How to Choose Your MIG Welder
MIG (or metal inert gas) welding is considered one of the easiest welding processes for beginners to learn (once machine settings are dialed in by a knowledgeable welder). Buying your own gear is a good investment if you want to develop your still and will be welding often. Choosing the right MIG welder for your needs will set you on the path to success.
Basic MIG machines for the home hobbyist run only on 120V, but if you’ll be working with thicker metals and need flexibility or more options, you’ll also want to have access to 230V power. Rather than buying two welding machines, a multi-process welder capable of 120V/230V will allow you to work with the broadest types of materials while still on a reasonable budget.
Duty cycle is another power consideration. How long do you expect to run the welder in each session? What is the duration of each continuous (nonstop) welding pass? Duty cycle capabilities vary not only with the machine, but at varying voltage inputs and amperages, so it’s important to understand your needs based on materials and how you will use the specific machine.
For simple, functional welds, flux-core wire might be all you need, but if you need the cleaner results possible with gas-shielded welding, you’ll need a more capable MIG machine. When appearances matter—and to improve your welding skills—choose a more powerful and flexible welder, perhaps even a multi-process machine.
For long welding sessions and challenging materials (like thin aluminum), you may need a spool feeder “gun.” Lower-end welders won’t offer this capability, so if aluminum is a material you’ll work with frequently, consider a welder that provides this option, even if it’s a latter purchase.
Single process welders are often chosen mainly for the price point. Basic machines are lower-cost entry-level options for getting started. However, the advancing welder will quickly outgrow a basic machine. Even if your focus and the bulk of your work is a single process (like MIG welding), there are times when stick welding may be a quick and easy solution where MIG would be impractical. Or you’ll want to expand your skills and learn TIG welding. This is where a multi-process welder capable of stick, MIG, and TIG processes is a better investment in the long term, and is likely more powerful than those entry-level models anyway. In most cases, the more flexible model also is the better choice for your primary process.
ESAB Rebel EMP 215ic Multi-Process Welder
For power, shielding, spool capabilities, and process flexibility, the ESAB Rebel EMP 215ic multi-process welder checks all the boxes, and then some. It’s a powerful and flexible welder at a great price point and is getting rave reviews. For a solid foundation in MIG welding, it makes sense to skip the basic machines you’ll need to quickly upgrade from. Make an initial investment in a machine like the ESAB Rebel EMP 215ic so you’ll be able to weld a variety of materials (including steel, aluminum, and stainless) in a variety of thicknesses, and under a number of conditions. Rather than outgrowing it, this machine will grow with you as you explore its capabilities and hone your skills. As you choose your first MIG welder, make it a machine that will take you far in your welding craft.
- Matt Hurd