Clarke 130EN

A little while ago, I had a question about life-span of fluxcore wire, and mentioned that I had a MIG welder I'd gotten as a Christmas
present that I was planning to write a review of at some point. Well, here it is -- I'll mention going in that I've got no association with Clarke nor the company I got it from other than having bought this welder.
Before I begin: when I was researching MIG welders, somebody (I think on this newsgroup) mentioned that the most important feature of a 120V MIG was that it weigh enough and have a solid enough handle that it could be used as a good boat anchor. If that's your view of 120V welders you can stop reading right here, since this is a 120V welder. It is a light-duty unit; if your interest is in structural welding of 1/2" thick metal you can forget about it. Like any tool, there are things this welder is designed for and things it isn't, and major jobs like that are 'way outside its range.
I picked it based on the following criteria: I don't have useful 220 in my garage (I do have 220, but it's only 20 amps. What on earth were the first owners of this house thinking?). Among 120V welders, this one had the best advertised duty cycle -- better than Lincoln or Miller at a much better price. I expect parts to be easy to come by -- Sears is now selling it as a Craftsman, and while I'm no fan of Sears, I have to admit that they're good about maintaining parts stocks for old products. Finally, my needs are definitely on the light-duty end -- the project that finally got me off my butt to learn how to do this, and to get a welder, is repairing the clutch pedal mounting bracket on my daughter's Damned Toyota truck.
So, on to the welder.
I guess the best place to start is with the crap... excuse me, accessories... packaged with it. It comes with 1/2 lb of .035 fluxcore wire, three contact tips (.023, .030 iirc, and .035), a MIG nozzle, a plastic-handled wire brush, and a pathetic hand-held face shield. The wire is, of course, very useful as a starter. I'm not quite sure why there was any point in including two contact tips that didn't fit the wire supplied; I very much would have preferred a .035 to match the wire, and one or two spares the same size. Since it came with fluxcore, I'd rather have gotten a fluxcore "nozzle" (I've since bought one) than a MIG nozzle. The brush is OK (though it doesn't have a lot of wire brush area -- a $1.95 wood-handled wire brush works a lot better), and the face shield is worse than a waste of time, since it requires a hand to hold it; I smell liability lawyers here.
The welder itself has some interesting points. The controls are pretty standard -- a 4-position voltage control and an infinitely-adjustable wirespeed control. They work fine, but I'd really rather have calibrated controls. I would rather know what voltage a given setting provides, and what wirespeed a given speed provides. But, really, while it would satisfy my particular flavor of geekines, it wouldn't actually provide any more useful information.
I think, based on the manual which is the same for both this welder and their 180EN, that the two welders share the same cabinet. At any rate, there are holes in the cabinet that would be perfect for inserting an axle to put it on two wheels in back (I'm sort of tempted to do that...), while the hardware I got with it was just feet front and back. Something very odd is that the back of the cabinet seems to be designed to put a 4" gas bottle on it -- there's a half-round depression at the top, and a platform on the bottom, which look like they had this in mind, but there's no way to secure a bottle to the case. If I do step up to MIG at some point, I'll investigate putting on some sort of strap to hold a bottle on. The welder does have a gas valve and hose for MIG; I went ahead and also got a regulator at the same time I got the welder so the gas bottle and some wire would be all I needed to move on. The cabinet also has room for a 10lb spool of wire inside (which is what I've got in there now).
It seems to be built ruggedly enough -- really solid, in fact. The wire feed is plastic, except the surfaces that are actually in contact with the wire are metal. The tension controls are sort of obvious in terms of a what to screw down to increase tension on the wire feed and on the spool; I'm sure no expert on getting them set up right, but the wire doesn't seem to be coming out distorted and I have yet to have a birds-nest (frantically knocking wood here).
My experience with it to date has been that as long as I work within the limitations of the welder and my power in the garage, it works fine. It'll weld light sheet metal all day; near as I can tell (with my really limited skill) its settings are quite consistent. I haven't had any sense that the wire speed varies a lot for a given setting (which is a complaint I've seen about low-end welders). Welding metal thinner than 1/8" seems to work just fine. On thicker metal (it's supposed to be good for 5/16", but that seems like somebody's fantasy) I have a hard time getting adequate penetration, but I'm not sure to what extent that's the welder's problem and to what extent it's mine. Working on the 15A 120V circuit I have available, I've never tripped the welder's thermal shutoff -- I've tripped the circuit breaker instead (grumble grumble grumble).
It'll be a decade before I can answer the next question: how does it hold up? My guess is it'll be OK. We'll see.
So: If you're looking for a light-duty welder for reasonably thin metal, this one seems really good for its price. If you're going to be doing heavy-duty structural welding, that's just not what it's intended for and you'll be miserable.
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I have the Sears version of the same welder and find it a perfect fit for my needs- I've done some body work with it and fixed the $1200 catalytic converter on my truck with it. It's paid for itself and then some. With practice and quality wire, it will weld angle iron nicely- I built a welding table with mine (a mandatory item for a MIG welder).
I do have one comment- the cooling system is a lousy design, but is easy to improve. Here's how I did it:
http://www.metalworking.com/dropbox/migfan.txt
http://www.metalworking.com/dropbox/migfan.jpg
http://www.metalworking.com/dropbox/migfb4.jpg
http://www.metalworking.com/dropbox/migfsd.jpg

Discard it. Fluxcore wire is nasty, gassy stuff. Learn to MIG weld- it is very easy and the welds will be strong and good looking. As always, practice, practice , practice. Most beginners tend to move too fast (I know I did) and it takes some disipline to slow down.
Buy more nozzles- they wear out fairly quickly and will lead to poor welds. Buy some anti-spatter spray- your welds will be much neater.

Sears packages thiers with a decent cart that holds the welder and argon/CO2 tank. You might want to copy it.

I wouldn't use such a heavy spool for two reasons: the tractor system is not super heavy-duty and welding wire does corrode (causing no end of grief) and the only thing you can do is replace it with clean wire. Throwing out 10 pounds of wire gets expensive. Trust me on this one. Unless you plan on doing a _lot_ of welding, the smaller spools are a better choice.

Agreed.
-Carl
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Thanks -- I'll want to check that!

Yep, practice is helping... my MIG vs. fluxcore experience to date is that MIG is prettier, but I seem to be able to get welds that at least work with fluxcore...

Never heard of anti-spatter spray before. Definitely a stop to make on the way home from work today...

My space is constrained enough I'm holding off on this for now.

I asked about that in this newsgroup before buying the spool -- I live at the north end of the Chihuahuan desert (Las Cruces, NM), so there was a consensus that the big spool ought to be OK. At this point, I sure hope so!
Thanks for your comments,
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writes:>> Buy more nozzles- they wear out fairly quickly and will lead to poor

Not nozzles- I meant contact tips.

Nice- my uncle lived in Albuquerque and I visited him there. Fell in love with the high desert. Would move there in an instant. May do so in the future.
-Carl
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On Wed, 12 Mar 2008 03:16:58 GMT, with neither quill nor qualm, "Carl

I eyed the NM area and met with Lew before I moved to Oregon. It's beautiful country with great people (Hi, Lew!), but ABQ was too big a city for me, and NM too cold in the winter, too hot in the summer, and too windy most of the time for my tastes.
-- It's a shallow life that doesn't give a person a few scars. -- Garrison Keillor
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Up there it does get chilly in winter -- down here, it gets too hotin the summer and is too windy spring and fall, but the winter climate is excellent.
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Larry Jaques wrote:

Hi, Larry. :-) Yes it does get a little cool in the winter and a little warm in the summer ---BUT-- It's a LOT better than PA where I came from. :-) The wind is a more or less constant companion. As far as big cities go it is the easiest to get around in that I've seen and that is quite a few. ...lew...
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I live in Central New York- we see -20 in the winter, 100 in the summer and winds of 60 mph aren't unkown. At least our Guv is good for a laugh.
-Carl
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On Thu, 13 Mar 2008 03:52:20 GMT, with neither quill nor qualm, "Carl

Gee, all those Democrats and humidity, and you have weather, too? I'm much happier on the Left Coast, where 15% humidity and a couple inches of snow (every other year) are the norm. 32 annual inches of rain are nothing.
-- Shake off all the fears of servile prejudices, under which weak minds are servilely crouched. Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call on her tribunal for every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear. -- Thomas Jefferson
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Ah! Yep, I did.
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wrote:

Stop at the 99c store and buy a spray can of Pam or other "non stick cooking spray"
Works pretty good as an anti spatter spray for pennies. Gunner
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On Wed, 12 Mar 2008 08:25:23 -0700, with neither quill nor qualm,

You're welding pennies now? <chortle>
-- Shake off all the fears of servile prejudices, under which weak minds are servilely crouched. Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call on her tribunal for every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear. -- Thomas Jefferson
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On Wed, 12 Mar 2008 20:08:07 -0700, Larry Jaques

Of course. Im making a life sized bust of Abe Lincoln out of pennies. Appropriate, no?
Gunner
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On Thu, 13 Mar 2008 03:24:40 -0700, with neither quill nor qualm,

How long does it take for the simulated copper coating to burn off? Otherwise, that'd be a -real- tricky welding job.
P.S: Send b/d/a pics to the dropbox!
-- Shake off all the fears of servile prejudices, under which weak minds are servilely crouched. Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call on her tribunal for every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear. -- Thomas Jefferson
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On Thu, 13 Mar 2008 06:07:09 -0700, Larry Jaques

Im using nothing but all pre-1982 coins. To use later ones, would require JB weld, and you know how that would look...<G>
Gunner
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Gunner wrote:

Gunner? How could you zinc so low?
--
aioe.org is home to cowards and terrorists

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On Fri, 14 Mar 2008 16:17:40 -0400, "Michael A. Terrell"

I thought it made cents. Shrug
Gunner
"Pax Americana is a philosophy. Hardly an empire. Making sure other people play nice and dont kill each other (and us) off in job lots is hardly empire building, particularly when you give them self determination under "play nice" rules.
Think of it as having your older brother knock the shit out of you for torturing the cat." Gunner
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On Sat, 15 Mar 2008 01:34:31 -0700, with neither quill nor qualm,

In pennyance, say 10 Hail Marys and do 20 rosary whatchamathingers.
-- Shake off all the fears of servile prejudices, under which weak minds are servilely crouched. Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call on her tribunal for every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear. -- Thomas Jefferson
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On Sat, 15 Mar 2008 07:34:23 -0700, Larry Jaques

I wonder if they will send the coppers after me for defacing coins?
Gunner
"Pax Americana is a philosophy. Hardly an empire. Making sure other people play nice and dont kill each other (and us) off in job lots is hardly empire building, particularly when you give them self determination under "play nice" rules.
Think of it as having your older brother knock the shit out of you for torturing the cat." Gunner
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Gunner Asch wrote:

Are you trying to reenact the 'copper clapper caper'?
--
aioe.org is home to cowards and terrorists

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