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Q: I want to get a welding machine but have no experience at doing any welding. Some friends say to get an arc welder and others say to get a gas (oxy-acetylene) setup, and of course there's the MIG stuff. Which is the best way to go for an inexperienced person? I want to learn how to weld panels and other stuff like brackets, etc. I don't want to spend more than $500. -- Steve, Racine, WI

A: This is an easy question because you've told us the type of work you intend to do with the welder. Since you (and most other hobbyists) don't plan to cut metal in a large-scale way, forget the torch welder. Gas bottles and regulators are expensive, dangerous and the skills necessary to operate the apparatus are hard to learn. Arc welders (stick welders) are inexpensive but also require substantial practice before you can get predictable results. They can also be cumbersome to work with in tight places.

That leaves MIG welders, our overwhelming choice for your needs. MIG welders are the easiest of all to learn to use and are incredibly versatile. You can choose from gas-fed models, flux-cored wire models and others that convert to both, and you can get a decent one within your budget, such as the Firepower Arc Welder or the Stitch Welder. Buy the model that offers the greatest duty-cycle and flexibility of control settings for the money.

Check out these Welders for Under $500!!


19295 FirePower FP100

19266 Complete Firepower Weld System

19089 Spot Weld Gun

19045 Stitch Welder

19031 Spot And Stitch Welder Set With Rods