When welding, it’s next to impossible to get the job done when you don’t have the right welding machine.
As all experienced welders understand, there are few things more frustrating than using a welding machine operating poorly or not suited for the job. Trying to weld metal that’s too thick for the machine never goes well. But, if you’ve got the right machine and setup, you can do wonders in the shop.
But how do you know which is the best welding machine for metal inert gas (MIG) and tungsten inert gas (TIG) welding?
The answer depends on several different factors like your experience level, the workspace, and the planned usage.
New welders often struggle to know where to start with buying a welding machine. At Welder 101, we understand! To help you find the right welding machine for you and your planned jobs or projects, we’ve put together this handy guide!
Selecting the Right Welding Machine
When it comes to welding machines, there are a few different factors you need to consider.
You need to think about:
- The thickness of the metal you are using
- The available power source
- The available electrical current
- The consumables used by the machine
- The type of weld you want to create
There are other factors to consider, like the type of metal you are using and the weld position.
All of these things can complicate the search for the best welding machine for your shop!
Here’s what you need to know to get started!
Type of Welding Machine
What type of welding do you usually do? MIG, TIG, and Arc welders all serve different purposes and have slightly different setups.
One way to save on costs and space is to purchase a multi-process welding machine. This is a great option if you’re a hobbyist or just do odd jobs and projects now and then.
These machines can complete both TIG and MIG welding jobs. While they’re a little more expensive than a single-process welding machine, they will cost less than buying multiple welders to complete different functions.
But, multi-process welders aren’t the way to go for those who take their welding processes a little more seriously or are hoping to start a welding career.
If you run a garage, shop, or do any industrial welding, you’ll want to make sure you have top-notch equipment you can trust. Having a reliable welding machine for each type of welding process can help your business produce quality work each and every time.
Where you plan to work is very important. If you have a smaller shop or garage, having a multi-process welder may make sense because it can save space for other tools or materials.
However, if you have the room, you may want to spend a little more and invest in a couple of dedicated, single-use welding machines.
If there’s a possibility that you will be welding outside or in a location with a significant breeze, for example, you will want a gasless MIG welder.
Consider your workshop or garage carefully and begin making decisions from there. The more room you have, the more options you can consider.
Different welding machines can have different power requirements.
The thicker the metal is, the greater the current required by the welding machine. There are two things you need to be concerned about here—amps and volts.
Most home-use welders today run off 110 or 120 volts. You can plug these in at home without needing to upgrade your outlets or breaker. The higher-end performance welders used in commercial and industrial shops, however, will require 220 to 240 volts. If you plan to use one of these machines in your home garage or workshop, you will need first to ensure that you are set up with the correct voltage.
Amperage is another important factor to consider. The amps control how deep the weld penetrates the metal. On a standard 110 volt welder, you can run the machine off a 15 to 20 amp breaker. Certain machines will need 50 to 60 amps to penetrate through thicker pieces of steel. If that’s the case, you may need to have your circuit upgraded, which comes with added costs.
How you plan to use your welding machine may be the most important factor of all. Different types of materials require different types of welding processes. If you primarily work with mild steel or stainless steel, you can run a MIG, TIG, or stick setup to get the job done.
If you find yourself working with aluminum, though, TIG is the way to go. Aluminum has a lower melting point than steel. TIG welding is ideal in this scenario as it provides a greater level of control.
While you can MIG weld aluminum pieces, there’s a greater chance that you will burn a hole in the center of the weld pool. Not a desirable outcome!
You can’t overlook portability and how easy it is to move a machine around. And we mean more than just moving from one job site to another.
Portability within the shop is also important if you plan on using the same machine to work on different projects at once. A portable machine can weigh as low as 20 pounds making it easy to carry around.
Larger machines can weigh up to 70 pounds, plus you’ll have to lug around the cylinder containing the appropriate shielding gas.
The 5 Best Welding Machines for MIG and TIG Welding
Here 5 of our favorite welding machines to get you started in the right direction!
Forney 261 MIG Welder
If you’re looking for value and performance, look no further than this model. This is a very popular option for home hobbyists and beginners.
This machine works with a 110-volt outlet and produces amperages from 32-140. It’s more than capable of handling steel up to ¼ inch thick, which should suffice for most home projects.
Best of all, this machine is very portable. It weighs just 19 pounds which means taking it from job site to job site or down the street to the neighbor’s house is no problem. Best of all, with its affordable pricing, you’ll have money left over for other tools and materials.
The only downside to this machine is that it can only run flux core.
Weldpro 200 Amp Multi-Process Welder
Weldpro’s 200 amp multi-process welder is three machines in one. With this machine, you have MIG, TIG, and Stick welding capabilities.
Everyone from beginners to seasoned contractors can get quality work out of this machine. With a 200 amp output, you’ll have all the power you need to weld 24 gauge to ¼ inch thick mild steel. This is a very versatile machine, and it comes with MIG and TIG torches plus a MIG gas regulator included.
Hobart Handler 140
Hobart’s 140 amp MIG welding machine offers the perfect mix of power and control. The machine has five different levels of voltage to choose from. Not to mention the wire feed can be adjusted from 40-170 IPM.
When it’s all said and done, this machine offers great controls so you can really dial everything in and produce the perfect weld every time. Hobart makes a quality machine, and they back it up. With a five-year limited warranty included, you can rest assured that you’ve got a great machine and the support of the brand for five years.
One piece of advice, though—the Hobart Handler 140 is heavy. It weighs nearly 60 pounds, so it’s a good idea to get a cart to move it around the shop.
The Alpha TIG 200x built by AHP combines TIG and stick welding into one versatile machine that you can run at home or the shop to produce quality welds.
You won’t have to worry too much about how thick your materials are either. You can weld aluminum up to ¼ inch thick and steel up to ⅜ of an inch thick. It’s suitable for almost any home project you can throw at it.
The AlphaTIG 200x runs off either a 110 or 220-volt outlet. But, with all that power comes some added weight. This machine weighs 69 pounds which means you’re probably going to want a cart as well.
If you run a professional shop and need a multi-process welding machine, few machines can match Eastwood’s 250 amp welder. This professional-level machine offers MIG, TIG, and stick functionalities.
This is a great machine to have at your shop because it’s so versatile. If you’re doing any full-scale auto restoration, for instance, you’ll be able to get the job done with ease. The built-in cart can hold two bottles which make switching between MIG and TIG functions effortless. You won’t have to worry about changing hoses or regulators as you might with other machines. The cart also makes this machine very portable, thanks to heavy-duty wheels and castors.
This machine works great with mild and stainless steel up to a ½ inch thick. If you plan to do any projects involving aluminum, you’ll want to pick up the optional spool gun to MIG weld aluminum.
Welding Machine FAQs
Now that you’ve seen some of the different options and considered the different factors at play, you might have some questions popping into your head.
Can I plug my welder into a home outlet?
In most cases, yes. It all depends on the voltage requirements to operate the machine.
Most machines designed for home use by hobbyists and DIYers will run off your standard 110-volt outlet.
Keep in mind that it’s not just the voltage that matters but also the amps. Thicker pieces of metal will require more amps to penetrate to the right depth.
If your home is not equipped for that, you will need to upgrade your circuit breaker.
What size welder should I buy?
As mentioned above, it all comes down to the materials you plan to work with and the power requirements.
It’s much easier to work with a powerful machine you adjust down than to try and work with an underpowered machine that just results in poor-quality welds.
Are there any safety concerns I should be aware of?
Safety is the main priority with any welding project. If you’re just getting started and building your shop, you’ll want to make sure it’s set up properly.
This means having proper ventilation to remove any harmful fumes or gasses. You should make sure that you’re not working near flammable chemicals or dangerous materials like an oily shop rag.
If an errant spark does lead to a fire, having a fire extinguisher nearby can prevent bigger disasters.
Don’t forget about your safety equipment either—gloves, boots, an apron, and a helmet should be worn each time you weld.
What other equipment will I need besides the welding machine?
That really depends on what type of machine you use.
Unless your machine is gasless, you’ll need a bottle to hold your shielding gas, hoses, regulators, and a cart to move everything around the shop.
You’ll also want to have spare consumables on hand like wire and flux. It’s also a good idea to have a grinder or wire brush on hand to clean up splatter and weld beads after you’re done.
Save on Welding Machines and Equipment
Now that you know the best type of welding machine to buy for MIG and TIG welding, it’s time to start looking. Before you make any major purchases, consider enrolling in Welder101.
This program provides access to 50+ value-packed tutorials and a private community of experienced and knowledgeable welders.
What’s more, you also get significant savings from Edge Welding Supplies, USAWelding.com, Welder Up, and more. Savings range anywhere from 10-25%, which can be quite substantial if you’re building a shop or trying to expand. This is a great way to save on quality equipment made by some of the most trusted manufacturers in the industry.
On top of all of this, enrolling in Welder101 comes with lifetime access to knowledge articles, tutorials, community, and savings. Sign up today to get started on your journey as a welder!