Gasless MIG Welding: Pros & Cons, Differences

MIG welding is not a one-size-fits-all process. There are so-called “all around” MIG welders, sure, but there are times when it’s best to use a specific type of welder for specific situations and environments, not to mention a specific skill-set.

MIG welding is not rocket science, but that doesn’t mean you can just wing it and hope you can good results. If you want to do it right, you need to use the proper welding tools and execute the right techniques. 

Speaking of proper MIG welding tools, there are two types of MIG welders, namely Gas MIG Welder (also called “Gas shielded welder”) and Gasless MIG welder (also called “Self-shielded Welder”).

Gas vs. Gasless MIG Welders: What are their differences?

One major difference between the two is that gas MIG welders use an external shielding gas while a gasless MIG welder doesn’t. A shielding gas is used to protect the welding material from contamination and oxidation caused by exposure to the atmosphere. There are many ways for MIG welders to generate a shielding gas, but mostly use a gas cylinder to pull it off.

The gasless MIG welder, on the other hand, uses a self-shielding MIG wire (also called “Innershield wires”), a metallic tube filled with flux core. Once heated, this wire causes the flux to melt, producing a “gas shield” that will then prevent the welding material from being oxidized and contaminated. The melted flux also produces a protective slag that integrates alloys into the weld metal, which produces its mechanical properties.

(Note: It bears noting that gasless MIG welders are not really “gasless.” People have started calling them “gasless” because self-shielding MIG wires don’t need a cylinder of gas. With that said, we’re still going to use the term for the sake of those who prefer to use the term.)

Self-shielding MIG wires have other benefits besides protecting welds from oxidation and contamination. They also generate an intense arc that can be used on steel, specifically those thinner than 1.2 mm. 

Another major difference between gas MIG welders and gasless ones are their polarity settings. “With shielding” gas MIG welding uses a single positive torch feed while gasless MIG welding uses a negative torch feed. However, in cases where the trigger is what drives the relay, polarity won’t matter at all. That said, some MIG welders can operate both with gas or “without gas,” and thus provide users the option to change the polarity of the torch based on the needs of the MIG welding job. Of course, MIG welders that can use both modes are more expensive, and that’s not even counting the upgrade kit that’s always required for “with gas” applications. 

Gasless MIG Welders Considerations

Gasless MIG welding is becoming popular in industrial settings for many good reasons. For one thing, using self-shielded MIG welders means that companies don’t have to rely on shielding gas anymore, helping them save up on costs, not to mention help them do away with storage issues at the jobsite.

Moreover, using gasless MIG welders eliminates the expenses that would have otherwise been spent on tents or wind shields that are typically used to protect welds from the atmosphere.

Companies whose employees are used to stick welding, however, have to conduct the necessary training to help them properly employ the techniques used in gasless MIG welding and attune themselves better to the process. It also bears noting that the guns used for self-shielded  MIG welders are also different from those used in stick welding, and as such require you to weld at different angles and postures. If the techniques aren’t executed properly, slag is likely produced. That’s why it’s important that you constantly check for the presence of spatter and debris in between passes. If you don’t, your wire feeding will be compromised, resulting in poor welds.

When doing gas MIG welding, it’s ideal that you begin with the electrode far away from the weld, and then allowing it to inch closer as the rod melts slowly during the welding process. It’s different with gasless MIG welding, in which you have to maintain the same position throughout the process. In this scenario, the recommended distance between the contact top to the weld is at least a half inch.

Pros and Cons of Gasless MIG Welding

Now that you know their differences (and similarities), you’re probably wondering which MIG welder to use. To help you arrive at an informed decision, let’s go over the pros and cons of each MIG welder type.

PROS

Here are the advantages of using a gasless MIG welder.

It’s more convenient

When picking a welder, it only follows that you pick the one that is most convenient to use. In terms of convenience, the gasless MIG welder has the advantage over the gas MIG welder. Firstly, gasless MIG welders are much more compact and lightweight, making them easy to carry. It doesn’t hurt that you don’t need to clean the welding material prior to welding. 

Moreover, self-shielded flux-cored wire is better suited for welding surfaces that are rusted or painted over. Why? Because the flux used in such welders allow the tool to weld through rust and paint easily. It’s for this reason why gasless MIG welders are becoming the tools of choice in industrial settings. 

It’s great for welding outdoors

You might want to go for the gasless MIG welder if the bulk of your welding jobs will be done outdoors. Why is it better than “with gas” MIG welders? Firstly, gas welders use a shielded gas, which tends to lose gas easily when exposed to windy weather. This causes the bead to become porous, which can compromise the quality of the weld. With self-shielded MIG welders, you can weld to your heart’s content in windy weather and not have to worry about your welding material getting contaminated or oxidized. If you’re a welder who’s always on the move, using a gasless MIG welder is the way to go.

It’s got better arc control

Gasless MIG welders, if paired with voltage sensing wire feeders, can give you increased control of the welding arc, allowing for cleaner, smoother, and more precise welds. Given the proper filling materials, MIG welding that uses self-shielded flux-cored wire can be an “all-position” method.

It’s easier to use

Training with gasless MIG welding is relatively easy. Because you don’t have to rely on high-strength pipes, you don’t have to keep monitoring a wide range of welding parameters. 

Welding is faster

Unlike with stick electrodes used in gas mig welding, gasless welding has much greater deposition efficiency, which means less filler material needed to complete the job. If speed is of the essence (and given that you can maintain the quality), using a gasless MIG welder can help you get the job done in less time.

CONS

There are also some disadvantages to using a gasless MIG welder. If any of these disadvantages are a deal breaker for you, then you’re better off using another type of MIG welder.

Positioning is limited

To do gasless MIG welding right, you are relegated to limited positions. This makes welding overhead or vertically very challenging. While welding at these positions can be done, it takes some getting used to. 

Production of fumes

Gasless MIG welders don’t have flux coating that can cause the welding material to solidify faster. In other words, they don’t have a covering that holds the molten pool, which is important when you’re welding at an overhead or a vertical position. As a result, toxic fumes are more likely to escape, which can compromise your health upon exposure. No surprise there. After all, welding fumes contain Argon, nitrogen, carbon monoxide,carbon dioxide, and hydrogen fluoride. According to OSHA, short-term exposure can result in nausea, dizziness, eye irritation, and kidney damage. Long-term exposure to such fumes can also result in cancer.

Switching to Gasless MIG Welding? Mull on these

Have you decided to switch to self-shielded MIG welding? Great! But not too fast. While switching to gasless MIG welding is often a good choice, there are specific considerations you need to think over and measures you need to take to ensure that the transition goes smoothly. Here they are.

Compliance to welding codes

Before you switch to gasless MIG welding, you need to be aware of the structural welding codes by the D1 committee of the American Welding Society (AWS). More importantly, you need to make sure that you’re complying with those codes.

Furthermore, you need to check if there are additional certifications you need to complete for specific welding tasks. If you already have certifications, it’s important that you get them requalified with the new welding procedures in mind. With that said, it’s ideal that you undergo requalification on a regular basis to ensure that the process is fast and efficient.

Choosing the right equipment

Choosing the right flux core welder or the best MIG welder is critical to gasless MIG welding. Considering that self-shielded FCAW requires a constant-voltage power source, you need to maintain the recommended voltage throughout the welding process. If your equipment isn’t able to maintain a steady voltage, welding mistakes or irregularities (porosity for instance) are to be expected. 

Selecting the correct wire

For self-shielding welding to work, you need to use the correct wire, particularly the self-shielded flux-cored wire. MIG welding has different seismic requirements and requires the appropriate strengths, not to mention that the wire you’re using needs to have the chemical and mechanical properties that can accommodate the structural applications required for the welding job.

Best practices in Gasless MIG Welding

While gasless MIG welding is easier than most welding processes, it has its attendant challenges that need to be addressed. Here are the key practices that will bolster your success in self-shielded flux-cored welding.

Maintain the right travel speed and angle

When performing gasless MIG welding in the vertical position, aim your gun at an angle of 5 to 15 degrees. When welding in a flat or horizontal position, make sure that the drag angle is 15 to 40 degrees. Maintain your speed as slowing down can cause the piece to puddle, which can result in the production of slag.

Maintain correct heat input

You need to maintain proper heat input to ensure that the metals fuse well.To pull this off, use the voltage recommended by the manufacturer relative to the wire diameter. Slag inclusions are likely to occur if you don’t provide enough heat. 

Clean the welding material thoroughly in between passes

By cleaning the surface of the base metal thoroughly between passes, you can remove contaminants that may cause fusion issues. You can remove any slag by using a chipping hammer or a wire brush. 

Maintain the right penetration

Maintain the right penetration by monitoring closely much weld metal is being deposited to the joint within a given time period. You need to ensure that there’s enough space between the weld bead and the weld joint for the weld metal, especially when you’re making root passes and maneuvering through wide openings. 

 If you go too deep, the weld metal will penetrate through the base metal  and hang from the underside of the weld. To prevent excessive penetration, reduce the voltage range to the recommended settings and slow down the wire feeding. If it’s the other way around (lack of penetration), turn up the wire feed speed and increase the voltage range. It’s also a good idea to set up the joint so as to make the groove’s bottom more accessible without losing your hold on the welding wire extension and the arc.

Prevent porosity and wormtracking

Porosity in weld metal is not pretty too look at, and you’d do well to do the proper measures to minimize it. One good way to prevent porosity is to use filler meals that contain deoxidizers. Also, double check that the wire stick-out (the wire’s extension length from the gun’s nozzle) is not 1.¼ inch apart from the contact tip. 

Another common issue with MIG welding is the incidence of wormtracking, which are marks made on the weld bead’s surface due to the fumes released by the wire once the flux has melted off. You can prevent this from happening by maintaining the recommended voltage settings for the wire feed. If you spot signs of wormtracking, the best course of action is to turn down the voltage by increments of 12 volts until the issue is fixed.

Best Engine Driven Welders for the Money – Top Picks & Reviews

A lot of welders nowadays are portable enough to carry anywhere, but they are useless when you need to weld somewhere without any power source. In this kind of location, how can you even weld?

The answer to that is by using an engine driven welder generator.

Instead of relying on a separate power source, this type of welding machine is powered by its own generator, allowing you to weld anywhere. This means you can do your welding projects even in the remotest of places.

If this sounds like your ideal welding machine, you know that checking out the different models available is your first step to buying one. And you probably know that this step is also a time-consuming one.

To help make your research easier, we have gathered our top picks of the best engine driven welders for the money. Read our reviews to see which one meets your requirements.

How Does an Engine Driven Welder Work?

Before you start using one, you first need to know and understand how an engine driven welder works. Think of it as basically a combination of a welder and a generator that is housed in a single machine. This means that the power needed by an engine driven welder is built-in and does not come from any outside source.

A fuel-powered engine, which uses either propane, diesel or gas, and generator are both present in the machine. Once you start up the engine, it allows the generator to produce enough power for you to start welding. You only need to make sure that there is enough fuel for it to work.

That’s how simple the operation of an engine driven welder is.

Advantages of an Engine Driven Welder

Compared to other welders, an engine driven welder gives you the convenience of welding wherever you need to without worrying about finding a stable electrical supply. After all, that’s the main selling point of this type of welding machine.

But, did you know that engine driven welders also have other advantages?

For starters, welding anywhere is not the only thing this machine can offer. Its built-in generator is not only used for supplying enough power to weld but you can also use it to power up your other tools and equipment – just like a standalone generator. You can even use it as your backup generator in case of a power outage.

Its mobility and use as a generator are not the only advantages this type of welder offers. Other noteworthy features of an engine driven welder include the following:

  • While it is typically used outdoors in locations without any power supply present, you can also use it indoors if you don’t have a sufficient or stable power supply available
  • It allows you to not only stick weld but also do other types of welding, depending on the type of welder and accessories connected
  • Because it is fuel-powered, you can easily refill it at any gasoline station when you run out of fuel
  • It is generally much more powerful than the portable ones typically used at home
  • Known to be durable because it is designed for use outdoors and in different weather conditions
  • Despite being larger than portable welders, the smallest ones can still be carried around by hand. The bigger-sized ones can be equipped with a wheel kit to make it mobile
  • Because it generates thousands of watts, you can use it for both light-duty and heavy-duty welding

There are so many other advantages of an engine driven welder aside from the ones above. If you know that you are going to do a lot of welding in different places where the power supply is questionable, you should definitely invest in one.

Buyer’s Guide

Let’s face it: an engine driven welder is expensive. However, it is also one of the best investments any serious welder can make.

We understand that the prospect of shelling out thousands of dollars for welding equipment can make you hesitant to get one, that is why we have come up with a buyer’s guide to help you get an engine driven welder that you will not regret.

When choosing one, you need to focus on the following aspects:

  • Fuel Required – gas is often the fuel of choice for smaller ones because of its lower price and consumption. Propane has no emissions so you can use it in spaces with poor ventilation and can even be stored for longer periods. Diesel, while the most expensive, has the longest run time and is the most fuel-efficient
  • Style or Design – open designs or tube frames are much easier to move around than one with an enclosed casing
  • Power Type – AC power, sufficient for basic welding, is the most common and is found on cheaper models. DC-powered models are more expensive and need additional accessories for it to work, but let you do more types of welding
  • Output Range – while most engine driven welders are powerful enough for heavy-duty work, they also come in different output ranges, from 5,000 to 20,000
  • Application – while they all allow you to do different types of welding, certain models allow you to do more complicated work like arc gouging and pipe welding
  • Weight – the bigger and larger the machine, the more powerful it is
  • Duty Cycle – this determines how long you can use the machine for welding before you need to let it rest

Use this buyer’s guide as your checklist when determining what you want and need in an engine driven welder.

Engine Driven Welders Top Picks

Once you know the features you want, you can now narrow down your search for an engine welder. While looking for a model that has all the features you need is ideal, don’t be surprised not to find one with all the features you need or find one but is beyond your price range.

But if you have trouble finding one or can’t choose among the many available, why not consider any of our top picks?

Miller Bobcat 250

Miller is known to craft reliable machines, which should be expected given their price range, and the Bobcat 250 stands out as one of the best engine driven welders around. This model is renowned for its ability to produce smooth currents, better accuracy than most models, and reliability.

It is equipped with a fuel tank that can hold up to 12 gallons, allowing it to run for as much as 14 hours, and it can generate power of up to 11,000 watts. Not only that, it has a rated output of 25V, welding amp range of 40 to 250 amps, and a duty cycle of 100%. It runs on a 23 HP Kohler or Subaru engine.

Pros:

  • Has a multifunction process that allows you to do different types of welding, including both MIG and TIG
  • Weatherproof, which makes it usable even in extreme weather
  • Suitable even for industrial use
  • Has both AC and DC modes
  • Comes with a standard three-year warranty
  • Noise level is lower compared to most models
  • Has features like an idle lock, fuel readout gauge, and stud covers

Cons:

  • You need to buy welding leads separately since it only ships with basic welding accessories
  • Price falls at the middle range, which is still considered to be quite high by most
  • Has a weight of 501 lbs

Miller Trailblazer 302

For the more advanced users, the Miller Trailblazer 302 may fit their requirements. Designed for industrial use, especially for repairs and construction work, it can generate as much as 13,000 watts without sacrificing fuel-efficiency. It is also known for its stellar arc performance no matter what welding type you use.

A unique feature of this model is the fact that it employs a two-generator system, separating the power supply for welding and for generating power. Also, maintenance won’t be an issue, as it comes with removable service doors.

Pros:

  • Relatively quiet for its class
  • Among the most powerful models around
  • Can be used not just for welding but also for cutting
  • Comes with a remote control for use when TIG welding and to control spool guns and wire feeding
  • Designed for heavy-duty even in extreme conditions
  • Can operate for up to 18 hours

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Noisy despite being marketed as a quiet model
  • Its features may be too much for casual users

Miller Bluestar 185

If portability is a must for you, opt for the Miller Bluestar 185. Its small footprint makes it ideal for those who only need to do stick and TIG welding. It runs on a 13 HP engine, has a 6.25-gallon fuel capacity, and can generate a maximum of 6500 watts. Don’t expect anything fancy because this model is marketed as a basic model of engine driven welders, which explains its cheaper price.

Pros:

  • Can reach up to 12 hours of operation
  • Small but powerful enough for basic welding
  • Features an electric start and auto-idle
  • Cheaper than most engine driven welders
  • More portable compared to others in the same class

Cons:

  • Designed for stick and TIG welding only, but you can also do some basic or minimal MIG welding and plasma cutting
  • Not suitable for complicated welding projects

Lincoln Electric Ranger 225

Another highly-rated option is the Lincoln Electric Ranger 225 that provides DC power by default and can also supply AC power, which is unlike most engine driven welders that offer the opposite. Designed mainly for stick and TIG welding, it comes with a 12-gallon fuel capacity and provides up to 10,500 watts of power.

This welding machine is equipped with an electric start and can run for up to 14 hours. Its maintenance is also easy because of the service doors present. Note that it has a 100% duty cycle, 25V output, and 50 to 225 welding amp range.

Pros:

  • Has a much affordable price
  • Comes with an electric start and auto-idle feature
  • Maintenance is relatively easy because of the service doors present

Cons:

  • Limited to stick and TIG welding, although you can use it for some flux-core and MIG welding
  • Does not have “Chopper” technology that offers smoother welds
  • Requires accessories for AC power mode
  • Only suitable for basic welding, not industrial use

Hobart Champion Elite

Among the many engine driven welders around, the Hobart Champion Elite is one of the easiest to set up. Despite its seemingly simple appearance, it is equipped with a 12-gallon fuel capacity, 23 HP engine and can generate up to 9,500 watts. It also comes with a 100% duty cycle and is known for having high-quality components that ensure its durability.

Pros:

  • Lighter than other models with similar specs
  • Comes with an electric start and 120v and 240v receptacles
  • Comes with a standard three-year warranty
  • Price falls on the mid-range

Cons:

  • Can only do DC-powered welding, which ranges from 40 to 225 DC
  • Ships without any welding leads
  • Despite its smaller frame, it is still quite heavy at 493 lbs

These are our top five engine driven welder picks that we believe will give anyone the best value for their money. While those manufactured by Miller dominate our list, that does not mean that those from other brands should not be considered.

Always prioritize the features that you need, not just the brand, when looking for engine driven welders. After all, you will spend thousands of dollars on one and are going to use it for a long time, so your chosen welder must have all the features you need and more.

The price tag of any engine driven welder is nothing to sneeze at, that is why you must get the one that provides you with the best value for your money.

Best Plasma Cutters for the Money—Top Picks & Reviews

If you want to cut through steel like a hot knife through butter, a plasma cutter is the best tool you can use. Plasma cutters can cut through a wide range of metals, including stainless steel, aluminum, brass, steel, and many others. By burning through metal with plasma, these tools can cut through metal with stunning precision and speed.

Plasma cutters are nothing new, but thanks to recent advances in plasma technology over the last several years, the modern plasma cutter has a lot more to offer than plasma cutters of old, particularly in terms of portability, precision, and ease of use.

There’s no shortage of excellent plasma cutters out in the market. If you don’t know what you’re looking for, you may find it difficult and time-consuming to find the one that best suits your needs.

To help you out, here are our top picks for the best plasma cutters available in the market. We’ve also provided a comprehensive review of each to help you pick the best one out of the lot. 

How to Choose a Plasma Cutter

But before we get there, here’s a rundown of things you must consider before choosing a plasma cutter. 

1. Air compressor—built-in or external?

You can’t create plasma without compressed air. To compress air, a plasma cutter uses either a built-in air compressor or an external tank air compressor. If you value portability, a plasma cutter with a built-in compressor might be best for you. However, if you plan on doing heavy-duty work, a plasma cutter with an external air compressor will suit you better. 

2. Pilot Arc

The pilot arc is an important feature because you need to have a stable and consistent arc through long stretches of cutting. Because of it, you can cut metal even if the torch’s tip isn’t touching it, which means you won’t have to do any cleaning. This can prove helpful when you’re working with rusty materials or painted materials. You’d also want a pilot arc if you’re working with expanded steel.

3. Cut rating

When buying a plasma cutter, you need to consider the thickness of the materials you’re going to cut with it. If you’re cutting thicker materials and your plasma cutter has a poor cut rating, chances are you won’t be able to make quality cuts, much less make a successful cut at all. Or maybe you can, but you’ll have to work harder and spend more time to do it. Before you make a choice, measure the thickest piece you’re going to cut and choose a unit that has sufficient cut rating to pull it off.

The three different cut ratings are:

Quality Cut: The cut rating recommended for cutting thicker metals.

Rated Cut: This is recommended for high quality and precision cuts.

Sever Cut: For cutting very thick materials. These cuts are slower and require more cleanups.

4. Cutting precision

If you’re going to cut metal, you might as well do it with precision. You don’t want to cut something only to make the final product appear sloppy and unrecognizable. If you want cleaner and smoother cuts, you need to have a plasma cutter with excellent cut quality. 

Many factors determine cut quality, including Torch type, Torch alignment, Gas Pressure and Flow, and Arc Voltage, among many others. Make sure to check the specs sheet for them before making a decision.

5. Portability

You want a portable and lightweight plasma if you’re going to bring it with you all the time. Preferably, you’d want something that doesn’t weigh over 50 pounds. But there’s a catch: most lightweight cutters don’t have enough power to perform heavy-duty jobs. That said, having a more portable cutter can come in handy even if you work in industrial settings. It’s always nice to have something more lightweight during those times when you have to perform small or moderately heavy-duty jobs.

The design and build of your plasma cutter also matter as far as portability is concerned. A cutter that’s too bulky and heavy is not only a pain to carry, it also tends to gets in the way. 

6. Torch length

Cutting torches vary in length, and the recommended length depends on the types of projects you’re working on. If you want a torch that can perform common cutting jobs, you’d want something shorter. But if you’re working on jobs where you want to keep a safe distance from the workpiece, a longer torch is always ideal.

7. Input power

Last but not least, you want a plasma cutter with enough input power to get the job done. A typical plasma cutter either uses 110 volts or 220 volts. You also want to pick one that meets the minimum amperage requirements of the electrical outlet you’re planning to use.

What is the best plasma cutter for the money?

Now that you have an idea of what to look for in a plasma cutter, it’s time for you to go over what’s available out there in the market. With so many plasma cutter manufacturers fighting for market share dominance, there are so many good choices for every type of cutter or welder. 

With that said, finding the right plasma cutter depends on your preferences and choices. To help you make an informed decision, here are our top picks for the best plasma cutters for your money, along with a comprehensive review for each.

Hypertherm Powermax45 Plasma System

If you’re looking for a plasma cutter designed for true professionals, the Hypertherm Powermax45 Plasma System delivers on many fronts. This plasma cutter has all the essential features of a good cutter and more. It comes with a dual-angle design that allows you to use the torch’s consumable tips for long stretches, helping you save on energy costs. The torch handle has a natural grip, so much so that it feels like an extension of your hand. The controls are so straightforward and simple even novice cutters will feel like a pro in no time.

Boasting 45 amps of power output, the Powermax is capable of cutting through any metal that’s up to 16mm thick. Coupled with its Hypertherm torch technology, this machine helps you produce deep, precise, and high-quality cuts. It can cut metal 1.5 times faster than normal oxyfuel cutters. By offering an option to switch between two consumables, the Powermax 45 is one of the most versatile plasma cutters within its price range.

This plasma cutter has a lot to offer in terms of durability. Made of top-grade materials, this remarkable machine is meant to be used for heavy-duty projects, even for the long term. If you want to use it in a metal shop or out in the field, the Powermax sure has the hardware for it. 

Last but not least, this unit is easy to set up and transport, which is pleasantly surprising for a unit that packs a lot of power. 

Specs

Weight: 37 pounds

Dimensions: 16.75″ x 6.75″ x 13.7″

Power Input: 200/230 V

Power Output: 20-45 A

Duty Cycle: 50% at 45 Amps

Pros

  • Fast and precise cuts
  • Easy to use
  • Portable and lightweight
  • Ergonomic and long torch
  • Powerful enough to handle most cutting jobs
  • High durability

Cons

  • A bit expensive (although the price is more than justified)
  • Precision cutting takes some getting used to

LOTOS LTP5000D

The LOTOS LTP5000D Plasma Cutter has become almost like a household name in the plasma cutting arena on account of its amazing cutting capability and affordable price. Running at 50 amps, this machine packs a lot of power and is rated to cut ½ inch steel. It also allows for faster and more precise cuts. Moreover, this unit can run on both 110V and 220V (with the help of a pigtail adapter), allowing you to use the cutter almost anywhere.

This machine uses an amazing pilot arc technology, allowing you to make cuts without touching the torch’s tip to the workpiece. This dramatically reduces the production of slag, resulting in cleaner, smoother cuts.

Thanks to its lightweight build and portable design, this plasma cutter from job to job without breaking a sweat or straining your arms. It can easily fit within the trunk of your car and won’t take up a lot of space in a small workshop. 

Specs

Weight: 19.4 pounds

Dimensions: 15″ x 16″ x 12″

Power Input: 110/220 V

Power Output: 10-50 Amps

Duty Cycle: 60% at 50 Amps

Severance Thickness: 3/4″

Pros

  • Amazing cutting ability
  • Affordable price
  • Minimizes slag
  • Powerful
  • Lightweight and portable
  • Inexpensive consumables

Cons

  • Some of the components such as work clamp, knobs, consumables, etc. are made of flimsy material
  • Ground system clamp could be longer

Hypertherm Powermax30 XP Plasma Cutter

For its small frame, the Hypertherm Powermax30 XP packs some serious power. Coupled with its remarkable FineCut feature, this unit is not only capable of cutting thick materials, but it can also produce smooth, detailed, and precise cuts. This same feature contributes to its versatility, so much so that it can cut up to ⅝” of metal. It can also cut a wide variety of metals, including stainless steel, aluminum, mild steel, and more. Moreover, it can cut flawlessly through painted or rusted over steel. 

Those who are still learning how to use a plasma cutter won’t have a hard time with this machine. The unit is easy to step up, the interface is intuitive, and the controls are straightforward and easy.

Specs

Weight: 21.4 pounds

Dimensions: 14″ x 6.6″ x 12″

Power Input: 120/240 V

Power Output: 15-30 Amps

Duty Cycle: 35% at 240V

Pros

  • Powerful even for its affordable price
  • Auto-voltage technology allows the unit to run on both 110V and 220V currents
  • Remarkable cutting ability
  • FineCut feature allows for high precision cutting
  • Ergonomic Duramax LT torch is resistant to heat and impact
  • Can cut up to ⅜” steel
  • Portable and lightweight

Cons

  • Cuts slow when the material is at least ½” thick
  • A bit on the pricey side

Hobart Airforce 12CI

The Hobart Airforce 12CI is a spectacular choice if you prioritize portability above all else. This lightweight, compact machine sports an inverter-based design and comes with a built-in compressor, making it a cinch to take with you anywhere from job to job. 

This unit’s redesigned XT12R torch is so ergonomic, so much so that you can work with it for hours on end without feeling the slight discomfort. 

The Hobart Airforce 12CI may be small, but it packs a lot of power with 12 amps output. While it won’t cut through 1-inch thick metals but it’s more than serviceable enough to handle low-duty and medium-duty jobs.

To top it off, this unit comes with thermal overload protection, ensuring that you’re protected if things get too hot.

Specs

Weight: 27 lbs

Dimensions: 13″ x 7.5″ x 10″

Power Input: 120 V

Power Output: 12 A

Duty Cycle: 35% at 12 Amps

Severance Thickness: 1/4″

Pros

  • Inverter based design
  • Has a built-in air compressor
  • Portable and lightweight
  • Ergonomic torch
  • Comes with thermal load protection

Cons

  • Runs only on 120V
  • Not capable of cutting through thicker metals
  • Slag may build up

Primeweld CT520d

The Primeweld CT520D is a three-in-one welding machine that does everything—well, almost. With numerous cutting and welding features, this machine has almost everything a professional needs.

As a plasma cutter, this machine can cut with stunning proficiency. With 50 amps of current, this cutter has a severance thickness of ¾”. It can cut a wide range of metals such as stainless steel, copper, steel alloy, and more. Moreover, it has an ergonomic handle that allows for a comfortable, easy grip. 

The Primeweld CT520d offers two voltages (110V and 220V), allowing you to use it in most locations with a power source. It’s also easy to switch it up so you can start working on any project without wasting time.

This unit weighs only 36 pounds so it doesn’t take a lot of effort to transport it from one place to another. If you’re a freelancer who frequently has to move from job to job, this plasma cutter is a good companion to have.

Specs

Weight: 35.7 pounds

Size: 23.6″ x 16.8″ x 12.8″

Power Input: 110/220 V

Power Output: 50 Amps

Duty Cycle: 60% at 50 Amps

Severance Thickness: 3/4″

Pros

  • Using a 3-in-1 machine is cheaper than having to buy multiple machines
  • Comes with a 3-year warranty
  • Highly durable and made for tough environments
  • Very portable
  • Switching between modes is a cinch

Cons

  • Poor customer service based on user reviews
  • Could use a pilot arc feature
  • Beginners might take a while to hook it up

Miller Spectrum 625 X-treme

The Miller Spectrum 625 X-treme is perfect for those who perform a lot of light-duty jobs for long periods. Sporting a lightweight and compact design, this unit is easy to lug around from one job to another. 

This plasma cutter has much to offer in the way of functionality and versatility thanks to its wide range of useful features. It packs a respectable amount of power even with its small frame, allowing you to cut different types of steel, whether its stainless steel, aluminum, or mild steel, among many others.

The unit uses Auto-Refire technology to allow users the convenience of automatic cutting. For example, when working with thicker materials, this unit’s arc executes an in and out movement that facilitates your cutting tasks more efficiently.

Specs

Weight: 38.6 pounds

Dimensions: 30.5″ x 11″ x 13.8″

Power Input: 110/115/220 V, 220/230/240 V

Power Output: 40 Amps

Duty Cycle: 20% at 40 Amps

Severance Thickness: 3/4″

Pros

  • Highly versatile
  • Packed with useful features
  • Easy to use
  • Lightweight and compact
  • Powerful for its size

Cons

  • A little pricey
  • Not capable of handling heavy-duty projects

Miller Spectrum 375 X-treme

The Miller Spectrum 375 X-treme is a highly portable plasma cutter that comes with a wide range of features, making it the perfect unit for the hobbyist or the DIY enthusiast homeowner. Operating on either 120 V or 240 V, this plasma cutter is easy to hook up anywhere. It’s highly efficient at cutting thin materials. It’s capable of cutting up to ⅜” at 18 IPM. For thicker materials, you only need to switch to 220 V and you’re off to the races.

This unit also comes with an ergonomic handle, a carrying case, and a high-quality cable so you don’t have to break a bone when you take it with you. Also worth noting is the automatic air regulation feature that allows the unit to provide the amount of torch pressure needed to maximize cutting performance.

Specs

Weight: 19 pounds

Size: 13.25″ x 5.5″ x 9″

Power Input: 110/115/120 V, 220/230/240 V

Power Output: 30 Amps

Duty Cycle: 60% at 15 Amps

Pros

  • One of the most portable, lightweight plasma cutters around
  • Automatic pilot arc
  • Incredibly versatile
  • Includes an inverter
  • Great output (30 amps)
  • Durable build
  • Offers great warranty coverage

Cons

  • A bit expensive
  • External air compressor needs to be purchased separately
  • Might take a beginner to make smooth cuts

Hobart AirForce 40i

If you want a plasma cutter that can cut through a wide range of metals across different thicknesses, you’d do well to give the Hobart 500566 Airforce 40i a whirl. Don’t let the affordable price fool you; This machine has more than enough power to meet your cutting needs, so much so that it can cut through ⅞” steel.

Cutting thick metals is no easy feat, but this unit makes it effortless thanks to its wide array of accessories, such as the amazing XT40R handheld torch, heavy-duty work camp, the Airforce 40i plasma cutting system, and its score of XT consumables. With these at your disposal, you can make precise and smooth cuts without breaking a sweat.

To top it off, this unit weighs a meager 21 pounds and sports an inverter-based design, making it one of the most portable plasma cutters in the market.

Specs

Weight: 21 pounds

Dimensions: 13.25″ x 5.5″ x 9″

Power Input: 220/230/240 V

Amperage: 20 – 40 Z

Duty Cycle: 50% at 40A Amps

Severance Thickness: 7/8″

Pros

  • Great cutting capabilities
  • High-precision cutting with less slag
  • Setting up is easy
  • Lightweight and portable
  • Ergonomic cutting torch
  • Single knob controls allow for easy use

Cons

  • A little pricey

Thermal Dynamics Cutmaster 60i

The Thermal Dynamics Cutmaster 60i is one plasma cutter that lives up to its name. Weighing only 37 pounds, this unit packs a wallop, boasting a power output of 7.6 kW and a duty cycle of 50% at 60 amps. With that amount of power, it’s no surprise that this multi-voltage plasma cutter is capable of cutting up to ⅝” of steel at 19IPM and a sever capability of 38 mm. It’s also one of the most user-friendly plasma cutters in the market courtesy of its bright displays and intuitive controls.

What’s astounding is that for all that power, this unit is of small build and weighs only 37 pounds. Coupled with its ergonomic multiple handles, you won’t break a sweat carrying this unit around with you.

Specs

Weight: 37 pounds

Dimensions: 21.12” x 7.85″ x 1.15″

Power Input: 110/115/220 V, 220/230/240 V

Power Output: 15 kW

Duty Cycle: 60% at 50 Amps/100% at 40 Amps/50% at 60 Amps

Severance Thickness: 1.5”

Pros

  • Superior cutting ability
  • Portable and lightweight
  • Highly versatile
  • Powerful (power output of 15kW)
  • Big, bright display screen

Cons

  • Expensive (although well worth the money if you can afford it)

Honorable Mentions

As already mentioned, there’s a lot of excellent plasma cutters out there. But although we have our favorites, there might be others that you might prefer more. Here are other plasma cutters that you might want to consider buying.

Razorweld Razorcut 45

If you’re on a tight budget and you want a plasma cutter that you can use for home projects, you might want to consider the Razorweld Razorcut 45. Don’t let its cheap price fool you into thinking that it doesn’t cut well. On the contrary, it has good cutting capacity even for its low price. This low-frequency plasma cutter is a worthy companion to have for small scale projects.  

Top Features

  • Inverter-based
  • 20-45 amps
  • Preset air adjustment
  • Portable and lightweight
  • Built-in handle
  • High-temperature plasma stream

Eastwood Versa Cut 60 Plasma Cutter

The Eastwood Versa Cut 60 Plasma Cutter is a good choice if precision is of the essence in most of your projects. With a duty cycle of 60% at 60 amps, this unit is so powerful that it can cut up to ⅞” of metal. The built-in pilot arc system also comes in pretty handy when working with painted or rusty materials as well as expanded metal. The “no-hassle” 3-year warranty is a nice addition that sets it apart from other models a bit.

Top Features

  • Maximum cut of ⅞”
  • High-precision cuts
  • 220V AC input
  • A duty cycle of 60% at 60 amps
  • Comes with a “no-hassle” 3-year warranty

Miller Spectrum 875 Auto-Line Plasma Cutter

The Miller Spectrum 875 Auto-Line is a good choice for those who work on different types of projects, whether they’re for small home jobs or heavy-duty work common in industrial settings.

The machine uses Auto-Line technology, allowing it to connect to a wide range of power sources from 208V to 575V. It also comes with Auto-Refire Technology which lets the user control the pilot arc with minimal effort, which works quite well when cutting different kinds of metal pieces, even on expanded metal.

If you want a versatile plasma cutter that you can use for a wide range of jobs, you can’t go wrong with the Miller Spectrum 875 Auto-Line plasma cutter.

 Top Features

  • Spectrum 875 Auto-Line technology
  • XT60 handheld cutting torch and an entire set of 60A consumables
  • Cutting capacity of ⅞”
  • Rated output of 60 amps
  • Heavy-duty quick connect work clamp (20 feet)
  • Additional consumables

Hobart Airforce 27i Plasma Cutter

The Hobart Airforce 27i is a plasma cutter known for its great mix of features and great functionality. Don’t let the simplistic and lightweight design deceive you. This machine has great cutting ability and can withstand long hours of continuous work. It’s easy to set up, and even easier to use—all you need to do is plug the unit and hook up the air supply. The controls are pretty straightforward you’ll feel like an expert in no time.

Top Features

  • XT30R handheld cutting torch (12 ft.)
  • Power cord with 5-15P (10 ft.)
  • Work cable with clamp (10 ft.)
  • Built-in gas/air regulator and filter
  • Additional consumables (2 tips, electrode, and shield deflector)

Lincoln Electric 20 Plasma Cutter

The Lincoln Electric 20 Plasma Cutter is an excellent tool for the home DIYer and hobbyist. Operating on 115V and with a maximum output of 20 amps, this plasma cutter guarantees excellent results when you’re working on small and light-duty projects. It can cut any ¼” metal with stunning results. Moreover, this cutter is designed for portability so it’s easy to lug around with you anywhere.

Top Features

  • Capable of cutting up to ⅛” of sheet metal
  • Maximum cutting capacity of ¼”
  • Lightweight and compact on account of its inverter design
  • 40-50% duty cycle
  • Capable of cutting expanded metal, aluminum, and stainless steel
  • The cutting torch has 95 ft. reach

Welding Gas: Cylinder Sizes, Settings for MIG & TIG, Tips

Welding gas is an important component of MIG and TIG welding. While you can attempt to MIG weld without it, the quality of the resulting weld is just not as good. And in the case of TIG welding, gasless welding is not at all possible.

Unbeknownst to many, choosing what welding gas to use is not limited to selecting which one is suitable for your chosen workpiece. You also need to consider other aspects, such as the right settings when using for MIG and TIG welding and the cylinder sizes suitable for your workshop.

At a loss about all these? You don’t have to. You just need to keep reading to find out more, as well as learn some tips that can prove handy for all your welding projects.

Types of Welding Gas

When we talk about gases in welding, most people would immediately think of the shielding gas. What they don’t realize is that there are actually different types of welding gases used. There are also gases used to clean the welds formed or protect the materials after welding.

Heating Gas

Some metals or filler rods require preheating before welding to ensure a quality weld or brazing. For this purpose, you need to use heating gas. This type of gas is typically a mix of fuel gas with some oxygen added and when it is lit up, it gets warm enough to heat, but not melt, the materials.

Shielding Gas

To prevent the contamination of the molten pool when MIG or TIG welding, which results in an ugly weld, you need to use a shielding gas. This type of gas is important because it not only affects the appearance of the weld but also the bead shape and penetration, alloy content, fumes produced, and many others.

Shielding gases are often inert gases and can either be pure, which is made up of a single type of gas, or a mix of different gases. The pure gases are argon, carbon dioxide, and helium, while the mixtures used as shielding gases can include different combinations of pure gases or adding oxygen, nitrogen, or hydrogen to them.

Among all the pure gases, argon is the most widely used shielding gas because it is inert and will not cause a reaction to the metals being welded. Because of this, it is suitable for aluminum welding, as well as for other metals that are refractory or reactive. You can use this gas with all types of materials in TIG welding, while its use in MIG welding is limited to nonferrous materials.

Argon also causes a low heat transfer because both its ionization potential and thermal conductivity are low, creating the deep and narrow penetration it is known for. Not only that, but you also get a very stable arc that allows you to have better control over the weld pool. Also, argon aids in the breaking down of any oxides present in the workpiece.

In contrast, helium is known for having high ionization potential and thermal conductivity that results in a deep but wider weld and increased heat. Unfortunately, it also makes starting the arc much more difficult, especially if you do not use the correct settings of your MIG or TIG welder. This gas is not commonly used in MIG welding and is only suitable for nonferrous metals when using it for TIG welding.

Carbon dioxide is normally only used for MIG welding, as well as the highly-similar flux core welding, because it has complex interactions with different metals. With this gas, you get a balanced weld ratio in terms of depth and width due to its wide penetration and high heat. This increased heat is also because of its low thermal conductivity and ionization potential.

Using different shielding gas mixtures is a common practice. In fact, these mixtures even work better with certain metals compared to using pure gases. Found below are the different metals and recommended mixtures of shielding gases to be used when welding:

  • Carbon steel – argon and carbon dioxide, argon and oxygen, argon, carbon dioxide, and oxygen
  • Stainless steel – argon and carbon dioxide, argon, carbon dioxide, and helium (aka tri-mix), nitrogen and hydrogen (only for austenitic stainless steel)
  • Aluminum – argon and helium, tri-mix
  • Light gauge steel – argon and oxygen
  • Nickel – argon and helium
  • Copper – argon and helium

Purging Gas

A common issue is that welders take strides to ensure a neat weld on the surface but neglect the underside of the weld. Because of this, the underside looks different and can even be contaminated because it is unprotected by any shielding gas.

To address all these, doing a back purge is necessary for a clean weld on both the surface and its underside. When back purging, a purging gas that acts like a shielding gas is used for the underside. This process is usually done when welding stainless steel, as well as nickel and titanium alloys.

Carbon dioxide and nitrogen are often used as purging gases, but you can also use other inert gases like helium and argon.

Blanketing Gas

In instances where you need to ensure that your finished weld must be completely flaw-free, a shielding gas may not be enough to prevent contamination. As the weld cools, it can still be stained or damaged by any contaminants present in the atmosphere. Using a blanketing gas, often nitrogen, will protect your workpiece from these contaminants.

Shielding gases are the welding gases used most often, but it is also important to familiarize yourself with the other types you can use for your projects.

Welding Gas Cylinder Sizes

A welding gas is typically not flammable but it still poses some health risks, that is why you need to choose the right cylinder size for your workshop. Not only that, but it will also provide convenience for you because you don’t have to keep getting a new one when you run out of gas while welding.

High-pressure gases, namely oxygen, helium, nitrogen, hydrogen, and carbon dioxide, use cylinders with uniform sizes. A high-pressure gas cylinder, also called a bottle or tank, typically has volumes ranging from 20 to 300 cubic feet. Bottle sizes are indicated either by their volume or represented by letters, such as:

  • R = 20 standard cubic foot or scf
  • V = 40 scf
  • Q = 80 scf
  • D = 125 scf
  • S = 150 scf
  • K = 200 scf
  • T = 300 scf

Note that the welding gas bottle sizes above apply for those encased in steel cylinders. There are also aluminum cylinders available, but they have much more limited sizes.

Low-pressure gases, on the other hand, have more varied sizes.

Gas Tanks for Welding

When it comes to welding, argon is arguably considered as the most important gas. Different welding types use different amounts of argon, as well as other gases, so you need to know which gas tanks to use for your welding project.

The problem lies in the fact that, with the exception of high-pressure gas bottles, many of the gas tanks used in welding come in different sizes depending on the manufacturer. This is purposely done by manufacturers so that they can easily identify which tanks are theirs.

Despite this, they also make gas tanks in sizes that can be considered common to different manufacturers. Argon, for example, has the following common sizes that are represented either by a letter or number:

  • R or 20 = 21 cubic feet
  • RR or 40 = 44 cubic feet
  • Q1 or 60 = 65 cubic feet
  • Q or 80 = 83 cubic feet
  • S or 125 = 125 cubic feet
  • S or 150 = 155 cubic feet
  • K or 250 = 251 cubic feet
  • T or 330 = 335 cubic feet

Note that the S-sized gas tanks have two types available, that is why it is important for you to check the actual volume when purchasing this type of tank. And in most cases, the smallest-sized gas tank allows you to weld continuously for an average of 1 hour to 1 hour and a half.

Gas Settings for MIG and TIG Welding

Aside from choosing which welding gas to use and the right bottle size you need, you also need to determine the right gas settings for MIG and TIG welding.

Using welding gases is not as simple as letting them flow freely as you weld. You need to make sure that just the right amount is being released because this will also affect weld quality. Both MIG and TIG welding have uniform gas settings regardless of the type of shielding gas.

When it comes to MIG welding, the flow rate typically ranges from 25 to 30 cubic foot hours (CFH) and its matching pressure should be between 3 to 7 psi. Most welders consider 20 CFH as an ideal flow rate, since setting it higher increases spattering and also makes the weld porous. Note that bigger nozzle diameters, as well as drafty conditions, will require higher gas flows.

The gas flow rate of TIG welding, on the other hand, is typically lower than that of MIG welding and ranges from 15 to 25 CFH on average. However, it can also go up to 50 CFH if you use larger cup sizes. If your flow rate is between 35 to 50 CFH, the pressure should be between 20 to 30 psi to match it. But if you have a lower flow rate, you also need to lower the psi.

MIG and TIG welding both require the flow rate and pressure to be directly proportional. That is, the higher the flow rate, the higher the required pressure. They only differ in the actual numbers.

Gas Welding Tips

These different gases are extremely helpful when welding, but using them is not as straightforward as some would think. Whether it’s your first time to use gas when welding or you have already tried it but have yet to get satisfactory results, these tips are sure to help you out.

TIG Welding

  • Use a gas lens if you want the flow of shielding gas to be evenly distributed and lessen weld defects caused by contamination
  • If you want a laminar flow, opt for a converging nozzle with the longest length and largest diameter suitable for your welding project
  • To get the best results, you should do a pre-flow and post-flow of the shielding gas
  • Don’t ignore any gas leaks. Not only will it contaminate your work, but you also end up wasting gas and money because of it
  • Back purging is the best way to prevent sugaring or oxidation on the underside of your workpiece
  • For aluminum welding, lessen the gas if you are welding on A/C

MIG Welding

  • When working on sheet metal, opt for a shielding gas with a higher argon content for less spatter
  • Use tri-mix gas consisting of 90% helium, 8% argon, and 2% carbon dioxide when MIG welding 304 and 316L stainless steel
  • Test if your gas flow is appropriate by placing your hand around 3 inches from the nozzle tip and allow the gas to flow. If you feel the gas at this distance, it means you have an adequate gas flow that will prevent a porous weld
  • Refer to manufacturer recommendations in terms of which shielding gas to use with your welder and workpiece. Your shielding gas should also match your welding wire.
  • Ensure that the shielding gas flowing out sufficiently protects the molten pool to reduce spatter

More is not necessarily good in terms of using welding gases. For both MIG and TIG welding, you need to use the right amount of gas for your welding projects. If you use more than what is necessary, it will be easier for your workpiece to be contaminated.

Flux Core Welding: How To, What Is It, Tips

Did you know that there are different types of welding for you to choose from?

Many novice welders are surprised by this fact. They thought that all welding is just the same, not realizing that their differences lie in the small details. And for those who want to learn how to weld, this can be overwhelming.

So if you want to learn, where do you even start? What welding type should you study first?

A lot of welders would say that MIG welding is the easiest to learn and is most suitable for beginners. But there are also others that claim flux core welding is better because the learning curve is a lot easier even when compared to MIG welding.

If you are planning to do your welding outdoors and can’t be bothered with all the necessary prep work in most welding types, then flux core welding is right for you.

Don’t know how to do it? We’ve got you covered!

In this article, we will explain what it is, how to do it, and some important tips to help you master it.

What is Flux Core Welding?

To start with, you first need to know what exactly flux core welding is and how it is different from other welding types, particularly MIG welding.

Also referred to as FCAW, flux core arc welding is one of the types that involve the creation of an electric arc and the use of welding wire. Because this wire is directly attached, it is constantly being fed to the welding gun when in operation.

This welding process starts with the creation of an electric current when the base metal and wire meet while the equipment is in operation. Once they separate, there is a resulting electric arc hot enough to fully melt the wire and partially melt the base metal. This now creates a molten pool of the wire and metals. When this pool cools down, it solidifies and the weld joint is formed.

Flux core welding only requires minimal equipment, namely your chosen flux core welder with the welding gun attached, your workpiece, and the right welding wire. This is generally much simpler than the setup required in other welding machines, specifically the more popular TIG welders and MIG welders.

Flux Core vs MIG: Are They the Same or Is One Better Than the Other?

If you already have some background when it comes to welding, particularly in MIG welding, you may have noticed that flux core welding shares some similarities. After all, they both involve a wire directly fed to the welder.

Its entire process is a lot like MIG welding and that is why they are often confused with each other.

So, are flux core and MIG welding just the same? If not, which one is better?

The answers to those questions depend mainly on one thing: the shielding gas.

Did you notice that this gas was never mentioned when we discussed what flux core welding is? That is because this is where the difference between the two becomes obvious.

MIG welding, also known as metal inert gas welding and gas metal arc welding (GMAW) also involves continuous wire feeding to the welder. However, it requires the use of a shielding gas that will protect the welded area from contamination. This shielding gas is also continuously being released at the same time as the wire.

You might think that having a shielding gas is a lot better, so why bother with flux core welding? While it does not use a separate shielding gas, its alternative serves the same function.

The wire used in flux core welding has a hollow center that is filled up with flux, unlike the solid wire used in MIG welding. As this wire melts, this flux now creates its own version of the shielding gas to protect the metals from contamination while welding.

Essentially, both MIG and flux core welding have components that prevent the contamination of the metals while welding – they just do it differently. MIG welding requires the use of a separate tank for the shielding gas that should be connected to the welder, but flux core welding does not.

This is the main difference between the two. But because of their similarities, some MIG and flux core welders allow you to do both welding types using a single welder.

There are also other noteworthy differences between the two, such as:

  • MIG welding is limited to welding thin metals or those of medium thickness, while flux core welding can work with thicker materials
  • FCAW allows you to weld faster than MIG welding, which means you can do a lot more with it
  • MIG welding creates a neater looking weld and weld beads, while flux core welds can get porous and create “wormholes” on the weld
  • Fumes and spatter are present more in FCAW than in MIG welding
  • The shielding gas used in MIG welding makes it suitable for indoor welding only, while FCAW allows you to weld both indoors and outdoors
  • While welding generally involves preparing the base metals prior to welding, FCAW is more forgiving in that aspect. The wires used in FCAW contains de-oxidizing elements, which makes it capable of welding materials even with rust, oil, and other contaminants present
  • The overall cost ends up cheaper when MIG welding is used because the wire used in FCAW is more expensive than the solid wire in MIG welding
  • MIG welding has deeper penetration, while it is rounder in FCAW and requires you to remove the slag present after welding

If you were to pit flux core versus MIG welding to know which one is better, you will not get a straight answer. Both have their own advantages in specific situations, that is why we cannot judge if one is better than the other overall.

But if weld strength is your primary concern, don’t worry because they are equal in that aspect.

What Is It Used For?

Because of its similarities with MIG welding, people assume that flux core welding can also be used for the same applications. While they can often be used interchangeably, FCAW is more often used for industrial applications.

This welding type is seen as more cost-efficient because it can be done automatically or semi-automatically, welds much faster, has better weld penetration on thicker metals (e.g. nickel-based and iron alloys and structural steel), and does not require a thorough cleaning before you can start welding.

While it involves using a more expensive welding wire, FCAW also allows various industries to cut costs especially if plenty of welding is needed.

Some of its common applications include:

  • Shipbuilding and other shipyard-related applications
  • Underwater welding
  • General repairs
  • Manufacturing
  • Welding of pipelines
  • Indoor and outdoor welding, including in a windy environment
  • Agriculture, such as those involving farming equipment
  • Automobiles
  • Welding metals with dirty surfaces, especially those that can no longer be easily cleaned
  • Anything involving mild steel

While you can use flux core welding for various metals with varying thicknesses, it is recommended that you use it on metals with a minimum thickness of 20 gauge. But you plan to weld on thinner materials, you will get better results through MIG welding.

How to Flux Core Weld

If you consider yourself a novice, learning how to flux core weld is one of the essentials you should know first. In fact, both manufacturers and seasoned welders claim that mastering it will only take you about an hour on average. And once you master it, you can easily move on to learning the other types.

Flux core welding does not involve complicated steps, but what is important is to properly set up your equipment. After that, it is basically a point-and-shoot process. If MIG welding is called the “hot glue gun” of welding, you can also think of flux core welding as such.

The general process of flux core welding semi-automatically involves the following:

  1. Once you set up your equipment, including connecting the appropriate welding wire to it, you may opt to clean first the surfaces of your base metals
  2. Secure the materials using clamps or anything similar
  3. Switch on the welder and adjust it to the recommended settings, depending on your materials. Most welders come with a chart that you can use as your reference.
  4. Squeeze the trigger to start welding. The speed of travel will depend on the material being welded.

But when it comes to automatic flux core welding, the machine will do everything for you. You only need to monitor its operation.

Flux Core Welding Techniques

Flux core welding can be done in all positions, but there are also specific techniques recommended for specific purposes and situations. In particular, there are four techniques available: forehand, backhand, weave bead, and stringer bead.

Forehand Technique

Typically used for welding thin materials, the forehand technique involves moving the electrode over the weld site following the direction of welding, as if you are pushing it away. While it can be used in both horizontal and flat positions, it is more ideal for overhead fillet and vertical up welding positions. Splatter is quite common but you can lessen it by using the right angle of travel.

This technique also gives you a better view of the molten pool created and the joint itself, making it easier for you to weld. If you are using a flux core arc welder that is gas-shielded, this is the technique that you should use.

Backhand Technique

In contrast, the backhand technique is similar to stick welding, which requires moving the electrode along the welding site but in the opposite direction of welding. Also known as the drag technique, this is the most popular FCAW technique and is used if you require a deeper weld penetration.

You can only use this technique in the 4g, horizontal, and flat positions. And if you want to minimize spatter, use this technique in the 4g position. Also, the molten pool is not as visible with this technique since you are doing a pulling motion.

Weave Bead Technique

Traditional welding involves traveling in a straight path but in the weave bead technique, you create the weld beads in a zig-zag direction. This technique is rarely used in FCAW welding but when used, it is done in a vertical position only.

Stringer Bead Technique

For the stringer bead technique, weld beads are made following a straight line. It requires faster weld travel to lessen the heat input on the base metals. Another commonly used FCAW technique, this can be also be done in any position.

Note that these four flux core welding techniques are all easy enough to learn, even for beginners.

Welding Sheet Metal with Flux Core

Sheet metal may be one of the more complicated materials to weld, but it is possible with flux core welding. However, it is complicated to do so because this material is heat-sensitive. You need to have adequate heat control when welding, which is hard to achieve with FCAW.

Still, welding sheet metal via flux core welding is doable and follows its usual procedures. But because it is more suitable for welding thicker materials, you typically need to start with the lowest settings available.

Also, it may be hard to get the right settings in one go, so do a test weld first on scrap sheet metals before you start welding on the actual workpieces.

Once the sheet metal becomes warped or distorted, which can easily happen when using the wrong settings, it will be very difficult and time-consuming to remedy the issue. That is why you need to prevent it from happening in the first place.

Flux Core Welding Aluminum

Aluminum is another material that can be a challenge to work with. This is because it has properties that make it complicated to weld using any type.

Flux core welding involves the use of a welding wire that matches or at least closely resembles the base material to be welded. If you plan to weld aluminum via FCAW, this means you need to use an aluminum welding wire.

But does that even exist? No.

Simply put, you cannot weld aluminum using FCAW. But if you need to do so, you need to use other welding types.

Chicago Electric 240 Volt Inverter Plasma Cutter with Digital Display

Want to buy a plasma cutter? Good call! After all, every welder worth his salt needs one in his welder toolbox. You want a tool that not only cuts through different types of metals such as steel, aluminum, and copper, but you also want one that does so with stunning precision. 

Case in point: the Chicago Electric Welding 240 Volt Inverter Plasma Cutter with Digital Display.

Chicago Electric is a trusted brand that offers state-of-the-art technological tools across a broad range of industries. And they’re up to their old tricks with their Plasma Cutter offering.

Whether you’re a beginner, a hobbyist, or a long-time professional welder, the Chicago Electric Plasma Cutter has a lot to offer in meeting your welding needs.

For starters, this plasma cutter can help you produce quick, clean, and precise welds, among other things. (Of course, given that you know how to use a plasma cutter)

How does this tool pull it off?

Let me count the ways. Here are Chicago Electric Plasma Cutter’s specs and top features.

SPECS

Flow Rate: 4.5 CFM @ 60-80 PSI

Duty Cycle: 40 amps @ 60%

Cutting Capacity: Cut rating: ⅜”; Quality Cut Rating: ½”; Severance Cut Rating: ⅝”

Minimum Cut Depth: 3/8 in. steel @ 10 IPM

Maximum Amperage Output: 15-40 amps

Open Circuit Voltage: 330V

Working pressure: 60-80 psi

Length: 14.5”

Width: 6.25”

Height: 11”

Weight: 22.60 lbs

Top Features

  • Internal air/gas regulator with pressure adjustment
  • Pilot arc striking system
  • Thermal overload protection
  • LCD digital display
  • PT-40 torch with safety guard

Easy air pressure maintenance

First off, this cutting tool is equipped with an internal air regulator with pressure adjustment. This allows the tool to maintain the air pressure at a certain level, while at the same time allowing you to adjust the cutter’s pressure with ease.

Easy setup

Starting up this plasma cutter is so easy thanks to its reliable pilot arc striking system. Just hook up the compressor and the ground cable, adjust the air pressure (preferably between 60 psi and 80 psi) until you achieve the desired frequency, press the single rocker switch to turn the machine on and you’re off to the races.

Effortless arc maintenance

Moreover, a pilot arc can also help you keep your arc steady even if you’re working with hard and thicker materials. Most of the time, that added cutting capacity spells the difference between a good product and a bad one. Of course, how effectively you’re able to control the amperage settings is a big part of that, which brings us to….

Change settings on the fly

Changing the setting is as simple as flipping the toggle switch from “set” to “cutter” and vice versa. With enough practice, changing the current to accommodate specific thicknesses will feel like second nature to you, especially if your plasma cutter has enough amperage to get the job done.

Deep, quick, and precise plasma cutting

In terms of power and capacity, this plasma has a lot going for it. Boasting a max amperage output of 15-40 amps and a duty cycle of 60% at 40 Amps, this tool can cut up to ⅝ inches of steel, whether the material you’re working on is made of steel, aluminum, cast iron, stainless steel, copper, brass, and titanium. With that amount of power and control, it’s easy even for novice welders to produce precise welds.

No more overheating

You can’t compromise your safety when you’re welding. That’s even more the case if you’re using a plasma cutter. Plasma cutters tend to overheat if you’re not careful or if the tool you’re using isn’t on par with industry standards. Beginners tend to become slow when moving the torch or tend to drag the nozzle, causing your equipment or tools to overheat.

Thankfully, Chicago Electric’s plasma cutter has a built-in thermal overload relay that protects your motor from overheating. Combined with the unit’s high-quality LCD, it’s easy to keep tabs with the machine and help you control it better. 

Portability

With its lightweight and compact design, along with its built-in carry handle, this plasma cutter is easy to lug around. You’d love this one If you’re a welder who’s always out and about.

Final Word

If you want a reasonably priced plasma cutter that has all the essentials and works flawlessly, you don’t need to look further than Chicago Electric Plasma Cutter. The pilot arc striking system, thermal overload protection system, and the LCD digital display are great additions that can only improve your welding experience. 

Best Welding Helmets 2019 – Top Picks & Reviews

Safety is your number one priority when performing welding projects, and you need a reliable, durable welding helmet for that. Chances are you’re already asking how to choose a welding helmet. More to the point: “What makes a good helmet?”

That’s a good question to ask. But if you want to maximize the many benefits of wearing a welding helmet, you should be asking yourself this question instead: “Which welding helmet is the best for me?”

To find the welding helmet that best suits your needs, some deliberation is required. Remember, safety is the last thing you want to compromise when doing welding work. Wearing a faulty welding helmet while welding comes with numerous potential hazards, including temporary or permanent blindness, neck strain, welding mistakes, fatigue, and more.

Why Should You Use a Welding Helmet?

The quick answer couldn’t be simpler: to protect yourself from UV rays, sparks, and bright light while using a welding machine or torch.

“Protect yourself at all times,” as a boxing referee would put it.

Chances are you’ve already seen a welder at work. Seeing the sparks alone should be telling enough why a welding helmet is critical to safe welding. The light from a torch is bright enough to burn the cornea, which could result in temporary or even permanent blindness. Moreover, wearing a safety helmet protects your face and body from flying sparks, which can lead to potential burns.

A welding helmet is also used for utility purposes.  For one, it comes with auto-darkening properties that allow your eyes to adjust to sudden changes in brightness that are typical in every welding job. If you’re doing higher AMP welding, you need a welding helmet with variable shades to help your eyes adjust to frequent changes in brightness. However, if you’re welding in steadier amperages, a helmet with a fixed shade will serve you better.

You might be wondering: How does a welding helmet do all that? 

The components of a welding helmet include:

  • Helmet shell
  • Filter lens (reduces the amount of light that’s reaching your eyes).
  • Outer cover plate 
  • Clear retainer lens
  • Gasket

Types of Welding Helmets

To determine which welding helmet is best for you, you need to establish first what you’ll be using it for. There are many types of welding helmets to choose from, and if you choose the wrong type, it will not do you much good even if the helmet you purchased isn’t a bad product.

And with that, let’s go over the different types of welding helmets one by one.

Solar-powered welding helmets

Are solar-powered welding helmets any good? Well, that depends on your personal preferences and the types of welding projects you’re working on. 

So, what makes solar-powered welding helmets different from other types of welding helmets? 

The first reason is obvious: it uses the light of the sun as its main power source. These helmets do so via photovoltaic cells placed on top of them. That said, these helmets also come with batteries to serve as an extra power source once the power sourced from the sunlight has ran out. It bears noting that these batteries can store energy through solar means as well. 

Another advantage of using a solar-powered welding helmet is that it cuts down on energy costs, saving you a lot of money. Solar-powered welding helmets also have automatic features. Some turn on automatically as soon as an arc is detected, protecting your eyes from potential hazards. Because solar-powered welding helmets are mostly automatic, most of them have smaller controls, making them lighter than traditional welding helmets. 

Last but not least, using solar-powered welding helmets are effective for all types of welding projects, whether you’re working indoors or outdoors. 

Auto Darkening Welding Helmet

Traditional welding helmets have a fixed shade. When you put one on, your vision will be dimmer than usual throughout the welding process. While this helps in protecting your eyes, flipping your helmet up every time to see what you’re doing “in a better light” can get annoying, not to mention that it’s a waste of time.

To do away with the endless helmet flipping, you can use an auto-darkening welding helmet instead. When an arc is struck, these helmets darken automatically to protect your eyes from light emissions.  When the arc is down, your helmet automatically lightens up, allowing you to see better.

Auto-darkening welding helmets can pull this off using auto-darkening LCD technology. By wearing one, you can adjust and position your equipment and materials while keeping the helmet down throughout the entire welding process. This helps with productivity and accuracy, allowing for a more efficient welding process.

When picking an auto-darkening welding helmet, you must pick one that meets ANSIZ87.1 and CSA Z94.3 safety standards. You don’t want to strike an arc expecting the auto-darkening lens to adjust accordingly and then failing. You might also want to buy one with a lime green color spectrum to make your helmet more UV- (Ultraviolet) and IR-(Infrared) resistant.

Welding Helmet Reviews: Top Picks from the Best Brands

If you want to pick the best welding helmet off the lot, it’s always recommended that you go to the best brands. The welding market is fierce, with many welding equipments and accessory manufacturers vying for market share dominance over the last decade. 

Of course, that can only mean good news for us, whether you’re a beginner or a long-time welder.

There are many good selections of welding metals out there, but we understand how overwhelming it can be to pick one out of the lot. To help you out, we listed our top picks and wrote a review for each. Go over them and you’re bound to find the best welding helmet for you, regardless of your budget.

Miller Black OPS Digital Infinity Auto-Darkening Welding Helmet

If you want an auto-darkening welding helmet, you can’t go wrong with the Miller brand. A Miller welding helmet like Digital Infinity Black Ops, for instance, is equipped with clear light lens technology to make it easier for you to see the position of an arc no matter how dark (or bright) your surroundings are. Coupled with a 13.4-inches wide viewing area,Black OPS has much to offer in the way of visibility, especially when you have to work with awkward angles.

This welding helmet is packed to brimming with useful features. First and foremost is the amazing Info track technology, which allows you to track time, set different timer functions, and adjust arc time, among many others. 

Despite its attractive and stylish design, the Digital Infinity is comfortable to wear, while putting a premium on functionality at the same time with its full range of support and adjustability features.

Also coming in handy is the X-Mode feature that allows the helmet to automatically sense if an arc is present, thus adjusting the darkness of the filters without any effort on your part—and even if the sensors are deactivated.

To top it off, this “hood” has intuitive controls that let you adjust the helmet’s settings on the fly and when it’s necessary. Whether you’re using TIG, MIG, or STICK, the Miller Digital Infinity provides you with everything you need to make that perfect weld.

Pros

  • Big viewing field
  • Info track technology for better visibility
  • Superior comfort
  • Automatically turns on and off
  • 4 modes (including X-Mode)
  • Intuitive controls

Cons

  • Not cheap
  • A little heavy

Jackson Safety 46120 True Sight II Welding Helmet

Visibility is critical to great welding. And when it comes to providing superior visual clarity, the True Sight II by Jackson Safety is simply one of the best. For starters, this helmet’s digital lens offers multiple adjustment settings, ensuring that you can maintain optimal clarity even under variable conditions. Better yet, this welding helmet boasts a massive square viewing area, giving you full visibility even when you’re working with odd angles. 

One drawback with the True Sight II is that it’s made of thin material, making it susceptible to impact damage. It could be a non-issue, as long as you take care not to drop it or don’t use it in conditions or places that would expose the helmet to heavy-duty damage. 

Pros

  • Stunning visual clarity
  • Multiple lens settings
  • Big viewing area
  • Auto-dimming hood offers variable shade settings
  • Automatically adjusts sensitivity and delay settings

Cons

  • Made of thin material
  • The narrow build takes some getting used to

Lincoln Electric VIKING 3350

The VIKING 3350 by Lincoln Electric is equipped with 4C Lens Technology to give the welding experience not just much-improved visual clarity but also enriched colors. You’ll notice the difference the moment you put it on! 

This one also comes with a solar battery—so no need to worry about your helmet “dying” on you while you work. As long as you’re working in a location with good access to sunlight, you’re good. 

The Electric VIKING 3350 is equally effective in variable conditions thanks to its 2A TIG amp rating. Does your welding project require you to switch modes often? This helmet’s grind mode lets you do that in seconds.

This helmet has a lightweight design that puts a premium on comfort. The weight distribution is such that it prevents neck strains, and it comes with easy-to-reach controls and knobs that allow you to make adjustments with minimal effort.

Pros

  • Lets you see more colors
  • Superior comfort
  • Provides stunning visual clarity
  • Designed for easy adjustment
  • Quick responses to different lighting and arc conditions
  • Can be used in 

Cons

  • Padding at the back can be uncomfortable for some
  • Feels a bit awkward when overhead welding is involved

ESAB Sentinel A50

If you want a welding helmet that delivers in terms of functionality and comfort, you can’t go wrong with ESAB’s new offering: the Sentinel A50.

This welding helmet has a lot to offer when it comes to enhancing visibility. It’s equipped with True Color lenses to provide clarity of vision while protecting your eyes from severe brightness. The view screen is so wide you won’t feel like you’re wearing any helmet at all.  Also, the 4 grinding shade selector is within easy reach, allowing for easy shade adjustment.

The ESAB Sentinel A50 only weighs 1.4 lbs, and coupled with its ergonomic “Halo” design, neck strains and calluses will be a thing of the past. Make no mistake—you’ll be hard-pressed to find another welding helmet that is as comfortable to wear as this one.

Pros

  • Wide-sized lens
  • Superior comfort
  • Full-color LED screen with touch screen functionality
  • Responsive 4 sensors
  • Grinding shade selector for easy adjustments

Cons

  • A bit pricey than most welding helmets (although justified)

3M SPEEDGLAS 9100

The 3M Speedglas 9100 is the welding helmet of choice by most professionals and for many good reasons. If you sit a professional welder down and ask them which qualities they want in a welding helmet, this latest offering by SPEEDGLAS ticks all the right boxes. 

First and foremost, the helmet’s 9100XX welding lens is the largest in the Speedglas catalog. It doesn’t hurt that the visual quality is just as impressive. Its Auto-Darkening filters come with 3 arc sensors, allowing for quicker transitions even with variable lighting conditions. Moreover, this helmet’s equipped with 3-channel exhaust vents that allow exhaled air to escape, preventing the buildup of heat, fogginess, and humidity as you work.

Is the Speedglass 9100 safe? You bet! Thanks to the helmet’s UV/IR-resistant face and eye protection, you don’t need to worry about sparks, heat, and spatter compromising your safety.

Pros

  • 3 arc sensors offer fast transitions
  • Minimal chance of overheating and fogginess
  • Massive view area
  • Superior comfort
  • Very safe

Cons

  • A bit expensive
  • A little heavier than most welding helmets

Kobalt Auto Darkening Variable Shade Hydrographic Welding Helmet

The Kobalt Auto Darkening Variable Shade welding helmet has a lot to offer for novice and professional welders alike. It has a large viewing range, allowing you to perform precise welds even when working with awkward angles. The Auto Darkening lens is super reliable (with a response time of 1/20,000 of a second!) even with erratic lighting conditions. With the filters always keeping the brightness of the arc at bay, you can work without any blind spots compromising your vision. This helmet has a lightweight construction for easy transport as well.

If you want an affordable helmet that has all the essentials, you can’t go wrong with the Kobalt Auto Darkening Variable Shade Hydrographic welding helmet.

Pros

  • Viewing range is huge
  • Auto-darkening lens respond fast
  • Lightweight build
  • Affordable
  • Easy to use

Cons

  • Lens replacements aren’t readily available all the time

Best Flux Core Welders For the Money – Top Picks & Reviews

It is a challenge to choose the right welder, right? First, you need to pick what type of welding you will do for your project. Once you pick one, you now have to select the welder 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 welder for the money. Choosing a flux core welder suitable for your needs, whether you are a beginner welder 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.

Is a Flux Core Welder Any Good?

Since the process is mostly automatic, you might be wondering if a flux core welder is any good compared to other popular welding machines. What you should know is that flux core welding is highly reminiscent of MIG welding and even and stick welding, which are two of the most popular welding types.

In flux core welding, better known as FCAW, applying filler is also continuously done via the attached filler wire just like in MIG welding. However, it has a hollowed-out filler wire that contains flux. And just like stick welding, no shielding gas is used. Instead, the flux itself does the shielding of the molten weld pool.

And because of their similarities, both flux core and MIG welders even have interchangeable equipment. In fact, certain models of welders 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 welding processes are completely different. While MIG and TIG welding are often compared to each other, flux core welding is a lot different from TIG welding.

If you are still a beginner, you will find that a flux core welder is good enough for all your basic welding needs.

Is MIG Welding Better than Flux Core?

Because of their similarities, people often wonder if MIG welding is better than flux core welding. After all, MIG welding is a favorite of many because you can produce welds of good quality with minimal effort on your part. If MIG welding is already easy for many welders, flux core arc welding is even more so. In fact, many consider FCAW to be the easiest welding method around.

While it is often compared to MIG welding, its overall result is not as aesthetically pleasing. Flux core welding produces a slag that you must remove after welding. Not only that, poor preparation and setup will yield in unsightly porous welds, which is a known issue with FCAW. And while it is more beginner-friendly than MIG welding, cracking and issues with weld penetration are also common. Flux core welding is also a bit costlier overall than MIG welding.

On the other hand, flux core welding is a much more straightforward process compared to welding, as you can even weld metals without needing to clean and prepare the surface first for the weld joint. It also works with thicker metals, unlike MIG welding that is only suitable for metals that are thin to medium thickness. And since it has the highest filler deposit rate, you weld materials a lot faster. No gas involved means you can even weld outdoors with FCAW.

In some aspects, MIG welding is better than flux core welding. On the other hand, the latter also has its own advantages over the former. But when it comes to the quality of the weld, particularly in terms of creating a clean weld, MIG welding is still better overall than flux core welding.

Best Flux Core Welder

Have you decided to buy your own flux core welder? 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 welding experience.

To make your search easier, here are some of our recommendations:

Forney Easy Weld 299 125FC Flux Core Welder

A simple internet search will show that the Forney Easy Weld 299 125FC Flux Core Welder is one of the top picks of many welders. 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 welders alike enjoy using this for their welding 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 weld 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 welding, but you can also use it to learn MIG welding but without the use of a shielding gas.

Pros:

  • Catered to beginners and DIYers
  • Easy to use, even for angled metals
  • Anyone can quickly master its use
  • While it is more suitable for welding metals that are thin or of medium thickness, you can still weld some thicker metals with it
  • Plug and play operation
  • Not only does it allow you to weld quickly, but it also results in contamination-free and clean welds that do not require cleanup after welding
  • Inexpensive and portable
  • Can hold 8-inch wire reels

Cons:

  • Not suitable for welding aluminum, cast iron, and other complicated metals
  • Heavy for its size
  • Welding bigger workpieces can be difficult, if not entirely impossible
  • Warranty offered depends on the retailer and can range from only six months to five years
  • Heavy-duty use is not recommended
  • Cannot make fine welds

Hobart Handler 140 MIG Welder

Don’t let its name fool you. While the Hobart Handler 140 MIG Welder may seem to cater to MIG welding, it is one of those models that can also be used for flux core welding. In fact, it does a really great job at it that it consistently ranks as one of the best flux core welders around. For its hefty price tag, it should be expected.

Great for both novice and expert welders, this welder allows you to work on a wide variety of materials, including aluminum, in both MIG and flux core welding. It can weld metals ranging from 24 gauge to 1/4-inch thick and lets you quickly change welding wires when switching from flux core to MIG welding, and vice versa. 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 welder 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 flux core and MIG welders around.

Pros:

  • One of the most powerful welders 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 welding, with the latter allowing you to weld 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 welding right away
  • Amperage output ranges from 25 to 140

Cons:

  • Not meant for heavy-duty or industrial use despite its build quality
  • Expensive
  • Inaccurate welding chart
  • Quite bulky despite its compact size

Super Deal MIG 130 Flux Core Welder

The Super Deal MIG 130 Flux Core Welder 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 welding requirements.

This welder 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 welders but you can still weld metals up to 1/4 inch. But since it is AC-powered, the resulting weld is not that neat. Do note that you can do both FCAW and MIG welding with it.

Pros:

  • Very affordable
  • Capable of both MIG and flux core welding
  • 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

Cons:

  • Poor built quality compared to other similar welders since it is made of PVC
  • Resulting weld 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

Lotos MIG140 Flux Core Welder

If light welding and some DIY work are all you need to do, the Lotos MIG140 Flux Core Welder 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 welder 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 welding.

Pros:

  • 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 welds that are of industrial quality
  • Works with different metals, including stainless steel
  • Can also be used for MIG welding
  • Allows you to weld most metals with thicknesses ranging from 18 gauge to 3/16 inches

Cons:

  • 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

Reboot MIG150 Flux Core Welder

For users who also prioritize practicality, the Reboot MIG150 Flux Core Welder 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 welding, this model also allows you to stick weld, making it a practical choice for those who want to use different welding types as well. Not only that, but it can also weld metals up to 1/3-inch thick. While users are so far quite satisfied with it, inverter technology in welding is still relatively new so long-term use is still up in the air.

Pros:

  • Most energy-efficient model, being an inverter model
  • Allows you to do three types of welding: FCAW, MIG, and SMAW or stick welding
  • Very portable and lightweight
  • Can be used to weld thicker metals compared to most flux core welders

Cons:

  • 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 flux core welders 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 welder that offers a dual-mode like most of the flux core welders on our list. That way, you get to save more because you no longer need to buy a separate MIG welder.

Best Mini Metal Lathes for the Money – Top Picks & Reviews

If you are working with metals not just in construction but also for other metalworking activities, then you know that a metal lathe should be part of your arsenal. But for some with a limited space in their workshop, they think that getting one is out of the question.

But this doesn’t have to be the case – you can simply opt for the best mini metal lathe for the money. While it may be more compact in size, it doesn’t mean that it will not meet your needs. In fact, even the more experienced metalworkers have them.

Are you looking to buy one? You’re in the right place! We can also help you if you’re looking to buy a plasma cutter or the consumables for it.

Here we review our top picks for mini metal lathes that we believe offer the best value for your money.

What to Look for in a Metal Lathe?

It is easy to be overwhelmed when looking for a metal lathe because there are just so many options out on the market. That is also why the buyer’s remorse is quite common in this case. People would immediately go for what is either cheap or high-end models without thinking about if it meets their needs. And when they start using it for their projects, they realize that they bought the wrong one.

You don’t have to be one of them. To avoid this situation, you need to know the essential features or characteristics that you need in a metal lathe and choose the model that meets them. They may all look the same to you but they also have unique features that you may or may not find useful.

Before purchasing a metal lathe, take note of the following features and options available:

  • Size – metal lathes come in mini or full sizes. Mini lathes are suitable if you are only working on small projects, but you will need a full size one if you need to work on larger projects.
  • Weight – in a lathe, weight matters. It is a matter of preference whether you prioritize portability or ease of use because the heavier the lathe, the better it can handle vibrations. And if you are not aware, vibrations can affect its operations, especially in terms of accuracy.
  • Power feed – different metal lathes have different power feed options available and you need to choose one that offers convenience for you when in use.
  • Measurements – the center and the swing are what you need to take note of. The bigger the swing measurement, the more you can do with your lathe. Also, longer distances between centers allow you to work with longer workpieces.
  • Bed – metal lathes traditionally have flat beds made of cast iron, but there are also models equipped with beds in the form of metal tubes or bars. It is also just a matter of preference but you need to make sure that no flexing occurs when the tool rest and tailstock are in place.
  • Headstock – considered as the most essential part of any lathe, you need a headstock that can effortlessly handle your turning projects. A headstock made of cast iron is the most ideal because it is completely solid, while fabricated headstocks usually cannot handle larger workpieces. Also, note that a pivoting headstock offers more flexibility as you work.
  • Gearbox – this can either be manual or automatic. Manually changing the gears of your lathe offers you better control and better speed accuracy, while those that automatically do it for you offer convenience but at the expense of more limited speed changes.
  • Spindle – opt for a spindle that has a standard thread so that you can use it with different accessories. A standard spindle is also ideal if you plan on using your metal lathe for a long time because upgrading means you only need to buy new accessories and not completely replace your unit.

There are also other considerations that you need to keep in mind, but what we have listed here are the most important features or characteristics you need to look for in a metal lathe.

What Do You Use a Metal Lathe For?

Contrary to popular belief, a metal lathe is not only used for working on metals. In fact, you can even do a bit of woodworking with it, although not as intensive as compared to using a wood lathe, and even use it for plastics. That is how versatile a metal lathe.

But, did you know that there are different uses for a metal lathe? If not, don’t worry because you are not alone. And since people are not familiar with its uses, they fail to maximize the use of their lathes.

To address this, we have come up with the following list of the different uses of metal lathes that you may or may not be aware of:

  • Metal turning to craft even small objects like chess pieces, bowls, cups, etc.
  • Filing and polishing round parts
  • Create round or partially rounded objects or parts
  • Milling
  • Cut off or trim materials, including both male and female threads
  • Key-way cutting
  • Align pieces before they can be repaired
  • Knurling
  • Drilling and boring holes
  • Gear cutting
  • Beveling, especially on edges
  • Chamfering
  • Tapering or taper turning
  • Facing rough materials
  • Parting
  • Powering up motorless equipment, such as a hydraulic pump
  • Grooving

The versatility of a metal lathes makes it such a practical tool in any workshop, especially once you master how to use one. And with the right metal lathe, you can quickly do just that.

Best Mini Metal Lathes

Now that you are aware of its various uses and the features or characteristics that you require, it is now time to choose the mini metal lathe that gives you the best value for your money. And if you don’t know where to start your hunt for one, look no further because we have rounded up the highly rated and popular models that you should consider.

Grizzly G8688

Consistently top-rated, the Grizzly G8688 is renowned for its power despite being a benchtop metal lathe. It features a 3/4 HP motor that offers speeds up to 2500 RPM and with variable speed settings available.

This lathe also comes with a 7-inch swing and 12-inch distance between its centers, making it ideal for use with small to medium workpieces. Despite its small frame, it can easily handle different thread ranges and comes with a spindle bore measuring 20mm and a four-way tool post. Because the Grizzly G8688 has a single-phase power system, you can simply plug it into your standard electric outlet and immediately use it.

Pros:

  • Durable despite its low price
  • Relatively easy to use for both beginners and experienced users
  • Thread present has a wide range
  • Considered as among the most powerful and versatile

Cons:

  • Installed tool post may be a hit-or-miss for users
  • Insufficient for advanced metalworking
  • Familiarity is needed before you can smoothly use it

Central Machinery Precision Mini Lathe

Another popular choice is the Central Machinery Precision Mini Lathe, and for good reasons. At the forefront are its precision and ease-of-use, which is important in any lathe. It also has a user-friendly design that makes its operation uncomplicated for most users.

It is often compared to the Grizzly model we reviewed earlier because it is also equipped with a 3/4 HP motor that offers variable speeds that can reach 2500 RPM when operating at high speed. At low speed, it can run from 0 to 1100 RPM. This mini metal lathe is also equipped with other notable features, like a control knob for setting the variable speed, an automatic feed, and a chuck guard.

Pros:

  • Inexpensive but has great quality
  • Features a chuck guard, which is not common in its price range
  • Has an automatic feeding system
  • Relatively easy to use even for beginners

Cons:

  • Inconsistent operation
  • Gears are made of plastic
  • Finding spare parts can be a challenge

Erie Tools Benchtop Mini Metal Lathe

The Erie Tools Benchtop Mini Metal Lathe is one of the most highly-rated mini metal lathes around because of its reliability at a relatively low price. This model is not just efficient at metalworking but it can also be used on wood and plastic with no difficulty, even for beginners. What also makes it one of the crowd-favorites is that it already comes with a five-piece cutter kit right out of the box.

The straightforward design of this model makes its operation uncomplicated for everyone without compromising its precision and flexibility, unlike other metal lathes of its class. Aside from that, it is also equipped with an emergency stop switch, power indicator, digital speed readout, variable speed knob control, chuck guard, and an automatic feed.

Pros:

  • Operation is easy for anyone
  • Has a chuck guard
  • Straightforward design makes it suitable for all kinds of users
  • Can be used on metal, wood, and plastic
  • Among the most durable in its price range

Cons:

  • Has plastic components
  • Not ideal for larger workpieces

Shopfox M1015

For those who need the most compact but fully functional mini metal lathe, the Shopfox M1015 is right for you. Its size already falls into the micro metal lathe territory, that is why it is not as powerful as the other models in our list. But, it still gets the job done.

Because of its size, it is only suitable for small workpieces but you can easily transport and use it anywhere you want. The 1/5 HP motor offers variable speeds ranging from 100 to 2000 RPMs, which is almost at par with its bigger counterparts. Plus, it has an easy control mode and a chuck guard to ensure safe operation.

Pros:

  • Very portable
  • Has various safety features
  • Equipped with both manual and automatic feeds
  • Ideal for beginners
  • Ships with various accessories that help you save money

Cons:

  • Can only be used on small projects
  • Not-so-seamless operation
  • Parts are not that durable but they can easily be replaced

Mophorn Small Metal Lathe

While the Mophorn Small Metal Lathe is known as the best mini metal lathe for beginners, experienced users also find it a joy to use. Not only is it equipped with a digital display but it also has a motor that has variable speeds ranging from 50 to 2500 RPMs, which is enough for most users. In fact, you get more than what you pay for because it is one of the most budget-friendly models around.

One of its standout features is the chuck with three jaws because its size is more than what you would expect for such a compact unit. The components of its gear system are also welded, which means it is quite durable even for heavy-duty use.

Pros:

  • One of the cheapest models around
  • Known to be hard-wearing despite its low price
  • Can be easily used even by beginners
  • Components of the gear are welded

Cons:

  • Users have complained about the quality of the motor, even if it is replaceable
  • Versatility is not at par with others
  • No tool bits included

Always consider your budget when choosing a metal lathe. Even if you intend to buy one for long time use, like a Monarch, you don’t have to buy the most expensive one loaded with the most features; you must be practical. Choose the one with all the features you need and will not hurt your budget too much.

Welding Stainless Steel: Can You, How To, MIG, TIG

Do you believe that you can weld any material on earth?

Impossible, right?

You know that welding is only done on metals and even plastics. But what you probably don’t know is that this is easier said than done. Welding may seem all the same to you but it actually has different types, with each type more suitable for specific materials than others.

This is also the case when it comes to welding metals. Contrary to popular belief, you cannot simply weld any metal using any type you want. Each metal has unique properties that allow it to either be easy or difficult to weld.

Among the many metals around, stainless steel is one of the most notorious materials to weld. In fact, many don’t even know if this is possible. But can you actually weld stainless steel? And if so, how do you do it?

All those questions will be answered if you continue reading. Not only that, but you will also discover if the most popular welding types around, namely MIG and TIG, are suitable for it.

Can You Weld Stainless Steel?

Yes, you can weld stainless steel.

In fact, doing so is not really that different compared to welding other metals. But admittedly, its unique characteristics make it a little complicated to do so. This is because stainless steel has certain requirements when it comes to heating and cooling that other metals do not need. Not only that, the filler material must always be appropriate to the type of stainless steel being welded.

And because there are also different types of stainless steel, you need to weld them differently. Each stainless steel type has characteristics that you need to take note of if you want a quality weld.

Welding stainless steel is doable but it is not as straightforward as welding other metals.

Is it Difficult to Weld Stainless Steel?

Are you now wondering how difficult it is to weld stainless steel?

For most beginners, it can be a challenge especially because of its heat-retention properties. If too much welding heat is applied, this metal had the tendency to warp or become distorted as it cools down. To avoid this, controlling the heat is important. And if you have yet to master heat control when welding, don’t be surprised to see warping on your workpiece.

Stainless steel is renowned for its finish, which can be a nightmare for those who want a flawless finish when welding. This material gets scratches easily and any scratch or physical flaw present will be immediately visible. So if you want a smooth finish, you need to observe proper welding practices at all times, from preparation to finishing.

Not only that, stainless steel is more difficult to weld than other metals because of its higher electrical resistance and heat expansion and lower heat conductivity and melting temperature. You need to keep all of these in mind when welding, but sadly, this is easier said than done.

How to Weld Stainless Steel

Because of their physical characteristics, not all welding types can be used for stainless steel. Only those that involve an electric arc are can be used, namely stick or shielded metal arc welding, MIG or gas metal arc welding, and TIG or gas tungsten arc welding.

Despite having three options to choose from, how you can weld stainless steel will depend on its type. Stainless steel is classified into three distinct types, as well as combinations of these types, and each of them have their own unique characteristics that will affect their ability to be welded easily:

  • Austenitic Stainless Steel – preheating and post-heating are not necessary but it has a maximum interpass temperature, which means you must pause welding when the base metal reaches this temperature and allow it to cool down first before you continue welding. Also, fast welding at high travel is needed to avoid any distortions on the material. Low welding current is often sufficient for this type.
  • Martensitic Stainless Steel – the chromium and carbon content present in this type are balanced, and this affects its hardening capacity. Because of this, most of the stainless steel under this category require preheating and post-heating before letting it slowly cool. The heat applied must be consistent as you weld and must meet the minimum interpass temperature.
  • Ferritic Stainless Steel – welding in a single pass is sufficient, but the welding process negatively affects the resulting weld. To improve its quality, you need to quench it with either water or air after welding. Also, thicker materials only need low heat to avoid grain coarsening that leads to cracks in the joints.

A duplex type, which is a combination of austenitic and ferritic stainless steel, also exists. While it has the characteristics of both ferrite and austenite, you only need to ensure that the heat applied is within its heat input range when welding.

In general, you need to observe the following when it comes to welding stainless steel:

  1. Wear personal protective equipment (PPE). This not only applies when you start welding; you also need to wear them even while preparing the material for welding and as you do any necessary post-heating. Toxic fumes and sparks are produced when welding and you need to be protected against them. You must also ensure that you work in an area without any flammable items nearby.
  2. Prepare – because stainless steel is a delicate material to weld, there should be no room for error if you want a flaw-free finish. You need to prepare not just the material itself but also your workspace. Plan ahead, especially in terms of what kind of joint you will be using and how you will do the actual welding.
  3. Practice on other pieces first – there is no way to undo your work, so any mistakes you make on stainless steel will be glaringly obvious. Practice on spare pieces of material first to get the feel of it. The more you practice, the less the chances of committing errors as you weld.
  4. Follow proper welding practices – make sure that you follow the right procedures of your chosen welding method. Not only that, keep the material in place to prevent scratching it as you weld. If you need to, use a clamp or any other mechanism. Always keep a close eye on your work because it is easy to damage or discolor this metal when welding.

Welding stainless steel may be a bit more complicated, but it doesn’t mean you can’t do it. Even if you are just a novice welder right now, you can work on stainless steel; you just need to learn and understand how to properly do it.

MIG Welding Stainless Steel

If welding stainless steel involves thick materials, MIG welding is most suitable. This is the preferred method for those who prioritize cost-effectiveness over the neatness of the weld.

This type allows you to weld quickly but the specific settings required to weld will depend on the MIG welder you are using. This is because different machines have different recommendations when welding stainless steel, specifically in terms of the wire to be used and the feed rate, the power supply, shielding gas, size of electrode, and so much more. This information is usually found on the chart that MIG welding machines come with.

There are different modes of metal transfer in MIG welding that can be used for stainless steel, which are:

  • Spray Transfer – the electrode metal is transferred via a voltage electric arc to create a weld line with a clean finish. This method also includes pulse spray transfer wherein the electrode is melted by the pulsing current and the molten material falls onto the workpiece.
  • Globular Metal Transfer – a large blob or molten globule forms at the electrode tip and eventually drops to the workpiece.
  • Short-Circuit Transfer – the gap present between the workpiece and the electrode is filled up with filler material. This happens when there is a slow feed rate that results in a short circuit that momentarily extinguishes the arc.

Aside from that, you also need to choose the proper shielding gas to use. Different manufacturers are in consensus that pure inert gases are not recommended, that is why the shielding gas used is typically a mix of different gases, with the tri-mix gas being used most often.

Due to the nature of the material, you also need to ensure that a brace is present to hold the material in place and you must evenly spread out the heat when welding. These two are vital to avoid joint distortions on stainless steel as you weld, which is a common issue with MIG welding.

MIG welding on stainless steel is commonly used for repair and maintenance works.

TIG Welding Stainless Steel

TIG welding is the most popular type when it comes to working with stainless steel. Ideal for thin materials, this is preferred by many welders because it results in a neater finish compared to MIG welding. Unfortunately, this method may not be suitable for inexperienced welders that have yet to master it.

Do note that the clean weld it produces is because of the slower welding involved, which also requires proper techniques to achieve. Fortunately, distortions are more easily preventable with this type because of the careful welding involved. But no matter which TIG welder you use, what is important is to have the right speed, shielding gas, and heat applied when welding. Just like in welding other metals, you also need to make sure that your chosen tungsten electrode is sharp.

Discoloration is also common when using TIG welding on stainless steel, especially when too much heat is applied. To avoid it, not only should you use only the right amount of heat but you also need to keep an eye out on the color of the metal when welding. Once it starts changing color, it means it is too hot and must be cooled down first before you continue with the welding.

Experienced welders suggest using the DCEN or DC electrode negative setting and to have a welding current with a ratio of 1 amp for every 1/1000-inch thickness of the metal. Argon is the most ideal shielding gas for this because it prevents a reaction between the molten material and air. But if you are automating the work, you can use a mix of argon and other gases.

Welding Stainless Steel to Mild Steel

Welding dissimilar metals is a common practice in various industries, as it helps them not only to save money but also to meet certain requirements that only welding such metals will meet. This is also the case when it comes to welding stainless steel particularly to mild steel.

Both MIG and TIG welding can be used to join these two metals through welding. You can follow the usual procedures with any of these two methods, but what matters more is that you use the right filler material. In this case, the 309L filler material is the most suitable.

Some welders do frown upon welding stainless steel to mild steel or even completely discourage it. This is because the resulting weld is often inferior compared to the one produced when welding the same metals. Not only that, but you also need to prepare them separately before welding. Heat also affects them differently, and this makes the entire welding process much more complicated. This combination of metals can also affect the overall corrosion resistance of both metals.

Simply put, welding stainless steel to metal is doable but it is a complicated process and the resulting weld is often brittle compared to the weld joint between the same metals.

Always keep in mind that when welding stainless steel to the same or different metal and using whatever method you choose, prep work is vital. This means ensuring that the surface of the metal is free from any contaminants, you have practiced welding on other workpieces, and that you have a clear plan on how you should weld.

There is no room for error if you want the clean finish when welding stainless steel.