Looking to get into welding

Discussion in 'Equipment' started by jsalman93, Nov 17, 2012.

  1. jsalman93

    jsalman93 Been here awhile

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    Looking into buying a MIG welder for some basic garage projects. I have been checking out Harbor Freight welders and most of the reviews are negative, but when I look at the LIncoln or Miller welders they are nearly closer to $1000. Anyone have any suggestions on where to find a good welder for a decent price. Also if any of you know any good supplemental books that would give me some good pointers. I have a good friend who has worked in a fab shop who is willing to teach me, and may take a welding class next semester at my college (considering it doesn't fill up in the first 5 minutes), but I'm just looking to find some good informational books that would help as well.
    #1
  2. Schlug

    Schlug JockeyfullofBourbon

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    Buying a used quality welder is much better than buying a junk, throw away Harbor Freight model.

    Unless all you're doing is welding junk, throw away projects.

    Plus, I want to correct this hogshyte about Miller and Lincoln being 1,000 USD for a home-hobby MIG unit.

    Here, $359 and it might be the last welder you buy.

    http://www.northerntool.com/shop/tools/product_200579823_200579823?cm_mmc=Google-pla-_-Welding-_-Wirefeed%20Welding-_-29999&ci_sku=29999&ci_gpa=pla&ci_kw={keyword}&gclid=CMSD-Jut17MCFUKd4Aod82oAxQ

    [​IMG]

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    [​IMG]





    Lincoln Electric Handy Mig™ Portable Welder — MIG and Flux-Cored, Model# K2185-1



    <!-- Item# 29999

    --><INPUT id=ItemPartNumber name=ItemPartNumber value=29999 type=hidden>
    Only $359.99


    Guaranteed Lowest Prices
    #2
  3. CRASHDADDY

    CRASHDADDY Adventurer

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    I would recommend going to school first and learning HOW to weld, when you graduate you'll know what you need to buy
    #3
  4. jsalman93

    jsalman93 Been here awhile

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    oh wow, totally missed that one on their website. Thanks
    What's your opinion on the craftsman AC welders (ie. sears website)

    In response to that, I would love to go to a welding class, but:
    a) my school and work availability aren't very permitting :deal
    b) I've got some a friend who has a lot of experience welding and I'm sure he could get me started
    c) my local community college's welding class is always booked, don't really wanna wait a year when I could already have a year's worth of trial and error under my belt :D
    #4
  5. Renegade_Azzy

    Renegade_Azzy Kamen Rider

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    We picked up a Lincoln Weld Pak model off craigslist about a year ago for about $200. Didnt come with the gas kit, but was a low hour machine.

    So far Ive run more than a few spools through it, and used flux core and solid wire with gas, and it runs great for just about everything. Ive welded in new vehicle floors and done new bumpers for the jeep (3/16" mild steel) with no issue. Hobart wire work best in them though, for some reason.

    Speaking of hobart, they make a nifty regulator setup that lets you run a 20oz paintball CO2 tank, makes for a much smaller setup.

    All in all, if I had the cash, I would have gone 220v instead of 110. Your biggest limitation will be the run time that the welder will give you, before the heat switch kicks in and you have to wait for it to cool. Mine is a 20% cycle.. 2 min straight welding, 8 min cooling. HF models get as low as 1 min welding, 9 min cooling. That and their support.. Im betting non-existant. I hear you can upgrade them witth miller parts, but in that case, buy a miller first.
    #5
  6. CRASHDADDY

    CRASHDADDY Adventurer

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    I know that brand loyalty is a matter of opinion, but every industrial fab/welding/machine shop i've worked in used Miller equipment. I went to vo-tec for 2 yrs of nites to get certified welding in all positions, mig, tig, stick. Worked for 8 yrs as a full time welder, already had 25 yrs experience as a journeyman machinist. Education is priceless! So when i set my shop up i ran 220 power for a compressor, mig welder, and tig set-up. Miller. Check Craigslist; the thing about buying good equipment is that you can get it repaired, AND it holds it's value if you ever need to sell it.
    #6
  7. Zepfan

    Zepfan Been here awhile

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  8. larryboy

    larryboy Chopper Rider

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    You can find that one cheaper and you want to buy it as cheap as possible because you're gonna hate it.

    http://www.homedepot.com/buy/lincoln-electric-handy-mig-welder-k2185-1.html


    The problem is that it can't weld much thicker material than 1/8" and the duty cycle is very low. Say you want to push it and butt weld some 1/4" steel, if you're really fast you might get four inches of weld and then it'll kick off and run the fan for 20 minutes or longer to cool it down.

    You'd be better off buying an ac/dc stick welder to see if you really want to weld, then step up to a quality MIG machine later. There are tons of new welding rods for stick welding that makes it much easier than it used to be.

    When I was a kid in welding class we had to master oxy/acetelene welding before we could touch the stick welder and oxy/acet will actually do better than that pile of junk MIG tack welder shown above.
    #8
  9. Donkey Hotey

    Donkey Hotey De Jo Momma

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    Define "garage projects" for us...seriously. Are you making a fence for your yard? MIG is your choice. Build a trailer? MIG. Put up a steel building and weld the joints? MIG. Steel roll cage for your off road buggy? MIG. A nice little, portable welder you can run on 115V, power from a generator and do repairs around your ranch? MIG.

    Make an aluminum skid plate for your motorcycle? Weld stainless exhausts? Weld steel where the lengths are short and thicknesses vary? TIG. Period. That's the good news and the bad news: unless you're doing miles of production-style welding, TIG is almost always the unavoidable answer.

    I haven't touched the MIG since buying a TIG. Most jobs are so short that by the time I get the settings dialed-in nicely on the MIG, it's over. I could have just as easily done it with the TIG.

    Stick welders? Youz guyz are funny! I had to DONATE (thrift store) a very nice Craftsman stick welder to get rid of it. Quick and dirty if you're welding pipe corrals or structural steel, outdoors and don't want to mess with gas. They certainly have their place but, it's often not doing what most people do in their garage.

    I've been through them all: Oxy-acetylene, stick, MIG and now TIG. Just trying to save you the agony of buying the wrong welder for what you want to do.
    #9
  10. jsalman93

    jsalman93 Been here awhile

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    By garage projects I plan on building a steel heavy duty bumper for my truck and maybe making a roll cage if time and money allows it (and skill :evil). I would like to buy a cheap trailer for my bikes (seen on craigslist for super cheap), but we'll see. I have heard that you can weld aluminum if you use a different wire and use a mixture with helium and something else (argon?). True? It may not be pretty, but is it doable, assuming that it is as thick as, say, a motorcycle frame :1drink
    I know that if I were gonna get a TIG that would allow me to make all sorts ridiculous things to lower the resale value of my bike, but the cost of getting a TIG is pretty high and from talking to people it looks like it would be a pretty difficult to learn and would be better learned after having some experience beforehand. that's just a majority of opinions that I've heard, if your opinion is any different I'm all ears.. I'm not really looking to get stick, as all of my project work would be done in a clean garage I would like my welds to be as clean as they could be (not trying to win any beauty prizes, but still).
    #10
  11. CRASHDADDY

    CRASHDADDY Adventurer

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    Exactly. The only time i really use my mig gun is when i'm working on my nephews rock crawler, and need to really burn it in. Forget the stick; cave man material, unless you plan on welding a lot of fence out in the middle of a field. Tig is my first choice for fine detail motorcycle fabrication. No spatter/slag flying either so your less apt to burn the place down. Not to offend anybody here, but too many people watch Pauly Jr stick 2 pieces of metal together and start thinking " for a C note i too can be a welder. Cause all you do is pull the trigger." Unless you just need some props for the man cave you would come out ahead just paying a real welder to lay some beads down for ya.
    #11
  12. Donkey Hotey

    Donkey Hotey De Jo Momma

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    Not quite and if you think through the problem, you'll immediately understand why. All the lower priced MIG units PUSH the wire from the welder to the gun. Small diameter aluminum wire just isn't strong enough. It will just bunch up inside your welder. You either need to have a MIG gun with pulling rollers or a spool gun--where the spool is actually in your hand and spooled locally to the weld. So if aluminum is a goal, you know you need to go to a TIG--keep that in mind.

    Spouted by people who either want you to believe they have some god-like skill or who haven't done it. There is nothing magical about TIG. MIG and TIG both use an inerting gas, they both use electricity to melt the metal, they both have a current setting to control the heat. The difference is that you're holding a tungsten torch AND a rod and on most TIG setups, you get a pedal to control the heat. It's no different than driving a car--controlling a throttle AND steering at the same time.

    In fact, the heart of what most people call a TIG is really nothing but a universal welding power supply. A TIG welder is a giant power supply, with AC or DC switching, variable current control, some gas-flow controls and arc-start controls. Everything else depends on what you connect to it.

    I can connect a spool-gun to my Lincoln, set it for AC, dial a current setting, set the gas controls and do MIG welding. I can shut off the gas, use flux-core wire and do plain wire-feed. I can put a claw on the cable, put old-fashioned sticks in there and stick weld. I can put a tungsten torch on there, switch it to DC-negative polarity, turn the pedal back on and do stainless. Toggle it over to AC and it's an aluminum welder. What costs so much is all those switches and controls that get left out of lower cost welders.

    The MOST expensive thing is buying two or three other welders before you get fed up and finally buy a TIG. Honestly, it sounds like your projects really can get by with a MIG. The only reason I'd still suggest considering TIG is that after welding all that stuff with a TIG, you'll finally be good enough to tackle projects you don't mind people seeing. In the end, the only thing that makes you a better welder is lots and lots of welding. So if you think you'll be limited to steel and working on the projects you listed, run...weld...be free! If you honestly think it will advance into more specialized stuff, it might be wise money to hunt for a used TIG and save the money in the long-run.

    I know..not the answer you want to hear. I didn't either...so I did it the dumb way. :lol3
    #12
  13. sailah

    sailah Lampin' it

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    I'll say, as a amateur who wanted a welder for garage stuff, I too opted for a MIG. Once I realized it wasn't going to be able to do aluminum well, I bought a TIG. First an import machine, then a Lincoln 185A TIG.

    I could easily get by without a MIG, I do not miss it at all. Maybe once in awhile, but not very. I could not do without a TIG.

    I taught myself how to TIG. It's not that hard to learn. It is hard to get really good. I weld maybe a couple times a month, it varies. Unless you are under the hood practicing all day long, it's difficult to get excellent results. Same goes for MIG. I don't think it's very difficult to TIG and I think it really helps you understand what's going on in the weld puddle and how to read the feedback better than a MIG.

    On buying a welder, shop around, def buy a used machine that you can score a deal on. Buy one that comes with a gas regulator and even a bottle if you can. School auctions are excellent places to pick up used machines. That way you can turn around and sell it for close to what you paid for it when you decide you're ready to move up.

    Don't buy some HF thing, you'll be lucky to get rid of it for 50% of what you paid for it. Don't think about how much it costs, think of it as as investment. With a better machine, bought right, you'll get your investment back. With a crap machine, you'll lose depreciation and thus your investment. I have probably $1000 in my lincoln TIG and I could easily get that back if I sold it right now. And I have welded a lot of things with it and basically have been using it for free if you think about it as an investment.

    I understand not everyone can sink $1000 into a welder, but if you want to do something and do it right, you need the right tool for the job.
    #13
  14. hugemoth

    hugemoth Long timer

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    If I could only have one welder in the garage for occasional use it would be a gas torch. The problem is gas refills have gotten too expensive so I also have a $79 HF flux core wire welder which works just fine. Cheap to buy, cheap to run, and does what I need to do. Plus my house is off grid so the welder has to run off a 110V inverter.
    #14
  15. Mambo Dave

    Mambo Dave Backyard Adventurer

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    I was in the same boat, and with the same considerations, as the OP is just about a year ago. Harbor Freight prices sure seemed good, but thank goodness I went for the Lincoln HandyMig.

    I didn't think I'd need it at the time, but it soon became apparent (between home practice with flux core and the welding class I was taking with pro equipment) that going for thin wire and a shielding gas was the only way I could do what I needed to do.

    So, HandyMig, an auto-shielding helmet from Harbor Freight, leather jacket and gloves from a welding store, a 30 cubic foot bottle of shield gas (the HandyMig comes with a regulator!), and ... I think that was about all I needed on that end.

    I know I now sound like everyone else, but I was on a severe budget and still the HandyMig was the better option, and right tool, compared to Harbor Freight flux core welders.
    #15
  16. mendoje

    mendoje Been here awhile

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  17. tdvt

    tdvt Been here awhile

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    I have a small Miller MIG & have tackled most all of the projects that you have on your list. I bought mine new at a welding house & while it has served me well I would like something larger. So, I'd look for a quality used machine.

    You can also forget about welding aluminum with the small rigs as while the machine is capable (electrically speaking), as was already pointed out, the wire feed isn't up the the job. The aluminum wire is just not rigid enough to be pushed through the liner. A welding supply guy I was talking to likened it to "trying to push a piece of cooked spaghetti through a straw". Tried it anyway, he was right.

    Before I bought my Miller, I had used a very nice small Lincoln on a job & called Lincoln to find out where I could buy the same machine locally. He went on to explain the the box store versions (which looked exactly the same but different model #'s) were NOT the same machine internally & could not recommend buying one. This was a few years ago so maybe the box-store quality is better but I don't think I'd count on it.
    #17
  18. larryboy

    larryboy Chopper Rider

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    I don't know you're getting your info, with practice spool gun aluminum welding can look just as good as TIG, stick welding is cleaner than MIG without spatter.

    Honestly, if you want to build a bumper a stick welder is the best choice and can be near free to buy...make sure it can do DC, a must for a beginner. Once you get good enough the slag peels itself as you weld a bead and there is virtually zero cleanup and no spatter.

    I weld for a living and have all the best stuff...for aluminum I grab the spool gun off the MIG, for stuff I don't want spatter on I use the TIG as a stick welder and MIG for everything else, it's extremely rare for me to TIG anything.

    For home I have a Miller 210, no spool gun and the oxy/acet for clean TIG type welding.

    Edit; When I was on a tighter home budget I had a 110v flux core MIG and did tons of stuff with it, but it was best for outdoors in cold temps to help out on the duty cycle, summer welding was very frustrating as there was more time spent letting the machine cool down than actual welding.
    #18
  19. jsalman93

    jsalman93 Been here awhile

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    It's okay, It may not be the answer that I was looking for, but it's definitely helpful advice nonetheless. I can already feel my wallet getting lighter :D

    Well I would be fine spending time learning with the TIG, but the price difference between the two does seem a bit large? I really would like to be able to progress and be able to make something that I'd be proud of, I just can't afford to spend $1000 on a TIG right now. I think if anything I might scour craigslist and if the price difference is doable, I'd opt for the TIG.

    This is really becoming more and more of an option the more I hear from you guys
    http://www.northerntool.com/shop/tools/product_200579823_200579823?cm_mmc=Google-pla-_-Welding-_-Wirefeed%20Welding-_-29999&ci_sku=29999&ci_gpa=pla&ci_kw={keyword}&gclid=CMSD-Jut17MCFUKd4Aod82oAxQ
    #19
  20. Donkey Hotey

    Donkey Hotey De Jo Momma

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    Be very careful. I went that route. I got a 300 amp Lincoln for $800. It had the torch and pedal but, not water cooler for the torch. The guy told me he used it with a garden hose hooked up and just let the water run out in the flower bed. Nice idea until you try it. I ended up spending another $600 or so on a used water system for the torch, and more on tips and tungsten electrodes.

    After all that crap, I learned about the difference a square wave machine makes. If I could do it all over again, I'd buy a brand new, square wave Miller for $3-4K...really.

    You CAN find TIG (and MIG) machines in the LA craigslist but, make sure it's:


    • Single-phase: you can't do much with a three-phase welder unless you have three-phase power.
    • Has the torch, pedal and water cooler system. Air cooled torches suck. They're too hot to hold in only a few minutes. Pedals are expensive. Replacement torches, hoses and cables are expensive. Heck, the nylon jacket for the hoses and cables is over $50.
    • Is small enough that you can actually hook it to your electrical panel. My Lincoln wants 80-90 amps of 240V and if I were actually using it anywhere near max load, it should be on a 100 amp breaker--minimum. You may discover that your brand of electrical panel doesn't even OFFER breakers that large or that your house service won't supply it.
    With all that said, a MIG still isn't a bad machine. Heck, a good friend with a similar TIG setup to mine, bought a 115V MIG just so he could take it anywhere and do repairs and fabrication. There really is no right or wrong answer but, there is also no free lunch.

    edit:
    This looks like a solid package for the money...if it's a single phase unit (meaning: you can use it at home). A couple of torches, all the cables, a pedal and a cooler for the torch:
    http://losangeles.craigslist.org/lac/tls/3409345572.html
    I'd say $1200-1400 is a fair price for that package if it all looks good and works.
    #20