Hobart vs Miller Welders: Important Differences
It seems my guide to some small DIY projects like PEX piping helped quite a few people. One of our readers reached out to me and asked me whether I was acquainted with welders.
He was considering picking up welding as a hobby. There were a few popular brands, and two of them were Hobart and Miller. Could I give him some advice on which one is better, if possible?
Bad news: I’m not into welding. 🙁
Good news: my friend Dave is a DIY nut and has expertise with that niche 🙂
According to him, the Hobart vs Miller debate boils down to this:
Hobart welders are manufactured to be hobbyist-friendly with their tapped settings. The popular HH140 is a prime example for that.
Miller welders are more targeted at industrial, heavy-duty use. They feature more flexible controls, but are also a bit more complicated.
Of course, this is too superficial of a look, so let’s dive deeper into the more juicy details.
First things first…
Who actually makes Hobart welders?
Dave mentioned that a lot of people are actually puzzled. Are Hobart and Miller the same company? Who actually manufactures both product lines?
Miller are not owned by Hobart, as some rumors have spread.
In fact, both companies are currently owned by a company called ITW or Illinois Tool Works. Hobart and Miller are separate brands and are manufactured in different facilities.
That said, they do share some engineering processes and you can see some small parts being swapped between them.
Hobart vs Miller:
Is it all in how their settings are organized?
Dave mentioned that the biggest operational difference you’d see with these welders is their settings.
Summed up in short, Hobart machines usually have tapped voltage settings. On the other hand, Miller welders feature something called infinite controls.
The first approach is great for hobbyists and people who want more entry-level projects that don’t rely on super precision. The latter is for masterful crafts and impeccable accuracy.
But what is the exact difference? What’s that ‘tapped’ and ‘infinite control’ talk?
Tapped simply means you have fixed outputs at specific levels. For example, let’s say that #1 on your welder settings is 20v. #2 might be 30v.
With tapped settings, you can’t adjust it to, say, 28.5v or 26v. All you’ve got is the fixed settings. You can only go from #1 to #2.
You can actually see that on the front of a Hobart Handler 140 welder:
Infinite controls means that you have flexibility. You can hit all these smaller volt checkpoints and mold the output to your more precise needs.
This is a very heated discussion among welders. To some, Hobart’s settings are very intelligently thought out. In other words, it might not make that much of a difference if you don’t have the full control over their machines’ output.
Dave’s verdict: For entry-level projects and hobby welding, this doesn’t matter that much. Don’t think that the controls are too rigid and will ruin your newfound passion.
Intended purpose, price & complexity
As with other trades and their relevant tools – like woodcarving, for example, you should consider a few things. Namely:
What exactly do you want to do with this tool?
How much are you willing to spend for it?
Do you prefer a plug-and-play solution, or are you willing to go through a steep learning curve?
The whole Hobart vs Miller debate follows these simple guidelines to a T.
Miller offer more amperage, more power, and a better overall construction. Their higher-end welders are an industry leader.
At the same time, though, they won’t handhold you. Miller expects from you to be aware of your skills, and that you have honed them over time. Or at least you’re willing to commit to a more complex machine.
Whenever you see the blue aluminium shell like the Miller 211, you know you’re in for some heavy-duty welding fun:
Hobart take it easier. They automate many things for you and say ‘OK, this is a welder, just grab it and start tinkering with it from the get go!’
The constrution – while not as sturdy as a Miller, is still high quality. There’s no steep learning curve. And, of course – the price is also way better for people who want to try welding out as a hobby.
Dave’s exception: An exception can be found with Hobart’s Stickmate vs Miller’s Thunderbolt. Both of these are entry-level welders and they’re very close in terms of overall power, operation and ease of use.
For beginners, the Hobart Handler 140 a.k.a. The HH140 is the best budget welder. It’s a cut above cheaper tools in terms of quality, control and output.
Even though it’s an entry-level machine, you can use it for a variety of DIY projects. Fences, car body panels, trailer hitches or whatever tickles your fancy.
You can easily work on anything from copper to titanium, brass or magnesium alloys, as well as cast iron on MIG mode. Flux cored operation will take care of aluminium on top of all of these.
The output (25-140 amps) will be too weak for any serious industrial use. For hobbyists, though, this will take care of most, if not all entry-level tinkering.
If you want something a bit more powerful, Miller’s 211 welder is another level. The output range gets boosted to 30-230a DC providing you with more power to work with.
Miller have one very important benefit: while their machines are powerful, the aluminium shell also makes them crazy lightweight.
The 211 is not the highest end from Miller’s product line, far from that. For this you’d want to take a look at the brand’s Continuum series – possibly something like the Continuum 350. But these are a VERY high-end take on welders and easily cost several thousands.
Wrapping it up
Hopefully, with Dave’s help you could grasp the basic differences between Hobart and Miller welding tools. At least to me, what he said makes perfect sense. It’s something I can easily see in other industries.
The hobbyist/apprentice vs master/professional dividing line is a must. DIY culture has been spreading like a wildfire over the past few years. At the same time, brands’ usual high-end tools can put this fire away very easily as they’re too complex, too demanding and simply intimidating for the average Joe (like I was.)
Welders, woodcarving tools, PEX clamps or lawn sprinklers…It doesn’t matter that we’ve got a bit too many brands, too many models on our hands. We need them, because our level of expertise and willingness to put a X amount of time into learning our hobbies differ a lot.