- 1 What to Look for in the Best Arc Welder
- 2 Recommended Product Reviews
- 3 Final Verdict
Best Arc Welder - Guide and Review
One of the oldest welding processes, arc welding remains popular among hobbyists and professionals alike. For one, it is very cheap as you don’t need to have a lot of equipment. You can get an arc welder for a low price. But the best arc welder isn’t always the cheapest. There are other things to look for in shopping for an arc welding machine.
Although you can’t weld thick metals with arc welders, there are other advantages that offset this limitation. One is that arc welders are available in AC/DC, aside from AC and DC. Arc welders can be used both indoors and outdoors.It’s also more suited for welding metals that are at least 3 mm thick. These inherent advantages make it very popular among DIYers, farmers, and pros.
What to Look for in the Best Arc Welder
There are many variables that can affect your buying decision, but I feel these are the four most important factors to consider in choosing an arc welder:
Today’s arc welders are available in either DC, AC, or AC/DC. The classic arc welders run on AC. But the disadvantage of AC is that the stick often adheres when the voltage drops. It can be frustrating if you’re trying to learn arc welding.
If you don’t want to be hassled by that, you can opt for DC arc welding units. These machines result to easy arc starts, aside from the electrodes not sticking. DC also minimizes spatter and leads to good looking welds.
But if you covet versatility, AC/DC is the most practical choice.
For inverter machines, an output of 140 amps is at the limit of a 13 amp 240 volt supply. With this output, the use of 3.2 mm rods would be allowed. An output of 100 amps would be needed to run 2.5mm rods, while rods smaller than that would necessitate more skills. You’d like to use thicker rods as this will decrease the number of passes needed to weld thicker materials.
This is a welder specification defining the number of minutes within a 10-minute period that a welder can produce a welding current. To be more specific, a 140 amp welder that has a 30 percent duty cycle can be used for 3 minutes and then cooled off for 7 minutes.
Avoid welders with low duty cycles as you would be spending a lot of time cooling off the welder. These cheap welders also won’t be able to burn a rod before thermal cut out.
Thermal Overload Protection
Buy a machine with this feature, which automatically cuts the output power to the torch once the circuit inside begins to overheat. Other cooling mechanisms particularly the fan will run to disperse the heat in case the machine has been left turned on.
Other Things to Consider
- Open circuit voltage-- buy an arc welder with at least 70 volts. These are unlike those that have a 50 volt OCV which are notorious for being hard to start. Moreover, you won’t have to be hassled by an unstable arc or avoid using special rods.
- Size-- opt for a lightweight and portable unit
- Display—a very useful feature especially for beginners. With it, you can accurately set the amps.
Recommended Product Reviews
There are many arc welders in the market, thus you may be overwhelmed with the choices. But I have listed five highly recommended units to help you in shopping:
Designed for shielded metal arc welding, this unit weighs 50 pounds. It measures 15 x 12 x 20 inches.
Included in the package are chipping hammer, torch, wire brush, face mask, and cable ground. For easy portability, there are two handles in this unit.
The current range of this welder is from 60 to 250 amps.
This is a dual voltage arc welder so you can practically use it anywhere. You can plug it into a 120 or 240 volt circuit. If you feel you will need an extension cord for this, the most practical choice would be the 120 volt plug as you can move the unit around the house.
Its welding cable features a multi-angle rod holder. There’s also a cooling fan that protects the unit against thermal overload.
The problem with this welder is that it has a very low duty cycle. At moderate amp settings of 150-160, it only has a 25 percent duty cycle. That means you can only weld for 2.5 minutes then wait for 7.5 minutes before welding again.
If you are looking for a portable and lightweight arc welder, then this could be the one for you. It weighs just 28 pounds.
It measures 18 x 13 x 1 inches. This is a very compact machine that you would want to have in your garage or shop.
It operates on a 110 volt single phase cover. It is ideal for home maintenance and repairs. The amperage range of 40 to 100 amps would let you work on mild steel and stainless steel projects. It can weld up to ¼ inch of mild steel.
This is also very user-friendly. It has a slide reading where you can see the settings and a knob on the front which you can use to dial up the settings. And because it is very lightweight, you won’t have problems storing this welder.
You just need to bear with some flaws like the incoherent user’s manual and the lack of welding sticks.
This is a lot different than the Pitbull Ultra portable. One major difference is that it isn’t portable at all, weighing a hefty 113 pounds.
It is a big unit that measures 26.4 x 18.8 x 14.8 inches. Its AC output range is from 40 to 225 amps. The design is very classic, like the old welders you see in welding shops.
But don’t be intimidated with the size of this welder. It is user-friendly that you should have no problems operating it. It allows quick set-up, and guarantees a uniform arc. It can weld various materials like stainless steel, steel, and cast iron. It can weld metals that are 16 gauge and heavier.
Like most arc welders, this unit is very noisy while in operation. But that’s probably the only thing you would hate about this welder. Simply put, it is a very functional welding machine that you can pass on to your children and grandchildren.
If you consider yourself an inexperienced welder, then this is the unit that you can invest in. It is suited for novice workers. It is very easy to use.
The output of 90 amps would enable you to work on small home repair and even automobile repair jobs.
Operating on a 110 volt single phase power, this unit is ideal for home use. It can handle up to a 1/8 inch welding rod. It is capable of welding materials from 16 gage up to 5/16 inches thick.
Plus it weighs just 7.9 pounds so you can take it practically anywhere. It measures 15 x 7 x 11.5 inches.
It’s a bit disappointing, though, that this unit comes with a short 6-month warranty against defects. The electrode holder and work clamp aren’t the sturdiest, too, although you can upgrade them with aftermarket ones.
This is another portable arc welder that you can use for light home repairs. It weighs just 26 pounds and measures 16.9 x 9.1 x 11.8 inches. Current range is from 40 to 100 amps.
Included in the package are electrode holder with rod, power supply cord, earth clamp, welding mask, and brush. It plugs into a 110 or 220 volt outlet, so you can practically use this anywhere.
While it is a very attractive option particularly to budget-constrained welders, it does have its own share of shortcomings. For one, there is no owner’s manual in the package so you basically have to learn how to use it, as well as how to wire a plug on it.
Arc welders remain a fixture in welding shops and garages because of their inherent advantages. For one, arc welding machines are more affordable than MIG and TIG welding units. Arc welders are also very portable, and can be used for welding common metals and alloys.
When choosing an arc welder, you don’t only look at the price tag of the unit. You will also have to consider other factors like the duty cycle of the unit, as well as its amperage range, thermal protection, and output signal.
I know it can be tough to choose just one arc welder, so go ahead and refer to the five arc welders I mentioned in this article. I believe that any item in this list can be considered as the best arc welder today.