Creating metal art and metal sculptures is a hobby that has gained a lot of traction lately. Users who are interested in creating their own want to know how much they would have to invest in fabrication equipment to get started. What’s great about metal art is you can start small and begin to create all sorts of awesome creations with very basic inexpensive tools. You can start out with as little as the following:

  • Welder
  • Angle Grinder with flap discs and metal cutoff wheels
  • Safety equipment
  • Some scrap metal

What Welder Do You Recommend For Metal Art?

What’s great about buying a welder for metal art is that you do not need to buy a super powerful machine as most of the metal you will be working with will be less than a quarter inch. The reason this is great is because you can invest in a small machine that is inexpensive, easy to move around and easy to store. The best type of welder for metal art and sculptures is going to be a small MIG welder as it provides clean welds with minimal splatter and no shielding to clean off. The only downside of a MIG welder is that it requires an external tank of shielding gas (75% argon and 25% carbon dioxide). Most new fabricators find this rather daunting as they have no experience with shielding gases, however don’t be afraid as it’s simple to get a bottle from your local welding shop. Any MIG welder you buy will already be equipped with the correct hardware to hook up your external tank. You local welding shop can even help you with hooking up your external tank to your machine if needed.

Hobart Handler 140 MIG Welder

The Hobart Handler 140 is one of the best mid-level machines and it works perfectly for metal art. Hobart makes quality machines that are very well priced and come with a 5 year limited warranty from the factory. This machine can weld up 1\4 inch steel and can turn down to weld as little as 24 gauge steel. Having this amount of adjustment will prove very useful when working with smaller pieces of metal and will give you more control of the size of your welds. This machine also runs on 115V meaning it will plug into a standard electrical wall socket in your shop. You simply can’t go wrong buying this machine.

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75% Argon 25% CO2 Welding Gas Cylinder (FULL) (40cu/ft)

You can purchase these online and then have them filled or exchanged at your local welding shop. This is a 40cu/ft size that is easy to store and carry around.

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Can I Used A Flux-Cored Welder Instead Of A MIG Welder For Metal Art? What’s The Difference?

Purchasing a flux-cored welder is indeed a cheaper option than a MIG welder and it will work great for creating metal art. The only downside of welding with flux-cored wire is it requires more time and effort to remove shielding slag and clean welding splatter. To better understand this, take a look at the image showing the two types of welds and the difference in their appearance. With a little time on a grinder you can have the flux-cored welds looking clean like the MIG welder, but it will cost you more time. Also another thing to consider is most metal art pieces are left bare and not painted, therefor if you use a grinder with a flap disc to clean up flux-cored welds you will see the grind marks on the metal. This can be desirable or not depending on what you want your art piece to look like.

If you would like more information on MIG welding vs flux-cored welding you can check out this article from MillerWelds or this article by Lincoln Electric.

What’s The Best Flux-Cored Welder For Metal Art?

When buying a flux-cored welder you can follow the same principles as a MIG. Getting a smaller name brand machine will give you the best results and most bang for your buck. Once again you don’t need a huge powerful machine as a smaller machine will actually give you better results.

Hobart Handler 100 Flux-Cored Welder

Once again Hobart offers a great value here on the Handler 100. Flux-cored machines are a lot less expensive and work straight out of the box without any extra hardware. This machine operates on 115v, so it will plug into a standard electrical outlet making it usable in any shop. The Handler 100 will weld up to 3/16 inch steel and has adjustment settings to turn down the power for smaller pieces of steel. This machine is backed by the same 5 year limited warranty. You won’t find a better machine for the price.

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Are Cheap Chinese Welders Any Good?

Many future fabricators are often times tempted to buy off brand machines made in China as they are very cheap and can usually be picked up for half the cost. If you search for welders on Amazon you will find a whole bunch of different off brands. These machines do work, but should be avoided because of the following:

  • No replacement parts: Typically these machines do not offer replacement parts from the factory. So if something fails on your machine there is a very little chance you will be able to purchase the parts to repair it.
  • No warranty/support: If you have a problem with your machine there is a very small chance that you will be able to get into contact with someone who can give you quality support on how to diagnose your problem.
  • DOA Machines: We find that cheap off brand machines have a higher chance of being shipped dead on arrival. If you do take a chance on these machines be sure to purchase it through Amazon and take advantage of their quick return policy. Try to avoid eBay sellers as your return process can be a nightmare.

Should I Get a 230v or 115v Welder? What’s The Difference?

For metal art you don’t need a very powerful machine to get adequate welds making a 230v machine a bit overkill. This means that a 115v machine is often times the best option as it’s less expensive. With that being said, a bigger 230v welder will still work great and can be a better choice if you plan to use your welder for other types of projects.

115V Welders

  • Use a standard wall plug
  • Have lower power ratings (Max welding thickness usually rated between 3/16 inch to 1/4 inch)
  • Have a lower duty cycle than 230v machines (Lower duty cycle = less continuous welding over a 10 minute period)
  • small in size and easy to move around
  • less expensive than 230v welders

230V Welders

  • Use a variety of 230V style plugs (Can be rewired to fit the plug in your shop)
  • Have higher power settings than 115v machines
  • Higher duty cycle than 115v welders
  • Larger and harder to move around (may require a welding cart)
  • More expensive than 115v machines