On the surface, welding might seem like an easy task but come to think of it, it is a very involved process which calls for specialized knowledge. So, where does it all start? It all actually begins with you understanding your project in terms of what you are you trying to do and why you need to do it. That said, What things should you consider before buying a welder? This Welder Buying Guide is designed just for that, so hop on!
Below, we take a closer look at the different types of MIG and TIG welders. We will also go through the different types of welding processes, other accessories needed for getting the job done and give you an insight to some of the most baffling terms you might come across in the Welding world.
What is Welding?
In simple terms, welding is the process of joining two types of material such as aluminum and steel together. The adhesion process takes place by melting and fusing together the two base materials using a filler metal or plastic which when cooled, creates a weld. On join up, the created weld joint is usually as strong if not stronger than the original materials.
Types of Welding
There are five different types of welding which include Flux Cored Arc Welding, Gas Metal Arc Welding, Gas Tungsten Arc Welding, Resistance Spot Welding, and Shielded Metal Arc Welding. Let’s have a closer look at each of them.
Flux Cored Arc Welders (FCAW)
Flux core welding is a gasless operation used with MIG welders. Flux core basically involves using an arc to heat up at least two pieces of metal which are joined up by a heated electrode (flux core) wire through a continuous feed. The tubular weld has a flux material on the inside of the shield which gives it its strength.
- Deeper penetration when welding thick material
- Can be used on dirty or rusty metals
- Can be used with or without welding gas
- Suitable for harsh environmental conditions such as extreme wind
Experience Level: Beginner
Type of Welder Used: Gasless
Gas Metal Arc Welding (GMAW)
Gas Metal Arc Welding is a good option for starters. It uses a typical wire feed system which joins up at least two pieces of metal by heating them with an arc. The arc sits between the workpiece and a piece of filler metal which is continuously fed with current during the heating (welding process).
- Easy to use, recommended for beginners
- More control when welding thin material
- Versatile GMAW equipment. Can also be used for FCAW welding above
- Minimal spray
Experience Level: Beginner
Type of Welder Used: MIG
Gas Tungsten Arc Welding (GTAW)
Gas Tungsten Arc welding involve welders that create a high-frequency arc from a generator. The weld is created using a tungsten electrode which joins at least two materials together. Having filler material between the arc and workpiece is not necessary but this actually depends on the user’s preference. For this type of welding, an inert gas mixture or argon inert gas is used for the shielding.
- Higher quality, stronger welds
- Visually appealing welding bead
Experience Level: Professional
Type of Welder Used: TIG
Resistance Spot Welding (RSW)
Resistance spot welding is somewhat different from the aforementioned welding methods. With this type of welding, an electrode placed on both sides of the workpiece. A current is then introduced to connect the workpiece and the electrodes.
- Lightweight and portable
- Suitable for personal and small industrial projects
Experience Level: Beginner
Type of Welder Used: RSW
Shielded Metal Arc Welding (SMAW)
Shielded metal arc welding uses the normal Arc welder concept where a consumable electrode is used to support the arc. How does the shielding occur? Heating up the electrode causes the outer flux core to melt up. This forms up the weld when the inner filler metal cools.
- Suitable for outdoor use especially during windy conditions
- Can be used for welding rusty or dirty workpieces
Experience Level: Intermediate
Type of Welder Used: Stick
Types of Welding Fabrication Processes
When welding metal, there are three common fabrication processes used which include (MIG) metal inert gas, (Stick) shielded metal arc welding, and (TIG) tungsten inert gas. Let us have a look at each of them.
Metal Inert Gas (MIG)
Metal Inert Gas welding is one of the easiest forms of welding fabrications that can be used. The ease of use makes it extremely popular with newbies. So, what does it involve? MIG welding uses an arc and a shielded wire feed to produce a weld from a base and at least two pieces of metal. This creates a strong weld, preferred by many people as a cheaper alternative compared to the rest. MIG can be used when welding aluminum, stainless-steel, mild-steel and other types of alloy.
Shielded Metal Arc Welding (Stick)
Shielded Metal Arc Welding is the commonest form of fabrication process where an electric power source is used to fuse the electrode and the workpieces together at fixed length. The filler material used for creating the weld is at the core of a metal coated rod made of metal powders and minerals.
This type of fabrication can be used on most types of oils and metals. However, it cannot be used with reactive metals such as zirconium and titanium. The experience level for this type of fabrication process leans more towards the professional range because it is more of a manual process that requires skill and experience.
Tungsten Inert Gas (TIG)
Same as MIG, Tungsten Inert Gas (TIG) uses an electric arc to fuse workpieces together through a continuous wire feed. The only difference is that TIG uses a longer tungsten with a slower feed into the weld puddle. To create the weld, the tungsten electrode uses inert gas and the electric current passing through it.
Compared to the other types of fabrication, TIG welding is actually more expensive and requires a higher level of experience to produce quality welds. The versatility of the arc process itself makes it extremely popular with intermediate and professional welders and creates a very strong and smooth end result. It is commonly used with thinner metals but it can be used on thicker material as well.
Difference Between AC and DC Welding
When creating a weld, the welder either produces an Alternating Current (AC) or a Direct Current (DC) through the electrode. Let us discuss each in detail.
Alternating Current (AC) flows in two directions. It can change direction at the rate of 120 times per second through a 60-hertz current. AC welding works better on steel as it produces a stable, smoother arc, gives you fewer arc outages, and creates less splatter.
Because of the consistent, constant current, AC produces a better result. This makes it the superior choice.
As the name suggests, Direct Current (DC) flows in one direction and gives out a constant polarity all the time. This type of welding is not the usual go-for because of the basic nature of the machines. DC welding machines are, however, perfect for beginner machines which are obviously cheaper. In addition to this, arc blow is not common with Direct Current machines.
Arc blow is an occurrence where the arc blows out the joint that’s being welded. It usually happens with AC machines when larger electrodes carrying higher current are being used. On average, this doesn’t happen often with DC machines but keeping in mind that there are a few simple ways for preventing Arc blow, AC still remains the better choice.
Recommended Welder by Type of Material
Below, is a breakdown of which welder is recommended based on the material:
Welding Terms and Definitions
Below are some of the most common welding terms along with definitions you may not know.
- Arc – space from the end of the electrode to where it contacts the workpiece being welded
- Duty cycle – time an arc welder can be used continuously before it needs to be cooled which is best defined as minutes of a 10-minute lapse
- Electrode – metal wire that’s coated which is made up of the same composition being welded
- Rated output – voltage and amperage produced during any duty-cycle
- Slag – flux soot which helps protect the weld during the cooling down process to prevent reactions which might destabilize the weld. Needs to be removed after the weld is cool
- Spatter – unsightly weld spatter which are metal particles from the welder itself which attach to parts of the workpiece not being welded. Spatter can be prevented before welding using a spatter-resistant spray sprayed directly onto the workpiece before welding
- Torch – used in TIG welding to transfer current to the arc which aims the flow of the shielding gas while giving the user more control over the electrode’s position
Things to Consider Before Buying a Welder
If you’ve made it this far then you’re probably serious about buying a new welder. Before making your purchase, there are some things to consider first including:
- Sensitivity and control adjustments
- Ease of use
- Origin of the product
- Voltage requirement
- Type of material being welded
- Thickness of the metal being welded
- AC/DC power source
- Duty cycle
- What accessories are included – power cord, foot pedal, ground cable, etc…
Comprehensive, Unbiased Welder Reviews
To make it easier for you, we’ve compiled the most comprehensive, unbiased welder reviews which can be accessed through the links listed below. For easier comparison, we’ve broken down the reviews by category. You will also find a comparison chart aimed at helping you to distinguish the characteristics of each.