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Arc Welding - a guide to buying an Arc Welder

ARC welding machines remain popular today for three simple reasons. They are cheap, they are relatively versatile and they are easy to use.

So, let’s talk about some of the issues you need to consider before you buy an arc welding machine.

But, before we do, let’s clear up one thing. The term arc welding, in its truest sense, incorporates any process in which a welding power supply creates at electric arc. It therefore, includes TIG, MIG and other processes. But most people understand arc welding to mean Stick or MMA welding - the process of using a consumable electrode rod or stick to carry out your weld (see picture). This is what we are referring to in this article when we use the term arc welders.

Buy an arc welder or a TIG welder which enables both arc welding and TIG welding?

When buying an arc welder you have two basic choices. Option one is to buy a manual arc welding machine which is only capable of arc welding. Option two is to buy a TIG inverter welder which gives you the advantage of being able to arc Weld and TIG weld. Some inverters also have the ability to carry out MIG and other welding processes.

In this article we will weigh up the pros and cons of buying a manual arc welder against a DC (direct current) TIG inverter which gives you the option of being able to arc weld. All of eWelders’ TIG welders give you the option of being able to Arc Weld. In effect, what you are weighing up here is cost versus added flexibility.

The key factor which determines which choice will be best for you should be the range of functions you need your welder to be able to carry out.

Manual arc welding machines are very cheap compared to an entry level TIG inverter which is normally over twice the price. 

Manual arc welders are easy to master and are effective on ferrous metals such as mild steel and stainless steel base metals 3mm or thicker. Manual arc welders are also relatively compact and can generally be run through a standard power supply. They can therefore be an economic and practical way to join thicker material when limited to a standard power supply. 

But there are some limitations with a manual arc welder:

  • Welding metals thinner than 2mm become extremely difficult to manage with a manual arc welder. 
  • Weld times are slower than with a TIG or MIG welder because your electrodes must be frequently replaced residue from the flux will have to be chipped away after the weld. 
  • Specialty electrodes make it possible to arc weld materials such as cast iron, aluminium and copper, however arc welding is generally not suited to these materials.
  • Precise welds are difficult to achieve

The Cigweld WeldSkill 140 Turbo is a manual arc welder which can be run through a 10amp powerpoint. 

A TIG inverter can perform all of the functions of a manual arc welder because it will allow you to arc weld. See for instance the Cigweld Weldskill 140amp TIG-Arc inverter welder.

In addition it will allow you to switch to TIG and weld thinner metals. A TIG welder also give you the flexibility of being able to weld other metals such as cast iron and copper. TIG welding is a more difficult process to master but, once mastered allows for more precise welds on a wider range of metals. Inverter welders also generally have a more effective cooling process and hence a higher duty cycle than manual arc welders. If you want to regularly weld aluminium you should consider a TIG inverter with AC (alternating current) capability, or look for a welder with MIG capability, potentially MIG pulse capability.

The Uni-Mig TIG-MMA 170amp inverter is a good option for an arc welder who may need the added flexibility of being able to TIG weld. 

Your needs met

So if you are seeking to weld mild and stainless steel 3mm or thicker and the precision and look of your welds isn’t of the upmost importance a manual arc welder should meet your needs. Generally they will work well for a home handyman who only welds occasionally for general repairs and other odd jobs.

However, if you are looking for more flexibility, move up to a TIG inverter which will still allow you to arc weld.

If you want to frequently weld aluminium you should consider investing in a TIG inverter with AC (alternating current) capability, or look for a welder with MIG capability.


More advice available

If you would like additional advice about the topics discussed above, please contact us as follows:

  • phone us on 1300 554 685
  • go to our website www.ewelders.com.au and click on the Chat function
  • email us on admin@ewelders.com.au