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There may only be one thing better than eating delicious barbecue cooked slow and low on a smoker, and that is eating some delicious barbecue that you cooked slow and low on the barbecue smoker that you made. Making barbecue smokers has long been a favorite hobby of backyard cooks and professional pitmasters alike.
While one may feel comfortable with procuring the material, cutting out the doors, and forming the metal of the smoke chimney, uncertainty may arise when it comes time to join these materials with a welding machine. Therefore, it is important to know at the start what type of welder will be required to make a BBQ smoker.
Shielded Metal Arc Welders (Stick or SMAW)
Shielded metal arc welders, colloquially known as stick welders, are an excellent way to weld together the components of many types of BBQ smokers. Stick welders, when compared with other welding power sources, are very simple. They do not require shielding gas, they do not require advanced electrical waveforms, and they don’t require a wire feeding system. All of this makes for a very robust and relatively portable welding system.
Inverter power sources, like the ES275i stick welder, are especially mobile because they do not have big, heavy transformers, making them much more carryable. This is nice if you have multiple projects ongoing. Another advantage of stick welders is that they can be used to join dirtier material because of the flux coating on the electrodes that the machines use. The reduced amount of time spent cleaning off mill scale and rust prior to welding allows one to get to that first slab of St. Louis spare ribs that much quicker. Stick welders such as the ES275i can also join very thick materials. Coming in with a maximum amperage of 275, the ES275i will be capable of welding BBQ smokers made of the thickest steels.
Stick welders are not the answer for all BBQ smoker welding activities though. If thin materials, especially those less than 1.5 mm, are to be welded, then stick welding could be troublesome because even the small electrodes are somewhat large when compared with other welding processes.
If weld spatter is a concern, which it may be if a paint or powder coating is going to applied after fabrication, then a stick welder may not be the best choice as the stick welding process can expel a lot of molten metal from the weld puddle. The weld spatter can be taken care of by proper post-weld cleaning though. Finally, if non-ferrous or stainless steels are being welded, it may be better to use an alternative welding process.
Gas Metal Arc Welders (MIG or GMAW)
Gas metal arc welders, less formally known as metal inert gas (MIG) welders, are another excellent category of welding machine to use when assembling a BBQ smoker. MIG welders are similar to stick welders in the sense that the electrode is also the weld filler metal, but MIG welders do come with other added complexities. For one, they require a wire feeding system. This wire feeding system could be internal like that of a Lincoln Power MIG 180C, or external such as an LN25 wire feeder combined with an EX360 welding power supply. MIG welders also require shielding gas, unlike stick welders.
MIG welders are excellent choices to build a BBQ smoker with because of the amount of skill it takes to learn how to make a MIG weld, which is arguably less than that required to stick weld or use other welding processes. Also, MIG welding is considered a fast travel speed process when compared with many other welding processes. If the BBQ smokers are getting made in large numbers in a production setting, then a MIG welder may be an excellent way to increase productivity. MIG welders are also better suited than stick welding to join materials other than carbon steel together.
If the BBQ smokers are getting made in large numbers in a production setting, then a MIG welder may be an excellent way to increase productivity.
MIG welding machines do come with several disadvantages though. In addition to the added complexities over stick welding mentioned above, MIG weld can also be a little more limited in the material thicknesses it can join together than stick welding because of its smaller electrode size. MIG welders, especially those without advanced pulse waveforms, can leave weld spatter on the BBQ smoker. A MIG welding machine like the Lincoln Power Wave 455M/STT has pulse welding waveforms that can alleviate this concern. Furthermore, MIG welding machines, while they can join materials other than carbon steel together, they are not as capable of doing so as the next type of welding machine this article highlights below.
Gas Tungsten Arc Welders (TIG or GTAW)
Gas tungsten arc welding, often called tungsten inert gas (TIG) welding is a process that can also be used to manufacture BBQ smokers. Of the three welding machine types mentioned in this article, TIG welding machines are perhaps the most complex to use. They require the manipulation of a torch with a non-consumable tungsten electrode and a shielding gas in one hand, and in the other hand a filler metal rod in order to add weld metal reinforcement. The amperage can also be adjusted by the welder on the fly, typically by use of a foot pedal. TIG welders can be light and transportable like the Miller Maxstar 200 SD inverter power source or big and heavy like the Miller Syncrowave 250 DX transformer power source.
TIG welders provide many benefits when assembling a BBQ smoker. One of the greatest benefits is their ability to join materials other than carbon steel. Aluminum, stainless steel, even nickel superalloys can be joined using a TIG welding power source. Now, it’s unlikely that anyone will be using Inconel 625 to construct the smoky chamber that houses their prime cut of brisket, but one may want to make it out of stainless steel, or even simply add stainless steel grates to a carbon steel frame. This is where a TIG welder can really shine during the fabrication process. Another reason for selecting a TIG welder is cosmetic purposes. TIG welders, when operated by skilled welding personnel, can make very aesthetically pleasing welds. In addition, when it comes time to join extremely thin materials, TIG welders are very capable machines.
One of the greatest benefits of TIG welders is their ability to join materials other than carbon steel.
TIG welding machines may not always be the best choice, however. For one, they can be more expensive than MIG welders and barebones stick welders. Power sources like the Miller Dynasty 350 have a lot of bells and whistles that, while allowing for an incredible amount of operator control, can tend to come with a premium over the welding machines used solely for stick or MIG welding. TIG welding is also a relatively slow travel speed process, which may be fine for one-off smokers, but not necessarily suitable for a production environment. TIG welders also require a high degree of operator skill with respect to operating other types of welding machines.
…But Which One is the Best?
The best welder for building a BBQ smoker truly depends on the type of smoker being built. For most smokers, any one of these three types of welders will work just fine. Want speed? Go with MIG. Need portability? Give a stick welder a try. Welding non-ferrous or stainless steel? A TIG welder may be your best bet. Refer to the table below to see the advantages of each welder type to see which one may suit your needs best.
Stick Welder MIG Welder TIG Welder
Extremely portable Fast Very high-quality welds can be achieved
Affordable Relatively low skill required to operate Can be used to weld thinner materials than MIG or stick welders
Low Complexity Adequately suited to weld stainless steel and non-ferrous metals Superbly suited to weld stainless steel and non-ferrous alloys
Can be used to weld thick materials Can be used to weld thinner materials than a stick welder Virtually no spatter
Less skill required to operate than a TIG welder Can have less spatter than a stick welder Generally provides cosmetically superior welds when compared with stick or MIG
Advantages of Various Welding Methods For Building a Smoker or Barbecue Grill
Slower than MIG welding because the electrode is typically larger, it is not semiautomatically fed via a wire feed system, and it has a flux coating
Slower than MIG welding because it requires manual additions of filler metal with a seperate hand
Less portable than stick welding machines because it requires shielding gas and a wirefeed system
Less portable than stick welding machines becauase it requires a shielding gas
More expensive than stick because of the wire feed system, shielding gas, and potential proprietary pulse welding waveforms
More expensive than stick welders because of a more complex torch system, shielding gases, and potential welding power source unit that has more complexity
Low Complexity – Less skill required to operate than a TIG welder
Relatively low skill required to operate
Generally considered the more difficult than MIG or stick welding because of the use of two hands and the manual addition of filler metal
Can be used to weld thick materials
Adequately suited to weld stainless steel and non-ferrous metals
“Can be used to weld thinner materials than MIG or stick welders
Superbly suited to weld stainless steel and non-ferrous alloys”
Stick welding machines can produce very high quality welds, but will generally produce more spatter than MIG or TIG machines. Stick welding also requires the removal of slag, which can be difficult in some circumstances
Can provide less spatter than a stick welding machine
Very high quality welds can be achieved – Generally provides cosmetically superior welds when compared with stick or MIG
ArcReach® technology is an investment that results in a lot of time saved during welding operations. With most welding equipment the operator needs to walk back and forth to adjust output voltage – sometimes over hundreds of feet – multiple times during a job. This results in hundreds of wasted hours and thousands of lost dollars over the course of a large project.
ArcReach technology enables welders to adjust the voltage settings right at the point of welding
ArcReach technology enables welders to adjust the voltage settings right at the point of welding instead of walking all the way to the power source and back. Even worse, if the voltage settings are “just good enough”, the operator might not bother making the trip, resulting in lower quality welds.
How Does Arc Reach Work?
With ArcReach®, the digital signal carries voltage information via the weld cables. The connection happens automatically. The ArcReach software in the power source receives the signals it receives from the remote accessory or wire feeder and adjusts the output as indicated by the operator.
New Red-D-Arc Welders With ArcReach®
Red-D-Arc is pleased to announce the launch of our own line of equipment enabled with ArcReach®technology. The EX360 Fieldpro is an excellent machine for welding pipe in the field, working in shipyards or working across large distances and heights in the construction industry. Our D624K HO Diesel Engine Welder features infinite arc control which enables welding arc characteristics to be adapted for specific welding applications using stick welding, MIG and flux-cored welding techniques.
The Red-D-Arc D624K HO Portable Diesel Engine Welder
ArcReach Welding Accessories
We also carry the arc reach components needed to complete your ArcReach® enabled welding set up. The ArcReach® Suitcase 12 Wire Feeder is compatible with all ArcReach® enabled products and enables all the welding adjustments to be made at the point of welding. The portable ArcReach® Stick-TIG Remote automatically changes to Stick mode if electrode positive polarity is detected or TIG mode when if electrode negative polarity is detected eliminating the need to walk back to the power supply.
Welders will benefit with more arc-on time and improved weld quality. Not only that, there won’t be extra control cables cluttering up the worksite, creating a trip hazard. Faster, better, safer welding. ArcReach® technology is an investment you can’t afford to pass up.
Powerful Clean Wet Media Blasting that Removes Almost Any Coating
If you’re trying to remove old paint, hardened epoxy, corrosion, rust or scale you want a powerful cleaning solution that’s easy to use. Wet Media Blasting using crushed glass is one of the toughest most reliable methods available.
Built Tough, Easy to Use
The Clearblast 150 wet media blaster provides powerful wet blasting in a portable package. Ruggedly built to take on the toughest blast cleaning jobs, this machine can provide up to 120psi of cleaning power for over an hour straight. The intuitive control panel is easy to understand and first-time users can get set up and start blasting within minutes. Stainless steel piping on a hard steel frame with a powder-coated finish makes this machine an excellent choice for harsh environments and repeated transport and use.
The Wet Blasting Process
1. Water is supplied by the on-board tank or standalone trailer. (uses roughly 1 pint per min.)
2. Abrasive media is added to the hopper
3. Compressed air delivers a stream of wet abrasive media to the cleaning surface like a hail of darts
Wet Media Blasting using crushed glass is one of the toughest, cleanest blast cleaning methods available.
An Excellent Alternative to Sandblasting
Dry blasting methods throw particles against a surface, pulverizing coatings and creating a lot of airborne particles which can be a health hazard and a pain to clean up. It can also damage the substrate, removing materials and compromising surface integrity. Substantial containment and cleanup are involved. Wet Blasting, on the other hand, eliminates more than 90% of airborne dust, uses far fewer blast media and is one of the safest, cleanest, greenest blasting methods available.
Many blast cleaning systems claim to be “dustless” but what we are really talking about is the reduction of airborne dust particles. If you’re using blast media and removing coatings, you’re going to have some residue. Wet media suppresses airborne dust and requires far less clean up than other blasting methods. Until someone invents a blaster that destroys matter, there’s always going to be some kind of residue leftover from a blasting job.
To begin with, different electrodes have different colored bands that are used to identify them. However, there are several other important differences to consider when selecting a tungsten. Here some of the various types with the respective characteristics:
EWTh-2: 2% thoriated tungsten. The EWTh-2 tungsten electrode is color-coded with a red band. It is known for its durability, ability to withstand high currents, and excellent arc starts. It is primarily welded using a negative polarity and direct current. It does not have great characteristics when welding with AC.
EWLa-2: 2% lanthanated tungsten. The EWLa-2 tungsten electrode is color-coded with a blue band. It is known for its excellent arc starting ability, excellent current carrying ability, and can withstand many arc cycles. It can be welded as the negative electrode using direct current or with alternating current.EWP: Pure tungsten electrode. EWP is color-coded with a green band. It has excellent arc stability. It is almost exclusively used with alternating current. Tungsten emission is more likely with a pure tungsten electrode when compared with other alloyed tungsten electrodes.
EWCe-2: 2% ceriated tungsten. EWCe-2 tungsten electrode is currently color-coded with a gray band, although in the past it was color-coded with an orange band. It is quite similar to EWLa-2 in that it has excellent current carrying ability, excellent arc starting ability, and can last through many different arc start and arc termination cycles.
Airgas, an Air Liquide company, is the nation's leading single-source supplier of gases, welding and safety products. Known locally nationwide, our distribution network serves more than one million customers of all sizes with a broad offering of top-quality products and unmatched expertise.