Chicago Electric TIG welder,.. pros and cons?

Harbor Freight item 91811-5RVH 220V, 130TIG/90 arc welder inverter, $260. I may need something for welding ss boat railings of 1" hollow tube with 1/16th in wall and maybe some aluminum fittings. I don't need big production here, it's just for occasional use. Has anyone used this? What would the operating cost be and what kind of stock do you buy for a machine like this? Can you tell if it's complete or are there hidden costs in necessary accessories? Thanks for your time.

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ray lunder
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that appears to be a DC only welder.For welding both aluminum and stainless you will need an AC/DC machine.Welding aluminum works best with AC high frequency.While you need DC straight for stainless.

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I don't have one of these machines, but.......... It is a DC machine. Which is just right for welding stainless. Can be used for aluminum but not for big pieces. An AC welder would be better. For TIG welding you will need to have a cylinder of Argon. It does not have a foot pedal that controls the current, but from what I have read here, it is possible to add a controler. But there is no connector built in and ready.

Some people here have these machines and have commented on them. Should be able to find those comments on Google.


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I got this machine. Its okay.

Does 1/8 arc okay.

The tig part is a little flaky. I use it, but its not there, compared to a real tig machine.


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This is really a small inverter DC arc welder with TIG torch included. Doesn't have AC, so not really for aluminum. Yeah, you COULD hook it up with reverse polarity but the torch is air-cooled and you'd probably slag it down. $260 is WAY too much, wait for the sale and use a coupon with it, $160-180 is more like it. SS is doable if you hold the thickness down. In addition to the the unit, you will need the usual safety equipment, hood, gloves, outer wear, an argon tank and flowmeter and tungstens. If you intend to do SS with back- purging, you'll need another flowmeter and hose setup. There's no high-frequency start, you'll have to scratch start with the unit as delivered. Some guys have been modifiying these so there might be some u-build-it mods to add high-frequency start and/or AC to the unit. These units use Dinse sockets and plugs, common in non-US equipment but sometimes hard to find in the smaller sizes locally. I had to order off the net to get a male Dinse to add a stub electrode holder for stick, the supplied one sucks. Works very nice for small stick welding. As far as I can see, the consumables are standard sizes. You could change the torch out if they weren't, anyway.


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It is probably false economy to buy a TIG welder without AC - high frequency as invariably you will want to weld aluminum at some time and just as invariably you will want to weld thicker material with it. A small DC only machine seems like the bee's knees, until you've had it for a while. (Been there, done that) :-(

As you mention welding boat rails (I live on a boat) I might mention that as the shielding in TIG welding is a gas, welding out doors is problematic as any wind at all blows your shielding gas off the weld. I know it is done but a lot of bad welds are made too. If you are going to TIG weld outside it is probably well worth it to rig some form of a tent over you and the work to keep the wind off the work.

Bruce in Bangkok (brucepaigeatgmaildotcom)

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