Starter Welding Set

[I meant to cross post this to the sci.engr.joining.welding group, but it was late and I forgot]
I'm hoping to buy a reasonably priced, used, welding set up.
Specifically, I'm wondering if anyone has a working 220V tombstone-style welder they'd want to sell for $50 or so, or a set of oxy-acetylene tanks, torches, user-owned bottles, etc... I'm not sure what a fair price is, but I've been told that I should expect to pay about $150 for a complete working oxy-acetytelene setup, and $50 for the arc welder. Is that about right?
I used to do a little welding in shop at high school, but that was a while ago... I'd like to get back into welding by making some little motorcycles and sculptures out of junk. Nothing too fancy at first. The majority of my welding will be fairly light "home-shop/fixit/sculpture" type stuff. Eventually there is some automotive welding I'd like to do--I have a '65 Dart* that needs a little work, so I'd like a medium or full-size set (not one of the little portable ones w/milk jug-size bottles). Most of the welding will be pretty light weight, so I could use a smaller torch, but I think I'd just fit it on to regular size hoses (with an adaptor if need be). I don't plan on welding or cutting heavy plate steel or anything.
I don't mind if the equipment is a "older", as long as it's not ancient. In fact I prefer older tools in general, if there well made and in good working order.
I've been told (by Gunner) that the flux-core wire welders from Harbor Freigh are a fairly decent value. Any one have any experience with these they'd like to share?
I'm looking forward to welding, it's something I've been wanting to do for a long time... Well, any way, thanks in advance for your input,
Jeff Polaski jeffpolaski "at" cox "dot" net
"What is objectionable, what is dangerous about extremists is not that they are extreme, but that they are intolerant." -- Robert F. Kennedy, 1964
"The truth is found when men are free to pursue it." -- Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1936
*It's a '65 270 GT convertable that I've was using for a daily driver until my wife and I had a kid. Now that I pick my son up after work, she won't let him any where near that car when it's running. Probably a good thing, too. It's a great car, really fun to drive and all, but not so good if you get into an accident.
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You're kidding, right? Around here I can get $150 for a 20 year old buzz box, AC only, and $100 for an old set of ox/acy regulators with torch (WITHOUT the bottles.)
A new buzz box is $300 at Home Depot. A cheap set of Victors is $160. Buy or lease your own bottles. Now maybe, at an estate sale..........
If it were me, in your shoes, I'd buy an ox/acy rig at Harbor Freight, less than $100, and rent some small bottles at the local welding supply. After awhile, you'll know what to do next. Hope that helps......
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wrote:

Thanks! I hadn't thought of renting the bottles. It looks like most of the expense of an oxy set up is in the bottles...
As for the prices, it seem some of my previous welding buys were pretty good... I got a box of six good-quality threading dies and two "brand name" cutting torches for $14, along with extra tips and some misc stuff. There's a fair amount of welding equipment around (So Cal) in the swapmeets. Most of it looks fairly old and beat, though.
I might still get lucky. It turns out a long-time friend has an oxy-acetytlene set he'll sell me. He'll have to dig it out of the grarge and it's been a while since he's used it, but it all works.
Still, I'll keep an eye out for a ~$100 tombstone welder.
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. He'll have to dig it out of the

Ok, good! I picked up some brazing rod today at a local hardware store, .56 a stick (36"), and some gas rod, .17 each. Brazing flux is $4 and lasts me a year. I played with some today and still have fun watching that braze flow into the joint!
Cheap entertainment! BTW, if you ask around, most everybody will tell you to stay away from an AC only buzz box (tombstone Lincoln). Oh, they work forever, but you need a LOT of experience to get a decent weld. An AC/DC machine is WAY better. Mine was $389 new........
Now, if you get an old set of regulators, make sure you test them before you blow something up :) You should be able to rent a set of bottles for $20 a month in your area. Call around.
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I just have to point out that I can teach anyone to do nice looking stick welds in an hour or two using any decent AC buzz box. (I'm excluding the HF $100 specials here!) The welds will be downhand, 6013 rod, 3/16" plate, etc. but you will still be getting nice welds.
Once you have that down you can do the same thing with 6011, outside in the wind, on some rusty frame parts. Try THAT with your MIG! If you want thin stock, I have some 1/16" 6013 that runs very nicely on 40 amps doing 18 ga sheet stock using the same AC welder.
Although the newbie stick welder welds probably won't look as nice as the same MIG welds but are likely to be stronger. Typical newbie gets a nice looking MIG weld bead that just sits on top of the base metal.
All it takes is a bit of help from a pro and PRACTICE.
Erine, if you are floating around, how long does it take to get a newbie to do a decent downhand STICK weld?
cheers.
Spike wrote:

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I agree, and wish you were close to the other poster. But............he still needs something to cut the metal, right? And wouldn't you agree that o/a is more versatile and will be valuable to a future stick guy? Plus, you're right in that all these mig welders being sold to novices, maybe they won't know what fusion is? But, right on post!
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The OP cross posted the same request over on rec.crafts.metalworking, I responded at length over there. I just don't cross post the responses.
In terms of MIG vs Flux core vs stick, they all have their place. (I use all of them) And I can teach someone to use a MIG faster than I can teach the same person to use stick. But stick has cheaper equipment, better penetration, works outside, much more variety of rods (lo-hi, hard surfacing, cast iron, etc), works on rusty/dirty metal, etc that makes it a natural for home shop/repair work. I think the key is that a newbie can seem to get a wirefeed to work out of the box with no assistance, not particularly true for the stick. Sigh.
Spike wrote:

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On Mon, 19 Jul 2004 01:33:38 +0000, RoyJ wrote:

I guess it's because I started out welding with a stick welder and learned the basics of making good strong welds on it that I had no trouble moving over to MIG. Since there are no welding supply stores near me my selection of rods was limited by what Sears carried. Mostly 6013 1/8". My preference for MIG is not to say that I found stick welding to be useless. Quite to the contrary, I fabricated a very sturdy garden tractor trailer frame with that buzzbox using 1/8" wall 1" square tubing and 1" X 3/32" angle stock. It took me quite a long time to make, though, and I scrapped a number of members in the process. I probably would have had an easier time of it if I had had some 1/16" rod.
I still think that I could've done the same job quicker with a MIG welder. One of the big problems I had with stick welding was the rod whipping. I found it difficult to control the end of those 1/8" X 12" long rods, even with two hands. It was by no means impossible to control, but it was tiring. I imagine I'd have an even more difficult time with 1/16" diameter rods. Working with a MIG gun is much easier for me.
I guess at least in some cases it's a matter of personal preference. I plan to keep my AC buzzbox (in fact I'd like to modify it for DC operation) for heavier material, but for lighter stuff -- which is what I most commonly work with -- I like the MIG machine.
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On Mon, 19 Jul 2004, RoyJ wrote:

<snip>
<snip>
Hmmm -- as a somewhat-still-newbie I have to say I am puzzled by Spike's statement about avoiding the AC only buzz boxes. I wish I'd had Roy to teach me when I first started welding a little over a year ago, but even with a little bit of less-than-expert instruction (a friend who showed me the basic idea of how to strike an arc -- about 10 minutes instruction tops) and a few hours of practice I was able to get acceptable welds (even on my 110v AC machine). When I moved up to a 220v AC machine, I thought I was in heaven--it was so easy to get a nice weld. But I kept wondering what I was missing without the DC ... then I took a class a few months later, and got to experience the difference DC made: virtually none. DC let me run 6010 in addition to 6011, but I didn't find it any easier to weld with DC than with my AC machine, nor did I find my welds to be any better. Maybe a little less spatter--maybe--but I found (and still find) that dialing in the right heat makes more difference as far as spatter is concerned.
Perhaps I should clarify that my welds got a LOT better by taking the class--whether I was welding with the DC machines at school or the AC machine at home. Also, I noticed that welding with AC on the machines at school was nowhere near as smooth as welding with AC using my ancient old monster at home. And of course, I can't testify as to the microscopic qualities of the AC welds versus the DC welds ...
In short, I would certainly warn someone away from the 110v AC buzz boxes, but from my (admittedly limited) experience I can't see that learning to weld on a tombstone or similar (220v) stick welder would be greatly if any different from learning to weld on a DC-capable machine.
My .02, FWIW!
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wrote:

i disagree. There isn't much difference in technique between AC and DC stick, especially with easy rods like 6013. One big difference I find is in the machines - bigger ones are easier. My 300 and 350A 440V powered monsters are MUCH easier to use than my 120A (240V) cheapie or 140A DC welder. Better arc control, and a higher open circuit voltage, which is sadly missing on a lot of small machines. Geoff
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On Sat, 17 Jul 2004 08:03:21 -0700, Jeff Polaski wrote:

I payed about $250 for my Lincoln AC-225 stick welder about 6 years ago. I think I'd want more than $50 for it now if I were to sell it.
A new good quality O/A set up is going to cost appreciably more than $150 I think, and that doesn't include bottles and cart.

Though I'm no expert, from my own experience I'd stay away from a stick welder if you plan to mostly weld steel less than 3/8" thick. The big stick welders are good for welding battleship hulls if your home wiring can supply the current, but take lots of skill when used on the lighter materials 1/4" thick or less. Burn-throughs, slag, BLEH! I've trashed more 3/16" angle stock fit ups with my stick welder than I care to think about.
I personally don't like O/A set ups because frankly I'm ascared of them. When I was young I watched my older brother lose an eye when a car battery exploded in his face (hydrogen/oxygen explosion. The cigarette in his mouth touched it off). So I'm acutely aware of the potential energy stored in an O/A rig. But that's just me.
I wonder why you haven't considered getting a MIG welder? They are very easy to learn how to use (I've only put about an hour of actual welding time on mine and my welds are coming out great already. It's almost as easy as applying a bead of caulk from an electric caulking gun). With gas shielding (real MIG welding) you have no slag to remove from the welded area. The "HAZ" -- heat affected zone -- is much smaller than that of an O/A rig or even, I suspect, a stick welder. If you'll be welding on a car, this smaller heat affected zone will allow you to weld closer (within reason) to wiring harnesses, painted areas, and etc without damaging them or starting fires.

The pros and cons of fluxcore welding compared to true MIG welding are:
Fluxcore can be used in windier conditions than MIG. I haven't yet had a problem with this, and I do all of my welding outdoors, but a breeze can cause the shielding gas from a MIG welder to be blown away from the weld area. The flux within fluxcore wire provides the shield to the weld area and thus will stay put.
Generally fluxcore welding is intended for heavier gage material. True MIG welding allows one to weld thinner stuff.
You can't weld aluminum with fluxcore wire. Off the top of my head,I don't think you can weld stainless steel with fluxcore wire either. MIG will let you weld mild steel, aluminum and stainless.
With fluxcore welding you don't have to worry about running out of gas. I've used up my dinky little 20 cubic foot bottle of shield gas already and the welding supply store here is closed on Sunday, otherwise I'd be outdoors right now welding! So fluxcore welding requires fewer consumables.

I hope you find what you're looking for at a good price. Though MIG welders are more expensive than cheap stick welders or even O/A torches, I think they are nearly optimum for what you want to do. Any true MIG welder should be able to run fluxcore wire but some cheaper fluxcore, i.e. "Gasless MIG" welders, will *only* run fluxcore wire. If you want the versatility of aluminum and stainless steel welding then spend the extra money on a true MIG machine (they come with the gas solenoid and regulator).
Check the "duty cycle" rating when shopping for a welder. Basically the higher the better here. Usually, a 30% duty cycle rating means that the welder can be operated for 3 minutes out of every 10 minutes. The balance of the time must be idle to allow the machine to cool down. A 10% duty cycle machine, though cheap, is inadequate for anything but tack welds on thin material. Shoot for 30% duty cycle or better for serious welding.
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On Sun, 18 Jul 2004, Artemia Salina wrote:

<snip>
I agree with other posters that you are unlikely to find a tombstone welder (i.e., the Lincoln 225 amp AC welder), or any of the equivalent welders (Miller, Hobart, Century, Campbell Hausfeld, etc.) for $50. I say this based on my experience looking for something like that for several months about a year ago. I did find a couple of such welders for around $100 or so, but they were, shall we say, *very* used, though reputedly still working--and since you can get this sort of unit for around $200 new around here, I decided not to buy at that price.
On the other hand, after watching the ads for some months, I came across a deal for an ancient AC welder, with output range of 20 to 275 amps, for only $25. (Actually, I finally asked on a local for-sale newsgroup if anybody had an old, possibly broken 220v welder, available for sale cheap, and got two or three responses.) Now, mind you, this old welder had no leads ... and in fact did not use a standard connector for the leads ... and I had no guarantees that it would work. But it was built like a tank, and there were no obvious problems that I could see, so I decided to take a chance for $25. I'm glad I did -- it has worked wonderfully well, and IHMO is a far better and more capable machine than I would have gotten had I bought a new tombstone or equivalent. However, I did have to do some work on it first ...
I cleaned it up and made a set of connectors (no, I don't have a mill or metal-working lathe, but it was easy to turn some brass plumbing fittings down using a mandrel on my woodworking lathe and a simple file), and that let me make up a temporary set of leads using a ground clamp and stinger that I borrowed from another machine, along with some wire left over from putting in the 220v outlet. That let me test the machine; once I knew that the machine worked (and not only worked, but worked really, really well!) I went ahead and spent the money for ground clamp, stinger, and cable to make up a "real" set of leads -- which cost around $50 altogether if my memory is correct. (I only bought about 20' of cable for leads -- and haven't ever needed any more than that, at least for now.) I also replaced a missing wheel. (This thing is mounted on a base with four swivelling wheels -- and a good thing, too, as otherwise I'd never be able to move it around my small shop!)
The point of all this long history is that you CAN find a really good deal on an old AC welder, but you may have to be willing actively to search for such a deal, and you may have to do some work to get the machine ready to weld once you find it ... and you may have to risk some money on a machine that you can't guarantee will work.
Good luck in your search!
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Jeff, oxy-acetylene is handy, and a stick set up is handy as well, but for your application, a nice mig set up would be the best choice. The fluxcore cheapies are alright for the price but if you're considering body work, those will just blow holes through the sheet steel. I use my miller mig welder on most of my projects. Look for a name brand 110volt mig (ie. millermatic 135, hobart ahndler 135, or lincoln sp135) in the long wrong you will just be saving time of selling the fluxcore unit and buying one when you "out grow" it. I make "little motorcycles and sculptures out of junk" too. http://www.geocities.com/weldingwalt/ek3chopper.html
good luck, walt
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wrote:

Well, it looks like I'm going to luck out--an old friend is going to give me his O/A setup!
I think that I'll get a MIG welder in a little while, too, when I Have a little more "fun-money". I don't think I can justify the $ for a new brand-name welder, but maybe I can find an older one...
This is certainly a subject I know very little about, but I think that learning O/A welding first will pay off in the long run. Also, having the set will be very useful around the shop for brazing, heat treating tools, etc...
I don't mind spending four or eight hours practicing to get an adequate weld. In the future I can take a weekend welding class at a local junior college or something, but at first I'll be happy if I can just get a halfway decent weld.
I've been looking around for more info on how to select a welder but I didn't see anything that directly addressed the issue. Did I miss a FAQ or something? I'll be happy to put together a mini-faq about getting started and selecting welders, if there isn't one already. I certainly won't have years of experience to add to it, but I gladly compile the stuff I've read.
Thanks for all your help! I'm really excited about all the stuff I'm going to make now. I'm going to set up a website and a blog to share my progress and hopefully make things a little easier for others.
Again, thanks!
Jeff Polaski jeff =at= cox =dot= net
[P.S. I've cross posted this to R.C.M because the original post was there, and wanted to let them know to follow up on it here in sci.engr.joining.welding]
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<snipped for space> <Well, it looks like I'm going to luck out--an old friend is going to

Oxy ace is a great place to start. It will get you to learn the basics like pushing that darn puddle around. Alot of welding classes start off with oxy-ace, some start with stick. Oxy-ace is real handy around the shop even if you dont weld with it. As far as FAQ's on choosing welding equipment, i cant think of anything that hasn't been covered (in sci.engr.welding), do a google search in the group and get ready to read! Here are some "best of" advice i've picked up: 1. buy name brand equipment. All welding (and cutting) units use consumables. From torch tips, electrodes, to collets and cups. A name brand part is easier to find. 2. buy more than what you'll need. in most cases if you go smaller, you'll be buying again. I learned this lesson the hard way. Started out with a chop saw and a CH flux core welder. That turned in to thousands of dollars worth of stuff. 3. Read posts from Ernie Leimkuhler regarding welding, he is the guy to ask when you're stuck. There are alot of bright guys in this group(Randy Zimmerman, Gary Coffman...), but Ernie may be the reigning king. (I bookmark his stuff!) 4. Get to know your local welding supply store guys. I bring mine food! They will save you time and aggravation with they're knowledge. They do this for a living. 5. Have fun! I cant get any happier than when i'm making something in my shop.
Good luck, walt
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