Stainless steel is very good at retaining heat, which makes it a bit more challenging to weld than normal steel. This metal tends to warp due to excessive welding heat and distort when cooling. Despite its unique properties though, it is corrosion-resistant and durable.
Making it ideal for many applications. And if you are looking to weld stainless steel you will need to get the best welder for stainless steel. This is in addition to knowing how best to work with this metal.
There are plenty of welding machines that you can use to weld stainless steel. And below are five of the best welders for welding this metal. I have selected these five based on their performance on stainless steel.
I picked the Stark Professional Portable Electric 240 Volt Spot Welder as my top choice. It works well on stainless steel and can weld stainless steel of varying thicknesses. It also produced the strongest welds of any of the five I tested.
At number two I picked the YESWELDER ARC Welder 205Amp Digital Inverter IGBT Stick MMA Welder. This earned its spot due to its wide output range which makes it easy to weld thin stainless steel and thicker sheets of metal.
The best welder for stainless steel reviews
Stark Professional Portable Electric 240 Volt Spot Welder
This Stark Professional Portable Electric spot welder comes in 120 volts and 240 volt variants. I went for the 240 volt welding stainless steel plates. It looks very well made and sturdy, though it is quite heavy as well weighing 29 lbs.
Perfect for welding stainless steel
It does not say what thickness of stainless steel it is able to weld. However, I used it on a 14 gauge stainless steel and it worked flawlessly. The weld was strong and it did not break when it tried to bend it. It also worked well on galvanized steel.
Portable design with a handle
While it is quite heavy it does come with a handle attached that makes it easy to carry. It is also quite compact and will not take up too much space in your workshop or garage. The welding tips were also relatively easy to remove.
Impressive specs list
The specs list of this spot welder point to it being an ideal welder for welding stainless steel, galvanized steel, and uncoated mild steel. It has a duty cycle of 50% at 2.5 KVa and an amp output of 16 amps and is capable of welding mild steel of up to ⅛ inch in thickness.
What I liked
- Is capable of welding stainless steel, mild steel, and galvanized steel
- The welder is made of high quality and sturdy materials
- The welding tips are easy to replace
- It is easy to operate with its level function
- The welding tips are made from steel and should last for a long time before being replaced
- The instructions manual of this welder is really confusing
- It does not come with an electrical plug
This is an inexpensive welder designed to be easy to operate and compact. So if you are a DIY welder looking for a welding machine for welding steel you cannot go wrong with this one. It can also weld cast iron so you are not limited to stainless steel.
YESWELDER ARC Welder 205Amp Digital Inverter IGBT Stick MMA Welder
If you are looking for an inexpensive welder that will get the job done quickly, then I recommend the YESWELDER ARC welder 205 digital inverter stick welder. At first glance, it may not look like much but looks can be deceiving.
Small welder with plenty of power
This is quite a small welder, however, it is quite powerful. I have used it with both a 220v and 110 v socket and it worked fine. I was able to weld 3/32 inch steel plates with it at 95 amps without burning it.
Inexpensive and lightweight welder
This little welder weighs only 10 pounds, half the weight of the Stark Professional welder. And as you would expect it is easy to haul around. It also comes with some nice safety features including automatic compensation for voltage fluctuation.
Impressive power output
The power output on this welder ranges from 20 amps all the way to 205 amps. This will be sufficient for welding ½ inch mild steel with a 220-volt plug. I would not recommend it for welding anything thicker than ½ inch though.
What I liked
- Is highly portable and lightweight
- As a stick welder, it welds quickly
- It works well with both a 220v and 110-volt power outlets
- Can be used for lift TIG welding though an additional tig lift torch has to be purchased
- Has a wide power output range of 20 to 205 amps
- Is ideal for welding thin sheets of steel below ½ inch in thickness
- It does not come with an instructions manual.
This YESWELDER stick welder is great as a backup welding machine. It will be your go-to welder for when you need to weld quickly and don’t want to use your primary welder. It can also be a great option for welding when on the road.
HZXVOGEN 110V/220V Tig Welder Pulse 200A Dual Voltage Arc Stick MMA Inverter IGBT Digital Welding Machine
TIG welders tend to be pricey, thus it is nice to see HZXVOGEN offering a tig welder at a very reasonable price for the 200 amp dual voltage TIG welder. It is capable of stick welding as well and has pulse and spot modes.
Compact welder with lots of features
While it is quite small this welder comes with all the features you would expect from a TIG welder. The included TIG torch has adjustment buttons on it to make adjustments easy. It also features a spot mode operation that I found to be great for welding thinner sheets of stainless steel.
Dual voltage and high-frequency start
It starts up quickly thanks to the high-frequency start. Also, this is a dual voltage welder that you can use with both a 110 v and 220 v power outlet. And with its output range of 30 to 200 amps, it can weld a wide range of materials.
Welds a wide range of metals
So which metals can you weld with this welder? Firstly you can use it to weld stainless steel, but you can also use it on carbon steel, copper alloy, steel alloy, copper, and iron.
What I liked
- Comes with all accessories needed for tig welding
- Is a lightweight and compact welder
- Can be used with both a 110v and 220 v power outlet
- Has both pulse and spot modes
- Compared to other TIG welders it is offered at a relatively affordable price
- The TIG torch is bigger than what you get with other TIG welders
- Some users have complained of it not lasting
If you want to test your hand at TIG welding but don’t want to shell out a ton of money on a TIG welder, this will be a great option. It is the best tig welder for stainless steel at its price tag.
Weldpro Digital TIG 200GD AC DC 200 Amp Tig/Stick Welder
The Weldpro Digital TIG 200 GD welder is one of the priciest welders on the list. However, when compared to Miller and Lincoln TIG welders it is quite affordable. As an inverter welder, it is also compact and lightweight.
Very well made with cooling fans
This unit looks very well made and sturdy. One thing that impressed me was the cooling fans. The fans start running immediately after it is on. This is unlike other inverter welders that take some time before the fans start running.
Great for welding thin stainless steel and aluminum
It has an adjustable AC duty cycle which is great for welding aluminum. For stainless steel, it worked well on thin sheets of ⅜ inch stainless steel. It is also capable of AC and DC welding, which is why you can use it to weld stainless steel and aluminum.
All accessories included
It comes with all the accessories you need to start welding. This includes a TIG torch and even an argon gas regulator. There is also a sturdy ground pedal included. The pedal is sturdy and quite heavy.
What I liked
- Comes with all accessories necessary for welding out of the box
- Is capable of both DC and AC welding
- It is a dual voltage welder and can be used with a 110v and 220 v outlet
- Costs less than Miller and Lincoln TIG welders
- Comes with a 3-year warranty
- There is no option for lift TIG start only HF start
- It comes with a Euro style torch which is heavier than a normal torch
If you want a high-quality TIG welder capable of stick welding but do not want to spend $1000 plus on a Lincoln or Miller welder, this is a great alternative. It is a powerful TIG welder with all accessories included.
LOTOS MIG175 175AMP Mig Welder with Free Spool Gun, Mask, Aluminum Welding Wires
The LOTOS MIG175 MIG welder is another that is great for welding stainless steel as well as aluminum. It comes with several accessories included and is designed to be easy to carry.
Versatile MIG welding machine
As stated this can weld stainless steel and aluminum. It can weld stainless steel of between 18 gauge and ¼ inch in thickness. Thus you will mostly be using it to weld thinner sheets of steel. As for aluminum, it can weld 3/16 inch or thinner aluminum sheets. It comes with a spool gun included for aluminum welding.
Have all accessories included
Apart from the welding machine you also get a standard MIG gun, argon gas regulator, a spool gun, ground clamp cable, and gas hose. You also get 0.9mm contact tips and a welding mask. All these accessories mean you can start welding right away.
Decent output for thin metals
This is a 220v/240v welder and has an output of 175 amps, which is lower than the output of some of the other options on the list. This makes it ideal for welding thinner sheets of metal and can weld up to 18 gauge stainless steel.
What I liked
- Is ideal for welding thin sheets of stainless steel, mild steel, and aluminum
- Comes with all accessories necessary including an argon gas regulator
- It has a spool gun included for welding aluminum
- Comes with a 3-year warranty
- It is easy to set up and use
- The welding tips are terrible and are better to buy new tips
- It is only ideal for welding overly thin sheets of metal
If you are a beginner or intermediate welder, this is the best MIG welder for stainless steel. It comes with a lot of accessories included and is easy to use. It is also versatile enough to weld stainless steel as well as aluminum.
Types Of Stainless steel And Welding Tips
There are different types of stainless steel that differ based on chemical composition. These different types interact differently with different welding processes.
Austenitic stainless steel
This type of steel is used primarily in machining and fabrication. It is known for its high corrosion and oxidation resistance. Furthermore, this type is known for being strong and tough and can withstand varying temperature ranges.
When welding this type of steel it is advisable to use the same filler metal as the base metal. It can be prone to cracking due to low melting materials.
Martensitic stainless steel
This type of steel is used in making water-proof materials, restoring steel rolls and hard facing. It needs preheating and is slowly cooled after welding. One of its notable characteristics is that it becomes stronger as it is heated.
It typically has an interpass temperature of between 400 and 600 Fahrenheit. And as it cools it becomes hard and brittle. With this type of steel, it is advisable to use a filler metal with the same numbers as the base metal.
Used in making consumer products including automotive parts, ferritic steel is usually thin steel typically measuring 0.25 inches thick. As such it is welded in a single pass and preheating is only necessary if the steel has a high amount of carbon.
It has an interpass temperature of 300 Fahrenheit and using temperatures higher than this can lead to loss of strength. The filler metal used should match or exceed the base metal grade.
Duplex steel combines austenite and ferrite structures and is thus stronger and more corrosion resistant than the other two types of stainless steel. As such it is used in high-performance applications including in the aerospace industry.
When welding, use a high heat input and a low interpass temperature. This will help balance the ferrite and austenite structures. Filler metals used to weld this type of steel need some chemical adjustment such as the addition of nickel.
Precipitation hardening steel
This is another type of stainless steel used in high-performance applications such as the aerospace industry. It combines the properties of martensitic and austenitic steels. When using this type of steel the base material should be of the same grade as the base metal.
Which is the best welding method for welding stainless steel
As mentioned, stainless steel can be welded using MIG, TIG, and stick welding. There is no one method that is better than the other as it depends on your needs. If cost is a factor then stick welding will be the best option.
However, if you are welding thinner pieces of steel then TIG will be the best option.
Tips on how to improve stainless steel welding
- Use the right shielding gas
When welding stainless steel you want to use a shielding gas that has less than 5% of carbon dioxide. The addition of carbon into the weld can damage the steel’s ability to resist corrosion. Ideally, you want a shielding gas with 98% argon and 2% carbon dioxide.
- Be careful when cleaning the steel
Cleaning is an important part of preparing stainless steel for welding. When cleaning the steel using a dedicated grinding wheel. Do not use the same grinding wheel you use for cleaning carbon steel to clean stainless steel. Doing so will result in contamination of the stainless steel resulting in defects.
- Use a push technique to weld
A push technique is better for welding stainless steel instead of a drag technique. The former technique will yield a better bead appearance. Also do not use slow travel speed.
- Use dedicated drive rolls and MIG gun
If you are MIG welding stainless steel use drive rolls dedicated for stainless steel. The MIG liner you use should also be dedicated to stainless steel welding. This is important to avoid cross-contamination.
- Use post flow gas coverage
This is a technique used in TIG welding to protect the weld pool from contamination as it cools. This technique is also great when MIG welding stainless steel.
How do I check the temperature when welding stainless steel?
There are various tools you can use to check the temperature of the steel when welding. These include electronic infrared thermometers, electronic temperature probes, and temperature indicating sticks.
What gas should I use to weld stainless steel?
You want a shielding gas that is low on carbon dioxide. Typically a tri-mix gas of argon, helium, and 5% carbon dioxide can be used for MIG welding. You can also opt for a 98% argon and 2% carbon dioxide gas mixture.
Why you should not weld stainless steel and carbon steel wires together
Stainless steel is more electrically resistant than carbon steel, this means it heats up faster than carbon steel. And as the stainless steel waits for the carbon steel to reach weld temperatures it may overheat and get hot cracks.
Is it possible to weld stainless steel with flux core welding?
Yes, this welding process is particularly recommended when you need to weld thick plates in a short period. This process offers significantly higher deposit rates than other welding processes.
Do I weld stainless steel on AC or DC?
DC is typically used to weld stainless steel as it offers more than AC. The only exception is in the shipbuilding industry where AC is specifically used.
Can a Harbor Freight welder weld stainless steel?
Harbor freight welders are inefficient when it comes to welding stainless steel. It is better to use a MIG, stick, or TIG welder.
Stainless steel is a metal that is used in many industries. Thus if you are a DIY or a professional welder you are bound to come across metal. Knowing which welder to use will be crucial.
And if you are looking for the best welder for stainless steel, the five I have reviewed above will be a good place to start.