Choosing the right MIG welder for building a smoker is easy, the bigger the better! Building a smoker is a very fun project as you get to build your dream rig just as you imagined and later sit around smoking delicious food in your backyard with your buddies (drinking beer highly recommended). No matter why type of smoker you want to build you are going to need a good welder as a large part of the fabrication process involves welding. Today we will break down what you need to look for when buying a new welder to build your smoker and ultimately how big of welder you should get for your specific project.
In A Hurry? Our Top Picks:
- Operates at 115v (Standard wall plug). Great for people who don’t have 230V in their garage.
- Rated to weld 1/4 steel (Most popular thickness for medium sized offset smokers).
- Great brand and warranty.
- 115v/230V dual voltage allowing for a better duty cycle.
- Rated to weld 3/8 steel (Great for medium to large size offset smokers).
- Great brand and warranty.
- 230V with a high duty cycle of 60%. Lots of power.
- Rated to weld 1/2 steel (Great for larger pits with heavy duty fireboxes/trailers).
- Great brand and warranty.
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What Type Of Welder Do I Need For Building A Smoker?
MIG Welders are the best choice when building a steel smoker as they produce nice cleans welds quickly and efficiently. If you’re new to welding or this will be your first welder you will feel right at home with a MIG welder in no time. They are the easiest to operate and learn.
Smokers do require a lot of welding and you will be spending hours using your new machine. A MIG welder will not only make this process faster, but also more cost efficient compared to other types. There really is no replacement for a MIG welder.
Can I Use A Flux-Cored Welder For Building A Smoker?
Yes, you can use a flux-cored welder for building a smoker, but keep in mind there will be a lot of extra clean up from the built in shielding of the wire. This extra cleaning will almost double the amount of time you will be spending completing your welds. On a smoker build with a lot of welding in tight spaces this can be a major drawback. This is why MIG welders are usually preferred as their welds are clean and ready to paint with minimal prep required.
Another issue to keep in mind with flux-cored welders is they are typically rated at low power ratings. So depending on the smoker you’re building it may not be rated high enough for the steel you’re working with. For example, the flux-cored Hobart Handler 125 (Amazon.com Affiliate Link) is rated at only 1/8″ inch steel. This could work just fine if you’re planning to build an ugly drum smoker, but would not work if you plan to build a big heavy offset smoker.
For more information on MIG vs flux-cored welding check out this helpful article by Miller.
How To Choose The Best Welder For Your DIY Smoker Build
Medium Offset Smoker
Minimum Power Rating: 1/4 inch
115V or 230V: 230V strongly preferred. 115V will work if no 230V is available.
Large Offset / Trailer Smoker
Minimum Power Rating: 3/8 inch
115V or 230V: 230V Only
Note: The welder links above are Amazon affiliate links. If you click these links and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.
Picking the size of your new welder should be based on three factors including what power you have access to, what type of smoker you will be building and what else will you use your welder for after your smoker is finished. Generally, we recommend everyone get a welder one step bigger than what they think they need. If you plan to weld 1/4 inch steel get a welder that can weld 3/8 inch steel for some extra breathing room. Having the extra power on hand can be very useful for future projects and the duty cycle of your machine will increase.
230V/220V Welders For Smokers
If you have 230V power available in your shop you will have a wide variety of machines to choose from as a majority of welders run on 230v. 230v welders will have more power and better duty cycles (more welding time before the machine needs to rest). If you only have 115v power available get the biggest 115V machine you can.
The Type Of Smoker You’re Building
Small smokers like an ugly drum smoker will only require a small welder as you will not be welding any type of thick steel. Medium to large offset smokers or insulated cabinet smokers will require a larger welder that can handle 1/4 inch steel. For large offset smokers it would be ideal to have a machine that can weld up to 1/2 inch steel as many people recommend 1/2 inch thick firebox doors to reduce the chance of flexing under high heat. Most larger smokers are also mounted on trailers which could require you to be welding thick C-Channel pieces.
Buying a welder shouldn’t only be focused on one project. Think ahead and brainstorm different welding projects you maybe working on and buy a welder that can handle them. We always recommend getting a bigger machine than you think you need because you never know what projects you will be working on in the future. It’s never a good feeling wishing you would have gone one size bigger.
Why Do We Recommend Hobart Welders?
We find that Hobart welders are the perfect mix of quality and cost efficiency. Hobart makes quality professional grade machines that are reasonably priced and backed by a solid warranty. Many fabricators run Hobart and they have proven to be reliable machines after a lot of abuse in heavy work environments.
With that being said, Miller and Lincoln electric also make fantastic machines that have even more bells and whistles than Hobart. However, they are more expensive than Hobart and to the average consumers the extra money for Lincoln or Miller is often times not worth it. We feel Miller and Lincoln are more professional focused brands. You can check out Lincoln Electric’s welder line up here and Miller’s welder line up here.
What About Cheap Off-Brand Chinese Welders On Amazon?
If you have searched welders on Amazon or Ebay you will find a whole bunch of different off-brand welders that are very cheap. Most of these machines are made in China and are not worth your investment. While these machines do work out of the box and can get the job done, their weak point is their durability over numerous years. There is a very good chance that these machines will break overtime and replacement parts will be very difficult if not impossible to find.
Buying a name brand machine will give you the peace of mind that if something does go wrong you have the means and support to fix it. We recommend you spend a little extra money and invest in a machine that comes for a reputable brand.