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Professional welders play crucial roles in many different industries, some of which we’ll detail below. From the diverse industry applications to the potential career growth, there are quite a few big reasons to become a welder. That said, even if you simply want to take it up as a hobby, you might not understand where to begin your welding education. There are many different processes, rules, and equipment that come with the industry, so this list will simplify some of those details for newcomers.
Any newcomer to the industry will find themselves asking, “what is the best type of welder for a beginner?” If you’re not asking this question, then you’ve made your first mistake. Don’t worry; all welders have been in your position at one point—keep reading to learn the basics of choosing your first welding machine.
One of the biggest factors to consider when choosing a welder is which method you’re using for the project at hand. There are various welding methods frequently used, each with its own pros and cons. Below, we’ll dive into three common methods—MIG, TIG, and stick.
A major pro of MIG welding is it’s very easy for beginners to learn. This method involves a wire electrode being continuously fed through the welding gun. To make the MIG welding process even simpler, the wire moves through the gun at a pre-selected speed, ensuring consistency throughout the project. The heat successfully generated by the welding arc continuously melts the wire electrode, allowing it to bond to the workpiece with sufficient strength and visual appeal.
MIG is the go-to method for industry beginners because it’s such a great process for learning the basics. You can use this method for welding metals such as aluminum, steel, and stainless steel. So, if you’re a true beginner, then stick to welding machines that support MIG welding. The MIG method has a reputation for completing quick, clean welds. This welding method is also versatile in terms of industry uses—it’s a good method for creating your own lawn art at home, or you can use it for larger-scale projects like repairing a car.
The similarly titled TIG welding is a more challenging process for newcomers than MIG welding. That’s not to say this method is bad; in the right hands, TIG can be a means of yielding strong, brilliant welds with impressive precision. This welding is more manual than others, requiring you to operate the torch with one hand and feed the wire with the other. Although this provides the welder with a unique level of precision and control, TIG comes with a big learning curve.
TIG is worth learning, but wait until you leave the beginner phase of your welding education. This welding method is commonly used for working with metals such as copper alloys, aluminum alloys, steel, and stainless steel. Thanks to the precision and strength TIG welding adds to workpieces, you’ll see this method frequently used in the aerospace and automotive industries.
Luckily, there is a middle ground between the two methods above—stick welding. This method has a larger learning curve than MIG does, but it’s still easier for novices to get the hang of than TIG. Stick welding involves an electrode through which the electric current flows, creating an arc between the electrode and the base metal. The difficulties of starting and maintaining that arc are two of stick welding’s downsides, but it’s still an effective method for creating strong bonds between metals, even when that metal is rusty.
Stick welding is one of the most affordable methods in the industry, so it’s useful for anyone trying to stay on a tight budget. Another key attribute of stick welding is that it’s functional in either outdoor or indoor workstations, adding a bit more flexibility to the whole process. As with TIG and MIG welding, stick is a good method for bonding steel or stainless steel workpieces. However, one of stick welding’s unique attributes is how effective it is for welding cast iron workpieces too. The construction industry consistently relies on stick welding for structural welding purposes.
Now that you’re more familiar with the three essential welding methods, let’s dive into finding the right welder for the job, particularly if you’re a beginner. That said, let’s get two essential guidelines out of the way—buy reputable machines and buy them from reputable suppliers. This doesn’t mean you have to invest in the most expensive gear on the market; it just means you have to be careful who you’re buying gear from.
At the end of the day, you’re going to choose the machine according to your chosen welding method. Luckily, there are multiprocess welding machines that give you the chance to use them for two or three different methods. Sometimes they allow TIG and MIG welding, sometimes they allow TIG, MIG, and stick; pay close attention to which method(s) the welder you’re looking at specializes in.
Something else to consider when buying your first welder is AC and DC compatibility. These two monikers, which stand for “alternating current” and “direct current” respectively, refer to the electric current’s flow habits. DC is a useful option for stick welding applications, and specifically TIG welding with stainless steel. Unfortunately, DC isn’t useful for welding magnetic metals, but in the right applications, it will help you maximize arc stability while minimizing spatter.
Welding with AC typically results in more spatter and a less stable arc. That said, AC comes in handy for welding those magnetic metals, as well as TIG welding aluminum. Some welders have AC/DC capabilities, but that won’t always be the case, so be sure to clarify what your machine can provide before committing to the purchase.
So, what is the best type of welder for a beginner? To put it simply, MIG welding is the best method for beginners, and an AC/DC-compatible MIG machine is the best welder for doing so. Remember—as you can see from the other methods mentioned above, there are levels to climb as you hone your welding skills. Once you gather the right gear, such as a MIG welding gun, you can begin climbing those levels sooner than later.