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. :-)
"I'm not grown up enough to be so old!"
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
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
I agree 100% with Keiths comments.
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
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
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).
Hope this helps.
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 love TIG welding - I find it to be precise, accurate, and almost
meditation in molten metal...
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
I agree wholeheartedly. My first welder ever (and only one) is a
ThermalArc 185TSW with TIG kit that I got for $1700 on eBay. Before
ordering it, I read through both Finch's "Welding Handbook" and the
Miller TIG book (available free on their website), and practiced for
about half an hour with a friend's O/A rig. It took about two hours to
unpack the ThermalArc and get everything set up (I had an argon bottle
waiting that cost me $150 at a welding supply shop, along with $12 for
two pounds of 4043 rod in 3/32 and 1/16 thicknesses), and within ten
minutes of applying power I had my first molten aluminum. (all my metal
stock is 6061 from Boeing Surplus) The next afternoon I tried a butt
weld, and you can see the results here:
It really is, as you say, meditation in molten metal. Highly
$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
intermittently for about a year before finding one that looked good
enough, close enough, cheap enough, etc. that I was willing to put money
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
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 remind me of the fellow that thinks everyone should buy a BMW
because he has one and they are nice cars. And neglect to mention 6x on
price and 3x on the repairs. (See the NG string on "Oops!")
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
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.
Just my .02
James Walsh Jr.
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
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.