Choosing the Right Welder
Whether you are a hobbyist or a do-it-yourself person, purchasing a welder is a vital long term decision for your business or home. Buying a welder that fits your needs will enable you to perform an array of DIY projects, save on repair costs as well as a source of extra income.
With several types of welding processes available today, there is no single welder that is suitable for all applications. Choosing the welder that matches your needs and project specifications can be an overwhelming process. However, before purchasing a welder, you should begin by asking yourself the following;
- i What type of welding process do you intend to do?
- ii What is the nature of welding materials?
- iii How often do you plan to weld?
- iv Do you have any future projects in mind, probably in the next 6-12 months?
- v Are you looking for a complicated or straightforward welding technique?
- vi Do you plan to work only outside, inside a garage or are you planning to travel with it?
- vii How much will it cost upfront and to maintain the welder?
These questions will help you match a welder to your welding skills and your specific needs. This guide is an overview of different types of welders and information on essential details to consider when buying the perfect welder.
Overview of Different Types of Welders
MIG welder uses a specialized gun and a shielding gas to feed a line of electrodes to form an arc between the electrode and base metal. The arc melts and fuses all the parts resulting in a strong weld. MIG welder is primarily used to weld materials made from steel, aluminum alloys, stainless steel, and thicker metal plates.
Unlike other welders, TIG welder is more sophisticated, and as such, it requires more expertise to learn. This welder comes with a non-consumable tungsten electrode which is used to heat the base metal to form a molten weld.
TIG welder is exceptionally versatile, and it can be used to weld material of almost any thickness which includes steel brass, cast iron and even exotic metals like magnesium and titanium. Thinner materials require that you use lower amperage to prevent a burn through. TIG welder allows you to have total control over the welding process.
Stick/ Arc Welder
Stick welder is composed of welding sticks/rods that contain the filler material that is used to lay the weld. It utilizes an electric current to generate an arc between the stick and the base metal. Stick welders are mainly used in home-shop welding applications.
Stick welder is effective in welding most joints and alloys and in the construction of steel structures. It is also efficient on rusty metals, and the good thing is that it can be used indoors and outdoors. Stick welders are available in AC, DC, and even AC/DC. AC is the most economical and widely used option.
Multi-purpose welders can be used for more than one welding process, and they have gained popularity over the past few years. Some allow for two welding processes while some can perform all kinds of welding. This makes them somewhat expensive, but they are the best option.
Factors to consider when choosing a welder
The purpose of the welder
When buying a welder, you'll need to ask yourself the type of projects that you will be engaged in now and in the future. You'll also need to consider the number of projects you're interested in and how frequently you will be using the tool. This will help you determine the amount of power and duty cycle that a welder should have to operate optimally.
Also, different welders will have some limitations and benefits. For instance, MIG welder is considered as one of the easiest to use, but it is not strong enough for some applications. TIG welder, on the other hand, is more versatile but it is more challenging to learn. That said it is important to consult an expert before purchasing a welder to ensure it meets your needs.
Input voltage is a vital consideration as it is the parameter that will enable you to achieve the expected output. Basically, welders have varied power output, but for single-phase, most welders can run on standard household power of 115 volts and 230 volts. Those that run on 115 volts are ideal for DIY tasks that do not require a lot of power, while heavy-duty tasks will require a more stable power supply of about 230 volts.
Duty cycle is the minutes out of 10 minutes a welder can be operated before letting it cool off. A welder with a higher duty cycle requires more time to run and vice versa. For instance, a 60% duty cycle means that the welder can be used for 6 minutes after which it must be allowed to cool for 4 minutes.
Choosing a welder with a longer duty will come in handy when welding thicker materials. More expensive welders will have a longer duty cycle while the less expensive models will have a shorter duty cycle. Some models have a 100% duty cycle which means that they can run continuously.
Type of current
Welders will either run on AC that reverses itself at specific intervals or DC that does not reverse itself. DC welders are more established and offer a steady flow of energy, thus leading to deeper weld penetration and improved control. This makes them more costly than their AC counterparts. AC/DC welders offer a wider variety of electrodes, giving them several advantages that include better penetration and improved arc striking.
The Bottom Line
While it always a good idea to taste waters with a variety of models, picking the right tool the first time around can save you a lot of frustrations and money in the long run. There is more to look for in a welder than just the price tag. The most expensive welder is not always the best in all situations, while the cheapest option may not be able to handle every task you hope to accomplish. The best welder should offer satisfaction, convenience, and a range of new opportunities.