question about buying a cheap Harbor Frieght Arc welder

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?
example:
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-mike
Reply to
Michael Sutton
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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:
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bit better:
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lot better:
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Cheers.
Michael Sutt> First off, I know a lot of stuff from Harbor Freight
Reply to
RoyJ
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.
Steve
Reply to
SteveB
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!
Scott
Reply to
Scott
Mike, in addition to the words of caution above, let me add a couple of specific suggestions.
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 pieces together.
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!
Andy
Reply to
Andrew H. Wakefield
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.
-mike
Reply to
Michael Sutton
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 weekend!
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.)
Reply to
Andrew H. Wakefield

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