If you’re looking into metal fabrication and would like to purchase your first welder then a flux-cored machine is a great choice. They are inexpensive, easy to use and will serve you well for a wide variety of projects even when you become a more skilled welder. Flux-cored machines are a popular choice because they don’t need any shielding gases and most of them operate on a standard 110V power source. This makes them easy to setup and gets most fabricators started right away out of the box. Today we’re going to look at a few popular choices for the best flux-cored welders and help you find a machine you’ll be happy with.

What should I look for when buying a flux-cored welder?

There are a number of things you should look at when choosing a machine including..

  • Manufacture: Buying a machine from a well established manufacture like Hobart, Miller or Lincoln is a great choice as it will make finding wire, replacement parts and consumables easier. Machines from these companies are also more reliable than other “off brand machines.”
  • Power Rating: If you have a specific project in mind make sure your machine will handle the metal thickness you plan to work with. If you’re not sure then just get the biggest machine you can comfortably afford.
  • Parts Availability: More popular brands have more part availability in both physical stores and online. For example, you can often times find replacement parts and wire rolls for small Hobart welders at places like Tractor Supply.
  • Warranty: Companies like Hobart have a 3 year warranty that you can actually count on. If you purchase an off brand machine you never know how bad their customer support can be (believe us we’ve had some terrible experiences).

What brand welder should I get?

Hobart and Lincoln make some of the best entry level flux-cored welders out there. For less than $300 you can get yourself a machine that will be reliable and able hold its value if you decide to upgrade in the future. You just simply can’t go wrong with either brand. If we had to choose, Hobart usually offers more bang for your buck.

Hobart Handler 100 (500572)

The Handler 100 will run you less than $300 and it’s a great machine to start with. Hobart is a popular brand for many fabricators as they provide some great machines with very competitive specs/prices. The Handler 100 operates on a 110v/115v/120v connection making it usable in any garage. It’s rated for up to 3/16 inch steel, which gives you a good amount of power to work with. You really can’t go wrong with this machine. You can view the full spec sheet here on Hobart’s official site

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Hobart 0.035 Flux-Cored Wire

This is the flux-cored wire you will need to purchase with the Handler 100. Be sure to pickup a roll as it does not come with any out of the box. This machine can accommodate both 4 inch and 8 inch rolls.

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Hobart 0.035 Tips

Always great to have some of these on hand for when you need them. When you’re first learning you tend to go through tips faster, so having a few on hand is a good idea. Be sure to match your wire size to the tip size (0.035 wire with 0.035 tips).

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Are cheap Chinese made flux-cored welders any good?

Typically we find that the cheaper off brand Chinese made machines are not the best investment. Usually they work fine out of the box, but the hardware included with the machine is prone to break. They are just simply not built to the standards of Hobart, Miller or Lincoln machines. On top of that, if you do have a problem getting any type of reliable customer service is more hassle than it’s worth. Also you will find that consumables for name brand machines are guaranteed to be available 10+ years from now, but with these cheap Chinese off brand machines there is no guarantee. You could be left with a paperweight if you cannot find the proper consumables. With all that said we recommend you stay away from them and spend an extra $100 and get yourself a proper machine. You’ll be very grateful you did later on down the road.

Should I get a flux-cored welder or MIG welder? What’s the difference?

This is a very common question among many potential buyers and it really depends on the user and their welding needs.

Flux-cored welders: Flux-cored welders can only run flux cored wire and are cheaper than MIG welders for that reason. Flux-cored welders are easier to setup, don’t require an external shielding gas and are highly portable. This is often times the best option for first time buyers as the initial investment is low and setup is easy. The only downside to flux-cored welding is the slag that it produces. The slag makes the welds less appealing initially and requires more clean up if you plan to paint over your welds.

Note: Flux-cored welding can also be referred to as FCAW or FCA

MIG Welders: MIG welders can use flux cored wire or solid steel wire with a shielding gas (typically 75% argon and 25% carbon dioxide). MIG welders are more expensive and also have a higher start up cost as you will need to purchase an external tank. MIG welders are also less portable as you often times will need a welding cart to hold your welder and tank together. MIG welds will look cleaner with no slag and are ready to paint over with minimal clean up.

Note: MIG welding can also be referred to as GMAW (Gas Metal Arc Welding)

Best Bang For Your Buck: I always recommend a simple flux-cored welder to first time buyers. They’re simple, inexpensive and will get you welding straight out of the box. If later on down the road you feel that you want to switch to MIG welding you can sell your flux-cored machine. When buying your new MIG welder not only can you upgrade to MIG, but you can also invest more money into a more powerful machine.

For more information on flux-cored welding versus MIG welding check out this great article from MillerWelds.

Which MIG welder do you recommend for beginners?

If you choose to get a MIG welder, sticking to a name brand machine is your best bet. Hobart, Lincoln and Miller are going to be your number one choices. Hobart is a more value based brand while Lincoln and Miller are top of the line. I always recommend Hobart to first time buyers as they usually don’t want to spend a lot of money upfront. Be sure to really consider how thick of steel you plan to work with and buy the appropriate size welder. You can find the welders capacity by looking at its power rating.

Hobart Handler 140 MIG Welder (115V)

This is a great entry level MIG machine that operates on 115v (standard wall plug). It can weld up to 1/4in. steel in a single pass and has a adequate duty cycle of 20% at 90 amps. Great machine for the money and comes with a 5 year limited warranty from the factory. If you have 230v power available in your shop I recommend going just a bit bigger with the machine listed below.

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Hobart Handler 190 MIG Welder (230V)

If you have 230v plug in your shop this is the way to go. This machine can weld up to 5/16in. steel in a single pass and has a better duty cycle compared to the Handler 140. The Handler 190 has a 30% duty cycle at 130 amps, which allows you to be more productive with your time. Overall a great machine for any fabricator. Comes with a standard 5 year limited warranty as well.

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When buying a welder what else will I need to get started?

When you buy a welder you will also need..

  • Welding Helmet: Auto darkening with adjustable shade setting is recommended. Refer to your machines manual to know what shade strength you need.
  • Welding Gloves: You must have welding gloves. They will protect your hands while welding and will also allow you to pickup hot pieces of metal. Thin work gloves will not provide the same protection.
  • Welding Jacket: We recommend you purchase a welding jacket as it will reduce the amount of sparks burning small holes in your clothes. It’s also a lot safer than standard work clothes.
  • Wire: Most machines do not come with wire out of the box. Check your user manual or product page and order a roll of the appropriate wire.
  • Extra Consumables: Most machines come with a few extra consumables for the gun. It never hurts to have some extras on hand.

YESWELDER Auto Darkening Helmet

Good inexpensive auto darkening helmet to get your started.

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RAPICCA Leather Welding Gloves

Nice inexpensive welding gloves. One pair is all you need.

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Lincoln Welding Jacket

Great jacket to have for welding, plasma cutting, and grinding.

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