest in a practical all in one welder that offers you a lot of freedom when it comes to choosing your welding process. Since you’ll probably be welding different things in different conditions over the years, it’s good to have a variety of methods available to you. 

What method do you need for your project?

If you don’t want an all in one welder, you’ll need to carefully identify your projects before you choose your welding method. Make sure to also take a good look at the thickness of the metal you’ll be welding most often. Each metal type is suitable for use on different welding machines and some are even processed using different combinations of metals in order to boost strength and functionality. MIG welding can be used on steel, stainless steel, and aluminum alloys. Stick welding is suitable for use on steel, stainless steel, and cast iron. TIG welding is most versatile and can be used for welding steel, stainless steel, aluminum alloys, copper, brass, exotic metals, and chromoly. 

What about your budget?

To be cost-effective, your machine needs to be suitable both for the project you have in mind and the projects you’ll be tackling the most. If you grab a versatile machine, you can expand its use and get the most for your buck. Also, think about whether you might need more power in the future. Varying amperage and power requirements are needed to achieve effective and affordable operation. And don’t forget to budget in some other costs aside from your machine. You’ll need money for supplies as well as some protective gear like a helmet, gloves and a jacket. The gas and other consumables also cost money. 

With a good welder, you’ll be able to improve your DIY skills and widen the range of your projects. So, analyze your projects, create your budget and you’ll certainly choose the best welding machine for your needs. 

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