For many new metalworkers, deciding on which welder to purchase when getting started can seem like quite a daunting ordeal.
To the lesser informed, reading through articles that talk about amperage, voltage, duty cycle, etc, can leave you in a whirlwind of specifications and technical jargon without feeling like you’ve learned anything at all. Today you’re in luck as we have done all the dirty work for you, and put together a guide for the novice or at-home welder who is looking to invest in their first machine. These are our top picks for good quality, entry-level welders that will get you working and then some, without burning a hole in your pocket.
MIG (GMAW) Campbell Hausfeld MIG/FLX 140
First up is Campbell Hausfeld, a well-reputed yet affordable brand. The MIG/FLX 140 sports five heat settings for fusing up to ¼” mild steel. This machine is geared towards heavier duty work, and the dedicated 120V input will keep you welding wherever you go. The duty cycle on this machine is rated at 20% @ 90A, meaning that for every two minutes of actual welding time, it will require eight minutes to cool down.
Offering both MIG and flux-core capabilities, inert gas can be used if needed, however when not available just switch the spool to flux wire and keep on working. Another great item of note is that provided with the MIG/FLX 140 come 10’ work leads, which is more than enough to keep you from snagging.
On this particular model, make sure to keep you ground clamp as close to the workpiece as possible to maintain better control of your arc and weld puddle. Long leads take more work for the electricity to travel through, so keep your circuit tight. Also included in this kit is a dual-gauge regulator, gas hose, two extra tips, and starter spool of flux-cored wire.
- Withstands heavier duty use
- 5-year warranty
- Powder coated all-metal construction
- Less kit than Lincoln at same price point
Lincoln Electric K2185-1 Handy MIG Welder
Next up is the Lincoln Electric K2185-1. Its ability to weld up to ⅛” steel makes it a great addition to any home shop or garage and weighing in at just 26 lbs enables portability options as well. 115V @ 20A powers this machine so as long as you have a 20-amp breaker in your box, just plug it into the wall and go. Adjustable wire feed is great for those just starting out, offering much more control over your bead.
Though suited for thinner metal, Lincoln’s outstanding track record for reliability and parts availability -should something fail- is enough to make you feel secure. Great penetration and consistent weld quality definitely make this one stand out.
Included with the K2185-1 is a great accessories kit supplying 8’ stinger and ground leads, flux-cored nozzle, gas nozzle, gas hose and regulator, starter spools of both MIG and flux wire, extra contact tips, a handshield, and chipping hammer.
- Made in USA
- Lightweight design
- Excellent kit
- Rated for thinnest material of all 3 MIG machines
- Shorter warranty than Campbell-Hausfeld
Everlast MIG 140E
The Everlast MIG 140E is capable of running both standard MIG wire and flux-cored filler at 120V. The 140E is an IGBT inverter-based unit, operating with greater efficiency and more free-flowing power than its similarly priced, transformer-based competitors.
Everlast really hit the nail on the head with this ‘economy line’ model as it is a very budget-minded option, yet still has all the advancements of a much more expensive machine.
The duty cycle on this welder is 35% and can output up to 140A, allowing you to weld up to ⅜” steel with a multi-pass approach, or up to 3/16” with a single pass. Not only does this unit run mild steel, but it also runs stainless and aluminum with general ease. Be aware though, you must purchase the proper spool in order to weld aluminum.
- Inexpensive for IGBT technology
- Higher duty cycle than other options in its class
- Only 25 lbs
- Only has a single voltage option
- Must purchase additional spool to run aluminum
- The ground cable is short
- Does not include gauge reference chart
TIG (GTAW)/ Multiprocess Everlast PowerARC 160STH
Everlast comes in again with their next offering, the PowerARC 160STH. This model features a dual voltage ability operating either at 110V or 220V. With a 35% duty cycle you can get a lot of work done without having to wait around, and with the capacity to weld up to ¼” plate combined with the option of switching from TIG to stick, there won’t be a lot of jobs you can’t tackle.
Everlast produces very decent quality welders and makes a superb effort not to overdo it on price, and with it comes a health accessories kit.
Included with this machine is an arc stinger, ground cable, and work clamp, TIG torch all with DINSE-style connectors, carrying case, consumables, and an argon regulator.
- Multiprocess TIG/stick
- IGBT inverter technology
- Long work leads
- Seems to have issues with the stock regulator
Blue Demon BLUEARC-160
The BLUEARC-160 from Blue Demon is quite a machine for the price. A fan-cooled inverter-based option, this is a multiprocess welder meaning it can run both TIG and arc rather than just one or the other.
At only 11 lbs this is one of the lightest in its class, and its ability to run both AC and DC on 7018 rod means you can set it up for premium cleaning action. Dual voltage 110V/220V only adds to the portability of the BLUEARC-160, and with arc force control and line voltage compensation to keep the current steady as well as thermal overload protection, this machine is sure to maintain a quality bead.
An outstanding accessories package means you’ll be ready to start welding right now and includes your arc stinger and ground leads, TIG torch, extra consumables, 110V/220V pigtail converter, regulator, and case. This machine can weld mild steel, stainless, cast iron, and can also apply hardfacing.
- Extremely lightweight
- Great value
- Inverter-based (AC/DC)
- Oddly sized collection of leads and cables
- No direct website
Mophorn TIG 205S
Though Mophorn is lesser known to the world of welding, they offer a machine that provides fantastic value. This machine claims to weld more types of metal than any other on our list and is the only welder here which can fuse titanium.
For the price, the Mophorn TIG 205S has a ton of features that you would only expect to find on a rig of much higher cost. For instance, the ability to run mild steel, chrome, stainless, aluminum, and yes, titanium. When it comes to the protection of your investment this model also sports thermal overload protection, over current, and over voltage defense.
There is a switch on the console that enables you to flip from stick welding to argon-shielded TIG, and it also has quite an impressive adjustable amperage range of 20-160A when in TIG mode, and 20-140A in stick.
The one notable downside is that this welder is only rated for dual voltage at 110V/220V, but the 220V plug is hardwired to the machine. A 220V outlet is not always the easiest to locate depending on the region you live in. Mophorn recommends just changing out the plug with a standard 110V, but be careful to note which wire goes where as it is wired to European standards and the casings are color-coded differently.
- A wide array of features for the price
- Highly tunable amperage
- Nice accessories kit (includes all you need)
- Requires changing plug for use of 110V
- Difficult to locate replacement parts
- Poorly written owner’s manual
Single-Process ARC (SMAW) – Miller Thunderbolt 160 DC
The Thunderbolt 160 DC from Miller slides in as the most expensive option on our list, however, it still won’t break the bank. Miller produces consistently high-quality machines so the money spent is worth the investment.
This offering from Miller is a basic, no-frills model that is great for any new welder starting out. It has a very basic interface design, lessening confusion and limiting intimidation for the up-and-comer. Duty cycle maxes at 30%, and the ability to weld up to ½ steel when running 240V will keep you welding anything you come across for years.
This model boasts that it is lighter weight than the competition and weighing in at just 15 pounds, they’re pretty much correct.
The Thunderbolt 160 comes with 10-foot stinger and ground cables, power cable adapter, and carrying case for your accessories.
- Well-known reliability
- Ability to weld thicker materials than others in its class
- Very lightweight
- More expensive than some options
Forney Easy Weld 100ST
Next up is the Forney Easy Weld 100ST. This little machine is a great option for the beginner as it has an extremely easy to use control console. A single knob controls the amperage flow, and the rest is just welding. A single voltage 120V unit, this little welder is perfect for the hobbyist or craftsperson.
The 100ST is extremely portable weighing in at under ten pounds, and its ability to run off a generator just furthers the mobility of this machine.
Capable of welding up to 5/16” steel with a 30% duty cycle makes this machine in the league of extreme value. There aren’t a whole lot of bells and whistles included with this model, but the ease of use for the new welder and the included accessories are all you’ll need to get started.
- Extremely light
- Very easy to use
- Can be used for TIG with purchase of additional kit
- Single voltage
- Not foot pedal compatible for TIG setup
Started in 1995, Amico Power is a somewhat lesser-known brand yet provides outstanding value and well-made welders. The DC160A is no exception as this model has made good use of ‘trickle-down’ technology, offering many of the features of a much more expensive option.
An inverter-based design, the machine has a 60% duty cycle which you’ll find is higher than other choices on our list. This model offers dynamic arc control and a highly concentrated arc, thereby laying welds easily and cleanly.
The ability of this machine to weld up to ⅜” mild steel and stainless, as well as copper, cast iron, and chrome, coupled with its dual voltage capacity and multiprocess selection makes it an excellent choice for field and shop work.
- All work leads 10’-13’ long
- Good duty cycle
- Inverter-based design
- Does not come with starter electrodes
You have two main types of input on any given welder: single voltage, or dual voltage. Single voltage means that whatever the input voltage the welder is rated for is what you’re stuck with
This limits the portability of these machines as sometimes you will end up in places where your plug is not compatible with the available power source. For some, this is absolutely fine. If you are the type to work from home or at a shop where your particular outlet is always available, then it’s really no big deal, however if you are a field worker and have to be able to weld on the fly, dual voltage is a much better option as you will have more variety.
Duty cycle is a very important specification to pay attention to when purchasing your new welder but is often overlooked by the novice or uneducated welder.
What the duty cycle describes is the amount of work you can produce in a given amount of time, namely, a ten-minute window.
When reading duty cycle, the percentage rated is out of ten minutes, so, a 60% duty cycle would allow you to weld for 6 continuous minutes, followed up by 4 minutes of cool down time.
The higher your duty cycle, the less standing around you’ll do.
Pay attention to the accessories included with your machine. Some brands will provide virtually everything you need to get started welding right away, whereas others may include certain pieces, but leave out others which are very important to have.
When buying new tools people generally have the tendency to spend as much as they can in order to receive the highest quality rig possible. This makes sense, but if you’re not careful you could end up getting yourself stuck. If you spend every last available dollar on a new machine, and then it shows up at your door needing 400 more dollars worth of parts just to get started, you’ll find yourself up a creek pretty quickly.
Read over each welder description very carefully and make absolutely certain you’ll be receiving everything you need.
This is another often overlooked item for the new welder. The length of your work and ground leads are very important.
If you purchase a new welder then come to find your work and ground leads are only 5 feet long, you will not be able to move around much while working and will have to keep your workpiece as close to the machine as possible. Either that, or you will have to keep moving the welder around with you every time you switch positions.
On the flip-side of this, if your work leads are too long for the rated output, your welder may not be able to push enough power to maintain a steady arc, therefore sacrificing the integrity of your weld, and making for a messy, splattered bead.
For less expensive welders, 10 feet is a decent length to shoot for. This will ensure that you have freedom of movement, and your weld current will remain consistent and reliable.
This is a big one. You must know what metals your welder is capable of putting together.
If you are always working on steel, or at your home shop or garage, generally a base-level welder should do you just fine. If you have a more variable agenda, however, you need to make sure that your welder can fuse whatever metals you may come across.
Most welders will always be able to weld some form of steel. This does not mean they can weld aluminum though, and if they can weld aluminum, it does not mean it will be able to weld copper, brass, or any other material. Make sure the metals you will be working with are listed in the unit’s specifications.
One last item worth mentioning is dissimilar metals. If you are attempting to weld two different types of metals together- which is generally less common- be positive your machine is up for it.
We hope our list of entry-level welders has provided you greater insight when selecting your new machine and has alleviated most of the guesswork for you. Now that you know what to expect when comparing models, make your choice, invest in your future, and get out there and start welding!