I've been looking around for an used welder. A certain guy advised me against tombstone welders, stating that due to usage the amps selector is often worn and unreliable. Since this guy works for a Miller distributor his opinion has to be biased but in fairness I have seen dozens of Lincolns at second hand joints yet very rarely a Miller. Any suggestions please?
I'm by no means an expert on the subject but I've owned 3 Lincoln "tombstones" and have yet to have a problem with any of them.
My guess would be that you see many more Lincolns because Lincoln went after the home/hobbiest/farmer market and Miller didn't... or if they did they must not have been very successful at it.
Northern Tool and Equipment, Lowes, Home Depot, Tractor Supply, Sears and even Sam's Club have sold Lincoln Tombstones but I've never seen any type of Miller welder at any of them. I do see Hobarts at a couple of those places and Miller now owns Hobart so I guess that's their solution. :-)
Best Regards, Keith Marshall firstname.lastname@example.org
I've seen a dozen or so buzzbox-type welders, some quite ancient. They have a saturating transformer core. There's a big transformer winding and the core is a slider (that's what is moving when you move the lock knob). I've heard of these wearing a bit and banging around some in older units, but I've never yet heard of unreliable. Wiring can get old, cooling fans can wear out, but all that is replaceable. I wouldn't pass on a Lincoln tombstone if you found one cheap.
However, I own a Miller Thunderbolt 225 AC/DC unit. I chose it over the Lincoln tombstone welder for just one reason, now moot. When I bought mine, the Miller had proper tapered holes for detachable leads, included. The Lincoln tombstones, then and now, had permanently fixed leads. I like to coil up my welding leads and hang them on the wall, and put my welder itself neatly into its spot without it having wiring spilling over the floor all around it. I would choose my little Miller buzzbox again -- in fact, I did! A few years ago my buddy talked me into selling him my Miller and I went out and replaced it with a brand new one, same exact model. I never used the wheel kit or the included power cord. I put on what seemed like a proper power cord, with the plug I wanted, and I built a little welder cage out of 1" square tubing. The cage is on casters, and it bolts to 4 holes on the very bottom of the welder. Much much easier to move around now.
But now the Millers have integral leads too. Old Airco units, old Oxyweld units, they were all cool little welders. I'd buy one with DC capability, though. I never ever use mine on AC. (Maybe I should!!) - GWE
As has been discussed...Im something of a scrounger to a very small degree...and seldom does one encounter a Miller welder of any type in a home or farm/shop/garage operation.
By far and away are the Lincoln tombstones of various types, very old Marqettes, the odd Hobart and Century. Even a Westinghouse now and then..but few Millers, at least in the West.
Most Millers found these days are found in full sized commercial operations and are less than 15 or so years old.
My main machine for many years was a Westinghouse AC buzzbox, then replaced by a Lincoln AC225. Small stuff was done with a 3 tap 110vt Marquette ( 1/16" rod)
I believe..believe that there were a few Sears welders sold that were made by Miller, or made by AIRCO, who badged machines for Miller..most of them have a top crank handle..but they are not very common, myself only having seen 4-5 in the last 20 yrs.
My AC-225 went to one of the members here, as did the old Westinghouse
225, a friend got the Marqette for a Christmas present, and so forth
I still have a Century AC-DC machine tucked away in storage for somebody who wants one , but my machines are a Miller 300 Dialarc commercial machine (rescued from being scrapped) that works marvelously, the Lincoln Tig 250/250 (also rescued and repaired) and the various MIG machines..Lincoln, Airco and Dan-Mig which were also rescued.
All now serious commerical grade machines even though most are at least 20 yrs old or more.
Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats. H. L. Mencken
Save your nickels up, watch eBay and local sources, and wait for a good deal on a TIG welder. If at all possible, I will NEVER again do stick welding. I'm sorry I didn't make the change earlier, my lungs and sinuses would be in better shape. And, I didn't do a lot of stick welding, far from it. Maybe one project every six months. I did it outdoors near the garage, but the smoke would still mess me up.
I finally got a good eBay deal on a great Lincoln square wave TIG 300, a totally fantastic machine. I'm still learning the tricks with aluminum, mostly that you can't use color as any hint of metal temperature. But, the ability to see what you are doing with steel and stainless, and the fact you can turn the arc down to a tiny spot of light and slow everything down to a crawl when you need to is so great, i can't believe it. It makes stick welding seem like trying to rivet sheet metal with a 50-cal machine gun! I need to wait for a good aluminum project to come up, so I can really get some practice in on the aluminum parts, and I'll really feel good about it.
Yes, I know, TIG is WAY more expensive than stick, but you only get one set of lungs per life.
I have two old TIG welders, one a Miller 330 ($400, plus $400 in repairs) and a Hobart CyberTig ($100). Both of them are fantastic TIG welders. $195 for 249 cuft bottle, $56 for Weldcraft WP17 torch, $40 for torch kit, $35 for 5 lbs TIG rod. About $140 for electronic helmet. Adds up to about $1200 if I use the Miller 330 as the baseline.
I agree with Jon's comments above. For me, TIG welding is priceless. Much more enjoyable and much easier than stick once I got past the initial learning curve (about 2 months of week-end effort). Much easier to weld out-of-position with TIG. The health comment is a good one, when I was stick welding, I would blow out a glob of black stuff from my nose at the end of each day, don't want to think about what made it into my lungs.
I am unsure it is more expensive (at least for a hobbyist who doesn't count his time). When I was stick welding, I was burning up 7014 electrodes at a pretty good clip and definitely felt the cost in my wallet. A large Argon tank brought the cost of gas down to a reasonable level ($32 for 249 cuft refill). I use .045 ER70-S3 MIG wire (surplus from the swap-meet) for a lot of my TIG welding, which brings the rod cost down (granted, a hassle to unwind from the spool and straighten out).
I bought a used Daytona Mig Power Pulse TIG welder on eBay for $450, and I love it. Had to add a bottle of argon for $75 to purchase both the bottle and gas, and I have been going to town. I did spend another $175 for an auto-darkening hood, as my eyes hurt after trying the HF $49 version.
I believe that with the new Harbor Freight $199 TIG machine, TIG welding has become the _least_ expensive way to get started in welding, rather than the most expensive. Note that neither my Daytona Mig Power Pulse TIG machine nor the HF TIG machine will easily do aluminum. Also note that both of these are lift start, which is not a big deal, and neither have foot pedals, which is also not a big deal. I have been going to welding classes at my local community college, where I learned on a great Synchrowave unit, but except for aluminum, I haven't found any real practical difference for the hobby and art welding that I am interested in...
My portable O/A setup cost me $249 new, and my used Hobart 175 MIG machine was $450 plus the bottle and shielding gas... All of these are 220v units...
I'd never suggest a TIG welder for a hobbyist stating out. Granted, you can do very nice aluminum, but for everyday projects like bumpers and trailer hitches, TIG is way too slow, way too much skill involved, and way too much money.
Everybody has different goals. My everyday projects are furniture, plant stands, brackets, fountains, rolling ball machines, mobiles, wind chimes, and metal sculpture in mild steel, copper, and stainless. For these, TIG is great !
$2000. I paid $1299 for the Lincoln Square Wave 300 machine, which included a brand new regulator/flowmeter and hose, a miller cooler, a 300 A water-cooled torch, stick electrode holder which I've never even unwrapped, ground lead and finger control. I needed to swap a breaker in my panel, and get an Argon bottle, some electrodes and an auto-dark helmet. I got hit for about $300 shipping, but the seller packed it all up in a GREAT crate, and it came through in perfect condition. Oh, the machine is on a steel cart, I'm guessing it was made by Lincoln as it is a perfect fit to the machine. I had to pay about $100 to rent a lift gate truck to pick it up, as I don't have a loading dock or forklift.
As soon as I got the Argon and electrodes, I was experimenting with a steel welding project and it went VERY well, I'd say 10 times neater than the horror I would have had with stick. After burning my chest through a dark shirt, I bought a welding jacket on eBay.
I did have one problem with the machine, a bad capacitor in the post-flow timer ended up wasting a lot of Argon before I was really aware of the problem. I got a very sketchy wiring diagram from Lincoln, but that was enough to trace it to the circuit board and find the bad cap.
It is a really nice machine, but a total hulking beast, physically. I watched eBay intermittently for about a year before finding one that looked good enough, close enough, cheap enough, etc. that I was willing to put money on it.
As for little options, there's a guy on eBay, aglevtech, who sells all sort of TIG items, torch parts, collets, gas lenses, tungstens for REALLY cheap. I have found him to be the first place to go for these items.
And I can do all of those (except the copper) on my $5 Airco 225amp Buzzbox at 10 times the inches per minute that you are getting. Proper rod and proper technique works wonders.
Don't get me wrong, TIG is nice. We did this year's off road race car using TIG rather than MIG. But the weld time for this year's frame was about 20 hours rather than the 2 hours of MIG time last year.
You guys rem>>>everyday projects like bumpers and trailer hitches
I just donated a Lincoln Electric Lincwelder AC225 machine to the local vocational school welding department along with some cabling. I received the machine second hand from a local building contractor that had been using it at least 10 years or more. I was using it right up to the time I donated it. It worked fine.
All I ever did to it was take it apart and clean it inside and out. I used some electrical contact spray cleaner on the amp selector switch on the inside. I gave it a new coat of Lincoln Electric Red paint and it looked brand new.
As long as the wiring inside looks serviceable, no cracked insulation or broken connections, I think most machines should be okay. Caveat Emptor, do some homework on the machine before purchasing. Look inside and out, and if possible, see it in action.
Hobbyist have different goals. Speaking as a hobbyist, I've learned MIG, gas, stick, and TIG. All of them required effort to learn and cost a fair amount of money. And all required practice to stay in tune. I am speaking from a hobbyist point of view, I wouldn't pretend to advise someone who makes their living as a welder. As a hobbyist, I don't find TIG that slow, I don't think it requires as much skill as stick, and I don't notice it costing a great amount more than other processes. TIG is so much more satisfying than any other welding process that if I had to do it all again, I would start with TIG and skip everything else. It's not that hard.
Yup, that's my take on it, as a newbie to the TIG process. The cleanliness alone is worth it. As for the slow - well, sure, it is my LACK of skill at stick, but extreme speed at blowing holes in everything is NOT a virtue! And, that's how I now feel about stick, is it is a great way to punch big holes in stuff you are trying to weld together! I still have some trouble seeing what I'm doing with TIG, but I can weld with stick practically as well with my eyes closed - meaning, with all the damn smoke, I can't see what I'm working on. I can just barely see the weld puddle and the vague outer dimensions of the part, but I can't see the lines of the seam I'm trying to weld. I literally have to FEEL the seam with the end of the stick. With the TIG, I CAN see the seam, and usually pretty well. I didn't realize how much I depended on the color of the weld puddle in steel, but moving to aluminum where there is no color to see, I found out how important that was. But, being able to see what I'm doing helps me kep on the seam with the electrode. I'm still getting the feel of controlling the weld puddle by sight, and judging how much penetration I'm getting. Dealing with the greater thermal distortion on aluminum is new, too, I guess.
Hey, I have been welding with oxy/fuel for over 30 years, and I also have a MIG welder. I have used stick welders in the past, but I don't own one now. In any case, I know what is for what. But these days I will always go for TIG if I care what the weld looks like, and for most of what I've been doing lately, I do care. And I'm not in any hurry, I've been out of work for over a year, so I got nothing but time...
The real point of my message was to alert people that we are at an important inflection point right now - a useable TIG welder with enough power for less than $200 new! I know a lot of people will prefer alternatives to HF, but the next cheapest new TIG welder that I am aware of is $1300 for the Econotig, that the Miller guy flat out told me not to buy!
Thanx for your comments though - btw, I'm a Porsche guy, not a BMW guy...
I learned to TIG weld last because my local college made me finish stick and OA before I could sign up. I guess they have their reasons and have found it to be the best way for a teaching environment. And I bought a MIG welder as my first welder because others said that was the right thing to do.
But, an average person with average skills can learn TIG without learning MIG, stick, or OA. Granted, they will learn some skills with OA that will make it a little easier to learn TIG. But, they will learn the same skills and gain the same insights if they jump into TIG. And if you are buying your own welding machines, why spend $700 for a MIG welder and another $400 for an OA outfit, just to find out that when a welding project shows up, you go to the TIG welder. I know there are cost considerations and other reasons, but IMHO, a new welder should seriously consider going straight to a TIG setup. If you have an interest in welding, you will eventually end up there, anyway.
I use mine for mild steel only, and it handles 22 gauge all the way through 1/4" without blinking. It would probably handle 1/2" and larger (God forbid, there are 300amps at 60% duty cycle in it), but I don't build things out of metal that thick. And I believe it is actually easier (well, maybe not easier than MIG). I can walk away from the TIG welder for a month and when I come back, the hand/eye motions come back within a few minutes. If I walk away from my stick welder, I may as well retrain myself, else I just put globs of electrode all over whatever I am trying to stick together.
TIG has way too much 'hype' about it. It is an great welding process that can be used by anyone willing to invest a little effort. Which probably includes anyone interested in welding enough to browse a forum like this one.