It is a challenge to choose the right welder, right? First, you need to pick what type you will do for your project. Once you pick one, you now have to select the equipment you will use. But because there are so many models being sold, this can be such a daunting task.
You don’t have to always rely on what the sales clerk will tell you when looking for the best flux core welder for the money. Choosing one suitable for your needs, whether you are a beginner or not, can be easy if you let us help you out.
In this article, we will review our top picks and explain why these flux core welders deserve to be part of your workshop.
Are flux core welders any good?
Since the process is mostly automatic, you might be wondering if a flux core welder is any good compared to other popular machines. What you should know is that it is highly reminiscent of MIG and even and stick welding, which are two of the most popular types.
When using this method, better known as FCAW, applying filler is also continuously done via the attached filler wire just like in MIG. However, it has a hollowed-out filler wire that contains flux. And just like stick, no shielding gas is used. Instead, the flux itself does the shielding of the molten pool.
And because of their similarities, both flux core and MIG machines even have interchangeable equipment. In fact, certain models allow you to do both. You only need to make adjustments on the machine to switch from one mode to the other.
However, the same cannot be said about TIG welders since their processes are completely different. While MIG and TIG are often compared to each other, flux core is a lot different from TIG.
If you are still a beginner, you will find that a flux core is good enough for all your basic needs.
Is MIG Better than Flux Core?
Because of their similarities, people often wonder if MIG is better. After all, MIG is a favorite of many because you can produce work of good quality with minimal effort on your part. If MIG is already easy for many craftsmen, flux core arc is even more so. In fact, many consider FCAW to be the easiest method around.
While it is often compared to MIG, its overall result is not as aesthetically pleasing. It produces a slag that you must remove afterwards. Not only that, poor preparation and setup will yield in unsightly porous results, which is a known issue with FCAW. And while it is more beginner-friendly than MIG, cracking and issues with weld penetration are also common. It is also a bit costlier overall than MIG is.
On the other hand, it is a much more straightforward process compared to welding, as you can even fuse metals without needing to clean and prepare the surface first for the weld joint. It also works with thicker metals, unlike MIG that is only suitable for metals that are thin to medium thickness. And since it has the highest filler deposit rate, you work on materials a lot faster. No gas involved means you can even work outdoors with FCAW.
In some aspects, MIG is better than flux core. On the other hand, the latter also has its own advantages over the former. But when it comes to the quality of the work, particularly in terms of creating a clean result, MIG is still better overall.
Best Flux Core Welders
Have you decided to buy your own machine yet? If so, you should get one that offers the best value for your money, no matter what your budget is. And even if you plan to upgrade your equipment in the future, don’t just buy the cheapest one you see. There are inexpensive options around that offer a great experience.
To make your search easier, here are some of our recommendations:
Forney Easy Weld 299 125FC
A simple internet search will show that the Forney Easy Weld 299 125FC is one of the top picks of many craftsmen. Designed for beginners, this entry-level model is so easy to use that the manufacturer claims you can master its use in only thirty minutes. Hobbyists and expert alike enjoy using this for their projects.
Its portable size means you can use it anywhere you want, but do take note that it weighs around 42 lbs. Power users may find it insufficient for their needs because it only has an output of 25 amps, while its input is 120 volts. Still, you can use it to fuse metals ranging from 24 gauge up to 1/4″ inch thick and use 2 and 10-pound spools with it.
Not only is it great for flux core, but you can also use it to learn MIG but without the use of a shielding gas.
|Catered to beginners and DIYers||Not suitable for aluminum, cast iron, and other complicated metals|
|Easy to use, even for angled metals||Heavy for its size|
|Anyone can quickly master its use||Bigger workpieces can be difficult, if not entirely impossible|
|While it is more suitable for fusing metals that are thin or of medium thickness, you can still use it for some thicker metals||Warranty offered depends on the retailer and can range from only six months to five years|
|Plug and play operation||Heavy-duty use is not recommended|
|Not only does it allow you to work quickly, but it also results in contamination-free and clean results that do not require cleanup afterwards||Cannot make fine work|
|Inexpensive and portable|
|Can hold 8-inch wire reels|
Hobart Handler 140
Don’t let its name fool you. While the Hobart Handler 140 may seem to cater to MIG, it is one of those models that can also be used for flux core. In fact, it does a really great job at it that it consistently ranks as one of the best machines around. For its hefty price tag, it should be expected.
Great for both novice and expert craftsmen, this machine allows you to work on a wide variety of materials, including aluminum, in both MIG and flux core. It can fuse metals ranging from 24 gauge to 1/4-inch thick and lets you quickly change wires when switching from one to the other. It is also equipped with voltage control that allows you to choose between five settings, while the selectable speed of wire feeding ranges from 40 to 700 IPM.
This portable option also offers an easy operation straight out of the box and you can run it using your existing household current. Not only that, but it is also known as one of the most durable machines around.
- One of the most powerful machines around, even at par with those made for industrial use
- Can be used for a wide variety of metals
- Known for its durability
- Allows you to easily switch between FCAW and MIG, with the latter allowing you to work with or without any shielding gas
- Equipped with a 5-setting voltage selector
- Comes with protection against overheating and overloading
- Ships with various accessories so you can start working right away
- Amperage output ranges from 25 to 140
- Not meant for heavy-duty or industrial use despite its build quality
- Inaccurate chart
- Quite bulky despite its compact size
Super Deal MIG 130
The Super Deal MIG 130 is one of the most affordable units around. Because of its low price, it is understandable that it is not as feature-laden as its pricier counterparts. Even the build quality is affected, as it is crafted using PVC and not stainless steel. Despite its flaws, it is still sufficient for your basic needs.
This machine allows you to choose between 4 speed and 10 wire feed settings and is equipped with a safety control. It may not be as powerful as other machines but you can still fuse metals up to 1/4 inch. But since it is AC-powered, the resulting work is not that neat. Do note that you can do both FCAW and MIG with it.
- Very affordable
- Capable of both MIG and flux core
- Compact and lightweight
- Setting up is effortless
- Equipped with variable speed settings, including for controlling the speed of wire feeding, and an on/off safety control
- Poor built quality compared to other similar models since it is made of PVC
- Resulting work is not that clean because it is AC-powered
- Reportedly prone to overheating, despite having protection against it
- Not ideal for heavy-duty nor frequent use
- Has only four amperage settings ranging from 50 to 130
- Included flux wire is of poor quality, while the handheld shield is not convenient to use
If light work and some DIY work are all you need to do, the Lotos MIG140 is a great option. This model is often compared to the Hobart Handler 140 because it shares some similarities with it, especially in terms of the input and output power, although its build quality is not as good.
This machine is also equipped with two digital displays that allow you to see the current wire speed and voltage, as well as a 2T/4T switch that lets you shift between semi-automatic and automatic wire feeding. And aside from FCAW, you can also use it for MIG.
- Quite similar to the pricier but top-rated Hobart Handler 140
- Comes with 2T and 4T settings, as well as dual digital displays
- Capable of producing work that is of industrial quality
- Works with different metals, including stainless steel
- Can also be used for MIG
- Allows you to work on most metals with thicknesses ranging from 18 gauge to 3/16 inches
- Ships without a welding chart and flux wire
- Warranty period is only one year
- Output power is limited to 110v, which can be limiting for some users
For users who also prioritize practicality, the Reboot MIG150 is sure to be a hit. Not only is it one of the most reasonably-priced models around, but it is also one of the most energy-efficient because it is an inverter model – DC power is used for an AC output. While it is a bit more expensive than the cheapest models, you end up saving in the long run because of its energy-saving features.
While most of the models can only offer flux core and MIG, this model also allows you to stick weld as well, making it a practical choice for those who want to use different types as well. Not only that, but it can also fuse metals up to 1/3-inch thick. While users are so far quite satisfied with it, inverter technology is still relatively new so long-term use is still up in the air.
- Most energy-efficient model, being an inverter model
- Allows you to do three types of work: FCAW, MIG, and SMAW or stick
- Very portable and lightweight
- Can be used with thicker metals compared to most comparable machines
- Stress test is yet to be done on any inverter-type welder, so its build quality is unknown
- Risky to use because experts have yet to determine how long it can last on average and any hiccups users may expect when it is in use
While there are other good options out on the market, the ones we reviewed are our top picks because they give the best value for money, regardless of your budget.
If you plan to also learn MIG welding, you can opt for a machine that offers a dual-mode like most of the options on our list. That way, you get to save more because you no longer need to buy a separate machine.
Is Flux Core Right For You: MIG vs TIG
Although flux core may be right for some, especially people getting started in the industry, you should know that it has some limitations that means that it will easily not be everything that you need for it to be, and you may soon find yourself asking for more.
MIG and TIG are often the two types that pros will use, depending on the type of work that they are doing, and in fact it is more commonly the case that they use a TIG welder, rather than a MIG one. Does that make the technology right for you as well? Not necessarily, but it could be the case, depending on what your goals are.
We are not going to go around and say that it is the right type for everyone, because it most certainly isn’t, but if your needs are modest, and you aren’t in the process of trying to become a professional craftsman, these cheap machines may just be what you are looking for.
If you have started looking around the internet, you will also quickly find out that these types come with very different capabilities, with some of them barely being able to do the work that a pro would need to do, whereas other machines will cost you thousands of dollars while weighing the same as the average motorcycle does – yes, there are various types that may end up weighing more than 700 lbs.
For anyone who is looking to do more with their machinery than these machines can do, you may easily end up in a situation where you are trying to figure out if MIG or TIG is the way to go.
Let’s start by taking a look at some of the differences. Let’s in fact start by taking a look at some of the different types of material that the two processes can handle. You got that right. Not every single type of process will be able to handle every single type of metal.
If you already know that you will have to be working on a specific type of metal, the first thing that you should be making sure is that the type you are choosing can in fact handle it. The best reason why you shouldn’t get started with MIG is in fact because you will quickly run into its limitations. Without further ado, here are the specific materials for each type:
TIG: Steel, stainless steel, aluminum alloys, chromoly, copper, brass magnesium and other exotic materials.
On the other hand, for MIG, the list looks like this:
MIG: Steel, stainless steel & aluminum alloys
So, while both types will be able to work on aluminum, you are much better off if you decide to branch out to other types, if you started out by teaching yourself TIG from the beginning.
However, there is a way in which you can ensure that you don’t get limited by either of these two processes. While TIG may be able to work on every single material that MIG can, you may initially have a very strong preference between the two processes when you start out, perhaps favoring MIG simply because of how much easier it is to initially learn.
There are multi process options available on the market that are able to do – you probably figured it out already – working with the various types, depending on the settings that you use for it.
If you are looking for an option that can do both flux core as well as a range of other options, we encourage you to check out the Lincoln Electric POWER MIG 210 MP Multi-Process option. Even if it is more expensive than all the other models that we have listed on this page, there is a bunch of reasons why you may wish to choose this machine over other options.
Whether you’re a novice, or you are significantly more experienced, this may be the option for you as it offers MIG, Flux core, DC TIG, DC Stick, meaning that once you have gotten the hang of one process, you can still keep progressing without the need to go out and buy an entirely new piece of equipment.
At a max wire feed speed of 500 ipm as well as the many different options that this machine offers, we definitely believe it’s a good machine to get you started if you are willing to spend the money that it costs. It’s also very portable, weighing only 40 lbs.
While people may be talking about MIG and TIG seemingly interchangeably, that isn’t in fact true, as they are very different processes. They will both use a filler metal in order to melt the various things together, but with TIG, you are holding the filler metal in one hand and the torch in the other hand. With MIG, the filler metal comes out of the torch, which in turn allows for a faster weld as well, although one of a lower quality, and not one that is as nice either.
Besides, one of the main reasons why people choose TIG over MIG is because of the increased control that you have, which makes TIG preferred when you are working with vulnerable pieces of metal that require more control, like aluminum for instance.
No matter the situation you are in, whether you are just getting started, why you may be especially interested in this type of welding, or you are someone looking to take your skills to the next level, we wish you a lot of luck going forward!