Harbor Freight Flux Core Wire Welders

Discussion in 'Equipment' started by kenstone, Aug 8, 2019.

  1. kenstone

    kenstone worn out

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    I'm looking for other owner's experiences/mods/techniques/weld pics using one of these cheap ass 110v welders, whether good or bad.

    I've had one for years and have had varying results, but like most things I own, have modified it to work better for me.
    Some complex mods, others as simple as using a box fan to cool it to increase the duty cycle and blow the flux smoke away for a better view of what's going on.

    Even stuff like "I gave up on it" or "had an older one but newer models work better" or "enjoyed it and moved up to something better now".
    Please don't turn this into a "bashing thread".
    :beer
    #1
  2. JimVonBaden

    JimVonBaden "Cool" Aid! Supporter

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    I had one for a few years. It works OK. But, I eventually sold it and got an Eastwood MIG 110V. Huge difference in quality of weld and took my personal welding up several notches.
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  3. Panther6834

    Panther6834 Adventurer

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    I don't have any experience with welding, but I do know several people familiar with Harbor Freight Tools...and, honestly, they don't have much in the way of good things to say about their products. Based on what they're told me, combined with my minimal experience using some of their products, they tend to be somewhat "cheap"...in price, as well as quality. It's typically best to stick with better known, and better tested, brand names.
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  4. kenstone

    kenstone worn out

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    Thanks for the 3rd hand info.
    If you have any more free time left, go to HF and read some reviews or watch vids on Youtube, where you'll find some 1st hand info that might be "enlightening" to you.
    :lol3
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  5. kenstone

    kenstone worn out

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    Ok, a couple of things I did.
    I took the cone off the torch, it spread out the spatter, giving it time to cool so less of it sticks to my work, and what is stuck is way easier to remove.
    I ground a chisel edge on the end of a 12" file and use it to scrape off any spatter/flux and use a knotted wire brush on my angle grinder to remove the flux.
    :lol3
    #5
  6. TripleTriples

    TripleTriples Been here awhile

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    First let me say that I am not a professional welder. I'm not even all that great at it.

    BUR I thought I was completely terrible when I owned a HF unit until I tried a different machine. Got rid of the hazard fraught and bought a Lincoln 180 and haven't looked back.

    Maybe it's all in my head, but I've heard similar stories.
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  7. kantuckid

    kantuckid Long timer

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    While it's possible to weld with a flux core they are so far behind a MIG, for me it's a moot discussion. Less about the HF unit, more about using inert gas!
    I have never been a pro/FT welder but I am a trained welder and I would never try to make a critical weld with flux core! I seriously doubt you'll see them used in the trades either. Agriculture and construction- stick welds a good idea but for typical shop work and AB type welds I'd go MIG every time. Gas has it's uses if you do enough shop work to justify that added expense?
    :-)FWIW, my gas-oxy/actyl set up w/big tanks (in KY) has been for sale here in FM for some months now...:-)
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  8. Stasher1

    Stasher1 Been here awhile

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    They've used a couple different designs over the years, so it really depends on which generation you're talking about.

    I used a buddy's HF flux welder back in '04 or so, and it was a fairly crude but fully functional machine. The main problem was the fact that the gun was constantly "hot". Squeezing the trigger simply engaged the wire feed. This made it difficult to start without an auto-darkening helmet as you couldn't place the wire on (or close to) what you were trying to weld without it arcing.

    Once you got used to it though, it was fully capable of laying a decent bead as long as you did your part. Definitely not Miller, Hobart, or Lincoln quality, but serviceable.

    It's my understanding that the newer models are much better in this regard, and the guns are "cold" until the trigger is pulled.

    Imo, if you can't get a decent bead out of them, it's probably just as much your fault as it is theirs. I wouldn't trade my Lincoln for one, but I wouldn't be afraid to tackle a typical homeowner project with one either.
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  9. kenstone

    kenstone worn out

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    Thanks for posting

    Yep, Mig is far superior to flux core but priced out of the reach of most hacks like myself.
    Flux core has proven to be the best/better choice for outdoor welding in a windy environment where the MIG/TIG inert gas would be blown away.

    I have found the cold start element of Flux Core Weld(ing) (FCW) can be overcome by pre-heating and weld torch technique/arc length as the wire feed rate is fixed.

    I don't see any advantage of stick welding over FCW and that process has even more disadvantages like cold starts/hotter as stick shortens/stop-start for stick changes, with chipping flux off the restart area, and adding another cold start along a long weld/etc.
    Stick does have more flux to protect the weld though, but with that comes more smoke.
    For me TIG is way better than MIG as the welder has more control of what's going on JMO.
    :lol3
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  10. TripleTriples

    TripleTriples Been here awhile

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    I think you're probably right about that, especially the last part. As a home gamer who doesn't weld often, I need all the help I can get. The extra couple of hundred bucks for a better machine saves me twice that much in frustration.
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  11. kenstone

    kenstone worn out

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    thanks for posting
    Yes, and even HF now sells "better (DC inverter type) machines" to move up to.

    Me, I hacked a bridge rectifier and capacitor onto my HF FCW to switch from AC to DC Electrode Negative (DCEN) , all for about $25 in ebay parts.
    Just followed a youtube vid I found.
    https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=Harbor+Freight+welder+upgrade+to+DC

    I followed this guy thru all painstakingly slow/boring vids that will have you falling asleep.
    I found similar components on ebay and added a heat sink to the rectifier (aluminum cookie sheet)

    I'm sure there are better vid in the above link and suggest you find a different one to follow.
    :clap
    edit: just watched more vids that show the capacitor(s) wired in parallel with the DC output side of the bridge rectifier.
    I have the capacitor wired in series to the ground cable as shown in the embedded vid.
    I'm going to change that and see what happens :dunno
    #11
  12. ChopperCharles

    ChopperCharles Long timer

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    If you can swing it, go for the 220v harbor freight model. I’ve got this one:

    https://www.harborfreight.com/170-amp-dc-240-volt-migflux-cored-welder-68885.html

    Compared to the ancient (circa early 00s) harbor freight 90amp 115v always-hot flux core welder I have, it’s a beauty to use. Beads are a lot prettier and penetration is amazing, but it can also be dialed down for thin sheet metal. Plus it’s upgradeable to gas when budget allows. It cost a little extra to have 220 wired in the garage, but it was worth it.

    That 115v blue box never stopped working. I’ve owned it since 2002 or 2003, and used it to build my first chopper. Forward controls, luggage racks, brackets, extended side stands, you name it. It still sits in my garage ready for use as a backup unit.

    Charles.
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  13. kenstone

    kenstone worn out

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    Thanks for posting
    One thing I have found is my newest HF welder has serrated wire feed rolls that ended the wire slipping I had with my older unit.
    The old smooth finished wheels would slip/feed/slip intermittently, no matter how tight I adjusted them, with that an arc was impossible to maintain.
    I'm guessing this single problem was the major point of frustration for owners of the early units but never diagnosed by them before giving up on it..
    That frustration led to many owners to swear off on HF FCW and continue to vent in threads like this.
    I should drag out that early FCW and install some serrated wire feed rollers :hmmmmm
    :lol3
    #13
  14. JimVonBaden

    JimVonBaden "Cool" Aid! Supporter

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    220 is always better than 110. The problem is that many people, like me, do not have 220 readily available. The cost and need for expensive extension cables doesn't help.
    #14
  15. ChopperCharles

    ChopperCharles Long timer

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    I have made an adapter cable and welded in the laundry room before getting my garage wired... So I know your pain there, but it was only $150 to run a new circuit breaker and line to the panel in my garage.

    Charles.
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  16. ChopperCharles

    ChopperCharles Long timer

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    Ah yeah. I ended up replacing some of the hardware so my clamp put more pressure on the rollers than it ever did stock. That was a definite problem with the early welders.

    No such issues with the 220 unit though!

    Charles.
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  17. JimVonBaden

    JimVonBaden "Cool" Aid! Supporter

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    Unfortunately my garage is 30 feet from my house, opposite end of the panel and feed, so about 100 feet of concrete and pavers. :baldy
    #17
  18. ChopperCharles

    ChopperCharles Long timer

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    Overhead line not an option? Probably cheaper to put in two poles and a power cable. Surprised your garage doesn’t have 3 phase already wired since it’s so far from the house.

    Charles.
    #18
  19. TripleTriples

    TripleTriples Been here awhile

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    If the fire marshal asks, I definitely didn't half ass some 10-2 out to the garage out of the dryer outlet and tell my wife not to do laundry when the light show in the garage is running.

    It's all done "right" now, but sometimes you gotta fudge it.
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  20. mouthfulloflake

    mouthfulloflake Not afraid

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    I WAS a professional welder ( FAA certified TIG for some years)

    I own the little $99 wire feed ( its not a MIG) HF welder.

    is it a good machine? ( NO)
    will it stick some garage type repairs back together and let you repair some things? YES
    Will it allow you fabricate some simple metal frames and shapes? YES

    will it look great, and impress your friends? NO

    fabricating and repairing things out in my drive way ( I dont have a shop)
    I couldn't use anything with a Gas shield anyway ( TIG or MIG)

    that leaves wirefeed, or stick.

    I have both, stick for larger metal, cheap wirefeed for smaller stuff.

    I often use the wirefeed to tack frames and shapes and then finish with the stick machine
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