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.

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.

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

Have you ever wanted to do your own woodworking project? If so, then you need to have the most important tool in your arsenal.

And no, we’re not talking about the hammer and chisel, although they are also a must-have in any woodworking shop.

A wood lathe is a must-have for any woodworker and even carpenters who want to have as much flexibility as they can when it comes to woodworking. This tool allows you to transform wood into various decorative or functional objects, such as a vase, bowl, spindle, and so much more.

For many, a mini wood lathe is already enough to meet their woodworking needs because it has most of the essential features present in their bigger counterparts. But don’t think this is only used by beginners; even expert woodworkers use them.

Are you on the hunt for a mini wood lathe for your own workshop? Read on to find out our top picks that we believe will give you the best value for your money, as well as our reviews for each of them.

What to Look for in a Wood Lathe

Before you start comparing the different wood lathes currently available on the market, you must first know what you need to look for in one. Different wood lathes have different features and options available and you need to determine which ones are essential to you, the same way other things are important if you’re buying a metal lathe.

Among the most important things that you need to consider are:

  • Size – while this guide focuses on mini wood lathes, you must first ask yourself if it is indeed the size you need for all the woodworking you have in mind or a full-sized or midi lathe is more suitable. The bigger your projects, the bigger the size of wood lathe you will need. But if you only need one for your turning projects, mini or midi lathes are often enough.
  • Base – portability may be your priority but it should not be at the expense of a lightweight base, particularly with the bed. A heftier base means it can withstand vibrations better, allowing you to have an easier and safer operation. In fact, it is easier to turn if the base is heavy. The heavier the base of a wood lathe, the better it is overall.
  • Measurement – traditional lathes have a fixed bed, but some newer models have beds that are extendable. Do note that the drawback of having an extendable bed on a mini lathe is that it is not as good at handling vibrations compared to those with a fixed bed. The height of the lathe will also vary, but the ideal height, if you want to avoid straining your back, is where your elbows are of the same height with the lathe spindle.
  • Motor – most wood lathes have variable speed settings available, but their maximum speeds will depend on their size. Smaller wood lathes have limited speed options. For bigger projects, you will need more powerful motors.
  • Headstock – it should have a standard thread if you want to use various accessories for your woodworking activities. And instead of a fixed one, you should opt for a pivoting headstock if you are using a wood lathe primarily for turning projects because it will be easier to do so.
  • Tool rest – choose a lathe that will securely lock in place and is easily adjustable, preferably those that allow you to easily switch between long and short rests. While most wood lathes only come with one tool rest, there are also other models that are equipped with more than one tool rest.
  • Power switch – because manufacturers place power switches in various locations in a wood lathe, select one where the switch allows you to turn your lathe on and off easily at any time.
  • Cost – always consider your budget. Although that expensive model featuring all the bells and whistles sounds tempting, ask yourself if you really need all those features and sacrificing your budget at the same time. A basic but durable model that costs way less may already be enough for your needs.

You don’t always need to choose a wood lathe that has advanced features, especially if you are just starting out. Look for a wood lathe with features that you know are essential to your woodworking projects. Sometimes, the most basic wood lathes with the cheapest price tag are more than enough for your needs.

Best Wood Lathe for Turning Bowls

A bowl may seem simple but would you believe that it is a challenge to make even for many experienced woodworkers? That is why if you are planning to craft your own wooden bowls, you need to choose a wood lathe that will make it easy for you to do so.

If you are on the lookout for the best wood lathe suitable for your budget, particularly one for turning bowls, here are some of the crowd favorites:

Delta Industrial 46-460

While technically a midi lathe, the Delta Industrial 46-460 deserves to be on this list, even top pick at that. This is because aside from allowing you to work on both big and small projects, it features a 12.5-inch swing capacity – something relatively unheard of in its class. Not only that, this model allows you to easily activate the reverse mode with the flip of the switch.

The patented belt tensioning system present on the Delta Industrial 46-460 lets you effortlessly shift its range without needing to reset the belt. Its 1-HP motor also comes with three different speed ranges, namely 250 to 750 RPM, 600 to 1800 RPM, and 1350 to 4000 RPM, to meet your various woodworking needs. This wood lathe also has a standard 5-year warranty and is crafted using cast iron.

Pros:

  • Features a 1-HP motor with three variable speed ranges
  • Comes with a 12.5-inch swing capacity
  • Has a reverse mode that can easily be activated using a switch
  • Equipped with a patented belt-tensioning system for easy range shifting
  • Durable and well-crafted

Cons:

  • Speed range may not be low enough for some
  • Does not have a digital speed readout
  • Center-to-center distance is short
  • More suited for experienced woodworkers
  • Quite pricey

RIKON Power Tools 70-105

Suited for both beginners and professionals alike, the RIKON Power Tools 70-105 benchtop wood lathe is considered by many as the ultimate bang for the buck model for turning bowls. It is also equipped with a 1-HP motor with a variable speed ranging from 250 to 3850 RPM and comes with an LED panel for easy monitoring.

Equipped with two Morse tapers, it is heavier than most other mini lathes but this also means it handles vibrations better. It also features a 24-position index head, allowing you to create detailed designs on wood with ease. The RIKON Power Tools 70-105 has a turning capacity or swing of 12” diameter and 20” between centers.

Pros:

  • Solidly built, featuring a headstock, tailstock, and bed made of cast iron
  • 6 variable speeds available
  • Best for turning short stocks and bowls
  • Good for both beginners and professionals
  • Has a 5-year warranty

Cons:

  • Quite expensive
  • Center to center distance is quite short
  • Lowest speed available may not be enough for some
  • Only comes with basic features despite its high price tag

Jet JWL-1015

If you need to upgrade your basic table-top lathe, consider the popular Jet JWL-1015. Its price may be a turn-off for beginners and casual users but it may be justified because this is tailored more to experienced users that need advanced features, such as better speed control.

In fact, this speed control feature is its main selling point, offering both discrete control and continuous control options. Continuous control means the spindle can be set to a certain speed between 60 to 3600 RPM, while the discrete control allows you to choose between a fixed speed, namely 430, 810, 1230, 1810, 2670, or 3900 RPM.

Unfortunately, the Jet JWL-1015 only comes with a standard tension belt that requires readjustment whenever you need to change speeds. Also, it does not have a reverse mode.

Pros:

  • Comes with a digital screen to monitor RPM
  • Offers different speed control options
  • Good for small and medium projects, including turning bowls

Cons:

  • Pricey
  • Not ideal for large projects
  • No reverse mode
  • Tension belt must be adjusted together with speed changes
  • While it can be used by beginners, it is more suited for experienced woodworkers

WEN 3420

On a limited budget? The WEN 3420 may be just for you, especially if you don’t need fancy features. It is beginner-friendly and comes with a simple interface that promotes ease-of-use for anyone. The 5-inch faceplate installed means you can easily craft small objects like cups and bowls, while its lever clamping system allows you to easily adjust the tailstock and tool rest.

Featuring a 4.5A motor, the WEN 3420 not only offers a maximum torque but also 5 available speed settings that allow you to choose between 520, 900, 1400, 2150, and 3400 RPM. This wood lathe also features a soft start that helps prevent damage to it. But don’t let the price tag fool you because it is one of the most durable mini wood lathes around.

Pros:

  • Cheap but solidly built
  • Equipped with a soft start
  • Ideal for beginners
  • Has 5 speed settings to choose from

Cons:

  • Only best for small pieces with measurements not exceeding 8 inches wide and 12 inches long
  • May not be enough for power users

Shop Fox W1704

Another relatively inexpensive option is the Shop Fox W1704. Its 5 3/4-inch faceplate makes it ideal for turning bowls, while the 8-inch swing lets you do your turning projects easily. This unit also has 4 1/2 and 7-inch tool rests installed that allows you to make other woodworking projects. The 13-inch distance between centers is usually enough for small projects.

The Shop Fox W1704 features a 1/3 HP motor with variable speed settings. In particular, its speed ranges from 700 to 3200 RPM.

Pros:

  • Affordable
  • Equipped with two tool rests
  • Made of cast iron
  • Suitable for use on most workbenches

Cons:

  • Can be limiting, as it is best used for small projects
  • Has no digital panel

These 5 wood lathes are considered top value for money by most woodworkers, especially if it involves turning bowls. However, this is not the only project you can do with all of them; you can also do a multitude of woodworking projects despite their compact sizes.

Again, don’t focus on what all the features these models come with, but identify the important features you need in a wood lathe and focus on the model that meets your requirements and budget.

Why go broke by getting the most expensive wood lathe around, when all you need are its basic features that cheaper counterparts can do?

Best MIG Welders for the Money – Top Picks & Reviews

Metal Inert Gas (MIG) welders, otherwise known as gas metal arc welders (GMAW), are popular for many good reasons. Ask random professional welders what welding method they prefer and chances are most of them will answer either MIG welder or Tungsten Inert Gas (TIG) welder

So, why do many welders both professionals and hobbyists alike — prefer MIG welders over most welding tools? For starters, MIG welders get the job done most efficiently, whether at home or in an industrial setting. Moreover, MIG welders are so versatile that there’s a MIG welder for every skill level. 

The biggest advantage with using MIG welders is the speed with which it gets the job done. As far as productivity goes, the majority of stick welding and TIG welding units can’t hold a candle against most low-end MIG welders. It’s for this very reason why MIG welders are recommended in industrial settings. If steel industries can produce metal work at a faster rate, profits naturally get a big boost. 

MIG welders are also very accessible to novice welders. You can order one online or buy from a nearby welding supply store. It’s easy to use because the operations are pretty straightforward, not to mention that it only takes a moment to hook it up. If you haven’t operated a MIG welder before, you’ll find that it doesn’t take much to learn how to use it properly.

While MIG welders are great, no MIG welder is created equal. If you want to make the most of the MIG welding method, you have to buy one that fits your needs and budget. We understand how difficult it can be to do that, considering the number of selections available out there. This is even more the case if your budget is limited.

To help you out, here are MIG welder recommendations that will give you a bang for your buck. We understand that what’s ideal for one welder may not be for another, so we tried our best to be diverse in our picks. We also wrote a comprehensive review for each one to help you pick the best MIG welder for the money that best fits your needs.

Ready? Dive right in!

1. Millermatic 141 (907612)

The Millermatic 141 MIG welder is a welding tool that is as powerful as it is reliable. It has an amazing auto-set feature that lets you automatically adjust the tool’s parameters with minimal effort. It’s just as impressive in manual mode thanks to its intuitive interface and all-aluminum drive system. 

This MIG welder is a dream to set up.  It has a quick-select drive roll and an auto-set mode that allow you to set it up on the fly. This same feature also protects your unit from short circuit hazards.

As already mentioned, the Millermatic MIG welder packs quite a punch. With a maximum power output of 140 Amps, this unit can work on materials that are up to 3/16” in thickness.

Lastly, despite this unit’s extensive functionality, it comes with a minimalist design that’s easy on the eyes.

Specs

Duty Cycle: 20% at 90 Amps

Input Power: 110/115/120V

Weight: 51 pounds

Dimensions: 20.5 x 11.25 x 12.5

Pros

  • Easy to set up
  • Starts without any spatter
  • Automatically sets right parameters
  • Comes with Auto Spool Gun Detect
  • The operation in manual mode is intuitive

Cons

  • A bit on the pricey side
  • Doesn’t come with a spool gun for welding aluminum

2. Hobart Ironman 230 (500536)

The Hobart 500536 Ironman is a welder that deserves its name. In terms of power, this unit packs quite a wallop with an input power of 230 volts. Moreover, its 60% duty cycle is nothing to sneeze at. The Ironman is more than capable of handling steel, aluminum, and stainless steel and can weld steel with a thickness of up to ½”. It can be relied on for multiple power outputs thanks to its twelve voltage power settings. It also comes with wire-speed adjustment, which allows you to make speed adjustments with minimal effort. 

You’ll be pleasantly surprised to know that this welding unit can be purchased for $2,500. While that’s not exactly cheap, this welding machine’s amazing power and wide range of features are compensation enough.

Specs

Duty Cycle: 60% at 175 Amps.

Input Power: 230V

Weight: 224 pounds

Dimensions: 36 x 19 x 32

Pros

  • High duty cycle
  • Cuts up to ½” of steel
  • Flux core functionality
  • Comes with infinite wire speed adjustment
  • Easy to set up

Cons

  • The power cord could be longer

3. LONGEVITY Migweld 140

For its low price of $400, it’s amazing how the LONGEVITY Migweld 140 has established itself as one of the best all-around MIG welders in the market. It has everything a novice MIG welder will need to start welding like a pro in no time.

This MIG welder is capable of running ten different voltage settings, not to mention that it can weld up to ¼” of steel. It comes with Flux core functionality, giving you all the benefits that a full-scale arc welder can provide. This MIG welder weighs 54 pounds, making it well-suited for light use. To top it off, it comes with thermal overload protection, so you don’t need to worry about the unit overheating even if you’ve been using it for long stretches. 

Specs

Duty Cycle: 20% at 90 Amps.

Input Power: 110 Volts

Weight: 54 pounds

Dimensions: 24 x 13 x 17

Pros

  • Easy to set up
  • Comes with Flux core functionality
  • Has thermal overload protection
  • Automatically sets right parameters
  • Has 10 different voltage settings

Cons

  • Regulator hose is a bit short
  • Feeding can be slow at times

4. Hobart Handler 190 (500554)

If you want a MIG welder that’s powerful, portable, and easy to use, Hobart Handler 190 (500554) is a tool that delivers on all fronts. It doesn’t hurt that it has a compact, sleek design that makes professionals and hobbyists alike swoon. 

The Hobart Handler 190 is capable of handling all types of welding jobs. Whether you’re working on metal sculptures, building farm equipment, or fixing roof sheets, this welding tool can help you do the job most efficiently.

So, how powerful is the Hobart Handler 190? For starters, it can weld 24-gauge up to 5/16”. It normally runs at 230 volts but you can switch to 115 volts through a simple switch of the plug. Hooking up this unit is easy, with extensive but intuitive controls that allow you to adjust its settings and parameters on the fly. The unit’s operation controls are pretty straightforward. Just follow the instructions on the manual and you’ll weld like an expert in a few hours.

Do you prefer to use a spool gun? This unit is built for it—just turn the selector switch on for spool gun mode and you’re off to the races. Better yet, this helps you do away with any feeding issues that usually occur when you’re welding aluminum wire. 

Bottom line? The Hobart Handler 190 has a lot going for it. If you want an all-around MIG welder you can use for a wide range of welding jobs, this unit won’t let you down.

Specs

Duty Cycle: 30% at 130 Amps.

Input Power: 220/230/240V

Weight: 68 pounds

Dimensions: 19.5 x 10.625 x 12.4

Pros

  • Spool gun-ready
  • Highly portable
  • Ease of use
  • Short-circuit proof
  • Has 7 different voltage settings
  • Quick select drive roll

Cons

  • A bit expensive (although the unit’s features are compensation enough)

5. Lincoln Electric K2185-1 Handy

The Lincoln Electric Handy is great for those who are just getting started with welding. For one, it’s not expensive, making it the perfect choice for novice welders who don’t want to make a huge financial commitment yet. The unit’s interface is a cinch—as soon as you familiarize yourself with the intuitive controls, you’re well on your way.

Another reason why this MIG welder is perfect for beginners is its extensive safety features. It’s got a fan-cooled design that prevents the likelihood of overheating, which in turn, increases its longevity. It also has a cold contactor safety feature, meaning that the unit stays cold even if it’s not being used. Now that’s safety for you!

That’s not to say that the Lincoln Electric Handy is not great for experienced welders. This unit packs quite a punch (up to 88 amps), allowing you to make quick and precise welds. It’s not powerful enough to perform heavy-duty jobs, but other than that, this unit is a good companion for welders who are always out and about.

Specs

Duty Cycle: 20% at 70 Amps.

Input Power: 115V

Weight: 46 pounds

Dimensions: 12.8 x 8.8 x 18

Pros

  • Big bang for your buck
  • Extensive safety features
  • Very durable
  • Four different voltage settings
  • Highly portable
  • Cold contactor safety

Cons

  • Doesn’t have a gas gauge

6. Forney 309 140A

The Forney 309 140 is a MIG welder that offers a lot when it comes to small welding jobs. It’s packed to brimming with features that set it apart from the new wave of MIG welder products currently being released in the market. With a power outlet of 115 volts, this unit is perfect for the household. With a max power output of 140 Amps, this welder is no slacker. It’s easy to take around with you thanks to the built-in gas hose and MIG regulator. 

The Forney 309 140 comes with Flux-core functionality, adding to its versatility. You can use it on a wide range of metals, including cast iron, stainless steel, aluminum, among many others.

To top it off, this unit weighs only 62 pounds and sports an ergonomic handle, making it a cinch to take everywhere with you.

Specs

Duty Cycle: 20% at 115 Amps/35% at 90 Amps

Input Power: 115V

Weight: 56 pounds

Dimensions: 19 x 9.5 x 16.5

Pros

  • Can weld a wide variety of metals (aluminum, cast iron, stainless steel, etc.)
  • Competitive price
  • Highly versatile
  • High duty cycle
  • MIG gun has high compatibility with Tweco consumables
  • Huge cabinet for added storage
  • Long MIG Gun is easy and comfortable to handle

Cons

  • Doesn’t have enough power for industrial settings
  • Low maximum weld limit (¼ inch)

7. Weldpro 155 AMP Inverter MIG/Stick

If you want a good MIG welder that’s affordable as it is versatile, you can’t go wrong with the Weldpro 155 Amp Inverter MIG Welder. Even at its low price, it’s fully capable of plugging into two voltage settings (110 and 220). It’s compact and portable to boot!

How versatile is this machine? Well, it allows you to switch between 2T and 4T (between manual and automatic wire feeding) with ease. If you’ve ever struggled to feed with long beads and awkward corners, this automatic wire feeding capability makes the process so much easier. 

Granted that the leads could be longer, you can compensate for it by buying additional accessories if required.

If your budget is limited, buying this machine is a safe investment that will get you on the right track. 

Specs

Duty Cycle: 20% at 115 Amps/35% at 90 Amps

Input Power: 115V

Weight: 56 pounds

Pros

  • Highly portable
  • Affordable
  • Highly versatile
  • Ease of use
  • Provides a lot of amperages

Cons

  • Leads could be longer
  • Doesn’t come with a regulator

8. Hobart Handler 210 (500553)

The Hobart Handler 210 MIG welder has a lot to offer in terms of amperage, affordability, and functionality. It’s not exactly cheap, sure, but this machine brings so much to the table that it more than makes up for it. 

If you’re impressed by how extensive this machine’s amperage settings are, wait till you learn how many wire speeds it offers (it’s from 40 to 680 IPM!) The infinite wire speed control makes this one a joy to work with. And with 7 voltage settings and variable power outputs at its disposal, this welder helps you perform a wide range of welding jobs with great efficiency. There are no (or minimal) spatters involved, so no need to clean up after every welding job. 

Simply put, the Hobart Handler 210 MIG welder offers much in the way of versatility and power, setting the standard for versatility, power, and controls within this price range.

Specs

Duty Cycle: 20% at 90 Amps

Input Power: 115/230V

Weight: 79 pounds

Dimensions: 19.5 x 10.6 x 12.4

Pros

  • Superior wire feed control
  • Great value
  • Highly versatile
  • Release tension on the fly
  • Intuitive operational controls

Cons

  • A bit on the heavy side
  • Duty cycle is limited

9. Hobart Handler 140 (500559)

The Hobart Handler 140 is another homerun for the Hobart line, and much like its predecessors, this MIG/Flux-core welder boasts an excellent user interface and the highest manufacturing standards.

With a duty cycle of 20% at 90 amperes, the Handler 140 is more than capable of handling any household or small workshop project. This welding unit can weld thin materials such as stainless steel, aluminum, and steel like a hot knife through butter. If you want to weld thicker materials, the Handler 140 has a reliable flux-core option that can help you pull it off. And with five voltage settings, this welder allows you to switch it up as you go along, resulting in smoother arcs even when working on different thicknesses.

This welding unit is lighter than most professional welding machines, allowing for easy transport and handling. If you’re a welder who frequently works on different types of projects, you can do no wrong by taking this with you. 

Specs

Duty Cycle: 20% at 90 Amps

Input Power: 115V

Weight: 57 pounds

Dimensions: 19.5 x 10.6 x 12.4

Pros

  • Easy to maintain arc stability
  • Super portable (weighs only 57 pounds)
  • Highly versatile
  • Minimal spatter involved
  • Wire feeding is highly accurate
  • Great for novice welders

Cons

  • Not well-suited for full-scale industrial projects
  • Doesn’t work with direct AC power supply
  • Requires a separate gas cylinder for MIG welding projects

10. Millermatic 141 (907612)

The Millermatic 141 is the Miller line’s quintessential 120V MIG welder. This welding machine truly delivers when it comes to providing beginners a fantastic user experience. The auto-set control, for one, allows you to get comfortable with the process in no time. Long-time welders can still stick to how they do things thanks to the unit’s serviceable manual settings. It has wire feed settings, infinite voltage control, quick select drive roll—the whole works. What more could you ask for?

This welding unit is no slacker in the power department, boasting an amperage range of 30A to 140A and a duty cycle of 20% at 90 amperes. It also comes with thermal overload protection to protect your unit from overheating incidents.

Specs

Duty Cycle: 20% at 90 Amps

Input Power: 120V

Weight: 51 pounds

Dimensions: 22 x 11 x 12

Pros

  • Auto-set feature makes this newbie-friendly
  • Highly flexible (thanks to the unit’s infinite voltage control)
  • Highly compatible with 15 feet MIG guns
  • Extensive manual settings for experienced welders
  • Comes with a 10 feet spool gun and a two gauge regulator
  • Quick select drive roll

Cons

  • Not well-suited for full-scale industrial projects
  • Power cord is too short (5 feet)

11. Lincoln Pro MIG 140 K2480-1

When it comes to power and versatility, not many welders can keep up with the Lincoln Pro MIG 140. Whether you’re working at home or in a shop or a factory, this welding unit has everything you need and more.

Case in point: the excellent 2-knob control system, which allows you to switch between different modes with the least amount of effort. And no matter the type of material you’re working on, be it aluminum, steel, or stainless steel, the unit’s gas-shielded MIG mode should help you get the job done. If you need to weld thicker metals, switching to the flux core welding mode will help you penetrate deeper to get it done. How deep? Well, this unit can weld 4.8 mm of sheet metal in a single pass. 

This MIG welder is packed to brimming with features that ensure you’re consistently welding at a high level, including the easy-turn tension indicator, a fully adjustable drive system, brass to brass gun connection for better conductivity, and more.

Specs

Duty Cycle: 20% at 90 Amps

Input Power: 120 volts

Weight: 50 pounds

Dimensions: 13.7 x 10.15 x 17.9

Pros

  • Ideal for beginners
  • Highly effective in minor projects
  • Easy to hook up and set up
  • Speed and power are highly adjustable
  • Effective on a wide range of metals and thicknesses
  • Comes with flux core functionality

Cons

  • Could add thermal protection
  • Not suitable for heavy-duty welding projects

12. Lincoln Pro MIG 180 K2481-1

If you value consistency in your welding work regardless of the project or task you’re working on, you’d be wise to consider buying the Lincoln MIG 180 Welder

This MIG/flux-core welding machine is perfect for both novice welders and professionals courtesy of its wide variety of useful features. It has a simple control knob that lets you change output levels with minimal effort. Moreover, its 120 settings allow you to weld efficiently on aluminum and light steel. It’s also equally effective for heavy-duty jobs since its 208/230 volt settings allow for deeper penetration on thicker metals.

While this welding machine packs some serious power, it has adjustable settings that ensure you won’t melt thinner materials like aluminum.

This dual-voltage machine is also easy to take with you anywhere thanks to its portable and lightweight build. Whether you’re welding in a factory, your home, or at the farm, the Lincoln Pro MIG 180 is a welding companion you can always count on.

Specs

Processes: MIG, Flux-Cored

Input Power: 208/230  V

Weight: 66 pounds

Dimensions: 14 x 10.15 x 18.6

Pros

  • Diamond core technology provides a “more forgiving” arc
  • Dual input (208/230 V)
  • Effective for heavy-duty work as well as home or small workshop use
  • Ergonomic build
  • The brass-to-brass gun connection allows for better conductivity
  • Very adjustable

Cons

  • A bit on the heavy side
  • Not suitable for heavy-duty welding projects
  • Power output is a bit low

13. Miller Millermatic 211 (907614)

If you want a dual voltage MIG welder with a ton of features that help you produce precise welds, the Millermatic 211 MIG Welder hits the sweet spot. This welding machine is easy to set up because of its Advanced Autoset feature, which allows you to adjust your unit’s parameters and arc settings easily.

The Millermatic 211 also comes with a quick-select drive roll that enables you to change spools with the flick of a finger. It’s not only dual-voltage, but it also has a ring on the back that you can twist to switch from one mode to another with minimal effort. 

Another great thing about the Millermatic 211 is its lightweight design. If you’re always welding in different locations, you won’t have any difficulties lugging this machine around with you.

Specs

Duty cycle: 40% at 150 amps

Input Power: 230V

Weight: 38 pounds

Dimensions: 20.5 x 11.25 x 12.5

Pros

  • Comes with a dual voltage plug that makes switching between voltage settings easy
  • Lightweight and portable
  • Easy to set up
  • Stable arc allows for more precise welds

Cons

  • Not cheap (though it gives you a bang for your buck)
  • Duty cycle could use an improvement

14. Eastwood 175 Amp

Eastwood MIG 175 might be an oldie but goodie, but it’s still one of the best MIG welders on the market. 

This welder unit runs at 220V and has a rated amp of 175A. Wire feeding is effortless thanks to the unit’s adjustable wire feed speed control. But what sets this one apart is its ability to handle a wide range of metals, including aluminum and steel.

The Eastwood 175 MIG welder is a great choice for beginners because of the many accessories on offer, including a spool gun, aluminum wires, a gas regulator and hose, tips, and many more.

This welder weighs only 62 pounds. If you’re a welder who’s always out and about, you won’t have any issues taking this unit along with you everywhere you go.

One major drawback of this product is that it’s made of flimsy material. You might end up breaking the access panel if you’re not careful.

Despite that one flaw, the Eastwood 175 MIG welder is a great welder to have if you want a versatile MIG welder that’s easy on the wallet.

Specs

Duty cycle: 30% at 130 amps

Input Power: 220V

Weight: 62 pounds

Dimensions: 10.75 X 17 X 15.75

Pros

  • Offers a wide range of accessories for the full MIG welding experience
  • Lightweight and ergonomic build
  • Can handle many metals, including aluminum, steel, and stainless steel
  • Big bang for your buck
  • Serviceable for both professional welders and beginners

Cons

  • Made of thin material

15. Hobart Handler 130 (500568)

The Hobart Handler 130 is a robust MIG welder that is as versatile as it is user-friendly. It’s not as powerful as its 210 and 140 counterparts, but it’s got a wide range of useful features that more than compensate for that one flaw. With that said, it’s capable of penetrating 1/4 “ steel and is capable of handling many kinds of metals, especially stainless steel and iron. 

If you want your welding to be more productive, the Handler 130’s Flux-cored functionality will come in handy. Also worth mentioning is the welding unit’s patented EX-Mode, in which a knob can be used to switch settings easily based on the thickness of the material being welded. 

Do you struggle with controlling gas input when you weld? The Hobart Handler 130 solves that problem for you with its built-in gas valve, which gives you a better handle on gas mixes as you do the work. No more spatters!

Weighing 51 pounds, this welder can be carried around with no sweat, literally. 

Specs

Duty cycle: 20% at 85 amps

Input Power: 115V

Weight: 51 pounds

Product Dimensions: 13 x 10 x 17 inches

Pros

  • EZ-mode with wire feed knobs for great customization
  • User-friendly and easy to set up
  • Competitive price
  • Suitable for both novice welders and long-time welders
  • Highly portable
  • Packed with useful features

Cons

  • Not fit for heavy-duty projects
  • Lacks a spool adaptor

16. Lincoln Electric Easy 140

If you want to produce high-quality welds on a wide range of projects, the Lincoln Electric Easy MIG Welder 140 won’t let you down. Equipped with a straightforward 2-knob control system, this multiple process welding unit lets you manage your gas shields while working on steel, aluminum, and stainless steel. And thanks to its robust flux core functionality, this welder is capable of penetrating deep when welding thicker materials.

With a fully adjustable drive system, coupled with its numeric-drive tension indicator, the Lincoln Electric Easy lets you change the settings with the least amount of effort, thus preventing wire tangling and cable breakage. 

Whether you’re an old hat at this by now or still learning the ropes, you’ll get the hang of this machine in no time, courtesy of its intuitive controls and streamlined design. Besides, it comes with a calibration chart to serve as a guide as you hook up the machine and use it for the first time.

Specs

Duty Cycle: 20% at 90 amps

Input Power: 120V

Weight: 50 pounds

Dimensions: 13.7 in x 10.15 in x 17.9 in

Pros

  • Extensive wire feed speed system
  • User-friendly and easy to set up
  • Fully adjustable drive roll system
  • Smooth drive tension adjustment
  • Highly portable
  • Voltage control allows a stable arc

Cons

  • Not efficient at welding thicker metals

17. Eastwood MIG Welder 135A

Whether you’re a hobbyist or a professional, the Eastwood MIG 135 is a welder that hits many sweet spots. This welding machine can be counted on to produce precise welds even on delicate tasks. Sporting a lightweight and compact design, this unit can be carried around with little effort. 

This MIG welder comes with many accessories that will come in handy on any project and in any setting. Wire feeding requires little effort as well thanks to the unit’s switchable drive roller and precision-drive motor. 

If you want an affordable MIG welder that ticks all the right boxes, you can count on the Eastwood MIG 135 to truly deliver. 

Specs

Duty Cycle: 20% at 90 amps

Input Power: 120V

Weight: 57 pounds

Dimensions: 9.5 X 16.1 X 14.5

Pros

  • Lightweight and portable
  • Can be used in any 120-V power outlet
  • Powerful for its size
  • Comes with many helpful accessories
  • Great value
  • Option to use gas or flux-wire

Cons

  • Not fit for full-scale industrial projects

18. Everlast Power i-MIG 200

The Everlast Power MIG 200 boasts the Insulated Gate Bipolar Transistor (IGBT) inverter technology, which can produce a higher output even with low input power. To call this one a MIG welder is limiting, for it also offers stick welding and flux-cored functionality. 

This MIG welder offers many advantages, including a high duty cycle, multi-processing, dual voltage option, and high power output. With all these features at your disposal, you can produce high-quality MIG welding with stunning consistency.

Switching from the spool gun to stick welding has never been easy courtesy of this machine’s Eurostyle Quick Coupler. This nifty feature lets you use generic spool guns instead of expensive branded ones, allowing you to cut costs dramatically.

This unit’s best feature is the highly convenient induction control, allowing you to switch between MIG and Stick welding with little effort. Newbies, most of all, wild find this handy, making them weld like a pro even if they haven’t used a welding machine before.

Specs

Duty Cycle: 35% at 125 amps

Input Power: 110/220V

Weight: 53 pounds

Dimensions: 24 x 9 x 14

Pros

  • Lightweight and portable
  • Straightforward and easy to use
  • No need to switch between MIG and Stick welding
  • Minimal spatter
  • Great value
  • Easy to switch between 110V and 220V

Cons

  • Spool gun is awkward to handle at first

19. Hobart Handler 125 (500573)

The Hobart Handler 125 MIG Welder 500773 is the latest offering in the welder company’s Hobart 125 series. And this one’s a doozy, folks.

Performance-wise, this is as good as a 125 MIG welder gets. With an output range of 25-130 Amps, this machine can weld up to ⅛ inches of steel. It’s easy to work on metals with variable thicknesses courtesy of the machine’s four output voltage settings. Switching from flux-cored wire to MIG welding is effortless. Moreover, the durable feed head along with the quick-release drive roll lever allows you to thread new wire with no sweat. 

Despite the abundant features, the Hobart Handler 500573 is easy to use. You’ll find it easy to produce clean and non-porous weds even if this is your first time to handle a MIG welder.

Specs

Duty Cycle: 25% at 80 amps

Input Power: 110/115/120V

Weight: 57.5 pounds

Dimensions: 19.4 × 10 × 13.5

Pros

  • Easy to hook up, adjust, and control
  • Great value
  • No need to switch between MIG and Stick welding
  • Highly portable
  • Produces high-quality, precise welds
  • Capable of handling various metals of variable thicknesses

Cons

  • Some accessories (tank, pressure regulator, etc.) still need to be purchased

Different Types of Welded Joints

So, you just bought your new TIG welder, and you’re trying to become a better welder. Well, this is the article you need.

Contrary to what most would think, the joints formed by welding come in different types. But for anyone with an untrained eye, they may all just look the same.

What you probably don’t realize is that these varying types are not just about the style or aesthetics but they serve legitimate purposes. Metals and plastics are welded together using either a butt weld or a fillet weld in different positions to meet specific needs and forces, but the joints they form are varied.

Don’t have a clue what these different types are? We’ve got you covered! In this article, you will know about each of the five major types of welded joints present according to the American Welding Society and learn about what sets them apart from each other. That way, you can choose which one to use for your next project.

Butt Joint

If you have ever seen metals or plastics lying flat whose parallel edges are welded together, the joint you are looking at is a butt joint. This consists of welding the edges or “butts” of the material that are placed side by side and in the same plane. Doing a butt joint is considered as the simplest method, that is why it is also considered as the most popular.

Butt joints may be done as it is or weld preps, or cutting off sections of the edges to be welded, may be necessary. They are created through different welding styles, namely:

  • Bevel groove weld – only one of the materials has a diagonally straight bevel that extends from top to bottom
  • Flare-bevel-groove butt weld – same as the bevel groove weld but has a groove
  • Flare-V-groove butt weld – each parallel sides of two materials have grooves running from top to bottom
  • Square-groove butt weld – no bevels or grooves are made; the parallel edges are simply welded together
  • J-groove butt weld – only one material has a groove at the edge, but this groove only passes through around 3/4 the entire length of that edge, thus forming a ‘J’
  • U-groove butt weld – both materials have parallel edges with grooves that take up 3/4 of each edges’ length
  • V-groove butt weld – bevels on both parallel edges are made from top to bottom

This type of joint is often used for various materials and equipment, such as pipes, fittings, flanges, and valves, but it should not be used for those that will receive loads at high impact. Butt welding can be done for metals and plastics with a thickness ranging from 3 mm to 12 mm. But if it is 5 mm thick or more, you need to bevel one or both edges first before you can weld them.

Some also opt to have a double butt weld for those involving bevels. Unlike a traditional butt weld that only involves one side, a double butt weld involves making the same type of bevels on both sides of the edges so that they are mirror images of each other. This allows the parallel edges to be welded on both sides.

Aside from doing a double butt weld, you can also opt for a full penetration weld to strengthen the joint formed. Beveling the materials and doing a full penetration weld will result in a strong butt joint. Do note that excessive heat can result in a twist or bow, not a straight finish.

Edge Joint

An edge joint is made when edges of two metals are placed parallel to each other, and their adjacent edges are welded together using a butt weld. This edge joint is formed either with the metals stacked on top of each other and welded at the side, or they are placed next to each other and welded at the top. Instead of being on the same plane like a butt joint, they are welded at parallel planes.

The edge joint is highly similar to the butt joint, that is why the many of the welding styles used to create this type of joint are the same:

  • U-groove weld
  • J-groove weld
  • V-groove weld
  • Square groove weld or butt weld
  • Bevel-groove weld

You can also use the edge flange and corner flange welding styles to form an edge joint. An edge flange weld typically consists of two curved metals with their edges welded at their parallel points, while a corner flange weld involves one straight metal and one curved metal also welded at parallel points.

Edge joints are weaker because the weld done is shallow and does not completely penetrate the joint, that is why they are typically used on sheet metal plates that are less than 6 mm thick, such as mufflers. It is also not recommended if the welded materials are expected to undergo a lot of pressure, tension, or bending.

To strengthen the edge joint, you can either do a full penetration weld or add filler material as you weld. It is essential that the materials be clamped together before you weld because it can separate as you weld and start opening up like a clam.

Tee Joint

You might have guessed that the tee joint has something to do with the letter ‘T’. A tee joint, or sometimes referred to as a t-joint, consists of two metals or plastics intersecting to form a right angle and are welded together. The upright material is typically placed at the center of the flat one, forming a ‘T’. Welding is done using a fillet weld at both corners formed by their intersection at the base of the upright material.

The different welding styles used to create a tee joint are:

  • Plug weld – a hole is made on one of the metals or plastics, and the edge of the other one must intersect with the hole. This hole is then filled or plugged up through welding, which then bonds the materials together
  • Slot weld – has similarities with a plug weld but the hole made is larger and can extend to one edge
  • Fillet weld – both corners made by the intersecting materials are welded together.
  • J-groove weld – similar to a fillet weld but the base of the upright material has a groove
  • Bevel-groove weld – same as a J-groove weld but it has a bevel instead of a groove at the base of the upright material.
  • Flare-bevel-groove weld – involves a tube-shaped material placed above a flat material and these are welded together at their intersecting points
  • Melt-through weld – only one side is welded but the weld fully penetrates so that it reaches the other side of the upright material

While a tee joint may seem simple, welding them together is complicated because the material placed vertically can move around when you weld the one side first or even be distorted. This upright material must either have a brace to hold it in place or allow it to stand at a slight angle so that it will move in the right position while welding. In case the tee joint is misaligned after welding, use a soft hammer to tap the welded section into place. Do it quickly while it is still hot so that it will be easier to move.

Tee joints are normally used for materials whose thickness do not exceed 3 mm and even for bonding a pipe to a metal. Also, all four sides of the intersecting sections are typically welded to give it strength. Some do opt to weld either the lengths or ends of the materials only, resulting in a weaker weld.

Corner Joint

A corner joint is done similarly to a tee joint but the upright material is typically placed at the edge of the other one lying flat, forming an ‘L’ or right angle. This type of joint, also known as a square joint, is also one of the most popularly used, especially for sheet metals. It also allows you to weld two materials that have varying thicknesses, lengths, or widths.

Because the corner joint involves a fillet weld on the intersecting side and a butt weld on the parallel side where the edges meet, its strength is uneven and it is generally weaker than a tee joint. Some of the most common uses of a corner joint are in creating boxes and frames using both light and thick materials.

These welding styles used in butt joints and tee joints are also used to form a corner joint:

  • Bevel-groove weld
  • Fillet weld
  • Square groove weld or butt weld
  • J-groove weld
  • U-groove weld
  • V-groove weld
  • Flare-V-groove weld

The following welding styles also form corner joints, but the resulting appearance does not form the ‘L’ shape that is why they are often mistaken for edge joints:

  • Corner-flange weld – involves one flat and one curved material but only the corners of their parallel edges are welded
  • Edge weld – done similar to a basic edge joint where the edges are placed parallel to each other and then welded
  • Spot weld – only small spots at the sides of the intersecting edges are welded

Corner joints are typically made with the entire edges of both materials touching each other, but it is also possible to weld only their corners. You can also only do a butt weld for a corner joint and leave the inside corner without a weld. To strengthen the joint, weld preps are done on the sides that will be butt welded.

Lap Joint

If you need to weld two materials that have different thicknesses, a lap joint is another way to do it if a corner joint is not suitable. A lap joint involves stacking two materials together so that they will overlap and welding is done on either the top or bottom only or both. While fillet welds are mostly used, the weld that creates a lap joint is also known as a lap weld.

You can choose among the following styles, aside from the fillet weld, if you need to create a lap joint:

  • J-groove weld
  • Slot weld
  • Plug weld
  • Bevel groove weld
  • Flare-bevel-groove weld
  • Spot weld

You can typically see a lap joint when resistance spot, laser beam, and electron beam welding is used, as well as in exercise and industrial equipment. Lap joints are among the easiest to create because there is hardly any preparation needed aside from positioning the materials. Not only that, they also often have the smoothest finish. However, it is also prone to warping if there is too much heat during welding.

Now that you are aware of the five different types of welded joints, you can now identify which joints are most suitable for your project. Yes, you can use various types in a single project.

But aside from choosing the suitable joints, always make sure to wear the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) as you work. Welding can be done easily but there are always various safety and health risks present no matter how small your project is. Safety first!

Using an Oxy Acetylene Cutting Torch: Setting Up, Lighting, Using, Shut Off

Does the thought of using an oxy acetylene cutting torch intimidate you? We feel you. After all, dealing with two tanks that are at risk of catching fire as you work sounds risky. You would rather have all your body parts firmly attached as you work, right?

Don’t let this safety risk stop you from using a cutting torch; the worst-case scenario you are thinking of doesn’t really happen that often. If you have the right settings for the entire system, you can safely use an oxy acetylene torch for all your projects.

But, it doesn’t stop there. You also need to properly set it up before you start using one. Not only that, you must light the torch and shut it off correctly. Yes, there are proper ways to do all that.

Don’t worry because we will show you that all these are not as hard as you think.

How Does a Cutting Torch Work?

Before you set up your cutting torch, you must first understand how it works so that you can handle it properly. Not only that, this will allow you to get a cut of good quality, which is only possible if done correctly. For more serious cutting jobs, we do recommend the use of a plasma cutter, though.

An oxy acetylene cutting torch allows oxygen to mix with acetylene to combust and produce a flame that has a temperature exceeding 3000 C. This kind of flame is the only one hot enough to cut through mild steel, specifically any kind of steel that only has a maximum of 0.3% carbon.

Steel has an ignition temperature, ranging from 700 to 900 ℃, which is enough to remove components that protect it against oxygen while keeping it in solid form. The cutting torch pre-heats steel for it to reach that temperature; a cherry red color on the steel will be the sign that it has been adequately preheated.

When oxygen from the cutting torch reaches the unprotected steel, an exothermic reaction occurs that causes it to form oxidized liquid steel or slag. Because steel has a higher melting point, this slag that formed can easily be blown away by oxygen. This then reveals the solid steel that has not been oxidized.

The exothermic reaction that occurs is continuous as long as the cutting torch is lit up and the flame hits the steel. This constant reaction prevents a crust from forming on the steel, which immediately occurs if the protection against oxygen is still present on the steel. Because there is no crust that forms, the oxygen from the cutting torch can now penetrate the exposed solid steel and cut through it.

Due to the acetylene present, the flame produced by the cutting torch is the highest among all oxyfuel cutting processes. This means you can make cuts much faster and of better quality than the other methods.

How Do You Set Up an Oxy Acetylene Cutting Torch?

Large cylinder tanks. Hoses. Regulators. Valves. Torch. With all these components, setting up an oxy acetylene torch can be an overwhelming experience. While we admit that setting it up is not a straightforward affair, it is still doable even by beginners.

Setting up such a system is pretty standard, but you must first check for any unique instructions the manufacturer of your cutting torch may have. The manufacturer’s instructions will always take precedence over the following standard instructions:

  1. Secure the oxygen and acetylene tanks to a sturdy post, wall, or the like in an upright position. It would be better to use cylinder carts if available since they will do a better job of keeping them in place.
  2. Check and remove any protective coverings placed on the tanks. But if no covers were used, clean the tanks first to remove any debris or dust that settled, especially in the valves. When cleaning the valves, stand away from the opening and quickly turn it on and off. This short burst is enough to blow off the dust present.
  3. Ensure that the regulators to be connected to the valves of the tanks have matching threads. If not, connect the regulator to an adaptor first, then connect the other end of the adaptor to the valve. Screw them in place by hand first, then finish tightening the connection using a wrench that has a fixed opening.
  4. Identify which hoses are used for oxygen and acetylene respectively; the hose for acetylene is typically red and green is for oxygen. Attach the right hoses to the regulators of the right tanks without contaminating it with any kind of lubricant.
  5. Once the hoses are firmly in place, connect the other ends of the hoses to the handle of your torch.
  6. Connect your cutting torch to its handle and tighten the nut by hand. Ensure that the valves on both the torch and the handle are closed.

After setting up, you still need to do some checks before attempting to light your cutting torch. Make sure that the regulators are facing away from you when you do the following:

  1. Open the valves of both tanks, but do it slowly and only one at a time.
  2. Adjust the screws of the regulators so that the gauge will reflect a psi between 40 to 60 for the oxygen tank and 10 psi for the acetylene tank.
  3. Slightly open the valves for both oxygen and acetylene on the cutting torch, but make sure that the valve for acetylene is not open by more than 1/8 of a turn or exceeding 45 degrees.
  4. Do a leak test on all the connected parts using a solution specifically for leak testing or a paste made using dissolved Ivory soap. Use it to coat the valves, hoses, and regulators and watch out for any bubbles that form after a few minutes. If present, it means a leak is present and you need to adjust or tighten the connections.
  5. Repeat the leak test until no bubbles appear.

After successfully doing a leak test, you can now light up your oxy acetylene cutting torch following the instructions of the manufacturer.

How to Light a Cutting Torch

Because of the gases involved, lighting up a cutting torch is done differently. Unlike other torches, a cutting torch will not produce a flame with just a push of the button.

Most cutting torches are lit up using this method:

  1. Slightly open the valve for acetylene on the cutting torch. Make sure that it does not exceed a half-turn.
  2. Use a flint striker or spark lighter to ignite the acetylene gas flowing out of the torch’s nozzle. Soot or black smoke may come out once it is lit up, which is considered normal. You can wait it out or adjust the acetylene valve to make the smoke disappear.
  3. Once the smoke is gone, slowly open the oxygen valve of the torch to remove all the yellow spots of the flame and adjust to get a neutral flame needed for cutting. This neutral flame consists of a small, white, cone-shaped tip near the nozzle and a bigger blue core.

You should only use a flint striker to light a cutting torch because using smaller lighting devices, such as a match or lighter, are too small and will put you at risk of burning your hands as you light up the cutting torch. Also, you must make sure that the tip of your cutting torch is facing away from you, other people, and any flammable objects.

But if your cutting torch has its own ignition device, skip the above steps and follow the instructions given.

How to Shut Down an Oxy Acetylene Cutting Torch

Because there is also no knob or button present on the torch to stop the flame, you must manually shut down your oxy acetylene cutting torch by cutting off the gas being supplied. If you are not yet aware, there is a seemingly never-ending debate about which gas supply to switch off first – oxygen followed by acetylene or acetylene then oxygen.

While both methods are considered correct, manufacturers generally advocate shutting off the oxygen valve first before acetylene. This method allows the acetylene still flowing to blow off the soot that settles in the crevices of your torch; any soot present can affect the seal of the gas valves and cause a leak.

Not only that, but this order also allows you to conduct a leak test before cutting off the gas supply. Once you cut off the oxygen supply then acetylene, the presence of a small flame despite no gas flowing to the torch will indicate a leak. Early leak detection helps prevent an explosion.

Another advantage of cutting off the oxygen supply first is that mini flashbacks are less likely to occur. Despite most cutting torches having protective features against it, flashbacks can still happen. Mini flashbacks occur in the form of a loud pop or bang. While generally considered harmless, mini flashbacks can still cause accidents.

If you are done with your work and need to return your equipment to its storage, you must follow the following steps:

  1. Cut off the oxygen and acetylene gas supplies by switching off the valves at their respective tanks.
  2. Purge the gas that remains in both hoses or gas lines by reopening the oxygen valve on the torch so that the remaining gas in the hose will flow out. Close the oxygen valve once no more gas is flowing out.
  3. Repeat the purging with the acetylene gas line. Make sure to purge both hoses separately.
  4. Once you finish purging, disconnect all components and store them properly.

When storing the oxygen and acetylene tanks, make sure to keep it in a dry and airy location far away from any flammable objects. Always keep them in a vertical position.

Can You Cut Cast Iron With a Cutting Torch?

Have you ever attempted to cut cast iron using an ordinary blowtorch? If so, you may have realized that it is a futile effort. But if you are using a cutting torch to do so, the result will be different.

Because an oxy-acetylene torch has the highest flame temperature present, it can easily cut through even steel that is at least 200 mm thick. But when it comes to cutting cast iron, it is also possible but it will not give you a clean cut and is a bit harder to do.

Preheating the cast iron is crucial to cut through it, and this is done by setting the cutting torch so that it produces a carburizing flame, instead of a neutral flame, and with the highest possible temperature. This type of flame offers better preheating to the cast iron and also stops oxides from rapidly forming. Preheating should be done from the top all the way to the bottom and with more acetylene so that the heat will deeply penetrate the cast iron.

Once it is sufficiently preheated, make small semicircles around the preheated line to melt the iron. Finally, use the oxygen jet to blow off the molten iron and cut through it. You may need to use flux to help you make the cut.

Because of the complicated process, using an oxy acetylene cutting torch to cut through cast iron is not often used. In fact, there are other methods specially developed for this purpose.

Can I Weld With a Cutting Torch?

Are you wondering if you need to buy separate welding equipment if you already have a cutting torch and need to do some welding? If so, we have good news – you can also use your oxy acetylene cutting torch for your welding needs. In fact, this process is known as oxy acetylene welding.

Basically, the metals are placed side by side, with a small gap present between them, and are melted together by the oxy-acetylene flame. When they cool down, the melted sections are already bonded to form a weld seam. Oxy acetylene welding can be used if quickly joining metals together is your only concern because the weld seam formed is not as neat as the ones created by other welding methods.

A neutral flame is also used for welding using a cutting torch, but you need to move your torch in a circular manner so that the metals will melt and pool towards the small gap present between them. While the weld seam formed using this method is strong enough, you can also add filler material using a rod to increase its strength.

An oxy acetylene cutting torch, contrary to its name, is not only used for cutting. You can also use it in different ways, making it such a versatile tool that you must have in your workshop.

Welding Glasses: Shade 14, 13, 12, 10, 5

You probably know that you can lose your fingers if you are not careful with welding, but did you know that you can lose your eyesight as well if you don’t wear the right kind of welding glasses?

This is something that a lot of welders take for granted. They mistakenly think that any pair of tinted glasses, including their favorite pair of wraparound shades, would work for welding. And if they find it uncomfortable, they don’t wear a pair at all and just ignore the blinding light as they work.

They are unaware that wearing the wrong eye gear, or worse, not wearing any at all, can have disastrous consequences. To keep your eyes protected, you must use the right kind of welding glasses. There are different shades available for welding glasses but we will discuss the most commonly used ones, which are shades 14, 13, 12, 10, and 5.

Welding Goggles vs Helmet

Wearing safety gear is important whenever you do any kind of welding activity but when it comes to welding goggles vs helmet, you may find yourself confused about which one to use. Don’t worry, you’re not alone.

It cannot be denied that a welding helmet offers more protection; after all, this headgear protects the wearer from the neck up. This means your entire face and neck are protected from sparks, fumes, ultraviolet (UV) light, corneal sunburn or flash burn (aka welder’s eye), and infrared (IR) radiation, as well as metal bits from the base material. On the other hand, welding glasses can only protect your eye area.

Because welding goggles are more compact in size, they are less intrusive to wear. Meanwhile, a helmet is much bulkier and can feel constricting for some welders. Helmets can be uncomfortable for some to the point that wearing them can affect their work, that is why they would rather wear welding glasses despite offering less protection.

Goggles used to be preferred by many because it is perceived to be better when it comes to visibility, as helmets with passive or fixed lenses made it a bit harder for the wearer to see clearly. Fortunately, more helmet manufacturers are now offering helmets that offer clearer views as you weld, as well as interchangeable and auto-darkening lenses. But if you are using conventional helmets, you still need to wear glasses together with your helmet to protect your eyes.

For some, helmets are also a hassle to wear because conventional ones with passive lenses need to be in different positions before, during, and after welding, especially for beginners that need to use darker shades. It may be too dark for them to position the torch before starting the weld so the helmet must be put in the up position first and only snapped in place immediately before welding. To do so, they have to snap or nod their necks so that it will go into the right position, which can be straining to the neck.

As a fix, auto-darkening lenses are used so that the welder can simply wear them at all times and the lenses will adjust itself based on the amount of light detected. Helmets with auto-darkening lenses also have varying features available, such as:

  • Having a fixed shade that darkens to shade number 10 only when it senses an arc or a variable shade with different shades that darken to an appropriate shade depending on the amount of light detected
  • Different reaction times that indicate how fast the lens will darken to a certain shade once it detects light
  • Number of sensors installed to detect the light
  • Various viewing sizes
  • Delay controls that allow you to set how long it stays dark after it no longer detects an arc
  • Sensitivity controls that allow you to set the light sensitivity of the helmet before it darkens to a suitable shade

When choosing between welding goggles vs a helmet, it will just be a matter of preference for the welder. The helmet is the best option for those who prioritize safety and don’t mind the added bulk, while the welding goggles are best for those who need a clearer vision when working and with fewer intrusions. But if you decide to wear welding goggles, you need to be extra careful to avoid injury to the exposed parts of your face and neck when working.

Welding Glasses Shade Numbers Explained

If you are getting your first pair of welding glasses, you may notice the different shade numbers available. OSHA explains shade numbers as an indicator of the amount of protection the filter lens provides. In particular, the number represents the intensity of UV and IR radiation that it allows to pass through.

The darkness of the filter increases with the shade number, which then decreases the amount of light that passes through the lens. This means a pair of welding glasses that has a shade number of 14 is darker, allowing less light to pass through and offering better protection from the brightness of the light than a pair of welding glasses with a shade number of 11.

Welding glasses, as well as some helmets, normally use lenses with fixed shades. However, there are newer helmets that come with auto-darkening lenses that automatically adjust the shade when the equipped sensors detect a welding arc. When inactive, it has a shade number of either 3 or 4 and will darken up to shade number 13 when it finally detects light. The maximum shade numbers these auto-darkening lenses have are varied, but the majority of them use shade number 13 as the maximum.

The minimum shade numbers recommended by OSHA will not just depend on the type of welding used but also in the amperage or arc current, but their ideal shade numbers and ranges are as follows:

  • Shield Metal Arc Welding or SMAW – from 7 to 11
  • Gas Welding – from 4 to 6
  • Gas Metal Arc Welding or GMAW – either 7 or 10
  • Oxygen Cutting – from 3 to 5
  • Flux Cored Arc Welding – either 7 to 10
  • Gas Tungsten Arc Welding or GTAW – either 8 or 10
  • Heavy Air Carbon Arc Cutting or CAC-A – 11
  • Light Air Carbon Arc Cutting or CAC-A – 10
  • Plasma Arc Welding or PAW – from 6 to 11
  • Heavy Plasma Arc Cutting or PAC – 10
  • Medium Plasma Arc Cutting or PAC – 9
  • Light Plasma Arc Cutting or PAC – 8
  • Carbon Arc Welding – 14

Shade numbers normally range from 2 to 14, with shade number 2 being the lightest. However, there are also special welding glasses that offer zero shade, and even shade numbers 1.5 and 1.7. But for welding activities, they generally require shade numbers higher than 2.

Shade Number 14

If you want the darkest shade of welding glasses, you need to look for one with shade number 14. Because it is very dark, and you can hardly see anything with it, this is not suitable for use outside welding activities. The dark shade allows the filtration of up to 99% UV and IR radiation, which makes it ideal for use when all types of welding, especially arc welding at high amperage like TIG welding. They are typically used for heavy industrial welding and not for small projects like those done at home.

Lenses with shade number 14 almost look completely black and are mostly available with welding glasses and some helmets with fixed lenses. Helmets with auto-darkening lenses often do not have this shade number.

Shade Number 13

You can go a shade lower, which is shade number 13, if you want to keep your eyes well-protected but find shade number 14 too dark for you. In fact, welders who prefer dark lenses on their welding glasses or helmets prefer to use shade number 13 more than shade number 14.

Lenses with shade number 13 are also cheaper, that is why they are common on both welding glasses and helmets, including those equipped with auto-darkening lenses. Shade number 13 is often the darkest shade available for welding glasses that will only be used for non-industrial projects involving both light and heavy-duty welding. You can also use shade number 13 for all welding types.

Shade Number 12

For many, welding glasses and helmets equipped with shade number 12 are more comfortable to use than shade numbers 13 and 14. This is because this shade is just enough to let them see the light coming from the welding arc while being comfortable for them to do so even for hours; some get eye strain when they use darker lenses. Shade number 12 is also ideal for use in all welding types, from light-duty to non-industrial heavy-duty use, especially those with high amperage.

Both welding glasses and helmets offer shade 12 lenses. In fact, most older models of welding helmets with fixed or auto-darkening lenses have shade number 12 as their darkest shade.

Shade Number 10

If you know that your welding projects will only require you to use a medium amperage, welding glasses or helmets that use shade number 10 are suitable for you. This shade is typically considered as the middle ground because they are not too dark nor are they too light for welding. But despite being marked as shade number 10, you can see that different lenses marked as such seem to have different shades; they can either be greenish or blackish.

Welding glasses and helmets that use this shade number tend to be manufactured for specific uses because of this issue. That is, specific models are often created for specific welding types and not for general use. Despite this, shade number 10 can be used for all types of welding, but not when using high amperage. Do note that those welding inside a garage may find this shade to be too dark for them to work with.

Aside from traditional welding glasses, shade number 10 is available in welding helmets with fixed and auto-darkening lenses.

Shade Number 5

For light work, shade number 5 is usually sufficient. However, it should not be used if your welding activity involves arcs, such as MIG and TIG welding, because the shade is not dark enough to shield your eyes from the very bright light of the arc. That is why this shade number is typically used only for cutting, grinding metals, brazing, and other work involving a torch, including an oxy acetylene one.

Welding glasses with this shade not only come in black or green tints, but various manufacturers also make mirrored and polarized versions that make them look like ordinary sunglasses. In fact, there are even some sunglasses with this shade number that you can already use for the light welding-related activities we mentioned.

Keep in mind that if you need to wear prescription glasses when welding, it may be a bit harder for you to choose the right shade number, especially if your pair of prescription glasses is already tinted. In such cases, shade numbers at the middle of the range are a safe bet. Aside from choosing the right shade number, you must also choose the right welding glasses or helmet that can accommodate your prescription glasses at the same time.

Can I Use Welding Glasses to Look at the Sun?

Since you know that welding glasses are capable of shielding your eyes against UV rays, you may be wondering if you can use it to look at the sun, particularly during a solar eclipse. After all, it is not a phenomenon you experience every day.

Yes, welding glasses can be used to directly look at the sun but only with the right shade numbers. This means not all welding glasses or even helmets can be used as an alternative to the proper eyewear when watching a solar eclipse.

According to NASA, welding glasses that can be used to look at the sun should be shade number 12 or higher; any shade number lower than that should not be used for such activities. Shade numbers 12, 13, and 14 are dark enough for you to safely look at the sun. However, what is most recommended is shade number 14, which is the darkest shade available, but some do say that shade number 14 is too dark.

Despite this protection, staring at the sun for a long time is still not recommended. While the risk is minimized, there is still the slightest chance of experiencing long-term issues the longer you look directly at the sun even with welding glasses.