Least Cost Worthwhile Wire Feed

OK, ultimately this is a dumb question, but I'm lazy. So instead of shopping, I'm going to ask here.
I have a job coming up that I can't do with a stick welder, and may cost
me more to have done than the price of a new wire feed machine with the trimmings.
So, what's the least expensive MIG (wire feed, actually) machine that's still worthwhile to get? I need to weld/have welded some 1/8 or 1/4 inch plate to some thin wall tubing; from everything I understand about this flux core wire will work OK (remember I'm looking for excuses to buy a machine, so a low initial price is a Good Thing), but I want something that I'll be able to convert to shielding gas at a later date.
Monday I call the welder and describe the job, and see if his estimate is higher or lower than the candidate rig.
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Tim Wescott
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I think that it would be kind of bad to buy a "just barely enough for this job" machine, only to realize that it is "just a bit not enough for the next job".
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Ignoramus12603 wrote:

Well, that's why I'm not just running down to Harbor Freight and buying a wirefeed. I'm asking the group for the least cost _worthwhile_ machine.
Chances are I won't be sticking anything thicker than 1/4 inch together, and if I do there's the stick welder sitting there ready to make a nice, ugly, effective weld. With layering, I figure I can weld arbitrarily large pieces with that thing. What I really need is something that will be good for sections thinner than 3/32, which is about the smallest I've achieved with the stick welder without blowing holes everywhere.
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Tim Wescott
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Millermatic or Lincoln SP or Hobart Handler. If you have time to shop carefully you can get one for $300 in about 3 months, $400 in about a month, or $500 in a week. Or pay retail and get it instantly.
Grant
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wrote:

I hate the words should, probably and maybe. Chances are comes in fourth. You wanna do a good job or not?
Steve
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SteveB wrote:

I _need_ one thing: to get my front gate welded up and back where it belongs.
I _want_ to come out one welder ahead, but only if I can get a good one in the process.
But needs come before wants.
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Tim Wescott
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wrote:

Tim....Im not much of a welder, more of a dauber...but for your immediate needs, one of the small Lincoln 110vt machines will suit your needs, or the Hobart Handers, or the Millermatic 135
They are right though...there is a really big gulf between the small 110vt machines and the 220 volt machines..both in capability and in price.
Shrug..I keep a Lincoln Weldpak 100 in my service truck. It works just hunky on stuff through 1/4" and up to 5/16" if Im careful..and am using flux core. Which is messy, smokey and requires clean up with a wire brush and some elbow work. But for my application..it works well enough...fixing guards, the odd bracket etc etc.
Ive several other wire feed welders, from an elderly DanMig 200 through a 350 amp PhaseArc, up to the Ranger 9 with an LN-8 outboard wirefeeder..and hopefully if I get it freed up..the LN-8 on a 400 amp Miller gas welder.
If you need a welder today that will do 1/4" material...not far in the future you will need on that will do 3/8"..and then 1/2",,,I think its a Murphy's Law Corrallary somewhere.....shrug
But the name brand 110vt flux core MIG welders do have their place..and you CAN sell the small welder and upgrade. Try to find a used one in good condition, that way when you upgrade..you dont take a big hit when you sell it. Sometimes if you haunt Craigslist you can get a really good deal, and later sell it for nearly what you paid for it..if you take care of it.
DONT buy the HF small flux core machine...shrug...a used Lincoln or Hobart or Miller of the same capacity is still a better machine. Most come with gas solenoid, or can be retrofited with one so you can use gas sheilding..but doing so will drop the thickness of the metal you can weld a fair amount.and with the small welders...you are pushing them even with flux core.
Shrug
Gunner
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Of course, time to learn what you're doing with the new machine comes free?
What have you got for a stick rig - what will it do? If it will do CV as well as CC (some stick rigs in the past decade, at least, do) then a readywelder is the ticket at $400 (last I looked, which was a while ago - you go shop for current prices). Or grab some golf-cart batteries and a readywelder is still the ticket. You can use a readywelder on a CC machine, but my reading between the lines is less happy with that option.
How big is this job (number of pieces?). If you are not trying to slap stuff together at top speed on a production line day after day, TIG is the most versatile arc process (and far less likely to make a beautiful weld that doesn't actually weld anything - a common occurrence with new MIG operators.) If you can Oxy Acetylene weld, you can learn to TIG fairly easily (IME) - if you've tried OA welding and not got the hang of it, TIG will probably be frustrating, as it's much more like OA than stick.
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Ecnerwal wrote:

It's a Lincoln Tombstone. Very nice in it's way, but not what I _really_ want.
And yes, the time to learn comes free. If it's fun, then it's free :).
If I had an infinitely deep pool of money I would buy a TIG and not bother with wirefeed, either cored or MIG. Nearly everything I do is hobby work, I enjoy it, so if it takes a bit more time it's no big deal (and TIG welds are pretty). One big interest is working on car sheetmetal; if you gave me a MIG welder for that I'd use it as a jack stand while I did the work with my oxy-acetylene equipment (and wished for a TIG welder).
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Tim Wescott
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Why is low cost your only consideration? Might you use this machine again in the future to make some money? After this first run, and the machine pays for itself, why not have a sound backup that will keep on ringing the cash register. You sound as if you will never get another job, and are planning for failure.
You want to buy a machine to do flux core, but convert to gas later. Why? Get a machine that will do all, and then whatever comes in the door, you can say, "Yes, I can handle that." MUCH more professional in that you are telling the client that you actually know what you're doing.
If you're just looking for a excuse to go down and buy the $24.95 Kinzuamoto machine, do it. And then later on when you need a REAL machine, factor in the time and money wasted when you could have gotten a brand name machine and been making money on it instead of trying to get it to run, finding spare parts, or converting it to a process that it wasn't equipped for in the first place.
Welding is a premium trade. A good welder with good gear can DEMAND top dollar. That is because they then have to perform, not break down, and not spend half their time making excuses about this and that. Customers want to see results and not listen to tragic tales of woe.
If you are, or want to be a real welder, get good gear and charge through the nose knowing you can do whatever the client wants, and that your equipment will perform satisfactorily until the final billing.
If you just want to buy some cheap piece of crap that you will be working on more than welding with, go for it. As for me, I like to do a good job with good equipment, and present a sizeable invoice. Breaking down will not only lessen or negate your invoice, but get you excluded from future contracts.
If it's worth doing, it's worth doing right.
Steve
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SteveB wrote:

Well, if I had the least desire to get paid to weld this would all be helpful advice.
What I want, is suggestions for welders that are worth having, so I can compare their prices with the cost of one moderately large welding job.
Otherwise I'll wait until the stars align and get a TIG welder.
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Tim Wescott
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wrote:

http://portland.craigslist.org/mlt/for/727182459.html
http://portland.craigslist.org/wsc/tls/726348505.html
http://portland.craigslist.org/mlt/tls/729044171.html
There must be a story behind this one....
http://orangecounty.craigslist.org/tls/716325607.html
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If you have the OA rig for car sheetmetal, you could always just use that to weld the gate...
Otherwise, do at least look at the Readywelder (seems to be closer to $500 these days - perhaps you could find one used), and/or do a news archive search of this group for the skinny on it - much discussed a few years ago - very capable, useful thing - but I suppose it might be out of your price range??
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wrote:

Does that mean you eat cats?
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In article

Only chocolate ones.
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wrote:

Cat...the other white meat
Gunner, Cat Rancher
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Ecnerwal wrote:

I'm tempted, but I suspect I'd spend as much on gas as I would having it done with a wire feed.
Besides, my 'good' torch tops out at 16-gauge material. It's an itty bitty jeweler's torch, and man is it nice for doing hammer welding.

I haven't gotten a quote for the work yet, so I don't know my price range! I need that damn round tuit.
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Tim Wescott
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