How to choose a welder
When it comes to buying a welder, there are many available options to choose from including arc welders, gas and gasless MIG welders, TIG welders, and multi-process welders. Selecting the right welder requires an understanding of which of these welding processes is best suited to the desired application.
Welding applications range from small D.I.Y. projects like building a firepit or repairing a gate, to art and sculpture production and large-scale industrial jobs.
The appropriate welding machine varies based on the purpose and scale of the application, the materials used, the experience and skill of the welder, the projected budget, and the desired precision of the weld.
The easiest process to learn, set-up and operate, arc/stick welding is a good option for beginners and quick repairs.
This technique welds steel, stainless steel and cast iron using a consumable electrode rod and heat generated by an electric arc.
The arc is initiated through momentary contact between the electrode and the base metal. The melted electrode coating forms a protective slag which must be chipped or cleaned away after welding.
Arc welding is particularly effective on thick metals but can be more challenging for thin sheet metal welding.
An arc welder is best suited to outdoor welding environments as it produces spatter and fume, is portable and unaffected by windy conditions.
It is also the most lenient welding process when working with dirty or rusty materials. However, arc welding is not the fastest process for long welds.
Due to spatter and slag, the final weld may be less precise than that of MIG or TIG welders.
Gas MIG welder
MIG welding is the most common welding process and is great for maintenance, small projects, and automotive repairs.
A continuous solid wire electrode is fed through a spool and carries a high current that heats up the metals to be joined and melts into the weld pool. A shielding gas protects the weld pool from atmospheric contamination.
This is a slightly more technical process than arc/stick welding and may require some practice.
Gas MIG welding is suitable for both thick and thin materials including steel, stainless steel, aluminium alloys, and silicon bronze. Different materials require specific welding wires, gas, feed rollers and torch consumable parts when setting up the machine.
Gas MIG welding requires a constant voltage and gas source meaning it is best suited to indoor workshops. Outdoor conditions like wind can also impact the effectiveness of the shielding gas.
The process typically creates less spatter than arc/stick welding. MIG welding is an economical option and optimal for high speed welding, operating up to four times faster than an arc welder.
Gasless MIG welder
Gasless MIG welding uses a tubular wire electrode with a flux core that, when melted, protects the weld area from atmospheric contamination.
This method of MIG welding has many of the advantages of gas MIG welding with the added benefit of being lighter and more portable, however, aluminium welding is not possible.
Gasless MIG welding also allows for the welding of rusted, painted or dirty materials so can be a good option for industrial or farm repairs. It is less impacted by wind and is suited to both indoor and outdoor environments.
TIG welding is the most precise welding process, producing no spatter or slag and is often preferred for architectural or automotive projects where a superior, seamless finish is required.
However, the technique required in TIG welding means it is suited to advanced or career welders. TIG welding machines are usually more expensive than MIG or arc/stick welders.
The TIG welding technique uses a tungsten electrode to transfer the electric current and heat the base metal to form a weld pool. An argon shielding gas protects the area from atmospheric contamination. The distribution of this gas can be affected by drafts or windy conditions meaning TIG welding is often best suited to indoor work.
DC TIG welding is recommended for thinner materials including steel, stainless steel, alloys, copper, brass, and exotic materials such as titanium or magnesium. An AC TIG is required for TIG welding of aluminium.
Multi-process welders enable you to work with more than one process. For instance, some MIG welders can support both gas and gasless welding. Other machines, such as Bossweld’s MST185, have arc/stick, MIG and TIG capabilities.
A multi-process welder may be the best option for those looking to weld in a variety of applications using a range of materials of various thicknesses. These machines are more cost-effective than purchasing multiple single process welders, minimise changeover time between processes and maximise productivity.
While multi-process machines can offer a wider range of welding possibilities, they can also be more challenging to set-up. Different processes require different gases and preparing these can take longer to set-up and require holding more welding consumables and parts.
For industrial or specialist welding or those planning to weld similar materials of similar thicknesses, a standalone machine is recommended.
Operate in a safe environment
Whichever welder you choose, it is important to ensure your work area is well ventilated and appropriate personal protection equipment, including but not limited to helmets, gloves and protective clothing is used.
Find the right welder for you
Check out our wide range of arc/stick, MIG, TIG, and multi-purpose welders for all applications, materials and skill levels.