I would like to buy a welder for mostly hobby use. I would like to spend around $500(or less). I will mostly be working with aluminum and some thin stainless. I am thinking wire feed(mig). Do I need to get one that has AC/DC capabilities? Will I be okay with 125-175 amp range? I am not partial to any brand name-Lincoln, Hobart or any others will do fine. All advice will appreciated! Thanks, Harry
My favorite MIG in the amp range you mentioned is the Lincoln SP-175T. I have an older version, the SP-170T and it's been great but I've never tried to use it for aluminum and I understand that it's not such a simple task. Here's a writeup from Lincoln on using a "compact MIG" for aluminum:
Best Regards, Keith Marshall firstname.lastname@example.org
this is a warranty that seems unbeatable: LIMITED 5 YEAR WARRANTY; 5 YEAR ON THE TRANSFORMER AND RECTIFIER; 3 YEAR ON THE ENTIRE WELDER (EXCLUDING CLAMPS, WELDING GUN, ELECTRODE HOLDER, CABLES, AND ACCESSORIES PACKED WITH THE WELDER; 1 YEAR ON THE WELDING CLAMPS, MIG GUN, ELECTRODE HOLDER, NON-CONSUMABLE ACCESSORIES AND WELDING CABLES AS APPLICABLE.
A point of clarification: A MIG (wire feed) welder will be a DC only machine. AC or AC/DC is used only in stick (SMAW) and TIG (GTAW) welding. (Perhaps I should qualify that--I've never *heard* of a MIG process that used AC, but then again I am not even close to being an expert; maybe someone else will correct me on this!)
$500 or less will buy you a Hobart Handler 135 or one of the Lincoln models that you can find at Lowe's or Home Depot (I don't recall the model names, nor the exact output). IIRC, you will have to pay more than $500 to get a Miller 135, and you will definitely have to pay more to get up in the 175 amp range with any brand. Note however that these prices do not include the bottle of shielding gas, which is going to add another $100 or more.
If you do a google on wire feed and aluminum in this group, you should see some past discussions about running aluminum wire through these sorts of machines. Some have done it successfully, but it sounds rather temperamental, depending in part on the particular type of aluminum wire that you run.
I guess I could save a little more money up and get into the $1000-$1200 range. I see that will get me a much better machine, like a Tig mate. Do I need the AC/DC capability? My plan is to only weld the materials that I mentioned but I should plan for the future. I do have an old Ford tractor that is in rough shape.
The Century 155 GL (# 83156, I believe) is available lots of places at about $480. You could later add the Century Welders Gas Conversion Kit (item 164725) for about $83 and later add a cart for $80 or much less. You mentioned 135 - 175 amps. This would put you half way between the two. You'd wind up with about $650 in it -- plus your bottle of gas.
Now, if you could catch some place running a sale . . . !!
Here is a link to the owners manual for this welder from Harbor Frt.
My worry on a machine like this are if parts such as drive rolls and contact tips are readily available. I bought a Century 90GS it was a new floor model that was discontinued I got for $20.00 over dealer cost or about 1/3 the price of a Lincoln SP135, 1/2 the price of a Hobart 135. The problem I see with my unit is there are no part number for replacement or alternate drive rolls, tips are interchangeable with Lincoln,etc. My cheap box is very good for doing body work on the car I'm restoring but it but it is no where near as nice or as easy to use as the the Ackmatic 251(Millermatic 251 with an orange paint job sold by Acklands) I use at work. There should be deals out there to be had on Century and Marquette welders if you just need a cheap welder, Clore Automotive group sold them to Lincoln Electric in October 2003.
dogal> wow; just got the latest HarbFrt catalog, and they're offering what seems to
probably a mis-print; i've never heard of AC mig weld, other discrepancies arose concerning duty cycle. do all of those types of machines have "free wheeling" spools (no integrated drive on the spool itself)??
brand new item; they might if you ordered it... for right now, i'm pretty much set with my stick machine. most/all of what i'm arcing is outdoors and i just scored about 450# of rod for a very decent price. was viewing this item as a means by which to weld up some aluminum trailer frames without being locked into the small 1# spools