Are you interested in becoming a welder? Then it would be best if you had a reliable welding machine. Your school might have a complete MIG, TIG and stick welder set. But you know that sooner or later you need to buy yours so you can practice at home. The problem is that you are still a student who depends on an allowance and not on a paycheck.
Luckily, we've found good quality yet affordable welders that won't break your budget. We will also reveal to you which welding process is best for beginners.
Let's get started!
MIG, TIG, or Stick Welder: Which One is the Best for a Beginner?
There are different welding processes, but the most common are MIG, stick, and TIG. But which one should you try first as a beginner? Let us rank each based on how difficult it is to learn.
Easy Level: MIG Welding
MIG stands for Metal Inert Gas. It is also known as GMAW or gas metal arc welding. MIG is considered the "hot glue gun" of the welding industry. And that is pretty much the mechanism of this welding process. It is like operating a hot glue gun, which makes it perfect for beginners or students like you.
MIG welding can join metals like copper, stainless steel, carbon steel, nickel, and aluminum. It produces less slag and spatter, thus, helps you to wield high-quality welds. However, you cannot perform overhead and vertical welding positions with it.
Intermediate Level: Stick Welding
Stick welding is a bit similar to MIG in terms of how you use it. But the "glue stick" or electrode is not fed through the welding gun. Instead, the electrode or welding rod sticks out of the gun or electrode holder. Hence, it is called "stick" welding.
The other terms for stick welding are SMAW (shielded metal arc welding), MMAW (manual metal arc welding), or flux shielded arc welding. If you have mastered MIG welding, then you will do fine operating a stick welder. It can work on various base metals such as copper, aluminum, and nickel.
The downside is that you cannot easily achieve a neat weld with SMAW because it is prone to molten splatters. Consequently, it requires more cleaning, sanding, and finishing to achieve a decent-looking final output.
Hard Level: TIG Welding
Once you graduate from MIG and stick welding, you will now have the skills and guts to TIG weld. It is otherwise known as GTAW or gas tungsten arc welding. According to the New England Institute of Technology, TIG welding is one of the most challenging welding techniques to learn. Why?
It is like juggling three balls. First, you are holding a torch and filler rod on each hand. Then your foot is on a pedal to control amperage. Therefore, you must have good and consistent hand, feet, and eye coordination when you TIG weld, which you will not likely achieve yet as a beginner.
Based on the list above, you should try MIG and stick welding first to understand the fundamentals of the trade. Plus, you must learn how to hold and control the welding gun properly to create perfect welding beads. Once you know the ropes, you may move up to a more complicated welding process such as TIG welding.
The 7 Best Welding Machines for Students
Here are some of the best welders that can help you become a pro over time:
Lotos 200A AC/DC TIG and Stick Welder
Lotos 200A AC/DC has a straightforward and user-friendly dashboard with no-frills knobs and switches. It can weld mild steel, stainless steel, and aluminum with up to 3/8" thickness. It also has an automatic dual voltage feature and has a power efficiency of 80%. In addition, this Lotos welding model only weighs 58 lbs., which is portable enough to carry anywhere you want to work, even outdoors.
Lotos 200A AC/DC already has a foot pedal, and HF (high frequency) starts the TIG torch. So if you are ready to upgrade your welding skills, this machine is equipped for it. The only downside of this welder is that it doesn't have a MIG option. But overall, it is a decent machine for beginners offered at a reasonable price.
DEKOPRO 110/220V MMA/Stick Welder
Sometimes dedicated welders are the cheapest, just like the DEKOPRO 110/220V MMA/Stick welder. It only costs less than 150 bucks, but its quality is superb.
It is a welding equipment with advanced IGBT (insulated-gate bipolar transistor) inverter technology. This feature helps the welder be more energy-efficient, allowing you to use up to 93% of its power output.
DEKOPRO 110/220V MMA/Stick Welder has a durable solid frame and handle with a noiseless strong fan motor that has a cooling function. It is a versatile welding machine that you can use in metal processing, plumbing tasks, site work, and everyday work.
However, some users say the machine is great but not the accessories. So expect to spend a few bucks to buy a new ground clamp, electrode clamp, or stinger.
AHP AlphaTIG 200X 2018 Welder Stick and TIG
AHP AlphaTIG 200X 2018 is only three years in the market, so expect to get a welder powered with the newest technology. However, it is only suitable for stick and TIG welding. Its manufacturer, AHP, equips it with an industry-grade IGBT inverter technology with PWM (pulse width modulation). PWM lets you adjust the welding machine's pulse as you please.
Although it has pro-level features, rest assured that even a beginner like you can operate it, thanks to its new smart board technology. You can also use it without a foot pedal when you are TIG welding. How convenient is that?
It could have been a perfect purchase if only the foot pedal is ergonomically designed well.
ESAB 186i Stick and TIG Welder
ESAB 186i stick and TIG welder is made in Sweden that can join up to 0.375 inches of steel and 0.1875 inches of aluminum. It supports welding processes like DC stick, pulsed TIG, and AC/DC TIG.
This ESAB stick and TIG welder is a lightweight and portable machine that only weighs around 48 lbs. Aside from being suitable for beginner welders, ESAB 186i is also applicable in industries like transportation, automotive, light fabrication, and repair and maintenance.
It is user-friendly, too, because of its digital display to check the amperage and voltage. You also don't have to worry about overheating since it has an overload protection feature. Unfortunately, you have to find an alternative energy source because this welder is incompatible with a common residential power source.
Forney Easy Weld 140 MP MIG TIG and Stick Welder
Forney Easy Weld 140 MP is such a steal because you can get a DC TIG, MIG, and stick welder for less than $500! It is perfect if you want to be good at doing the three widely used welding processes.
Considering its low price tag, it is only suitable for light to medium welding tasks. So expect to outgrow this welder once you enter the professional scene and take more serious welding jobs.
Moreover, Forney Easy Weld 140 MP is generator-friendly, which means you can bring this tough little guy to remote areas with no electricity. Well, as long as you have an equally portable generator to bring with you.
Although this welder supports DC TIG, it doesn't have a TIG torch. So if you are keen to learn TIG welding, better save up for a budget yet high-quality torch.
Lincoln Electric Handy Core
Lincoln Electric Handy Core is undoubtedly made for beginners like you because it only supports MIG welding. It can weld up to 0.125-inch steel with a maximum of 88 amps output.
You don't have to scramble assembling because the welding gun and cable assembly are attached to the machine. In addition, this MIG welder is lightweight and portable, with a handle that you can carry around with you wherever you need it.
Lincoln Electric Handy Core has two safety features. First is the cold contractor safety feature to keep the welding wire "cool" until used. The other one is a fan cooler to prevent the box from overheating.
The downside of this welding machine is that you can only plug it in a 115V household power supply. It has freebies, though, like a pound of .035 inch welding wire, .035 inch contact tips, welding hand shield, and chipping hammer/brush.
Weldpro 200 Amp Inverter MIG TIG Stick Welder
Yup, you can use the three of the most commonly used welding processes with this robust machine. Weldpro 200 Amp Inverter Multi-Process Welder is a worthy investment if you want to start your own welding business after you graduate.
If you and the foot pedal can't get along, Weldpro 200 Amp Inverter can operate without it since it has a true lift TIG welding feature. It is also a dual-voltage machine that helps increase power output and makes it less expensive.
Weldpro 200 Amp Inverter package includes a MIG torch, TIG torch, electrode holder, t-shaped earth clamp, gas hose, power adapter, flow meter, drive roller, cables, and contact tips. However, it only comes with a three-year warranty, so better take good care of it and try all its features to check if there is a defect.
We hope that this short list gives you an idea of which beginner welder to buy. But as we've mentioned above, we suggest that you find a welding machine with the simplest function, which is MIG welding. Once you master this welding process, you will have no problem trying a TIG and stick welder. Therefore, it is important first to improve your welding skills to make it easy for you to operate any welding machine model.