My pick for the best home MIG welder is the Lincoln Electric Handy MIG. This welder is ready to go out of the box and includes every accessory you need to tackle any of your home welding projects. Check out the review to find out why it topped the list. I also have a few more picks for those looking for a cheaper option or even a top of the line MIG welder.
Whether you are just getting interested in becoming a hobby welder or already took classes in school or a trade program, you may be wondering what the best welder for home use is. It’s pretty easy to see how this question would come up given the many models available, not to mention the several different types of welding machines. I will go ahead and answer one of those right now, the best type of welding machine for home use is a small MIG welder. If you are wondering what the best beginner welding machine is, the answer is the same.
I will go over the different types of welding machines more in my guide but a small MIG welder is often viewed as the easiest to learn on and can tackle a range of jobs you may encounter around the house. I learned on a small Lincoln MIG welding machine and haven’t looked back. I even convinced my dad when I showed him how good MIG welds look even for a beginner.
When reading through the guide and the MIG welder reviews it is a good idea to keep in mind how you think you use your home welding machine. Having an idea of what type of metals you will work with, how thick or what gauge the metals are, and how often you might find yourself using the welding machine. This information might help you decide if you can get by with a good cheap MIG welder or if you need something completely different like a stick welder and less likely a TIG welding machine.
How To Choose: A Guide to Home Welding Machines
When I first became interested in welding I admit it was long before the rise of the internet and information only came by word of mouth. Unfortunately my dad and I didn’t really know any welders personally but fortunately, we picked up a Lincoln due to the name recognition and it turned out to be a good purchase. Below I will break down all of the information I wish we had back then. Remember, the best home welder is one that works well for the job at hand.
Picking a home welding machine is pretty straight forward once you know what you need to look for. You should be able to narrow down what home MIG welder or other type will work best and select one from the list of best welding machines I have already researched that are good as a hobby welder and home use.
Home Welding Machines: Performance Attribute
Welding Machine Types
There are many forms of welding including stick, MIG/Flux-Core, and TIG welding. Each form has its own benefits and limitations, and there is no one size fits all process. The professional welders I know will use several different welding machines in a single day in the industrial setting they work in and this is a common occurrence. When reading about each type, keep in mind what you intend to weld at home.
- STICK WELDING: Stick welding uses an electric current flowing from a gap between the metal and the welding stick, also known as an arc-welding electrode. Stick welding is an effective method for welding most alloys or joints and can be used both indoors and outdoors, or in drafty areas. It is also the most economical welding method and largely popular because of its ability to create an effective bond on rusty or dirty metals. It can be a good choice for farmers and heavy duty home projects.
Limitations: Stick welding is not a good option for metals thinner than 18 gauge or 1/16th of an inch. It also requires frequent rod changes and emits a lot of spatter and slag which requires more cleanup with a grinder. It is also more difficult to use well than other methods.
- MIG WELDING/FLUX-CORE: MIG welders use a wire fed from a spool automatically at a constant pre-selected speed. It produces a high strength weld a needs little cleanup to produce a great looking weld. It capable of welding both thin and thicker metals. MIG machines can weld either Gas Metal Arc Welding (GMAW) or Flux-Cored Arc Welding (FCAW).
GWAW is a gas shielded process that requires an inert gas to shield the weld puddle from atmospheric contamination. FCAW is almost identical to GWAW except it uses a special tubular wire filled with flux to shield the arc. It can be used with or without a shielding gas, depending on the filler. It is good to note that FCAW or Fluxcore is great for portability as you will not have to worry about carrying around the gas for shielding, you only need to worry about the machine when going portable.
Both MIG and Flux-Cored are very easy to learn and create extremely clean welds on steel, aluminum and stainless. Both types have the capability to weld materials as thin as 26-gauge. Flux-Cored is a very popular choice for construction and home use due to its portability and high weld speed. It also capable of welding in windy conditions and on dirty materials.
- TIG WELDING: TIG (tungsten, inert gas), uses a tungsten electrode to produce the weld. The weld area is protected from atmospheric contamination by an inert shielding gas such as argon or helium.
TIG welding is most commonly used to weld thin sections of alloy steel, stainless steel and non-ferrous metals such as aluminum, magnesium, and copper alloys. There is greater control over the weld than other welding processes, which allows for stronger, higher quality welds. TIG welding is more complex and difficult to master than other welding types, and is significantly slower.
Welding machines typically run on 110V or 220V circuits with many machines offering dual voltage capability which is great for flexibility and not having to rely on having access to a 220V circuit. The 110V machines are usually best for home use as that is the most common circuit type you will find around your home.
If you need to weld thicker material it would be advisable to have a 220V capable machine with a high max AMP rating. It is important to note that higher voltage doesn’t necessarily equate to more power. To really get an idea of the power which is WATTAGE and is measure in terms of VOLTS X AMPS. Note both the AMPS and the VOLTS when assessing capabilities.
If we apply this to home use, every circuit is regulated by a circuit breaker which is rated in AMPS. To compare, you would need a 40 AMP 110V circuit to get the same power as a 20 AMP 220V circuit.
The AMP rating on a welding machine will give you a better idea about its power potential and how thick or thin of material the welding machine can handle. To weld thick material you would want to look for a higher max AMP rating. For thinner sheet metal you want a low minimum AMP rating, you will want to be able to dial down the power so your bead isn’t too hot to work with thin sheet metal otherwise you will melt right through rather than bonding the pieces.
Duty cycle is a welding machine specification measured in minutes and defines how long, within a 10 minute period, a welder can safely produce a welding current. For example, a welder with a 30% duty cycle must rest for at least 7 minutes after 3 minutes of continuous welding. It is important note that is for continuous operation, as starting a weld and then stopping to re-position or change the setup will likely prolong the duty cycle.
HEAT OVERLOAD PROTECTION
A heat protection feature on a MIG welding machine will shut off the machine if becomes overheated. This protect both the machine from damage and as well as your work space. This is a very important features as it will provide the peace of mind and you will not have to worry about overheating.
Home Welding Machines: Other Considerations
- BUDGET: The price of a welding machine is an obvious consideration when making a purchase for tools and equipment intended for home use. Cheap welders can be had for as low as a $100 but you shouldn’t expect much quality or durability out of units in this price range.
If you want something that will last and has enough features that are considered more than just passable, you are entering a mid-price range anywhere from $200 up to $500. In this price range you can find a good welder that will handle virtually anything you can throw at it around the house. The higher end of that budget will get you a unit that could even handle tougher welding jobs you may encounter around a large farm.
You might be surprised to find out that high-end welding machines can sell for as high as several thousand dollars. Obviously this would be serious over kill for home use but if think you might want to make a career out of welding as a journeyman welder or at least pick up some side jobs, than it may not be a bad idea to pick up something in the $800-$1,500 price range. It will be fully capable and will allow you to weld at home and on the job.
- WIRE SIZE & TYPE: Since MIG welding machines can use both metal core wire used in gas shielded welding or flux-cored used in non gas shielded welding, determine the machines capabilities as well as intended application when selecting a wire. Also keep in mind the spool size the machine can handle when making your selection.
Another important tips is selecting a wire that is suited for the application. Some wires are more all purpose and some are better for welding rusty and dirty metals as it will provide more oxidizers during the weld.
- MATERIAL THICKNESS: Every welding machine has varying capabilities when it comes to the thickness the machine can weld. This will be in the manufacturers specifications of the product.
Now that you have an better understanding of the features and capabilities of welding machines for home use, you should have no problem choosing one right for you. A great companion to any welding machine is an angle grinder, and if you don’t already have one, be sure and check out our angle grinder guide for welders as you a sure to need one.
The Best Home Welder Reviews- Top 4 MIG Welders
The Lincoln Electric Handy MIG is the perfect choice for the home welder. It has all the features one might need, is a quality and respected brand, and can be had for a respectable price. A comparable version of this model was the first MIG welder my dad picked up when I was a teenager. It was an easy model to use and learn on and it handled everything we threw at it including a small steel frame building. It was always maintained properly and it is still gets used from time to time over a decade later.
This is a compact and lightweight welder capable of welding mild steel from 24 gauge to 1/8″ thick in a single pass and plugs into the standard 115V, 20AMP outlet. One of things that makes this such a great buy is all of the accessories it comes with. It includes the welding gun and cable assembly, work cable with clamp, gas-less nozzle for flux-cored welding, gas nozzle, gas regulator, hose for MIG welding, 1-lb. spool flux-cored wire, 2-lb. spool solid MIG wire, six contact tips in two sizes, welding hand-shield, and chipping hammer/brush. This is really everything you need to start welding, although I recommend a wearable face shield.
The Handy MIG will handle most jobs around the house including sheet metal, auto body, bicycles, hunting stands, and light utility trailers. This is a welder that really does it all and you really wont need another welder if you stick to house projects. Ready to go out of the box, setup only takes a few minutes and you will be ready to go.
If there is only one complaint to be had is that the gas regulator does not have a gauge on it, other than that this is really the perfect starter welding kit for weekend warriors. Other than that, I chose the Handler as the best home MIG welder because you get everything you need to from a quality brand that will last.
When it comes to the 110V class of welding machines, the Hobart Handler 500559 handles the competition. Some refer to Hobart as the little brother to the ever popular Miller Welding machines but it certainly isn’t due to performance. A parent company ITW owns both brands and Miller is marketed to more industrial applications and Hobart is marketed to consumers. It is good to note that often times, Miller has a comparable model under the Hobart brand which is only lacking a few bells and whistles of the Miller model but at a much better price.
The first thing you will notice is how solid and well constructed the Hobart machine is compared to other brands. The shell is made of strong, thick steel, and the wire feed assembly is all metal which is great compared to the plastic components of lesser end brands. The 10 foot clamp and gun is also longer than most others in this class of MIG machines. Every component on the Handler is just noticeably sturdier, including the Miller branded gas regulator with integrated gauges. This is truly a quality, American built machine.
If you haven’t already guess this welder will set you back on price more than some others but you are getting the better quality than almost every other machine out there. What really matters in a good welder is how well it can push/pull a bead and the Hobart Handler really shines on this. It has even been compared to a Millermatic 200 on lighter material. The Hobart Handler 140 is the best 110V MIG welder in its class.
If you are like me and simply want the best or as I like to put it, “buy once, cry once” and buy quality product at higher prices once rather than cheap stuff twice after it inevitably fails, this is the MIG welder to get. If you need the most powerful welder in its class and can easily handle metal up to 1/4″ look no further than the Hobart Handler.
If you are looking for the best cheap MIG welder, the Forney 125CF is the welder for you. It doesn’t have all of the bells and whistles of the more expensive models and can’t weld with gas but it certainly gets the job done at an insanely affordable price. I have seen several similar models in action but the Furney is the best cheap MIG welder in the bunch.
Forney’s also a good starter MIG welder if you are on the fence about your skill and don’t want to invest to heavily to get started. The flux-cored welder is perfect for beginners who do not want to have to learn how to setup gas and dial it in. Everything you need to get started is in the box, just plug in play. The only additional items you will need is the safety equipment required to weld.
You will be able to tackle a variety of projects with this small welder but some project may require a bit more prep work to clean up the weld site as it wont melt through some of the tougher grime like bigger machines will. You can also bond thicker pieces up to 1/4″ with the 125C as long as it isn’t a structural weld as you likely wouldn’t wouldn’t get the penetration needed for the weld to hold against heavy supports.
All in all, this model is cheap, it gets the job done, and is quite reliable for the price. Forney is also know to have good customer service should you have any issues with the unit.
If you have been welding for a while now and are looking for the ultimate upgrade. Hobart’s Iron Man 230 is the top of the line MIG welding machine. It is rated for 230V so you will need a 230V circuit to run the machine but it can handle absolutely anything around the house and farm. Capable of welding steel up to a 1/2″ thick down to 24 gauge aluminum in a single pass, the Ironman 230 is the definition of versatility. Some have said the Ironman even has a better arc than the Millermatic 251.
This welding machine comes loaded with a 15 ft. 200 amp MIG gun, a spoolgun with 20 ft. cables, regulator/flowmeter, 5 ft. gas hose with fitting, primary input power cable with plug, 10 ft. work cable with clamp, .030/.035 in. dual groove drive roll, 2 plastic cable hangers with mounting hardware, and extra contact tips. Everything you would need to weld heavy duty projects on a farm to delicate aluminum projects in a auto body shop.
Most users that have made the investment in this machine have done so for its ability to weld aluminum and they praise how well it does. If you are look to make the jump to your first full size MIG Welder this would be the welder to do it with. If you are someone who picks up side jobs in addition to working around your own farm or house, you would benefit greatly from the capabilities of the Ironman. It will produce higher quality welds than smaller machines as well as save time doing so.
If you aren’t ready to make the full and very pricey jump to Miller Welding machines, Hobart is a more than capable option and folks who are experienced in both products often comment the Hobart Ironman 230 is actually an even better option in some cases. The Ironman is simply the best mig welder for the home or farm user looking for the most capable machine.
Best Home MIG Welder Comparisons
|MIG Image||Welding Machine||Volts||AMPS||Duty Cycle||Material Thickness||Gas Capable||MSRP|
|Lincoln Electric Handy MIG||110||35-88||20% @ 70 A||24 ga - 1/8 in||Yes||$350|
|Hobart Handler 140 MIG Welder||110||25-140||20% @ 90 A||24 ga - 1/4 in||Yes||$560|
|Forney 299 125FC MIG Welder||110||120||20% @ 120 A||24 ga - 1/4 in||No||$150|
|Hobart Ironman||110/220||30-250||60% @ 175 A||24 ga - 1/2 in||Yes||$1550|
I hope you found the list and guide useful. I’d love to hear what others think and if there are any machines you think should have made the cut!