The welder often needs to be replaced when you need one that can do DC. :-)
Seriously, this is a very bottom-of-the-line welder. Like all little current
buzzbox welders, the transformer is wound with aluminum and not copper. They
have a shunt that cranks in or out to deliver variable current, and they have
a fan. If the thing powers up without buzzing excessively, and the shunt
cranks to its full extent smoothly, and the welding cables are in decent
shape, then I'd say that welder is worth at least $35. But if you are
desperate and real broke, then maybe. Shipping would put that out of reach
unless you can go pick it up, it weighs at least 60 pounds.
I have an use a little buzzbox welder. Mine is a Miller Thunderbolt AC-DC.
I got it a few years ago. I bought it over a Lincoln tombstone because the
Miller's leads detached, which made for much cleaner storage. I like my
little Miller. I have made some mods to it:
1. I replaced the power cord with a nice piece of 12-SO3 with a real plug.
2. I made a welding cage on casters, and bolted the machine to it (through
the base, which has almost-holes just where you want them, drill them out
and bolt through them, you have to remove the outer case to see down there).
3. The welding cage has a removable plywood top which in use acts like a
little storage table. I have never once welded without using that table.
I am considering a second (mk II) version of this welding cage. Bigger
casters, rewire it so the 220VAC cord goes to a J-box with 2 outlets on
it (wire the outlets slightly illegally, L1->N, L2->N), maybe add some run
capacitance to balance up the current (although I already run mine off a 30A
circuit), add a bar to hang welding clamps off of.
My ex-stepdad, a savvy guy, made a welder out of an old transformer. He
rewound the secondary with a couple of loops of heavy copper tape and
ran these out to lugs. It was a perfectly serviceable Depression-era AC
welder. I'm sure he had no more than $5 into it. Too bad I had to divorce
him when I divorced my now-ex-wife.
Altho Grant referred to it as bottom of the line, doesn't mean
it's a bad welder, which I'm sure he wasn't suggesting anyway.
But it is basic. I bought one, complete w/ helmet, wheels, rod,
sparker, you name it, for $105 in 1980--exact same machine, color, shape,
you name it. In Manhattan!!
I don't think it has an aluminum core, tho. but could be.
At 75 amps, it's 100% duty cycle, for pipe warming, etc.
Altho the prices have certainly shot up since 1980, I think $75 is
high to start, and there is always some idiot stupidly bumping up the
price--a shill, perhaps? Check the new price.
Plus the goddamm shipping on ebay.... I think these characters
make more on the shipping than they do on the product.
I would hold out for an AC/DC lincoln, which also has higher amps;
Miller is also good. I have a Miller EconoTig, myself--which doesn't have
the AC oomph of the basic lincoln, but is pretty versatile.
High power diodes are pretty cheap, now, so you might could get
an AC buzzbox cheap and just rectify it for your DC.
Check your local pennysaver, ask around.
Whatever you do, don't buy sears, unless it's for $5.
formerly Droll Troll
Tell us more about how you like the Econotig -- I am actively looking at
As for the original question, I would look to Home Depot for the Lincoln
AC/DC new @ $387 with no interest or payments for a year...
It's been quite a while since I've used it, and you will probably
get a better report from sci.engr.joining.welding (good good bunch over
there). I think it maxes out at 160 amps AC, a little less DC, and it is
good for up to 1/4" alum, if you stand on your ear (pre-heat, insulated
bottom), or 1/8-3/16 in worst-case scenarios. It's not a true
high-frequency machine--they finesse something or other, but they finesse it
really well. You can lay some cosmetically beautiful mirror finish beads,
but these are not structurally strong penetrating welds. I mention it just
from a control POV.
I had an expert come over and give me some lessons, and he kind of
sniffed--I later saw why when I saw his $4,000 dedicated tigger! So this
machine is not for production or demanding tasks. But I liked it for the
prototypes I was doing. And you can't beat it for all around versatility.
Altho I'm pretty handy, I found it worth my while to enroll in an
evening BOCES course for tig. Helped quite a bit, even w/ our lousy
instructor. I got the lessons from the expert after the course. Learned
some about OxyAcet and stick welding as well. Finally lernt how to cut thin
sheet metal w/ OA!!!
The econotig has been replaced by a something-180, basically the
same machine with a little more oomph, and maybe by now that 180 has been
replaced as well.
You will find yourself spending a few dollars if you get into
alum. Keep in mind, tho, that you can tig anything, and get really nice
welds, esp. stainless. You can really go wild w/ all the different tungsten
types, filler alloys, on whether to use helium instead or mixed w/ argon,
blah blah. Stay away from helium, unless you really need to tweak some
heat. I've forgotten the deal w/ the various tungstens but some do work
better than others.
From a machine shop I picked up pounds and pounds and pounds of
1/8x1/2" alum drops, about a foot long. Musta welded hundreds of these
You MUST, however, use gloves, and a heavy jacket, w/ no bare
spots. Tigging will burn the everlovin bejeezus out of you, w/ the
ultraviolet, even thru light gloves/clothing. Don't find this out the hard
way like I did--took WEEKS to heal! You need darker lenses as well.
Anybody can stick weld hot rolled steel, to some extent; but just getting an
arc w/ tig takes some practice.
Artful welding, stick or tig, ultimately takes lots of skill, but
tig is more persnickety and has more variables, at least initially. But,
you'll find that knowledgeable welders of alloy steels are metallurgists, in
their own right.
Also keep in mind that if all you want to do is stitch together
some aluminum, and you don't quite care how it's done, they make a hellified
aluminum rod that works with plain non-tig DC reverse (I think--it's been a
while). I wouldna believed it had I not seen it. No cleaning, no gas, no
nothing; just a big fat *strong* fast weld! wow! Don't know what the name
of it is, except the flux was thick and white. The rod is consumed *very*
quickly. Kind of pissed me off, after I spent all that money on my tig set
But I did not regret buying the econotig. Well put together,
never broke, complete kit. Also loved my Lincoln AC225!
Thanx for this response. I am in the middle of taking a welding course at
my community college, and we have used the aluminum rods with the stick
welder which I didn't even know was possible, but I am looking for cleaner
welds on much finer, thinner material, both stainless and Aluminum...
I think that you were referring to the Syncrowave 180, but actually, it
didn't replace the Econotig, they still sell both. I am finding that a used
Syncrowave would cost me about twice what a used Econotig would cost...
Indeed, syncrowave starts getting into bucks.
But I coulda sworn that the econotig was swapped years ago for an
improved model, that didn't really cost a whole lot more!! But, if you've
been checking around, you would know better than I would. But run it by the
welding NG--maybe Miller did discontinue the econo, but brought it back, at
least the name.
Good move to take a welding course. Funny, tho, my really bad burn
occured early in class, w/ that alzheimered derelict instructor.
What setting was that alum rod used at? Was it DC reverse??
It's a really handy thing to have, just in case a big hunk of alum
comes in that needs welding. As you may already know from your class,
depressed center grinding wheels are available for alum, that do a super job
of removal--proly good for cleaning up those alum stick welds!
ITO brands, I think you might not have much of a choice but
Miller for affordable multipurpose machines. I've seen tig "kits" that you
can add on to stick welders, and had I had an existing welder I mighta gone
this route, but since I didn't, I went w/ the miller. I think the welding NG
people were wary of these kits.
I myself might be getting back into my econotig, for .030 SS
project, buttwelded, maybe overlapped. Haven't used it for this, but have
seen this mat'l tigged, and the welds are gorgeous. You can tig both alum
and SS "autogenously" (IIRC!!?? means no filler rod), but the SS comes out
really nice, and is stronger than auto alum welds--no bead, in case you need
a very flush surface. And is easier/quicker than alum. Looks like I'll be
back on the welding NG, to find out how to use my machine again--it's been
formerly Droll Troll
I will go look at the welding NG, do you know if there is an FAQ?
I have finished the first of the 3 welding courses I am taking this
semester, (at Austin Community College, btw), and found the whole place to
Yes, the Al rod is DC +, (Hi-Alloy brand, iirc),and is why I stopped looking
at the Lincoln AC-only tombstone welders, which generally go for $200 on
eBay. Actually, after we went through the stick classes of 6010 thru 7018,
I mentioned that I was considering an AC only box and the instructor had me
go back through all the rods in all positions with AC only - a great way to
learn why DC is worth it!
But once I considered my specific needs, I started looking at Tig, and since
my suppliers sell Miller, I got the Miller catalog and have been looking
closely at the line.
A fellow classmate has a Syncrowave 180, virtually new, full setup for sale
for $1400. Otoh, I have a lead on an Econotig for $750. My major question
is if the Econotig at the lowest AC setting of 20 amps (30 for DC Tig) is
low enough to not destroy the small brackets and 1/4" rod I am welding, both
stainless and Aluminum. The Syncrowave goes down to 10 amps...
As an example of the immediate need, I need to make brackets to hold books
and pictures for display on a gallery wall. How thin can I go without
blowing through it. I have heard all the stories about welding coke cans
and foil, and I don't need to get to that point, but can I weld 3/4" .035 AL
tubing with 20 amps??? Actually, I am going to open a new thread with just
that question, and see if some more smart people have opinions???
$750 doesn't sound bad for an econotig; mine was about 1300 over
5 years ago, so the 1400 for the syncrowave is about what new econo or its
equiv. would be today.
I'm still surprised Miller is offering the econo. Make sure you
have recent lit!!
My econo has an tig/stick switch, another selector knob for AC
high, AClow, DC+, DC-, and a continuously variable amp dial, which
supposedly goes down to zero. I believe this dial is active on all AC/DC
settings. It is deactivated, tho, when you switch to tig, in which case the
foot pedal takes over. Some welders have a torch-mounted dial, in place of
the foot pedal. You can also get water-cooled torches.
I believe the econo lets you tig in all switch settings (AC/DC).
I believe nuclear welders tig in a peculiar DC mode, for reasons which I
forgot, but which the cats in the welding NG know all about. It's very
interesting. ( I do believe one of them maintains an FAQ, just ask.)
Your problem is not going to be welding thin mat'l, but thick
material. You can get by w/ steel w/ multiple passes, but Alum just draws
so much heat away you can't quite do this. Preheating would then definitely
help. You'll find that even during the course of a single weld, the
technique at the end of the weld differs from that in the beginning due to
heat build up.
I believe these welders have a thermostatic cut out, and there
was talk on the NG about installing a sep. fan on particular components, or
to increase duty cycle. A cheap enough modification, but there was a reason
why I didn't do it--forgot that too!! Laziness??
Proly the biggest debate in tig is the type of tungsten to use. I
bought all of'em, spent a goddamm fortune, and was starting to settle in on
ones that I liked. The biggest difference I found was the ability to
maintain a nice tip/spark path. Some seemed to wander much more than
others, lose their tip real fast.
I found it helpful to have small amounts of a wide array of
tungsten and filler rod, in both alloy and in diameter. You will likely be
using 1/16 or 3/32 tungsten, but the type might vary from alum to SS. Takes
quite a while to really grok all of this in practice.
You are definitely going to need to acquire skill to weld .035
alum tube. I don't have much contact w/ my 'spert tigger guy anymore, but I
think he would say that the econotig *can* do it, but not as well as
dedicated machines. You'll proly just have to practice longer, and be
cognizant of a wide array of variables. I would take advantage of the
school, and bring some of that tubing in NOW, to practice and get hands on
advice. Lite-wall tube welding in general is up there in skill level. My
tigging guy was in fact a high-end cycle frame builder. The main difficulty
w/ this is how heat builds up/dissipates in different tube cross sections
being welded together. There is little forgiveness in thin-walled tubing!
Yeah, everybody talks about welding goddamm coke cans. Ernie
over in welding calls that "parlor tricks", having no bearing on the skill
involved in "real" aluminum welds. Good examples of super-strong alum
welding is on the box frames of japanese motorbikes. wow... And finesse in
high end cycle frames.
I still remember my glassy-smooth mirror welds, feet and feet
and feet of them. I was so proud, but was semi-crushed when the 'spert I
brought over sniffed and said, Yeah, nice, but dat's not real welding.....
formerly Droll Troll
I spent three hours this morning looking at the welding newsgroup and FAQ,
so thanx again for that pointer. From there I found the forum on the
Millerwelds site, which I had missed before in all the times I had been
there. This forum, in the motorsports section, is helpful in understanding
how Miller positions their machines against each other, which, if I were
buying new, would lead me straight to the Econotig...
The used Econotig I was looking at got sold out from under me for $800, so I
am back looking again. Appreciate all comments and insight!
Nothing wrong w/ buying new, either.
Figger, for another $500, you got peace of mind, later technology,
blah blah. One repair bill and there went yer savings... Remember, the
Miller ain't a buzzbox; you got goddamm chips and IC's and circuitry in
You know, at one time "used" meant paying 1/3 the new price. Now
it means getting 1/3 *off* the new price--much less of a bargain. ebay and
channel 13's innovative Antique Road Show has eliminated almost all
bargains. We have become a collective of barter-ers.
Most often the places that sell these millers are full-service
welding houses, w/ acetylene and the whole 9 yards, so you can maybe shop
hard (I got prices varying by a few hundred bucks!), and work out a deal on
OA, tanks, as well. Plus some freebies, ito tungsten and filler rod
assortments, gloves, the whole shebang.
When I was hot and heavy into tig, I used to keep the big tank of
argon, and run it dry, and keep a little B tank just in case the big tank
was out for a day or two. Ditto O/A.
Plus, when you buy new, sometimes you can get VIP treatment toward
future stuff. O'course, sometimes they just try to screw you both coming and
going. A lot depends on how Viagra'd up business peeple are.
There's a reason for that, actually several reasons. The first one is that the
Econotig has been on the market a *whole* lot longer than the 180SD, so
there are more used and abused Econotigs on the swapmeet circuit. More
importantly, the 180SD is just a much nicer machine to use, so there's less
reason for someone to be "trading up" to a better machine.
Gary Satisfied 180SD owner.
Thanx for your response.
I have located two machines locally (Austin, TX) - an Econotig for $850 and
a nearly new Synchrowave 180 (digital gauges, etc) for $1400. I'm afraid
that the $550 difference is significant to me, it will cover the cost of my
plasma cutter, so I think I am going to go against nearly everyone's advice
and get the Econotig...
Worst case, I'll sell it and move up, but at least I will be welding in the
I used my 180SD a month ago or whatever on stick for the first time and it
did fantastic for me. I had never welded with stick before and was able to
do what I wanted and dial what current worked best for each stick type.
Martin Eastburn, Barbara Eastburn
@ home at Lion's Lair with our computer firstname.lastname@example.org
And here's a tip, the pedal (if connected) still works in stick mode.
I don't know of another welder which works this way. It allows you
to do some things with stick electrodes that you'd normally only be
able to do with TIG.
I have had one of these for years now and it is what I started learning with
as I am sure many others before me have. it is a good machine; but I really
think there are better machines out there (mainly ac/dc).
I too had to replace the fan once.
also had to replace the spring behind the amperage switch twice.
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