Okay, so you just convinced your wife or your better half to allow you to pull the trigger on purchasing a new welder....After giving her hours of lecture about how it might bring in a little extra income so that she can keep up her lifestyle, or that it would give her a longer life with you by giving you a stress relief, or that you simply need to exercise your creative juices. If that is you, then there's a good chance that you will fall into the hobbyist category.
You will save face in front of your wife if, when you greet the UPS man at your door like an anxious puppy, if you have the balance of what you need to weld when it arrives. So, get out a piece of paper and start writing down the things you will need so that the arrival of your new toy can go seamlessly. I'll try to give you a quick list of some things you need to get ready for while the welder is enroute.
As with any "new arrival" it will need a place all its own. What did you expect? That it would sleep in the bed with you and your wife? No, carefully search a place that is convenient, safe and secure so the the new one can have a clear and unobstructed view of the garage, such as a dedicated work work bench. If you are considering "building a cart" then go ahead and make sure you have a good supply of angle iron, casters and expanded metal or what ever you think it will take to manufacture your cart. Or, just shell out a few extra bucks,(I am sure you can convince your wife about the need to "protect" your new investment), to buy a new one. But, while we are on the topic, go ahead and get a relationship established with your local steel supply company. Chances are, they are going to stick it to you on the steel price to start with. That's fine, its still better than going to buy it at the local Lowe's or Tractor Supply Company. It usually comes in 20 foot lengths, so be prepared to pay a cutting fee or have a trailer that can haul it home. Act cool, though, and check other suppliers so you know you aren't getting ripped too bad. A local supplier to me, even though I have bought from them for almost 9 years tries to rip me a new one everytime...I save as much as 60% by shopping around. Even though I drive 10 miles further one way to pick up the metal, I more than save enough to make it worthwhile. If you don't think there is a steel supplier near you, then google it with Steel + your location, or stop by your local welding shop. They will know. You will be suprised how many steel supply stores are around. Keep your credit card in your hip pocket, though, because you will never know when they will have a pile of bent or slightly damaged pieces of metal that they will sell for scrap prices.
Make sure you have a good supply of "consumables" nearby, whether it is tungsten, cups, caps, nozzles, contact tips, or whatever your particular welder requires when they need changing. Don't forget to have your stick electrodes in ample supply and selection so that you can immediately light one up when you get the welder, just to make a test fire of the machine. Generally, it is recommended to purchase an additional consumable kit and have it shipped with your welder. But, if you have failed to do so, that's fine. You can still order one or stop by your local supply store when the unit arrives. Carry your consumables with you so they can be matched up. Most of the torch consumables will interchange with "name brand" products, so that they can be sourced almost anywhere a welding supply store exists. Just hand the consumable to the "guy". Don't worry about telling him the name brand at first, just let him match it up. Chances are they will get thrown off by telling him the name brand, but let him see the consumable, and get him to match it up to what he has in stock. Since the welders come with a small consumable kit, you will be fine to get started, but soon, you will discover that you will need more, so get out there and make contact with a local welding supply store. This will seem professional and impress your wife with your matter-of-fact attitude and demonstrate your responsibility to her.
While extra consumables are nice, make sure you have the right shielding gas lined up. Forget about the intricacies and "flavors" of welding gas mix! Keep it simple: MIG: 75/25 ArCo2 and TIG pure Argon. Forget about anything smalller than a scuba tank. I'd recommend a minimum size of 125 cubic foot tank. Its small and easily handled and tucks neatly onto most carts. Although it is small for most steady use welding activities, you'll find that it will last for a one day project. Anything smaller, and your wife will have second thoughts about your purchase if you are running to the welding store 2 or 3 times a day. By the way, don't take your car to the welding store, its a sure sign that the welding supply store will take advantage of you and give you the "walk" in price. Take your truck...You have to load the bottles into a truck anyway. You can't put them in your car legally. So, if you are dealing with a reputable company, they will refuse to load you anyway. Imagine the embarrasment you will save with your wife, if you don't return empty handed. If you don't have a truck...GET ONE NOW! You don't have any business owning a welder if you don't have a way of getting the supplies it requires to operate one....Go ahead and tell her: OH! HONEY, I think we need a truck.... Size does not matter, just have one.
Okay, Now, call the electrician, if you have to ask the question: "What will I plug my welder into?" Don't do it yourself...Go ahead and admit a little vulnerability. If your spouse wants you to express a little weakness from time to time, then now is the time to do it. A few welders will run on 110V. That is great if all you want to do is spot weld a little sheet metal... But a serious and level headed guy will recognize, that any 110V circuit will yield limited results and more frustration than satisfaction. 220V is the way to go. It will handle about any machine up to 280 amps or so. The stove hookup is not satisfactory, nor is the dryer...Your wife won't like you disrupting domestic activities to play with your new toy. There are many 220V outlets available. My suggestion is the standard Nema 3 prong welder plug available at any good hardware or electrical supply store. Don't consider running extensions for long distances, have the outlet placed near the work area. This kind of planning will keep your wife smiling and impressed at your reasoning skills. While you are at it, make sure you have room in your breaker box to add this welder. Again, this is the time to call an electrician, if you have any doubt. He will also tell you what breaker is appropriate for your machine. Don't oversize the breaker, and certainly don't undersize the breaker. If the breaker is constantly tripping, you will make your wife think that you will burn down the house...which is a fair assumption on her part.
Make sure you have at least one fire extinguisher mounted nearby the expected resting spot of the welder. Two would be better and an added safety factor. Also, clear the area of any gas, paint, or solvent cans. Don't take any chances. Make sure oily rags are kept in a fire proof container. (Trust me from my own experiences you want to keep any rags or paper away from the welding area, at least 30 feet. Sparks fly further than you think).
Next on the list to purchase: grinders, vises, hammers, welding table and at least one saw to cut metal with...break it to her gently.
Finally, make sure that you have the appropriate welding gear you need to weld and stay safe. Jackets, gloves, helmets (not just a shield or goggles) wire brushes, chipping hammers, and at least two good C-clamps. You will find that securing these items before the unit arrives will do much to prevent your wife from second guessing your decision and hers. It will also give you the much needed peace of mind that you will always be prepared to go out and weld when the desire or need arises. So, when your buddy comes over for you to fix his broken bed frame, he won't be laughing at you, you will be laughing at him explaining how it got broken.