$500 welder - cheap MIG or high end stick

Old 04-19-16, 08:18 AM
ferr75's Avatar
Thread Starter
Join Date: Feb 2014
Posts: 7
Upvotes: 0
Received 0 Upvotes on 0 Posts
$500 welder - cheap MIG or high end stick

Last time I welded was quite a while ago, probably with my father welder while still living with my parents but I want to learn and eventually build a GYM in my new house.
I was quite determined to buy a cheap MIG welder but then I came across this guide where this guy considers that it's better for a novice welder to start with a high end stick welder rather than an cheap MIG welder. https://www.drillselect.com/forum/ma...-learn-to-weld
Which way should I go? As I said main goal is to learn welding and later on build my own GYM equipment (bench press for example)?
Old 04-19-16, 09:45 AM
Group Moderator
Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: NC, USA
Posts: 27,789
Received 2,186 Upvotes on 1,956 Posts
I'm a fan of MIG. Brand name smaller units like Miller & Lincoln can be bought new for around $500. They can still do thicker material but you won't have the duty cycle to weld heavy stuff continuously but form home and hobby use they are perfect. You can also find them used. There are also cheap Chinese welders that can be had quite inexpensively but at the risk of limited parts and service support if something breaks.
Old 04-19-16, 12:27 PM
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: Wet side of Washington state.
Posts: 16,321
Received 38 Upvotes on 30 Posts
My vote is for a medium-priced AC-DC stick welder.

I learned (self taught) with a Sears "buzz box" back in the 1960s. When I finally got a chance to use an industrial welder I was amazed at how easy it was compared to that "home shop" welder.

I recently purchased a Hobart machine for around $500 and I am utterly amazed at how much better it is than that old Sears unit (yes, I still have it), so much that I wish I had bought it ten years ago.

I also recommend that you take an introductory course in welding at a vocational school as it is far easier to learn the correct techniques from the start than to UN-learn bad habits.

Finally, get a self-darkening hood, even the cheap model from Harbor Freight will be far, far easier than a manual hood.
Old 04-19-16, 01:10 PM
Forum Topic Moderator
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: USA - N.E.Tn
Posts: 45,693
Received 840 Upvotes on 737 Posts
A lot depends on what you intend to weld although I've heard that MIGs are easier to use [I've never used one] Like Furd, I'm self taught on a buzz box and graduated to a better 220 volt unit. Sticking with name brands will insure you can buy parts or make repairs when needed although some stuff is interchangeable.
Old 04-19-16, 02:50 PM
Join Date: Jan 2011
Location: USA
Posts: 4,463
Received 128 Upvotes on 113 Posts
What else would use it for?
Not sure how it works where you are but around here you can buy used exercise equipment cheap on Craig's list.
Far less then just a welder would cost you.
I know I have to take some to the dump every few weeks to the dump because no one bought it at are local consignment store.
Old 04-19-16, 04:31 PM
PJmax's Avatar
Group Moderator
Join Date: Oct 2012
Location: Jersey
Posts: 65,121
Received 3,990 Upvotes on 3,581 Posts
I'm a big fan of MIG too but I bought a Lincoln 225 when I was in high school because that's what I learned on in metal shop and welding in high school. I still have it and still use it all the time. The AC only version is well under $500 US.

Name:  225.jpg
Views: 525
Size:  43.0 KB

You need to practice and become an EXCELLENT welder if you're going to build your own exercise equipment. Those welds cannot fail or a life can be lost.
Old 04-19-16, 06:55 PM
Tolyn Ironhand's Avatar
Group Moderator
Join Date: Nov 2007
Location: United States
Posts: 14,343
Received 880 Upvotes on 743 Posts
I have an inexpensive Clark MIG (about $300 for the kit) it is has been very good. I love MIG and would never go to stick unless I had no other option. Running a MIG is easy and almost a no brainer, stick takes too much talent.
Old 04-20-16, 03:55 AM
GregH's Avatar
Super Moderator
Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: Manitoba
Posts: 9,500
Received 68 Upvotes on 62 Posts
Hands down a mig welder would be your best introduction to welding.
You will be making acceptable welds in no time at all thanks to the very fast learning curve of a mig.

If you can stretch your budget a bit you can get a good name brand unit that you would not have to upgrade in the future.
There would be a strong temptation to purchase a less expensive import unit but there is every conceivable part for my 25 year old Miller Mig unit sitting on my dealer's shelf.
There is definitely a use for stick welding but the market is relatively flooded with good used machines because of how easy mig is for an occasional user.

Here is a good deal on a name brand Mig welder that is a bit over budget that has a fairly high duty cycle and should last a very long time.
Old 04-20-16, 07:52 AM
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: Wet side of Washington state.
Posts: 16,321
Received 38 Upvotes on 30 Posts
Greg, same deal at Amazon only a dollar less. Depending on where a person lives they might have to pay sales tax buying from Amazon. Found similar prices at several other places as well although most of them are not free shipping.

I have never used a MIG so I cannot say how easy it may be for a beginner. I have read that anyone that is the least bit proficient with a stick welder can "pick up" MIG welding almost instantly. I wonder, though, if starting with MIG might also lead a person into making mistakes in technique that could sabotage them in the future. From experience I know that having to UN-learn my bad practices is far harder than it would have been to learn the correct methods initially.

I also base my response on this line from the original post:
...main goal is to learn welding...
and for that I will remain steadfast that a stick welder IS the proper place to start. If all he (she?) wanted to do was to piddle around with some steel making some artwork or patching the floor in a rusted-out car I would say sure, go ahead with the MIG but if a person REALLY wants to learn to weld then SMAW (stick) is the place to start.
Old 04-24-16, 05:21 AM
Join Date: Nov 2002
Location: Northern Virginia
Posts: 815
Upvotes: 0
Received 25 Upvotes on 22 Posts
MIG has a shallower learning curve and might allow you to get good results quicker. It's also possible to produce a "good looking" weld with shallow penetration that would not be capable of weight machine service. So whatever process you choose, may I imploringly suggest: get good at it before working on the final project. I also suggest a machine capable with 220v input because it can produce the heat needed to make a full-penetration weld.

(Think about using your clothes dryer circuit if you don't have 220v service in your shop.)

You have a couple choices for MIG: solid wire, which requires shielding gas like co2 or an argon-co2 mix, and flux core.

There are some inverter stick welders on the market now that i've heard good things about. Stick has been around forever and will never go away because it is so versatile. You can't go wrong starting with stick, and you can use a DC stick machine for scratch-start TIG later, if the bug bites you.

Weldingtipsandtricks.com has excellent instructional videos. The site is run by Jody Collier, who has been recognized by the American Welding Society for his contribution to welding. He also has a youtube channel and a videos only site at welding-tv.com. HIGHLY recommended to check out his videos if you're just starting out.

Good luck and have fun, but really really heed the safety warnings!

Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Ask a Question
Question Title:
Your question will be posted in: