One of the most common questions that come into our contact page are around the best MIG Welder for different things like Handyman, welding cars, sheet metal, fences, etc. In this article, we want to brief look at some of the best MIG Welders for a Handyman! If you already own one of the MIG Welders we refer to on this page, we encourage you to join in the discussion thread at the bottom of the page and share your experience with the welder also.
What needs to be welded?
In order to understand why the models below were chosen, we first want to look at the things a typical handyman is going to be doing with their mig or arc welder.
Items Often Welded by a Handyman. Lets face it… a handyman is not going to be building bridges… Most often, they will be welding:
- Chain Link Fences or Metal Posts
- Signs, or other Sheet Metal Items
- Lawnmowers, Snowblowers, Tillers and other Yard Equipment
- Metals up to 1/4 inch thick
- Cars, Truck, Exhaust or Some Automotive Welding
Welding Skill level Needed
Just like the limited degree of items that a handyman is going to be welding, they really don’t want to have to school for 3 months to learn how to draw a nice pool of metal! Most handyman welders are going to be the same guy you see balancing his own lawnmower blades, painting his own home and building his own deck.
Mig or flux core?
If you are going to do a lot of outside welding on steel, then you’ll be using more flux-core wire. Inside, MIG welders may be better, and it’s the only choice on that machine for aluminum and stainless.
MIG welders are a lot cleaner than Flux-core. Flux core has a lot of splatter and you have to remove a layer of slag on the weld – kind of like stick.
The key to finding the right MIG welder for your needs is to have a good grasp of what you are going to be welding. Here’s a brief overview of the most commonly welded materials and basic information about what type of welder will best handle the tasks.
Sheet metal is a thinner metal so care must be exercised when welding it. Problems arise when too much heat is used – too many amps are employed – and the welder burns too far into the metal, weakening it. In some circumstances, burn through may be the result. This can also be caused by using welding wire that is too thick. For welding sheet metal, .023 to .030 diameter wire is best, along with a an amp setting in the 60 to 140 range. Good options for sheet metal welding include the Millermatic 140 and 180, the Clarke WE6523 and WE6441, the Lincoln K2185 Handy MIG, the Hobart 500550 130 and Hobart 500500 Handler 140.
Carbon Steel/Mild Steel
This is the most common type of steel and most MIG machines weld it very well. The key is the thickness of the material. Thicker materials require more heat/amps and also thicker diameter wire. For light and medium duty carbon steel welding, a portable 140 to 180 machine is a good choice; for larger steels a MIG welder with an amperage capacity between 230 and 320 or higher is a better bet. Look for outstanding welders, new or used, from Lincoln, Miller, Hobart and ESAB for welding steel. Here are some approximate amperages for various widths of steel: 18 gauge – 70 to 100 amps; 1/8” steel – 100 to 200 amps; 3/16” steel – 130 to 200 amps; 1/4” steel – 140 to 220 amps; 1/2” steel – 250 amps minimum. Use steel from .023” up to .045 depending on the thickness of what is being welded. Top welders with high amp capacity for mild steel welding include the Hobart 500304 IronMan 210, Hobart 500536 Ironman 230, Lincoln K2403-1 Power MIG 350, ESAB Multimaster 260, and the Clarke WE6524 MIG Welder. For thinner metals, the portable units from Miller, Hobart and Lincoln are all very good.
Occasional aluminum welds can be handled by most MIG welders. However, since aluminum melts so quickly, if you expect that most of your welds will involve aluminum, it may be a better choice to select a welder that is designed specifically for aluminum. Pulse welders are best for this application – units like the Millermatic Pulser, the Lincoln K2403-1 Power MIG Welder and the ESAB Multimaster 260 are all fantastic choices. You may also find it helpful to choose a special aluminum feed gun like the Spoolmatic 30A or Spoolmate spool guns.
What advantages do MIG welders offer?
- Externally supplied gas or gas mixtures provide MIG welder shielding.
- Metal is deposited only when the wire actually touches the work.
- No metal is transferred across the arc during MIG welding.
- Another method of MIG welding, spray transfer moves a stream of tiny molten droplets across the arc from the electrode to the weld puddle. Consumables: contact tips, shielding gas, welding wire.
- A number of configurations
- MIG welders utilize solid wire and require shielding
- MIG welders use a solid wire and require an inert gas for shielding.
- Flux-core welders use a hollow wire that has flux inside it. When heated, the flux forms a protective gas layer around the weld. The shielding is there to prevent air from getting to the weld and causing a variety of problems, such as oxidation to hydrogen embrittlement from oxygen and water vapor in the air.
Choosing best MIG welder for a handyman
We realize that different people may have different reasons for choosing the best mig welder for a handyman. There are many MIG welders models available on the market, but which is best for you?
Lots of Mig Welder choices
Externally supplied gas or gas mixtures provide MIG welder shielding. Common MIG welding is referred to as short circuit transfer. Metal is deposited only when the wire actually touches the work. No metal is transferred across the arc during MIG welding.
Another method of MIG welding, spray transfer moves a stream of tiny molten droplets across the arc from the electrode to the weld puddle.
How do you choose a Mig Welder?
Best MIG welder manufacturers include: Lincoln, Miller, Hobart, Century, Esab, Clarke, and others.
These MIG welder manufacturers offer a variety of MIG welders that can meet any welding need from industrial MIG welders to hobbyists to fabrication shops, ranches, aerospace welding, and more.