O/A or Mig for first welder?

I'm not sure why I picked MIG as the first welder I would buy. Might have been the illusion that I could get into it for $100 and move up
from there. [I'm over that.]
I've looked into going to classes, which I'm sure would be the best option if I could do it. But I have a bit of a disability that only allows me a few hours a day of activity. If I don't overdo those I get several more hours of 'sit-down' time where I can read and learn. So I decided to teach myself with the help of the internet and a pile of books.
Well- a few months later, I learned a little about MIG- decided on a Lincoln/Miller 140amp setup. . . . found some forums to read. . . bought a couple books. . .and started shopping for a good price-
Noted an offhand comment on one forum where a newbie was showing off his new MIG setup and an 'oldie' said 'now you need to get some O/A torches'.
The first book I'm reading is Finch's "Welder's Handbook". He makes no bones about it. in his opinion everyone who wants to weld should start out with O/A. His feeling is that it helps you understand the process because you are more in touch with the puddle.
So now as I look at O/A setups and think I could get a decent setup for about the same $550-600 as I'm getting ready to spend on MIG, I wonder if that isn't the way to go.
O/A has the advantage of being a cutting tool, and 'hot wrench', as well as heating metals to be formed. [and I just started reading Finch's chapter on brazing and soldering-- is O/A more flexible in the 'what you can join' department?]
MIG has the [apparent] advantage of being easy to learn. Since I'm in this as much for 'the journey' as anything else, a steeper learning curve is fine.
I'm leaning towards O/A now. Any pushes in one direction or the other?
Jim [For the googlers and to show off my spell checker; oxy-acetylene, acetylene ] Thanks, Jim
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O/A has an advantage of also being useful for metal cutting.
However, if I was advising a friend who asked this question, I would say, "start with stick". With stick welding, you pretty much know that if you have a half decent looking weld, it will hold. Not the case with MIG.
For about $600-700, you can buy a great stick welding machine such as Miller XMT 300. It will weld steel of any thickness.
i
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It really depends more on what kind of work you plan to do. I could make a case for Mig, Tig, Stick, or O/A depending on your projects (which might explain why you sound confused!). The issue of the 'puddle' is valid, I find that stick welding is the cheap way to get good experience there, Tig is the expensive (and better) way.
The 120 volt Mig welders are really nice for moderate projects in steel. Moderate means not too big (think in terms of 10's of pounds of steel rather than 100's of pounds of steel) and not much over 3/16" thick. Easy to learn, nice looking welds. Don't even thin about aluminum.
An O/A has the cutting ability (but so does a 4x6" bandsaw). It does a nice job of brazing, it works well for tiny jobs. I really don't recommend it for welding other than exhaust systems. Aluminum is doable but quite tricky. Tank rental/lease/buy options are expensive and tricky. There are several options that will wind up costing you several hundred dollars every 5 years.
Tig is the premium setup, price to match.
My home shop has a couple of 225 amp stick welders, a 120 volt Mig set up with flux core wire, and an O/A rig. At work I have 2 Mig welders (one set up for larger work, the other with .023 wire for thin work), a Miller 180 SD tig welder, and O/A. Depending on what I'm working on, I use them all.
Jim Elbrecht wrote:

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"Jim Elbrecht" wrote: clip) O/A has the advantage of being a cutting tool, and 'hot wrench', as

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ You are looking for the enjoyment of welding, as well as the utility. I think O/A is the place to begin, for the reasons you have cited. I have O/A, MIG and stick, and each has its place. A gas torch will afford you more pleasure, and lead you in more directions than the others. If your disability controls the length and level of your exertion, you probably won't be building trailers or wrought iron gates. A gas torch will let you set at a bench and do small fabrication, including jewelry, small ornamental iron pieces (like drawer pulls and hinges). I have made jewelry and belt buckles from steel. I say start with the gas torch.
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I think that's a good point I forgot to mention as well Leo. An O/A setup gives the ability to lead solder, silver solder and braze. Electric welding is totally useless to many crafts.
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I think it depends more on the scope of work you intend accomplish in both the short and long term, and how many processes you intend to own in the long term.
If you plan to work clean thin materials, cold finished materials, store your materials indoors, and do most of your cutting with saws, the MIG is probably the best choice.
If you need to work thicker materials, hot finished materials, used materials or materials that are most often stored outdoors, you might want the O/A system, then a stick welding machine first. Then you would have gas cutting, O/A welding for thin materials, and stick for thicker items. Just keep in mind that all O/A welding, especially on thicker materials, is very slow going compared to MIG or stick welding. In my experience O/A welding is almost always limited to materials less than 1/8" thick.
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Shop around. I bought a Victor 315 cutting torch, two Victor regulators and 50' of hose for $50. Welding tips are around ten to fifteen bucks apiece, but those can be had cheaper at yard sales, etc. Yes, if you want to go buy new in box, figure to spend around $500, have everything, and have it last for a long time.
It is good you decided to go with a new Miller machine, as you cannot get a decent one for the price you wanted to pay unless you snagged a good used one. And then, it probably would have been hot.
But it all depends on how much welding you will do. No need to spend a bundle and weld once a month.
Steve
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Jim Elbrecht wrote:

How much room do you have to store your welder and related items? How much electric power do you have available?
Asking what tools to buy to "start welding" is like asking what kind of tools to buy to "start woodworking". You need to think about what you actually want to make, how big, what you want to make it out of. If you want to do a lot of silver soldering, obviously you can't do that with a MIG welder.
I would start by suggesting you include a different book. As with all technical books, I highly recommend you check them out at the library before purchasing. Anyway, the only decent welding book I know of is "Welding Principles and Applications" by Jeffus.
I started with O/A and a book back in the late '70s. I never had much luck welding thin curved steel without it distorting. For a very long time I gave up O/A welding. I have always kept my O/A rig, though, to use for oxyfuel cutting or for heating. I actually don't use it very often.
I had a Hobart Handler 140 recently. It was a great little 110v machine. I used it outdoors to build a gate and to repair a damaged utility trailer. It's very convenient to just plug it into a regular 110V outlet. There is some learning involved with MIG welding too, but you can learn it a lot faster than you can learn O/A welding.
Both O/A and MIG can weld thin metals well. Stick can't.
I'm not even going to talk about TIG except to say that if you get good at O/A welding it's good practice for learning TIG.
If you don't have power available you have to use gas. If you only have 110v available you can't buy a 220v welder.
Grant
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It's a tough choice, but I think that I might push you towards the MIG a little more. The beauty of MIG is that it offers instant gratification. Within a day of practicing you can be making nice welds. Yes, you do need to make sure that you have proper penetration, but this isn't as big a problem as a lot of people make it out to be. Especially on small project around the house. Couple a small MIG with a 4 1/2" angle grinder and you can accomplish some amazing things. Add gas and you can do nice work on sheet metal. Use flux core and properly prepared joints and you can do 1/4" steel. And it's fast too.
Don't get me wrong, I love O/A, and I've done my fair share of welding with it. It will teach you about the weld puddle and it's a very enjoyable process to use. However, when given the choice I usually grab for the MIG gun now. I do use my O/A rig for cutting, but I could cut with a cut-off wheel on a grinder if I had to. I do use O/A for bending metal, which is nice, but I don't use it that often. It is also good for removing stuck bolts, but I still sometimes break them off (then you can use the MIG to weld a nut on and get them out). I don't braze nearly as much as I thought I would. And the things that I do braze usually could be welded anyway.
Get a MIG now, and keep an eye on yard sales and Craigslist for a good used O/A setup. You'll want it, maybe just not first.
Or, get an O/A first - the case could be made either way...
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On Feb 14, 4:43pm, snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote:

i'm just beginning meself, but whenever i see somebody welding on tv, they're doing mig (or tig) not gas.
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z wrote:

That's mostly the fault of the clueless TV producers. MIG is the metalworking equivalent of a hot glue gun, handy for quickly tacking things together to hold position. On programs like American Chopper you see them doing the initial assembly steps on a bike frequently with MIG (though you do sometimes see TIG), but while you sometimes hear them mention it, you never see them doing the finish welding which is always TIG.
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Jim Elbrecht wrote:

TIG - It will handle most every welding project you can throw at it, and it's addictive :) It will also run stick if you need to.
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