Hi all: I want to get into welding (home hobbyist). My available power is single phase 120V, 20 amp, but I'm not against putting in another 230V outlet (to match the milling machine and lathe), but I'd rather have the flexibility of moving the welder around the shop as required.
I would like to weld no more than 1/4 inch thick and a 20% duty cycle would probably be fine. Most of what I will weld will be mild steel, but I might want to try some aluminum or cast iron from time to time. I expect to weld less than 10 times a year.
My primary objective (other than cost) is to be able to perform quality welds with minimal training and effort. (Even though I expect some learning is required, I don't want to make learning to weld the task.)
I've looked at both the Miller and Lincoln web sites and thought at first that either the Millermatic 140T or the Lincoln Power Mig 140C would be the ticket. But now I'm not sure. I droped into the big box hardware store and they had Lincoln Weld-Pak machines, which appear to be wire feed, MIG upgradable, machines.
My question: If I purchased a Weld-Pak, or equivelant, would I regret it? Would I find I needed to upgrade immediately to MIG? Would the Weld-Pak be sufficiently flexible for the small jobs I have described? More importantly, is there another factor I haven't thought of that would influence my decision?
"Kelly Jones" (clip) My primary objective (other than cost) is to be able to perform quality
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ Take a welding course first. Welding is a skill--not a turnkey operation.
From my own experience, learning to weld was half the fun. I'm 80 years old, and have been welding at home for maybe 50 years, and I'm still learning. Forget the idea that you can just jump in and get it done.
I don't know how anyone can get along without welding :-)
In all fairness, define get it done. I bought Millermatic 90 over 10 years ago. Read books, watched the video. Welded. Would a professional accept all my results? Probably not. But I do not recall having a failure.
If you are prepared to learn by experimenting *while being anal about safety* I see no reason not to get on with it. It depends of course what kind of welding you want to do and what results you are expecting.
Of course none of this answers your question on equipment choice. I am still using the old Millermatic...
Welding < 1/4" steel is easy - get a small MIG machine or buzzbox. For aluminum, you need quite a bit of current, no matter what you do. Not realistic off a
110V outlet. It is possible but not optimal to run aluminum wire with pure argon in a small MIG machine. I am not aware of being able to stick weld aluminum. Cast iron can be brazed with a torch, or welded with a torch (takes a lot of skill) or you can MIG braze it using argon and silicon bronze wire, or you can use nickel rods (very expensive) and stick weld it, but it's a high skill operation no matter what. I've been welding since 1973 and have never attempted to weld cast iron once.
That's going to be tough. It's about as easy to learn to weld from a book or video as it is to learn to play guitar that way. Damn tough.
If you buy Lincoln, buy one of their SP machines. I recommend the SP180 Plus or SP180T. I have the SP175T and love it. Don't buy a Pro-MIG or Weld-Pak, those say Lincoln on the box but they are really Century or something else and not nearly as good a machine.
If you buy a fluxcore-only wirefeed machine, you will probably give up in despair. It is tough for a skilled welder to make nice welds using fluxcore wire, although with practice and some training you can make welds that are "good enough". Buy the machine with the regulator and the hose - that's all it takes to be "MIG-compatible". If you buy those later you will pay more, and make no mistake, you will need them.
I am not seeking any kinds of extremes, etc and usually weld stuff that is useful around the house, trailer and so on. No bridges or battleships. But in my, very short, home welding career I already encountered a few situations when I had to weld thick things to thick things. Such as a 4140 bar to a railroad rail, for example. If I had a welder that could only weld objects under 1/4", I would be disappointed.
First, get a model that has the current jumps in a pot style switch rather than the jump switch. That means that the dials twist infinitely like radio dials instead of making clicks. Machines made like this, either Lincoln or Miller are better constructed machines than their lower priced models sold at the borg.
Second, spend what you can. It is always good to buy more than you need. As an example, some people like to buy minimal tools. Ah, the six piece wrench set will be fine. How many more than six screwdrivers do I need? Well, if you're only going to be doing this minimally, then you really don't need the top of the line. Thing is, though, welding is addictive, and you may find you like it and be limited by a weak wimpy machine if that is what you buy starting out. Then you'll have to go out and buy a good one, and the used one won't get back what you paid for it. I guarantee, if you have a welder, you're going to do a lot more welding. Makes life and fabrication a lot easier.
Third, I'd consider a 220v as then you have a very wide range of materials and situations you can cover. You won't outgrow that baby, and if you do, you'll be making so much money that a new and bigger and better machine won't be a tough decision.
Fourth, you can buy used and save a lot. Someone who got into it and didn't like it. Someone who bought a machine, didn't use it a lot, and died. Someone who just has a good used machine for a good price. The savings can buy lots of accessories, and if YOU find out you don't like it, you don't take a beating on it.
Quality welds with minimum training and effort? Ain't gonna happen. You can only do quality welds with minimum effort when you have put in a lot of hours. Would you think it would take only eight hours to learn to play a guitar? I mean, there's only six strings, what could be so hard?
I would like to weld no more than 1/4 inch thick and a 20% duty cycle would
You can do LIGHT welds as you describe, but the 110 models ain't going to stick real good. That's where you need a 220. Still a 220 could dial down and do sheet metal.
I see you are uninformed as to what it takes to weld aluminum or cast iron. They are both unforgiving, and you have one shot. You either fix it or have a paperweight. Cast iron involves preheating, joint preparation and post heating. You're not going to learn that with a minimum amount of time and effort.
Get a MILLER or LINCOLN 220v. machine with the infinite dials. If you stay in welding, you'll never regret it. Even if you do a small amount of work, it will allow you to take a wider variety of jobs. You'll be happier with a
220v machine if you start getting good. Buy it at a welding shop, as then you have a counter man who knows the product and can help you out infinitely more than the guy at the borg who sold you the piece of crap, but isn't with the company any more.
Take some lessons, or if none are available, you should be able to find a knowledgeable welder who will do it reasonably, or for pizza and beer.
Lots to consider, but if you're going to spring for a grand (that's what a good one with all the goodies is going to be new), get a good one. Used red and blue less, but still good. Don't buy any off brand or HF crap, and if you do, get the one with the stout handle, as it makes the best boat anchor.
Steve Certified welder 2g, 3g, 4g, 6g, 6g TIG, and 36" caisson Underwater experience First class, 1974
Listen to what Steve says.If you buy a weak machine, you will not be able to do quite a few things that will arise. You can easily earn the extra money that you would pay for a better model, back, if you do some jobs for your acquaintainces.
On Tue, 08 Jul 2008 05:16:30 GMT, with neither quill nor qualm, Grant Erwin quickly quoth:
If it's easy, add another circuit. (I added 3 when I removed the baseboard heat and had forced air put in, but it wasn't easy climbing around that hot attic.) Otherwise, heavy-duty extension cords work just fine.
When I put the Lincoln SAE-300 up for auction, possibly for trade for a 180A MIG (so eBay dropped my listing) a guy said that he loved his Lincoln 175 but hated the 180, saying it was junk. Comments?
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With all due respect Grant, that's not completely true. The Weld-Pak 3200 HD is a Home Depot version of the SP-125T/SP-135T and the Weld-Pak 175 HD is their version of the SP-170T/SP-175T. I've researched part numbers and the only difference is the front panel decal.
I did the research because I have a friend with a MIG-Pak 15 and when I picked up an SP-170T at an auction a few years ago he insisted that his machine was better than mine.
The MIG-Pak 15, Weld-Pak 150, SP-170T, SP-175T are all the same welder except for labeling. And at one time the old SP-100 was the same welder as what has most recently been labeled as the SP-135+. Most of the changes have apparently been used to muddy the waters for the big box stores so they don't have to match each other's prices. If it's not the exact same product they don't have to worry with it.
The Power MIG 140 and 180 are their newer versions of the same and have the advantage of being designed to use an optional spool gun which would make it much more practical for him to do aluminum. I have not researched replacement part numbers on this newer line so I don't know how similar they are to the older versions. I do know that the case for the HD and Lowes versions of these do not look the same as the true Lincoln versions so they may actually be different machines.
The Home Depot near me, and their Web site are still selling their versions of the older models though. Lowes stores may have switched to the newer models. I haven't looked there lately.
I recommend that he thoroughly research a particular model before buying to be sure of what he's getting but to just assume they're all junk would be a mistake.
Best Regards, Keith Marshall firstname.lastname@example.org
Well, Keith, I'm glad to hear it, but I'm still kind of skeptical. I know that Lincoln bought Century and continues to make those low-cost machines. And I know guys who bought Pro-MIG machines and didn't like them and bought SP machines and did. Go figger.
I've spent the last year+ taking a total of 6 welding courses at my local community college and just loved it. Just finished the certificate program they offered last semester. I'm 52 and wish I had done it 40 years ago. Not only was it fun getting hands on training for all the major welding processes, it was also a good way to meet lots of other guys my age with similar interests.
In the past year, I've probably spend on average 15 hours a week welding and I've only touched the surface on the craft. Though it's easy to get started and make some metal stick together, it's clearly a life long process of learning.
Welding was something I always wanted to learn, and was about to go off and buy a Home Depot MIG unit just to jump in and get started learning. But reading some books and web sites, they all said it would be good to take a course so I did that instead. I still don't have a welding machine at home (but I easily have $1000 worth of welding related tools and hardware).
I think it would be fine for someone to just go buy one of the 110 Mig units and jump in, but the courses sure make a big difference in my understanding and my comfort level with the processes. You also won't have a clue how good or bad you are at welding until you see what a real welder can do. If you can find an affordable class (or classes) to take I would strongly advise it.
As far as the weld-pack question...
I thought the Home Depot Weld-pack machines were dual flux-core and MIG? The 110V machine like that would be a fine place to start learning. In general, flux-core and MIG are the easiest processes to learn as long as you aren't trying to do structural work where someone's life will depend on the weld holding. Knowing when you have a good weld is very hard with Mig. They often look good but aren't strong because of lack of penetration. Getting vertical and overhead bend tests to pass on 3/8 mig was even harder than getting them to pass with stick for me.
A friend of my has a 110 wire feed unit and he says he seldom sets it up for MIG. He just keep the flux-core wire in for most his quick repair jobs so starting with a simple flux-core only unit (especially if it can by upgraded to MIG) would be fine.
The advantage of flux-core is that it doesn't require gas, and it will work better if you have to weld outside where there can be some wind. Flux core is great for sticking things together quickly when you don't care all that much about the quality of the weld. The disadvantage is that it's very messy and the welds don't look as nice. It leaves a slag on the weld which you have to chip off and clean like stick and it creates a lot of splatter which will get on your work piece, your work bench, you clothes, and everything. A friend which was trying to do overhead flux core (and who likes to stick is face right in the weld), said the splatter actually burned a hole through his helmet). Overhead flux core is not the most fun thing to do.
Mig on the other hand, makes beautiful clean welds which you don't have to clean when you are done and has minimal splatter if you have the machine set correctly. But you have to both pay for the gas, and lug the tank around at the same time if you want to move your welder to the job instead of bringing the job to the welder.
Unless money is really tight, I wouldn't advise anyone to get a flux core only machine. You will want the option to do MIG if you do any amount of real welding. But starting with a Lincoln flux-core machine that can be upgraded to MIG would be a fine way to start. But like I said, I though the Home Depot Weld-pak machiens were all dual use.
It can be done. I've tried it. They make sticks for aluminum. I wouldn't advise it however. Damn hard to get a good weld. The sticks burn like a fuse so it's really tricky trying to keep a constant arc length. You also have to pre-heat the work to keep it from cracking. It's yet another art and one which I don't expect to be learning. TIG or MIG is just so much easier and cleaner for aluminum.
I've also spent many hours trying to learn how to weld aluminum with oxy-acetylene. Yet another art to be learned which I've not mastered. I don't think I ever really had the best flux for that. I think the best stuff is outlawed these days and hard to find.
FWIW, this is another technique for experts. I know one expert -- a salesman at my local welding supply. He talked with me about it at length one day and showed me some of the joints he made by stick welding aluminum. They weren't porous.
The trick, he says, is to think of it as dripping sealing wax onto the joint. You have to be close enough to generate enough heat, and just the right distance to get an overlapping drip.
It's not something I would attempt. He explained all this to make the point to me that you're in for a lot of practice before you can get it right, and that it really isn't worth it. That is, unless you're a welding supply salesman with a lot of time on your hands.
Greetings Kelly, I have a lot of experience welding with stick and TIG. I took welding classes to learn these two forms of welding. So when I bought a Lincoln SP125 PLUS, which is a 120 volt machine, I figured I would pick up on MIG welding pretty fast. I was able to make good welds after a little practice. But I already knew how to weld well using related methods. Then Ernie Leimkuhler offered a one day seminar on mig welding. I learned way more about MIG welding and fluxcore welding. Mig and fluxcore welding is, I think, the easiest type of welding to learn. It's also the easiest to make welds that look great but in reality are barely stuck to the surface. With the 120 volt machines it is possible to weld steel thicker than 1/4" if the metal is pre-heated first. But it's a pain in the butt to pre-heat and then weld. And if the piece is large it radiates tons of heat that will make you hot. And the piece takes a long time to cool off. I bought my MIG machine used and even though it's a great machine I should have bought a larger, 230 volt, machine. So from my experience I would:
1) Buy a 230 volt machine.
2) Get a name brand like Lincoln or Miller. I really like my Lincoln.
3) Consider a used machine if you can verify that it is in proper working condition, maybe you know someone who could help you evaluate the machine.
4) Get a machine that already has MIG capability because then you will be able to weld different metals than just steel. Besides steel, I use MIG for welding with stainless, aluminum, and silicon bronze wire.
5) Don't get a machine that only has a few settings for wire speed and voltage because this will limit what you can weld.
6) Take a class.
7) Take a class.
8) Take a class. Cheers, Eric
I know how you feel and they've muddied the waters even more by introducing more models while keeping the older ones available through different outlets.
But... if you'll go back and read his original post he referred to the Power MIG 140C but you're saying Pro-MIG. They sell both now and they're not the same. I expected them to be but the cases are definitely different and I have no idea about the insides.
As for the old Century line, Northern Tool & Equipment (or whatever they're calling themselves this month) has their own line of welders now and while I don't know for sure who makes them they remind me of the Century welders they used to sell. But of course they may be Chinese instead. :-)
Best Regards, Keith Marshall email@example.com