First off, I know a lot of stuff from Harbor Freight
is "cheap" quality.... That's one of the reasons
I ask this here.
I was interested in a cheap small 110v arc welder unit.
I know I won't be able to weld much but I only have
110v in my garage for right now.
Anyone bought any of the Harbor Frieght 110v Arc welders?
Duty cycle is abysmal, tiny rod. Usual duty cycle is 10 minutes. So you
can burn one 3/32 rod (10" of weld on 14 ga steel), then wait 9 minutes.
Normally the open circuit voltage is quite low, makes starting and
stabilzing the arc fairly hard for a beginner.
If you are limited to 120 volts, at least look at one of the "gasless"
Mig welders. They use flux core wire, but they at least have a bit
better duty cycle.
Really low end:
Michael Sutt> First off, I know a lot of stuff from Harbor Freight
I buy a lot of stuff at HF, but welders are not one of them. I have welded
for thirty years, and I like a reliable machine that I can get parts for.
The welder may function properly, but who knows if you can get parts. When
you go over there the next time, ask if they have backup parts, or where you
can get them. The machine may be made by another company, and parts a snap
to get, but you better be sure BEFORE you buy.
Another thing I do is I buy ahead. I don't like growing out of things. If
you get to welding, you may do more of it. Will this machine have a duty
cycle (be able to weld a good portion of an hour) or will you have to wait
for it to cool? Will this machine handle thicker materials if you move to
heavier welding? Are the consumables (tips, liners, wire, etc.) easily
gotten and reasonably priced?
A 220v line is not a difficult thing to run.
If you are gonna take the plunge, check out everything, then make a choice.
You may be able to pick up a good used brand name machine for the same
money. Buy quality and cry only once.
I, too, am a HF regular. I went ahead and bought my welder from a "real"
shop and not one from HF. I ended up with a Lincoln 135 SP mig.
If you buy one from HF, I would recommend purchasing their guarantee policy.
I know, I know...probably money down the drain, but in the case of a
welder...yes. Now I did buy the auto darkening helmet for next to nothing
and have not had a problem with it at all. The free coupon for take-out
chinese food came in handy, too (just kidding).
Seriously, if you are planning of something lasting long, you better buy it
right once. I only buy HF when it is an item that will likely be lost or
run over by the tractor before its life expectancy.
Finally, as for which one? Do your homework. Everyone said, "oh the guys
at the supply shop are going to know everything and steer you right", was
incorrect in my case. While I know, there had to be intelligent weldors in
those shops somewheres, the kids they had running the front of the store
where idiots. Names of stores withheld because I still gotta buy gas there.
Good Luck, and don't tuck in you pants legs!
Mike, in addition to the words of caution above, let me add a couple of
First, if you specifically want to do arc welding (stick welding), if at all
possible go with 220v. You may not need the capacity ... but you will find
that your learning curve is much, much easier. A Lincoln "tombstone" welder
is a little over $200 at the big box stores; you can get a Hobart 225AC
(actually a rebadged Miller) for about the same price. These will be AC only
units ... but you can do an awful lot with AC. (I have an AC machine, and I
keep thinking about making a converter to allow DC ... but I just haven't
had a real need, so I haven't bothered.) If your breaker box is conveniently
located, and you are comfortable doing some wiring, it is quite easy to run
a 220v circuit ... but don't overlook the possibility of plugging into a
dryer outlet -- theoretically the tombstone and similar welders require a 50
amp circuit, but you will usually be using far less than the maximum
capacity of the welder, so you can do a lot of welding with a 30 amp dryer
circuit. (Let me be more specific: I have *never* used the full capacity of
my welder!) One other thing to think about is that you may be able to pick
up a used welder of this sort fairly cheaply. These AC machines are mostly
just big transformers, so there's not much to go wrong with them. I bought
an ancient old monster (I think it may be as much as 50 years old) for $25
... it welds beautifully.
On the other hand, if 220v is out of the question for now, let me suggest
that you either go with an inexpensive wire feed welder (limited capacity,
but relatively easy to use), or if you specifically want a stick machine,
look at the Century 100 welder (available at Northern Tools; Sears also
sells the same model, rebadged under their name). Last time I looked, this
model was available for a little over $100. This machine has a 20% duty
cycle at 100 amps--still not great, but far better than the 6-10% that the
inexpensive HF units have. It also has a relatively low open circuit voltage
(OCV)--around 60v IIRC--but again this is far better than the 48-50v that
the low end HF units have. As someone else mentioned, low OCV makes it
harder to start and stabilize the arc; it also limits you to certain types
of rods (primarily 6013 and 7014).
I started out with one of these Century 100 welders (actually, it had a
different brand name, but same welder); I wasn't sure I would actually do
that much welding, and I didn't want to run a 220v circuit if I wound up not
really using it. I bought it used for $65 (yes -- ironically more than twice
what I eventually paid for the 220v machine I now use). It certainly
worked--once I figured out that I could *not* use 6011 or 7018 rods, but
only 6013 and 7014. (That tidbit was in the manual, but of course I didn't
have a manual ... until I found a copy online.) I found that 3/32" rods were
about the only size that I could use. With those, I could weld anything up
to 1/8" thick fairly well ... and probably could do much better with the
same machine now that I've improved my technique. Theoretically it was
supposed to be able to weld up to 1/4" thick, but I found it extremely hard
to get a satisfactory bead if I was actually trying to join two 1/4" thick
Once you start welding, it can quickly become addictive. It wasn't long
before I began looking for a 220v machine, so that I could handle some
thicker steel. When I found the machine I now use, one of the things I
hadn't expected was how much easier it is to use--even on thin material.
Also, I discovered that "100 amps" on a 110v machine is just not the same as
"100 amps" on a 220v machine. With the little 110v welder, I pretty much had
to crank it all the way up to do much of anything. With the 220v machine,
welding 1/8" or thinner steel, I normally never need beyond 75-85 amps.
Hope this helps!
Ok... you've got me convinced not to buy the HF welder..
(what was I thinking?????)
I did a bunch of stick/arc welding last year and I
think you're right that I won't like the less than
10% duty cycle, even for personal use.
I am planning on purchasing 175 amp MIG unit later
with I get the garage re-worked which will include
220v power then. Most likely will pick up a Hobart
or perhaps a Lincoln. I just didn't want to spend
$500 on a Hobart 110v 135 amp MIG now when I really
prefer to go ahead abd get the 175amp later.
The problem with 220v in the garage is that it is
not on the main house and only has 110v run to it.
To run 220v is a long run and my plan is to have
the main power re-run underground which will require
a new meter, new breaker box in garage, etc...
hopefully that'll be soon. In the long run with
all that, I'm afraid it'll cost more than $1,000
to get 220v out there, but boy will it be nice.
thanks for everyone's help.
Oops -- I gave you a bunch of advice on the assumption that you were just
learning to stick weld. Sorry about that!
Ouch -- I certainly see why 220v is not something you can put in over the
Give the Century 100 / equivalent Sears model a look, or see if you can find
one used -- it's not overly satisfying if you're used to a 220v unit, but it
will let you do *some* welding. I made my rolling cart/welding table, a
bandsaw rip fence, and two roller support stands using the one I had -- all
of which continue to hold up just fine, in spite of the fact that some of
the welds were pretty gloppy. (Hey, I was just learning! And hadn't even had
any classes yet at that point!) As I mentioned in the previous post, you
can't use 6011 or 7018, but 3/32" 6013 runs okay with this welder. (I also
ran 3/32" 7014, but not quite as well.)