If you’re looking to upgrade your handyman game and buy a welding machine, it’s hard to pass up on a reliable flux core welder. These welding machines boast tremendous advantages compared to MIG and TIG tools. And for home repairs and hobby projects, you’ll find flux core more than adequate.
Even better, most flux core machines can run shielding gas for MIG welding. That means when you’re ready to learn something new, you won’t have to buy a new rig.
But with the technology behind flux core dropping in price and new welding companies looking to capitalize on the hobbyists, the at-home flux core options have boomed. I’ve tested at least twelve beginner welders in the last five years and found that the welding power and performance differ from product to product.
With flux core welders, you risk buying an overpriced device, especially if it’s your first time in the market. I know you’re eager to see the delivery man driving down your street. But before you buy your newfangled tool, read my detailed reviews on the best flux core welder below.
- Best Flux Core Welder – Comparison
- The Reviews of the Top 7 Best Flux Core Welders
- Lincoln Electric Easy MIG 180 Flux-Core/MIG Welder
- Forney Easy Weld 299 125FC Flux Core Welder
- Goplus 130 Welder Flux Core
- Pro-Series MMIG125 125 Amp Fluxcore Welder Kit
- Super Deal PRO Commercial MIG 130 AC
- Reboot MIG150 2 in 1 Welder
- Chicago Electric 125 Amp 120 Volt/20 Amp Flux Core Wire Welder
- 7 Questions to Ask While Choosing the Best Flux Core Welder
- Easy Guide to Welding with a Flux Core Welder
- Top Frequently Asked Questions for Flux Core Welders
- The Verdict
Best Flux Core Welder – Comparison
|Lincoln Electric Easy MIG||180 Amp||208/230V||85 pounds|
|Forney Easy Weld 299||125-Amp||120-V||51 pounds|
|Goplus MIG 130 Welder||120 AMP||110V||35 pounds|
|Pro-Series MMIG125||125 Amp||120v||10.39 pounds|
|Super Deal PRO Commercial MIG||120 Amp||110V||38.1 pounds|
|Reboot MIG Welding Machine||150 Amp||220V ||22.7 pounds|
|Chicago Wire Welder||20 Amp||120 V||37.6 pounds|
What Is a Flux Core Welder?
A flux core welder is any welding machine that operates Flux Core Arc Welding (FCAW). Often, you’ll find that a FCAW machine also runs MIG welding, as the processes are linked by the gun and power used to generate the weld. Unlike MIG welding, FCAW is gasless, meaning it doesn’t require a shielding gas, like argon.
What’s awesome about flux core welding is it’s the most affordable form of welding you can do. It’s great for beginners. And after a slight learning curve, you can build some robust projects without a giant welding set up.
Flux Core welding requires a spool of flux wire and 120v or 240v power. The wire used for flux core welding is a tubular wire electrode protecting an inner flux core. Flux, by definition, is a substance that promotes fusion between metals.
FCAW isn’t without some negatives. It’s messier than other processes. You’ll create more slag than with MIG or TIG, but with the proper buffing tools you can still generate decent welds. It’s also loud and hissy, producing smoke and sparks. So make sure you have your proper personal protective equipment on.
Flux Core welding is cost effective, as the wire isn’t too dire. Plus, because you don’t have to cart around gas cylinders, you can work outside or on site.
The Reviews of the Top 7 Best Flux Core Welders
With Lincoln Electric’s century-long efforts to be the industry standard for welding machines and materials, you’d expect their idea of an easy welding machine to effortlessly combine their knowledge with the needs of the modern consumer.
And that’s exactly what you get with the Lincoln Electric Easy MIG 180. This is a MIG and flux core welder, capable of running a shielding gas or gasless spools of flux core wire. Because it can run 230v power, you’ll be able to weld metals up to 1/2” thick.
The only downside to this high-performance output is that you can’t run 110v house power with this device. You simply don’t have the option. But for those that have a hookup for a standard 230v plug, you’ll find more than enough performance to complete any MIG or flux core project.
With Lincoln Electric’s simple toolless polarity change, you can quickly swap power feeds to alternate between MIG welding and flux core. I found the flux core set up painless. Installing the flux core wire takes less than five minutes. Feeding the wire into the Rigid drive roll and adjusting the tension is as intuitive as you’d expect from one of the leading welding brands in the industry.
I like the option these Lincoln welding machines have for upgrading, too. If you end up needing to weld aluminum, then you can purchase their spool gun and you’ll be ready to go with the items that ship in the box.
From the moment the shipment arrives at your door, you’ll be ready to work. Everything’s here for tight flux core welds. Your purchase of the Lincoln Electric Easy MIG 180 includes the welding machine, a gun capable of flux core and MIG processes, 10 feet of cable, .025” and .035” contact tips and nozzles, sample spools of MIG and flux core wires, and spindle adapters.
Using the Lincoln Easy 180 didn’t take much adjusting. The voltage and wire feed settings on the inside panel were accurate. Aside from slight calibrations to the feed, I was up and running right away.
I don’t think you can find a more reliable flux core welder for the shop or the home. It’s a compact device and weighs about 80 pounds. I can’t imagine any shop not having the space for the Easy 180. I recommend this product for anyone that needs a fully capable machine and the added benefit of MIG.
Since before the second world war, Forney has pioneered many of the processes that have become crucial to professional welders, from aerospace to farming equipment.
This knowledge and trust have fueled many of their devices, including the Forney Easy Weld 299 125FC Flux Core Welder. As a solely flux core machine, you won’t be able to MIG weld thinner material or stainless steel. But by specializing the machine for flux core welds, they’ve reduced the price, weight, and size without limiting its performance.
I think the Easy Weld 299 is perfect for the at-home beginner. It’s priced affordably and ships with everything you need to weld today. You will, however, be limited by its output. With 120v as the only option, you can’t weld beyond 1/8” thick steel.
I don’t see this as a negative. 1/8” thick steel welds should suffice for most beginner projects. The flux wire drive roll is easy to feed, and the tensioner precise enough to manage whatever setting you use. The spool carriage inside the machine can hold both two- and ten-pound spools of wire.
The flux core welder weighs fifty pounds. I had no problems carting the machine in the back of my truck. And its compact carriage fit on a shelf in my shop with lots of room to spare. I think it’s a great option for those with small spaces or that plan to truck their welder to farm fields or job sites.
With the Forney Easy Weld 299 125FC Flux Core Welder you get the welder, a flux core gun, and a ground clamp. You’ll need to purchase your first spool of wire prior to welding.
I really enjoyed how Forney lives up to the Easy Weld branding because the welding process is very simple with the 125FC. There’s a wire feed calibration knob and a switch for sheet metal and thin plate. To weld with this machine, you set your wire speed and the metal you’re welding and turn it on. There’s no voltage dial or amperage to set.
For consumers that feel stymied without more robust settings, browse through the other options on my list. But I bet there’s a band of consumers that want an intuitive, light, and easy-to-use machine. I’ve tried lots of beginner machines and none of them worked as well out of the box and with 120v power than Forney’s 125FC flux core welder. I highly recommend this device for beginners.
For those searching for the ultimate budget brand, look no further than Goplus. This Chinese-based company sells a smattering of products, from Christmas trees to children’s luggage. They also sell one of the cheapest welders you can buy online. But does it work?
I’m shocked to admit that the Goplus 130 Flux Core Welder reached my third spot. I thought a lot about the decision to raise this machine so high on my list. But after using the machine for various projects I found that, given the power limitations, it was a standout welder.
The one thing that you need to know before we go any further, however, is that this isn’t a MIG welder. It says it can weld MIG, but there’s no port for shielding gas. This machine runs strictly flux core wire.
Out of the box, the Goplus 130 pops with a thick yellow finish. Lifting the device up for the first time, I was shocked by the light and compact design. This welder weighs around 35 pounds, making it perfect for carting to job sites or tucking away on a shelf after using it in your shop.
You lift the top of the shell to reach the spool carriage and drive roll. As is typical of the budget welders, Goplus fabricated the flux core wire harness and tension control out of plastic. This cuts the weight and cost of the machine. But be careful. Working with plastic spool components is a delicate business.
Feeding the flux core wire took me no time. With the Goplus 130 you have 10 wire speeds and four combinations of voltage settings through two switches. Aside from the wire speed knob, the two switches labeled “1&2” and “Min&Max” control your output voltage. The interface, while simple, will take some practice.
With this package you get the Goplus 130 welder machine, a flux core gun and cable, a ground clamp, spool adapter, an extra fuse, extra welding tips, a welding brush, and a welding mask.
As I’ve mentioned before, flux core welding is a messy process. Slag, sparks, and smoke spit as you pull the weld across the seam. For this reason, I recommend you buy a separate welding mask. The tint is too light. Plus, you must hold the mask with one hand, limiting your control over your weld.
If you want to give welding a shot but you’re hindered by a tight budget, you can achieve perfectly serviceable results with the Goplus 130 Flux Core Welder. Just don’t expect to MIG weld or to weld beyond 1/8” thick steel.
If you’re a hobbyist looking for an all-in-one welding kit that’s capable of running on your normal electrical socket in the garage, then pay attention to my number four pick.
The Pro-Series MMIG125 125 Amp Fluxcore Welder Kit packs an arc weld capable of welding upwards of 1/4” steel. This is another one of those kits that states MIG in the name but can’t run an inert gas. That means you buy this machine for flux core welding and flux core welding only.
But that’s not a bad thing. In fact, with the MMIG125 you can weld a gamut of thicknesses. You can buff the steel clean or leave it caked in rust, doesn’t matter. I haven’t tested this machine on steel that it hasn’t been able to weld.
This machine ships with everything you’ll need to weld, living up to its name as a welder kit. Inside the box you’ll find a ground cable and clamp, a MIG and FCAW welding gun, a starter spool of flux wire, a brass brush, and a welding mask.
I really liked the boosted amperage of the MMIG125. Most 120v machines can’t reach 80-amp duty cycles — this one can. There is a caveat to the strong arc potential, and that is it runs at 20% duty cycle. That means for every ten minutes of on time, you can only run the machine for two minutes. That’s not so bad considering most 80-amp machines cost more than the MMIG125.
Like other budget or beginner flux core welders, the front-facing interface of this Pro-Series welder is basic. You have a flux wire feed dial, with a range from 1 to 10, an on/off switch, and a min/max voltage switch. You can opt for either 80-amp or 125-amp power. I advise, however, to only use 125 sparingly. I popped my 20-amp house breaker after a minute of welding its max setting.
I recommend the Pro-Series MMIG125 125 Amp Fluxcore Welder Kit for budget savvy consumers that want an easy-to-use first machine. It weighs less than 11 pounds, easily packs into a truck bed or trunk, and it’s durable enough to last you years.
Super Deal is yet another Chinese supply company that a customer pointed out to me on another welding review. I was curious if a machine this cheap could be worth a hobbyist’s attention.
I found that, for the right person, the Super Deal PRO Commercial MIG 130 AC is enough machine to complete basic projects around the house, yard, or farm.
As an AC flux core welder, you won’t be welding any thick joints or thin sheet metal. I find these machines burn through thin steel and don’t have the beefy output for anything over 1/8” metal. Also, although the name states it is a MIG machine, you do not have a gas input. That means you can only weld flux core with the Super Deal Pro.
I consider this kit an all-in-one package. Inside the box you’ll get a welding gun, a ground clamp, brush and chipping hammer, two additional gun tips, a spool of flux wire, and a welding mask. The spool lasted me two sessions, so if you have a large project or plan to weld more than a few pieces of steel, I recommend buying more flux core wire.
I like the size of the Super Deal welder. It’s perfect for a residential garage shop. Weighing in at 38 pounds, I envisage quick jaunts in the back of the truck as being an obvious benefit of this machine.
Although this machine can reach a 120-amp duty cycle, it’s best to run it at the minimum voltage. That’s because the duty cycle at 120 is 10% or one minute every ten minutes. This should be fine for quick jobs, such as repairing a lawnmower blade. But if you plan to weld thick metal on house power, I’d look at other welders on my list.
I recommend the Super Deal PRO Commercial MIG 130 AC for consumers that want to dig into their first welds and don’t have a large shop or a 220v plug to run a bigger rig. This machine will weld reliably, just don’t expect the welds to be too pretty!
Reboot’s low prices and host of products, from welding machines to safety masks and knife sharpeners, has nabbed the attention of online buyers searching for bargains that don’t skimp out on quality.
I found their MIG150 welder when I was hunting for the cheapest flux core welder that could also run shielding gas MIG. As you know from other products on this list, there’s a range of flux core welders that boast MIG capability that can’t run MIG. This Reboot machine can run MIG, and it does so very well.
I love the industrial green paint on the exterior shell. The machine reminds me of an Everlast welder, which isn’t so bad considering they run two or three times the price of the Reboot. The input controls are clearly labeled on the front of the machine, with separate voltage and amperage knobs and ports for hooking your gun to FCAW and MIG power.
Loading the drive reel is simple. The one downside of this Reboot machine is that they manufactured the drive reel in plastic. On the upside, this plastic drive system doesn’t tug or slip when feeding the flux core wire.
By buying a flux core welder than can also run MIG, you’re future proofing your welding set up and ensuring that you’ll have the tools to weld thin material or create welds that are more visually appealing than what flux core can create.
On the performance side, this machine should please most of my readers. The Reboot MiG150 is a 220v machine, meaning you need a shop wired with a 40-amp breaker. If you can afford the cost in electrical work, I highly recommend it. There’s a distinction in what you can weld with 220v power versus 120v power.
This is especially true when FCAW welding. With this device you can easily weld 1/4” steel at 220v power. That’s thick enough to do car repairs at home or patch a forklift in your shop.
I recommend the Reboot MIG150 2 in 1 Welder for the hobbyist that desires the extra power and options of a 2 in 1 220v welder and must remain within a tight budget.
Chicago Electric has been in business since 1910. Their roots lay in the industrial trades, but they’ve since moved on to manufacturing automation systems for high-tech factories and pharmaceutical companies.
The century-long dedication to quality industrial tools shows in their 125 Amp 120v Flux Core Wire Welder. This is a popular model. It’s one I’ve seen in videos online because it’s supplied by leading retailers in the US and Canada.
I round out my list of flux core welders with another 120v circuit machine. That means you only need a regular house plug to run 120 volts worth of arc. I recommend, however, that you have a dedicated 20amp breaker ready or you’ll be running downstairs to your breaker box every ten minutes.
I really liked this unit. The manual and instructional materials are clear and easy to read, making it ideal for the beginner welder. Like the Super Deal and Goplan welders, this flux core machine from Chicago Electric lifts open from the top to reveal the wire spool rod and drive reel.
Unlike other products on my list, the ground clamp and welding gun are attached to the unit. This may irk some of you reading this. If you’re like me, you know how easy it is to slice a cable. Unfortunately, you break the cables on this machine and it’s garbage.
That being said, I loved welding with this machine. It suggests a duty cycle of 20%, or two minutes of welding for every ten minutes, but I went over that limit many times without overheating. This could be because of the installed fan on the back of the machine that cools down the components.
It’s on the heavier side, weighing about forty pounds. But considering the arc output and quality build, I think it’s a great option for at-home shops and hobbyists looking for a reliable flux core welder that runs on a basic 20-amp circuit.
7 Questions to Ask While Choosing the Best Flux Core Welder
As you search for the right tool, don’t let the flashy advertisements and burnished steel exteriors distract you from the task. You need to ask yourself what your project requires and find a machine that fits your shop set up. Before you buy your welder, read my commonly asked questions below.
How Big Is the Device?
Although flux core welders are usually compact, they can still differ from one to the other. One of my favorite characteristics of flux core is that they can fit into a small shop in your garage.
The size of your garage, however, can differ from mine or anyone else’s. So triple check the measurements of your shop space and the dimensions of the welder before purchasing.
What’s the Brand’s History?
Welding machines have been around since the early 20th century. Some companies that helped America fabricate the planes, tanks, and land vehicles of World War II are around to this day. Others have just arrived onto the scene with something to prove.
Both categories of brands can produce quality welders. But I recommend you pick a company that fits your ideals. Caring about the company that made your machine will add to the experience of using it.
Do You Have Adequate Voltage?
Most flux core welders operate at 110v house power. Yet even these machines need a dedicated breaker. If you have your shop lights, fans, and other devices connected to one circuit, the addition of a flux core welder will pop the breaker. To avoid headaches and surprise expenses, double check your wiring set up before buying your new device.
How Much Does the Welder Cost?
This one may sound obvious to some of you, but many consumers I advise haven’t sat down and honestly considered how much they can reasonably spend on a flux core welder.
Don’t go down the road of how much you’ll save by buying the welder, because the first step to owning a new shop tool is spending the cash to own it. Go over your budget and come up with a number that won’t hurt your monthly expenses, then stay within that budget.
Do You Have Proper Ventilation?
Even a home shop should have some ventilation, whether it’s open windows and a fan or high ceilings and an open door. But flux core welding requires more than your average air circulation.
That’s because the chemical reaction and lack of shielding gas creates a plume of sparks and smoke that can quickly turn your clean shop into a disastrous haze. Before buying your welder, consider upgrading your ventilation.
Do You Own the Right PPE?
Connected with the previous question, the sparks generated by flux core welding seem more aggressive than those created with MIG and TIG. Any welding you do should involve the proper PPE, which includes a leather welding jacket and visor.
Flux core welding, however, requires UV shielding and anti-inflammatory vest and gloves. Do not cheap out on these products. They can save your life and allow you to weld for longer periods of time.
What Are You Welding?
Flux core welding is great for thick welds and for welding metals that aren’t clean. But it doesn’t weld cleanly, especially when you’re learning to weld with flux core.
Those of you planning on welding joints or pieces together that will be visible may want to bridle your expectations. Beginning with flux core is easier than TIG but the learning curve is often arduous and will require practice. Enjoy!
Easy Guide to Welding with a Flux Core Welder
What I love about flux core welding is that it’s versatile. You don’t need a lot of tools to weld right out of the box. But the challenge with this form of welding is in the weld itself. You must practice before achieving tight, flawless welds.
So when you begin welding with flux core, I recommend starting with scrap pieces of metal. Old angle irons or steel plates work fine. If you have nothing at home, then stop by a local welding shop and tell them you’re starting out and need some scrap. They’ll hook you up.
Before you being to weld, you must have the basic safety equipment specific to flux core. Here’s my list of the things you need have before prepping your first weld:
- Flux Core-Rated Leather Gloves
- Flame Resistant Jacket and Pants
- UV-Rated Welding Face Mask
- Clean, Dry Work Place
- Well-Ventilated Shop
Those of you that work in a basement shop, I recommend flux core welding outside. The amount of smoke and gas this form of welding creates can easily fill a house in less than ten minutes.
Next, open the side of the welding machine and install the flux core wire. Don’t over-tighten the wingnut that holds the spool in place, as you need the wire to feed easily into your welding gun. Then thread the end of the wire into the drive roll.
Setting tension with flux core will take some practice. You want enough tension so that the wire pushes against your finger when you hold it to the tip of the gun and pull the trigger. Too little tension and the wire will jump out of the gun, too much tension and you won’t have enough feed to weld.
To calibrate your voltage and wire speed, check the chart on the inside door or manual, depending on the machine. You’ll alter your settings based on the gauge of material you’re welding. For example, 10-gauge metal will require 1.5 wire speed and D voltage.
As the saying goes, with “slag you drag.” Since flux core creates slag, you want to pull your weld away from the slag rather than push towards it. Make sure to break off the wire after each weld. After some practice and tinkering, you’ll be a flux core master.
Top Frequently Asked Questions for Flux Core Welders
After years of talking to consumers and shop professionals, I’ve collected an array of questions that come up routinely. If you have a question I haven’t answered below, don’t hesitate to ask.
How thick can you weld with flux core?
Flux core can weld thicker than MIG and usually in one pass. The thickness depends on two main factors: the power you’re running through the welding machine and the gauge of the flux core wire. On 115v house power and .35” wire, which is your basic set up for at-home welding, you can weld up to 1/4” thick steel. If you can run on 220v power, expect to weld upwards of 1/2” steel.
Can you weld aluminium with a flux core?
While it is scientifically possible to weld aluminum with a flux core wire, you’d need a specialized wire. As of right now, this wire doesn’t exist. So the basic answer to the question is no, you cannot weld aluminum with flux core wire. The best way to weld aluminum without TIG is with MIG and aluminum stick.
Do you push or pull flux core welding?
With flux core welding, you pull the weld. This is because of the abundance of slag generated from the high intensity arc produced by the flux wire. What’s more, you want to angle the welding handle on a 25-degree angle, raised just off the surface of the metal. Then slowly pull the weld across the seam of the weld.
What causes wormholes in flux core welding?
Like most welding faults, wormholes or worm-tracking in flux core welds arise from a variety of issues. Check to see if there’s any moisture in your flux core wire spool. Very humid or wet conditions around the weld can also cause wormholes. Another reason could be that your voltage is too high, so try recalibrating your ratios.
Do you need shielding gas with flux core wire?
By nature, flux core wire is self shielding, so you don’t need a shielding gas. In fact, the shielding gas generates when the flux inside the wire burns on the surface of the weld. There are shielding gases for certain types of flux cored wire, known as FCAW-G. But with your at-home kits, you won’t be using them. Most budget flux core machines lack the input for shielding gas.
Can you use MIG wire in a flux core welder?
Switching the wire used in the welder depends on the machine you’ve purchased. Some welders on my list can MIG weld and FCAW weld. On these machines, yes you can use MIG wire in the flux core gun. But if the machine was not set up for inert gas, then you cannot use MIG wire because it requires a shielding gas to weld.
Having a welding machine in your shop instills a peace of mind that can’t be denied. No matter what breaks or what you need to fabricate, you have the power to do it.
With a flux core welder, the power is magnified by simplicity. You don’t need a shielding gas and you don’t need to fuss around with a feed peddle. Anyone can learn how to weld with flux core. That’s its primary benefit to you.
I know your rearing to get welding. With my list, I’m sure you’ll find a machine that fits your budget and your specific welding needs.
If you want my advice, I think the best flux core welder on my list than the Lincoln Electric Easy MIG 180. Of course, you’ll need a 220v breaker to run it. But if you have the capability, it can weld small jobs and big jobs easily and safely.