A lot depends what you want to weld, and where.
Thin Sheet Metal (0.1mm - 2mm)
- TIG (Titanium Inert Gas) aka: GTAW (Gas Tungsten Arc Welding) is generally held as the gold standard, it's comparatively expensive, generally only usable in a workshop and has the biggest learning curve. Gas Bottles, Electrodes and Filler wire are needed as consumables.
- Gas Welding aka: Oxy-Fuel or Oxy-Acetylene, delivers the same results as TIG, and has a similar learning curve. However, you also get cutting (up to 8" with a regular setup, 24" with a dedicated torch), brazing and hot-bending options for no additional cost. Unlike TIG it can generally be used anywhere, but you have to be much more mindful of the overspill of heat from the flame. Consumables are Gas Bottles and Filler Rod, Insurers can be uncomfortable with storage of Acetylene.
- MIG (Metal Inert Gas) aka: GMAW (Gas Metal Arc Welding) generally a bit finicky with thin metal but very usable with care, definitely less of a learning curve than TIG/Gas, gas the same limitation as TIG of needing a sheltered environment. Consumables are Gas, tips, and reels of wire (which are both the electrode and the filler)
Thin Plate and Sections (3-6mm)
- Arc aka: MMA (Mixed Metal Arc), simplest to learn, simplest equipment, difficult to use for more complex geometries of weld without a lot of practice. Only consumable is the rods.
- Flux Core aka: Gasless MIG, like regular MIG but with a shielding flux directly in the wire meaning gas isn't needed and it's usable outside. There's effectively a minimum power this can be used at, making welding thin to thick of metal harder than it needs to be, but that can be overcome with practice.
- All of the Thin Sheet Metal options, but using larger consumables and higher power settings, also taking multiple passes with TIG.
Thick Plate and Sections (6mm up):
As above, but taking multiple passes to build up the weld.
- MIG is hands down the fastest, if you have a reasonably powerful machine, which can take higher diameter wires. Because there's no cleanup between passes.
- Arc & Flux Core are tied because the only limit on how much weld you can lay in a single bead is your machine's amperage, but there is a cleanup requirement between passes.
- TIG starts to get crazy expensive for electrodes and torches capable of delivering the power required to use a decent sized filler, but are often used to do the root (first pass) of complex welds before filling in with mig/arc.
- Gas is almost never used for welding these days, but is still the defacto standard for beveling, cutting and gouging. Sometimes used to do the root of complex welds in locations where TIG wouldn't be appropriate. There's also a limit to how much gas you can take off a tank in any one period which throttles the maximum feasible weld bead size.
There's then the types of electric welder to consider:
Pretty much the standard for a quality welder these days, most models will do either MIG/Flux Core or Arc as standard, with many of the Arc machines having an option to add TIG by adding additional parts, quite a few models capable of Arc, MIG/Flux Core and TIG on the market too.
Air Cooled Transfomer (aka: Buzz Box):
Generally only available as Arc welders, although some old TIG ones exist. Inexpensive and simple but seriously compromised in terms of duty cycle (think ten minutes per hour welding on a summer day, maybe fifteen in the winter). Much harder to strike an arc with than the inverter type, for this reason the few TIG machines around are fiendishly difficult to use, and not worth the efforts IMO.
Oil Cooled Transfomer:
Arc only, shares the advantages and disadvantages of the Buzz Box, but has a *much* better duty cycle, and are even more reliable, at the cost of being *far* heavier.
I have Gas Welding and the biggest Buzz-Box arc welder I can run off a 13A plug and between the two can do about anything I would want just fine, on the occasions I need to.
If I was welding more frequently, I would 100% scrap the buzz box and get an inverter welder which could do both MIG/Flux Core and Arc; my friend who has several modern ESAB machines has fully convinced me on that account.
If you have the cash I would get a inverter machine, and seriously consider MIG over Arc for the extra flexibility.
If cost is your major concern, and it's for occasional use a Buzz Box is well suited (I'd honestly buy second hand, as they're cheap and plentiful). If you see a cheap single phase oil filed arc unit, second hamd jump on it S they're great!
Thanks.If you can stick weld already then I'd just look for a big old oil cooled stick welder. They cost peanuts and there's no bottle rentals or anything. Plus you can use it outside if you're doing gate repairs.
I don't disagree necessarily (nor do my rudimentary MIG skills)... But that is something that can be overcome with practice, book/video learning and patience by someone who is even mildly mechanically minded.Cheap MIGs especially in untrained hands tend to only produce pigeon dung and rats droppings and the gasless ones make things even worse.
Nobody should be doing any structural work unless they have CE 1090 accreditation as it’s written in law now. Should have design calculations completed. This covers lintels for building work as well as structural supports.I got a welder a couple of years ago, but probably went against all the really good advice above. I got a Draper. Gas/gasless MIG welder, but just 100A with a relatively poor duty cycle. I would agree with all the stuff above, there are limitations with a cheap welder.
I use gasless all the time, because I was using the forge one day and a red hot bit of metal fell on the welder line. By the time I managed to pick it up, it melted the gas tube, but everything else was OK, so stuck with gassless. I have found one wire type which works very well with my welder. At first, It was a complete pig of a job to get the weld good, sputter everywhere, but gradually I got used to working with the welder and now I can weld 'OK' with it. I weld up to 5mm steel, but probably only 30mm wide. I scroll 16mm diameter steel for ornaments/plant pot stands, it welds that no problem. I make heavy duty plant hangers. I don't work on structural stuff, so the quality of weld is not critical. The welder has never cut out due to overload. If I get some sputter, I use the sharpened edge of a multifunction tool it's very good for removing sputter. I use a flap wheel to tidy up any rough welds.
If you are into serious welding of big stuff, it wouldn't do the job. Would I get one again. no. I would listen to the type of advice above and look for a good used welder. There are lots of them out there, but it's what I have just now and I can make it work for me, it's OK for what I do just now.
lol, I don't mean buildings or doing it for a profession, that would be a real disaster. I suppose what I mean is a structure which supports a load for my own use at my own property, I just do a self certification and CE mark those myself. lolNobody should be doing any structural work unless they have CE 1090 accreditation as it’s written in law now. Should have design calculations completed. This covers lintels for building work as well as structural supports.