I get asked all the time what kinds of tools should I buy, so organizing it all together into a handy list now with links. We do get a kickback from Amazon when you buy from the links (which helps us), but better to help out your local welding store which helps us all. We like Gordy’s in Burbank the most (and a great small business), but there are Airgas stores all over and they tend to have more stuff in stock.
110V or 220V (or both)? Will your machine run on household current or do you need 220V current (which you may have to run a dryer or stove). Do you want to unplug the stove everytime you wanna weld? You’ll need 220V to weld 1/4″ and thicker material, but that gets heavy quick. Don’t get a machine that only does 220V though because at some point, you’ll have to weld something at your fence line or at your buddy’s house and you’ll need to run off a regular extension cord.
Gas Shielded Possible or Flux Core Only? When you weld steel (or any metal), the oxygen in the air wants to get with your molten steel, molten iron, etc and create oxides. In steel, it creates iron oxides (aka rust) and makes your welds terrible. They get rusty quick and they’re super weak. So you can either use a shielding gas (some mix of argon and CO2) and you can push the oxygen away as you weld. If you don’t have that, you’ll have to use flux core wire and the flux core contains a chemical in the wire that “burns off” as you weld and creates a fume cloud that pushes the oxygen away. That flux welds better outside; any bit of wind will blow your shielding gas away easily. It also welds thicker material for the same input voltage (3/16″ steel on 110VAC versus 1/8″ with gas). But if you’re doing pretty work, indoor work, or thinner sheet metal (<1/16″) you’re gonna want gas shielded. You’ll buy the tank separately from a welding store like Airgas or Gordies.
Adjustability, durability, warrantee, etc. Best to buy from a welding store so you can deal with warrantees in person, but in some cases, its not feasible.
The Lincoln 140 Welder (of which there are a few versions), is a great welder to start off with. It runs off 110VAC and will weld up to 1/8″ material in a single pass. Which is plenty for most home improvement stuff. You can also weld way thicker material if you do multipass or v-groove your material. This machine can take a gas tank for gas shielding or run flux core. The Lincoln Easy MIG 110 can only do flux core. So get the 140 version. And 220V is great if you have it, but most people don’t have it (or don’t want to have to unplug the clothes dryer to get to it). And to run 220V you’ll probably need a 220V extension cord and those ain’t cheap ($80-100).
The other benefit to this one is that it is an actual wire-wound transformer rather than a circuit board. Basically, welders are transformers, transforming high voltage, low amperage wall current into low voltage, high amperage current for welding. A wirewound transformer, although heavier and bigger, will be more durable and cheaper to repair than a circuit board one. We’ve had a few of our Miller circuit board (inverter) welders need their main board replaced and basically, it’s as much as a new welder. Whereas the wirewound ones die a slow death and if something needs to be replaced, it’s not the whole system.
Weld Pack 140 (aka Easy MIG): The generic version. 5 preset voltage settings and fully adjustable wire speed. $559 on Amazon.
140HD–Home Depot version, works great. Not as adjustable as the 140C version. They change the product code (HD versus C or Easy MIG) on it though , so you can’t price shop between Amazon or Northern Tool with Home Depot. About $500 at Home Depot
140C Version BETTER: This one you get from the welding store. Heavier duty and has fully adjustable voltage settings, not just 5 preset settings like the HD or Weld Pack version. Worth the extra money if you want to do prettier welds or you’re going to be rough on your tools. This is the one we use in the shop and we generally love it. $972 Link to this one on Amazon.
180 DUAL BEST: First, don’t get the plain 180 version, get the dual. Plain 180 only does 220VAC power. At some point, you’re gonna need to run your welder on an extension cord, either out to your fence line or over at your buddy’s house, so spend the extra $$ now to get the dual. Burly machine that works great. And if you can run on 220VAC all the time, it’s better. 220VAC power is cheaper and your welds will start hotter (so you won’t have that warm up .5 seconds of cold weld each time you weld with a 110VAC welder). Last check it was $1227. Link to this one on Amazon
All this said, I’d love to try a Hobart Handler 140. Hobart is Miller Welding’s budget line and this one looks to be the equivalent of Lincoln’s 140 line. Miller makes great tools and has better warranty support than Lincoln, and this one looks to be wire wound, not inverter based. Plus it’s $499 Link to Amazon
My Favorite MIG Welder: Millermatic 211 (discontinued)
If you can find one on craigslist, or out there in the wild, it’s great. It’s heavy, kinda loud, but the power delivery is smooth and controls are linear (like an old v8 truck rather than a new turbocharged whatever), it’s durable as could be, and it welds thicker on the same 220V or 110V than any other machine in the shop.
|DO NOT GET AN EVERLAST: or if you do, it’s not on my recommendation. We had two in the shop for a week and it already had stuff falling off it and the controls were labelled backwards. So I sold one and sent back the other one. Don’t be fooled by the warrantee; I read up on horror stories of people waiting months for repairs after shipping it to Idaho. Plus online rumors say they file a cease and desist to anyone who negatively reviews them, so if this one disappears blame that.|
Budget: Miller Diversion 180
Great little machine that works on 110VAC or 220VAC. Does steel or aluminum, but you can’t set the post flow on the gas, so I would not recommend it for stainless. Not the most adjustable, and can’t take a water cooler, but it’s solid and I was really happy with three we had until we upgraded to Dynastys. Will weld short spots of 3/16 on 220VAC. $2449 Link on Amazon
Fancy: Miller Dynasty 200 (and beyond)
This beauty of a machine can do steel, stainless, and alumium (plus all the other ones). Tons of adjustability and the DX models add in pulse features for doing sheet metal or production runs. You’ll probably want a water cooler so you can weld thicker metals for longer so you hand doesn’t melt, but we’re talking $6k here. Better to go to a local welding store to get all the different components you’ll need (and not buy the stuff you won’t). But you can do your research here: Amazon link
Or at least go to Cyberweld where they’ll have more info and be able to answer questions.
I steer towards Miller on the TIGs. Lincoln makes great welders too, but I’ve learned on Millers, at work we used Millers, and in my shop I’ve used Millers. I’ve tried the Lincoln big ole TIG welders and they were good, but I’m just more comfortable with Miller TIGs, finding parts, Miller circuit boards, and warrantees. I’ve also tried the Miller Syncrowave 275 and the thing was as big as a fridge but holy crap, it was a giant wire wound tig and it was beautiful. Huge and heavy, but if you got the space (and the budget) go for it.
If anyone has an AlphaTIG, I’d love to try one of those. Amazingly cheap (around $800), but full feature. Look like great reviews too. LINK
Welding helmets come in a range of styles and prices. Things to consider when buying your own helmet are sensitivity, viewing lens size, and comfort. Plus all the extra features that might make or break a helmet. I’m just reviewing autodarkening helmets here; all you old-schoolers with the flip-only hoods can skip this section.
Budget Helmet: Harbor Freight Helmet
Good for MIG welding. Not sensitive enough for TIG. Durable, simple, comfortable, and cheap ($45 or $35 often on sale). Link to Harbor Freight
Never used the Antra helmets myself, but they look pretty good (and don’t even look that heavy). $45 Link to Amazon
Next Step Up: Lincoln Electric K3419
Good for MIG, TIG or Stick. Small viewing area and only two sensors, but lightweight and lincoln quality. $79 on amazon LINK
High Quality: Lincoln 3350, Miller Digital Elite, or Sentinel A50
All of these helmets are in the $250-300 range, have large viewing areas, multiple sensors, solar power with battery backup. So it mostly comes down to comfort and extra features. Lincoln has that external switch, Miller I find really comfortable and durable, and the Sentinel one shown left makes you look like a bad ass fighter pilot. It’s also really comfortable and has a cutout for your nose so you fog up the lens less. I’m gonna look closely at this brand for my next helmet.
Sizes: They come in 4, 4.5″, and 7″ sizes. Most people use the 4.5″ size so you can get the most kinds of grinding discs in that size. 7″ is burly and not that useful outside of big construction.
Barrel Size: Do you have big hands or small hands? Go to Home Depot and try them out.
Corded or Cordless: Don’t get a cordless if that’s your only one. Batteries do not last long enough for real work.
Paddle Switch or Thumb Switch: Paddle is way safer, but thumb switch will make your hands less tired.
Brand Preference: some folks just love Dewalt for god knows why.
Budget/Cheap: Harbor Freight Grinder
First, these things are cheap. Second they’re cheaply made. One school of thought is that buy the cheap one first, if you wind up using it enough to break it, buy the expensive durable one second. Second school of thought is to just buy the good one first because it’s time and money wasted otherwise. $15 at Harbor Freight
Good: Dewalt or Makita
Solid tools, both of them. Comes down to personal preference. I happen to like Makita tools; they’re durable, solid price point, and they’re pretty easy to fix and finding spare parts and replacement parts is easy. Dewalt makes good grinders too and some people really like them. I’d recommend the paddle switch version for both; safer and for some reason, they make them with bigger, stronger motors. Both abotu $75
If you’re gonna be grinding a lot, the metabo grinder has a fancy handle that keeps vibration down. It’s also made in Germany, so that’s fancy. They even make one that’s variable speed so you can use it for grinding then polishing (generally for polishing you go slow). About $99, or $175 for the fancy variable speed one.
General/Work Gloves: Tillman 1414
I’ve tried a ton of different gloves, most of which don’t last all that long. Found the Tillman ones and they last the longest by a long shot. Even beating out the pricier Lift gloves that I used to love. About $10
Best for TIG: Tillman 1328 Goatskin Gloves
The deerskin ones are super nice, as are the kidskin ones. But they both cost more and last shorter time. Goatskin seems to be less effected messing up and grabbing something too hot, so your gloves don’t shrivel as fast. Plus they’re cheaper. $10-13
MIG welding gloves? Barely use them. And then i’ll use whatever they’re selling at the local welding store. Only when I’m working overhead or something really thick that I’m worried about burning my hands. Normally I’m working on 1/16 and thinner material, so those all leather work gloves are fine.
Safety Glasses: 3M Antifog
The main thing I look for in safety glasses, is that they’re antifog and that they block 99.9% of UVA and UVB. I prefer to get them from a legit brand like 3M too, that way I know they’ve actually been tested for real, not some knock-off imported crap. Plus they’ll be up to the latest ANSI whatever standard.
Here’s the kind we normally stock (but only sold by the 20pack)
Welding Jacket: Miller Cotton Jacket
Working in LA, on mostly thinner stuff, there’s very few days that I want to wear a leather jacket. So this Miller one is perfect. Mostly cotton, snap buttons, and a velcro neck. All the other jackets either have a button neck or some sort of weird collar–this is the one that works. And it’s only $20-25.
Women’s or Smaller Size Jackets: Angelfire
People seem to love these jackets too. All cotton and come in smaller sizes and thinner sizes than the Miller jackets, which makes them very popular around the shop for women and smaller/skinnier men (or teens). It’s just an all brown jacket though, so it’s totally neutral. Price varies based on size (not sure why) but around $26-36. Plus they even come in XS.
Perfect for measuring cuts, angles, repeated cuts, finding centers, all that stuff. Super handy for everything under 12″ where a tape measure is a pain.
MIG Pliers, AKA Welders Helpers, AKA Welpers
These are basically required for mig welding. You can use regular pliers, but these are spring loaded and so much easier to use with gloves on. They’ve also got cutouts for grabbning onto all the different sections of the hot gun, and make life worth living.
They make cheap ones ($7), medium $14 ones, or way better fancy ones ($30). Don’t get the cheap ones; they just don’t work very well.
I’m partial to stanley tape measures. Maybe it’s superstition or maybe it’s habit, but they work. It might seem handy to have a magnetic one, but they’ll get covered in grinding dust faster than you could imagine and it’s not worth it. 12″ is good for furniture, but the 25′ is good for construction and around the house.
$15 for 25′ one, Link on Amazon
or get a 3 pack of 16′ ones and have one at hand all the time. $40
You don’t need a welding table to weld. But it sure helps, especially if you want to keep your work flat and heat–distortion free. And wooden tables will eventually catch on fire. Eventually.
Budget: Harbor Freight Portable Welding Table
This one looks super handy. Not big enough for welding a whole table frame, but good for getting under a corner of one to repair it. Cheap, portable, and useful.
Build Your Own
We can help you through your design or you can find any designs online. Solid is good for sculpture or oxy since stuff wont fall through the cracks, but slats or holes are great for clamping furniture pieces down and keeping them flat.
Dream Table: Stronghand Fixture Table
These are the latest rage. Holes every couple of inches so you can put clamps wherever and keep everything super straight, dead flat and easily repeated. Best for TIG though, cause I’d hate to have to grind MIG splatter off a dead flat $2500 table.
Flap Discs: Walter Surface Tech Enduro 36/60
Yes, these flap discs are more expensive than most ($7-9 each), but they last so much longer and work so much faster they wind up saving money in the end. Those benchmark ones for $1/e are trash as are the norton ones from Home Depot. Better are the CGW ones or the 3M Cubitron ones, but best yet are these Walter ones.
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