We’ve put a lot of thought into what the do-it-yourself metal worker is looking for when buying a welder. Welding machines have evolved over the years. Simplified processes have made it easier for the beginner and less skilled DIYers to achieve great results. For our review of the best DIY welders, we’ve searched high and low for good machines, at reasonable prices. These are welding machines that meet the needs of DIYers, small-time ranchers, and possibly even startup metal fabricators, or metal artists.
For a home or small commercial shop, you don’t necessarily need the most powerful welding machine. It is often best to use a welder that runs on standard 120V household power. Preferably drawing 20A or less. This means that you don’t need to install additional wiring for 240V or high-amp circuits. Eliminating unwanted hassle and expense. For basic auto repairs, repairing gate posts and the like, or DIY metal fabrication, we want a machine that can handle at least ¹⁄₈” mild steel without working up a sweat. Though many would prefer more welding amps, capable of around ¼” steel with a single pass. The welder must not be too complicated to setup and use.
What is the best welder for a home shop? ǀ MIG vs Stick vs TIG
A combo welder that can perform multiple types of welding, most importantly MIG and stick welding, is a definite advantage. Metal Inert Gas (MIG) welding is the best for beginners and occasional welders. In this regard, flux core MIG welders are less complicated than machines that require a gas hookup. Shielded Metal Arc Welding (SMAW), more commonly known as stick or arc welders, can be an advantage if you do a lot of outdoor welding. Tungsten Inert Gas (TIG) welding is used for more specialized, detailed welding, for a wider variety of metals. TIG welding is seldom beneficial for general DIY metal work.
In conclusion, I’d say flux core MIG welders are the preferred choice for most DIYers. An option for outdoor, stick welding can be an additional advantage. TIG welders will mostly come in handy if you weld a wide variety of metals or work with particularly thin (or soft) metal that may burn easily.
How much does a DIY welder cost?
In an ideal world, where budget is of no concern, we would all probably head off and buy something like the Millermatic 255 MIG welder. Then again, at over 3 grand, this machine costs a lot more than most of us want to spend.
A DIY welder doesn’t need all that power and you probably won’t use the machine often enough to warrant the expense. You can find a reasonable DIY welder for under $200. Though I’d recommend looking in a price range of $200 – $300, for a good quality product. If you need a welder with a bit more power, be prepared to spend up to $400 for a decent light to medium duty welding machine. This is the ballpark that we’re aiming for in this review of the best DIY welders.
Best DIY Welders ǀ Quick Overview
Forney Easy Weld 261
One of the most popular welders for DIY and Beginners. 120V input, 140A output – requires minimum 20A circuit breaker. Welds 24-gauge up to ¼”. Flux Core MIG welding only, no gas connections. Weight: 19 LBS. 1-Year warranty.
Lincoln K2278-1 Handy Core
Top Brand for professional and DIY welders. Great beginner kit, includes welding helmet and a roll of flux core wire. Input: 115V 20A breaker. Output: 35 – 88A. Welds up to ¹⁄₈”. Weight: 46 LBS. 1-Year warranty.
Hobart Handler 100 (500572)
Known brand, excellent for light to medium duty DIY welders. 115V input (min 20A breaker), 30 – 100A output. Welds up to ³⁄₁₆” steel. Flux core MIG welding only, no gas connections. Weight: 44 LBS. 3-Year Warranty.
Weldpro MIG155GD MIG/Stick Arc Welder
Multi-process 120V/240V welder. MIG gas or flux-core and stick welding. Optional TIG gun available. Input 120V or 240V. Output max: 155A. Welds up to ¹⁄₈” (120V), ¼” (240V). Includes MIG torch, stick torch, and gas connections. Weight: 34 LBS. 2-year warranty.
Forney Easy Weld 261
- Unit Dimensions: 16.75″ (425.45 millimeters) x 8.125″ (206.38 millimeters) x 12″ (304.8 millimeters)
- Unit Weight: 19 lbs. (8.61 kg)
- Gasless/flux-core welding only
- Torch wrap
- Infinite voltage and wire feed speed control
- 120-volt input, 140 AMP output
- Welds 24-gauge up to 1/4″ (6.35 millimeters)
- Handles .030″ wire
- Includes: 8′ MIG gun, 8′ ground clamp and 20A – 15A adapter
- Duty Cycle 30% @ 90A
The Forney Easy Weld 261 140FC-i can definitely rank as one of the best DIY MIG Flux Core welders. It is a great all-rounder with more power than the basic entry level home welder. The Forney brand is practically an American institution, with a proud history dating back for almost a century. This is always a plus when looking ahead at customer service. I’m always for a brand that you can trust.
Although the Forney Easy Weld 261 is a pretty tough machine, with an all-metal housing, it is wonderfully portable, at only 19-pounds. The handle design is also one of the best. It is easy to carry and the ground cable warps around the handle for easy transportation. I also like the rubber protectors at the corners of the Forney welder. These prevent damage for knocks that are basically unavoidable in a shop, or when lugging the machine about. Great for both portability and durability.
For a DIY, or beginner welder, you really can’t beat the Forney Easy Weld 261. It is certainly designed for ease of use. Things have been kept really simple and you won’t need to read the user manual for hours before figuring things out. The front panel has two, easy to understand dials. One controls the wire feed speed, the other controls the power output. Both are infinite, providing a good level of control. The wire spool is big enough to accommodate 2 or 10 LBS rolls. Though I’d suggest reading the manual before installing your first roll of wire. You need to make sure it properly tensioned before you start welding.
As I’ve come to expect from this class of welder, the ground clamp is not a heavy-duty item. If you use the Forney welder regularly, you should consider buying a more heavy-duty clamp. The flux core MIG gun is better than those really cheap versions, which is obviously great. It has a good quality brass tip and looks like it will hold up well to fairly rigorous work. It’s also really simple to connect.
Power and duty cycle is well above average for a light to medium duty DIY welder. With up to 140A output, welding metal up to ¼” is a synch. With a bit experience, you should be able to take on pieces up to ½”. At 90A, the Forney Easy Weld 261 has a 30% duty cycle, which should be more than adequate for most home welders. This is a 120V input welder, with a recommended 20A minimum breaker. Though, if you’re using the full power of this machine, I’d use a 30A breaker to prevent occasional tripping.
For lightweight portability, the Forney Easy Weld 261 140FC-i is the bomb. When you consider the output power, and durable construction, this weight advantage becomes all the more significant. It is designed to be one of the easiest DIY welders to use. Perfect for the garage or home shop. Many have come to trust the Forney brand for good service and affordable quality, adding some weight to the pretty standard 1-year warranty.
Lincoln K2278-1 Handy Core
- 35-88 amps output.
- Welds up to ¹⁄₈ mild steel.
- Plugs into household 115V, 20 amp outlet.
- Cold contactor safety feature keeps welding wire electrically “cold” until gun trigger is pressed.
- Compact, portable, lightweight, and easy to use.
There are few brands that hold the kind of enduring reputation as Lincoln Electric. In my opinion, Lincoln is the best welder brand of the models featured in this review. Many a professional welder will testify to the Lincoln Electric reputation for manufacturing superb, durable welding machines. I really like the fact that this top brand also manufactures more affordable welding machines for the home user. If you don’t mind the slightly restricted power output of this machine, it should be the number one choice.
The Lincoln K2278-1 Handy Core displays all the, typically Lincoln, hallmarks of quality and attention to detail. Having said, this I should point out that this home welder is not quite up to heavy-duty standard of Lincoln industrial grade welders. Comparing this machine to the average DIY welder, it’s one of the best in terms of long term durability. The rather heavy (46 LBS) weight is an indication that the Lincoln K2278-1 Handy Core is made using higher grade metals. Not the best for portability, though 46-pounds is quite manageable, and it has good carrying handle.
This welder is carefully designed for beginners, DIYers, and metal artists. It is one of the easiest to use. Power is selected, using two switches, providing four power output settings. Adjusting the wire speed is simply a matter of turning the infinite dial. The cold contactor safety feature is great, especially if you’re not a frequent welder. You will avoid accidental arcing when lining up the tip. The arc is only activated when you engage the trigger on the torch.
This is one of the less powerful options, with a maximum output of 88 Amps. It will produce pretty good welds on metal up to ¹⁄₈”, for mild steel. With some skill, you can weld thicker pieces doing several passes. Though, I’d recommend this welder mostly for auto body repairs, or any mild steel projects less than ¹⁄₈” thickness.
A cooling fan helps maintain a safe temperature, protecting the internal components from heat degradation. This helps a bit to improve the duty cycle, which is okay for a welder of this size – 20% at 70A, pretty close to the maximum output. Like any of the welders reviewed hers, the ground clamp leaves a lot to be desired, it won’t last too long with repeated use. The MIG torch is good quality.
Based on my respect for the brand alone, I can highly recommend the Lincoln K2278-1 Handy Core. Although limited in the output amps, it is a tough and worthy DIY welder. My guess is that machine will outlast most other light-duty DIY welders. In line with other options in this class the Lincoln K2278-1 Handy Core has a 1-year warranty.
Hobart Handler 100 (500572)
- Allows you to weld up to ³⁄₁₆ (4.8 mm) steel with flux-cored wire.
- Provides a broad operating window for each wire, with quick and easy adjustment for different thicknesses and joints.
- Offers you flexibility to use small or large spools of wire to better suit your welding needs.
- Eases use and excellent safety feature which makes wire electrically “cold” until trigger is pulled.
- Positive feed with adjustable tension Plus easy accessibility to thread new wire.
The Hobart Welding company, started out in 1917, as Hobart Brothers, manufacturing generators. In 1925, the started manufacturing welders. The rest, as they say, is history. Today Hobart Welding Products is one of the most recognized brands in the business. Synonymous with affordable, quality welding gear.
With a power output of 30 to 100A, the Hobart Handler 100 is positioned in between the other two DIY welders featured in this review. Not as powerful as the 120V/240V Forney welder, a little more amps than the Lincoln electric model. Like the Lincoln welder, this one will run n a regular 20A household power outlet. Again, I’d recommend using a 30A breaker, welders have a way of occasionally tripping when initiating the arc.
I’m appreciative of the general robust feel of this machine. When considering durability, the Hobart Handler 100 can compete head on with any of the best DIY welders. Like the Lincoln welder, the Hobart is a little on the heavy side, at 44-pounds. Though, for a welder, I like to feel a little weight, it means there is a good deal of solid copper inside the machine. This should indicate a longer lifespan.
Operating the Hobart Handler is a breeze. It has the requisite infinite speed control dial for the wire feed, and you have a 4-pot dial to adjust the output amperage. The wire feed drive is superb and wonderfully easy to use, thanks to a quick release lever drive roll tension lever. I’ve found Hobart wire drive mechanisms to amongst the most durable for a light-duty welding machine.
As with any light-duty DIY welder, I’m not impressed with the ground clamp. The MIG torch, on the other hand, is quite up to standard and has a safety trigger preventing accidental arcing. This little welder will easily handle mild steel up to ³⁄₁₆”.
The Hobart brand instills a lot of confidence for the DIY welder buyer. The warranty on the Handler 100 is the best of the models in this review, 3-years. I consider Hobart to be one of the best DIY welder brands.
Weldpro MIG155GD MIG/Stick Arc Welder
- Powerful 155A Inverter welder
- Performs MIG Gas, flux core, and stick welding
- Optional TIG welding kit
- Everything you need to get started: MIG and stick welding torch, gas fittings, ground clamp, wire spool, and accessories.
- Easy setup and functions for DIY welding.
The Weldpro MIG155GD is the most expensive DIY welder in this review. There is good reason for this. Not only is it the most powerful machine of the home welders featured in this review, the MIG155GD is also an inverter welder. Inverter welders tend to have better current control, providing a cleaner weld, with less splatter, and easy arc starting. This would be the easiest to use.
With a maximum output of 155A, this is a highly capable DIY welder. One of the best in terms of price vs power output, for this type of quality. Note, that like all the welders in this review, the Weldpro MIG155GD is not a commercial grade machine. It is one of the best for home users, perhaps a startup autobody shop, or similar enterprise.
I’ve mentioned some of the advantages of using an inverter welder, and there’s more, like exceptional power to weight ratio. The Weldpro MIG155GD weighs only 35.7 pounds. The greatest advantage is improved duty cycle, you can weld for longer without having to stop and wait for the welder to cool. Using 115V input voltage, the MIG155GD provides a maximum 120A (30% duty cycle), achieving 100% duty cycle at 80A. For MMA welding, maximum 110A (30% duty cycle), using 115V input. Obviously, a 240V input will provide more output power: 155A MAX (30% duty cycle) for MIG welding, with 100% duty cycle at 100A. MMA welding at 240V: 140A MAX (30% duty cycle) and 100% duty cycle at 100A. This takes things to a completely new level, when you compare the Weldpro MIG155GD to any of the other DIY welders in this review.
I really like the intuitive user panel. Unfortunately, the user manual doesn’t offer any information to help newbies understand the welder settings. Then again, it’s pretty easy to understand. There are two touch pad buttons, which select welding type and toggle functions for MIG welding. There’s a large dual function dial. When the MIG welder function is selected, this dial controls the wire feed speed (79 to 394 in/min). If you select MMA (stick) welding, the same dial is used to select the amps. A smaller dial controls the arc voltage (14 – 24V). Even if you’re new to MIG welders, it shouldn’t take much experimentation to get the hang of things.
Your starter kit includes both MIG and Stick welding torches, with the option to buy a TIG kit separately. You get the gas connections for MIG welding, a roll of wire and a bunch of accessories. Like all the others, the ground clamp is a little flimsy. This seems to be the norm for cheaper welders for home use.
For the level of sophistication offered, and the above average power output, the Weldpro MIG155GD is excellent value for money. The general quality is superb for this class of DIY welder. You get everything you need. For the rest, it’s a fantastic machine with a 2-year warranty.