Moderators: Random Orbital Bob, nev, CHJ, Noel, Charley

By Eric
If you need/want to get something made with minimal effort, or the metal is 2mm or less, then MIG is probably the best way to go. Downside is that metal must be clean and the shielding gas easily gets blown away by even a light wind, so not suitable for outdoor use.

MMA takes more practice, but once you get the hang of it, is very satisfying to do. No gas bottles needed and the steel doesn't need to be particularly clean. Not suited to sheet metal, but will give incredibly strong joints on all other thicknesses of steel with inexpensive equipment. Can also weld outside (or say with garage door open), even when it's windy, so much easier to not breath in weld fumes.

It sounds to me like you are prepared to spend the time learning, so don't be scared of starting with MMA. The new lightweight inverter machines are not expensive. Older transformer machines seem to last for ever, but wouldn't be my choice for their bulk and weight. That Steve Bleile training video Ttree suggested is probably the best there is. With that and a bit of time you can easily learn yourself. MMA is hard to master if you need to weld vertically, or upside down, but for your jigs you don't have to do that, you simply position the work piece so that everything can be done horizontal. There are lots of rod types, but in this country just buy a pack of 5kg pack of 6013 Bohler or similar and with reasonable hand eye coordination you should soon get the hang of it.
By monster
As others have said it really depends on what you need to weld as to what type of welding you would adopt - ive had a go at mig, arc and gas over the years - mig is the easiest and oxytocin's acetylene the most satisfying mig and gas i would tend to use on thinner gauge stuff like car bodywork and arc on a heavier gauge materials.

Decide what it is you need to weld first - and that will help direct you as to which type to learn first.
By julianf
Thick mild steel - stick
Thinner mild steel - mig
Stainless - DC Tig
Alloy - AC Tig

Tig is much more like soldering in action. Heat in one hand, filler in the other. I like it more than mig, but you're not going to be welding up your rusty landrover chassis with Tig...

...not stick, for that matter, as it will just blow holes in thinner metal.

If you can limit yourself to thicker metal, than stick is cheap, as you don't need gas. (And don't make the mistake of thinking "but there's gassless migs" - there are, but noone with any sense actually uses them!)

Be aware that, if you're to do any volume of mig or Tig at all, you will need a gas contract. Those little disposable bottles are a nonsense. If you do the sums on larger rent-free bottles, they only work if you're on less than one fill a year. Anything over that, and a boc contract (about £50 rent per year on a y size, plus your fills) becomes cheaper.

Get yourself an autodarkening mask. Anything else is just a hang over from the past. Or a "complete welding kit" sales pitch for suckers.

Don't weld without -

A) a mask (ever!) (really!)
B) gloves
C) exposed skin covered - you will be surprised when you get a whole load of sunburn, and then you won't do it again.
By Chris152
Eric wrote:Downside is that ... the shielding gas easily gets blown away by even a light wind, so not suitable for outdoor use.

That's a shame, I've been harbouring the thought of getting MIG to use outside. Lots of windyness here in Wales.
By TFrench
Gas is available from hobbyweld without a BOC contract - you pay a deposit on the bottle then just pay for refills as you need them. I'd look at spending a bit more on a hood than a cheap n nasty one off ebay - they tend to be made of stuff that gets a bit melty which isn't ideal....
By novocaine
buy a spool of flux core. You can run a gas set as a gasless set (can't do it the other way round though). lets you weld in environments which you can't get away normally. a bit different to normal MIG welding but doable.
By heimlaga
I do all my welding outdoors and in my oppinion stick welding is the only reasonable option for me.

You need a very good and very expensive mig and some rather good quality wire to produce a decent result with gasless mig welding. The gasless migs sold for hobby use only produce splatters and some sort of iron sponge infused with nodules of flux.
A normal mig with gas is only for indoor use except if you build some sort of tent arond the job or if you weld only on calm days. Actually MIGs are banned by law from use on load bearing components at construction sites. As soon as a part of the gas is blown away it affects the strenght of the weld.

My stick welder is a 1960-ies Unitor rectifier. It runs on 16 ampere three phase and pruduces up to 200 amperes welding current. With it I can weld any thickness from 1,5mm and up. The thickest I have ever welded was some 30mm plate. I have pathed up some 1mm thick things too but then the weld quality ends up doubtful. Good quailty rods are important to insure good quality welds. I normally use Elga P48.
Acid rods such as Elga P45 and Esab OK46 are pretty much useless though many hobbyists like them because they are slightly easier to weld with. The welds become very brittle especially when the remperature is below freezing. At -30 celsius they shatter like glass.
By novocaine
well it's an opinion so fair enough, have you tried it though? given it a few hours of practice to see if it really does just leave poop stains and and porous weld?

I manage just fine running the small and (I'd say in the cheap price bracket) Kennedy 150 on fluxcore and keeping the gas on the Kemppi. manage alright with it outside too. It's a very different technique (akin to half stick half mig) as said but well worth being able to do. Duel shield (flux and gas) is allowed on construction but as it take as a bit more kit and a different skill set to stick it isn't seen unless in very high risk areas (welder earns more), I saw it on some of the pipelines out in Saudi.

whilst I own and use stick it's next to useless on a car, great for tractors and diggers but that's another story.

please note I'm not saying don't learn SMAW first, that's the way everybody should start, but don't rule out learning other forms too, a 1 trick pony does not a skilled craftsman make.