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Thoughts on a welder

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Well-known member
Jul 28, 2005
Chuck Jackson
Hey all,

I've grown in the the need for a welder. I've did some arc welding in high school (but not very well) and generaly have a good handle on material processing. I'm looking for recommendations on an easy to use welder that is a little forgiving for a novice welder but will work well as I improve. My welding needs range from sheet metal say <1/8" up to maybe 1/4 or 3/8 inch steel. 120 or 240 is not a concern. I looking for something that a welder that has easy set up and doesn't require too much stuff (gas and the like). Physical size and investment are also significant factors.
I've been "hobby" welding for about 40 years. I started with OA (Oxy-Acetelyne) and still think it gives the best starting experience if you are going to do all different types, as you learn to read what the metal is doing. Unfortunately, today it's too expensive to go into multiple types ( I've got O/A, MIG, TIG and a regular old AC power source for stick welding) and the best bet is a MIG with gas (not flux core)shielding. If you are going to go up to .375 in steel, it'll be a 220V unit, I'd look at a 250 amp. Don't underbuy - you'll end up wishing you'd bought the right size in the first place. If that's out of the question, get a DC stick welder and get a class on using it if possible (remember to keep your welding rods dry !!). Most welding suppliers are pretty good on helping novices - with the consumables, they want you happy so you'll come back to them. On brand, I'd really look at the Miller line - I don't have any now, but when I replace my TIG, I will.

KG Ide

Help me understand. I know what stick welding is. I think I now what OA welding is. Compare for me MIG and TIG. Are these wire feed? Now you mentioned welding up to .375" and it got me to thinking. I think that for my purposes .375 may be the thickest I might ocasionally weld. To make it a more practical representation for me, What are typical thicknesses for various uses? I hope that last question makes sense as to what I'm asking.
Sorry if I skipped a few definitions. TIG is Tungston Inert Gas more commonly known as Heliarc (TM) . It is not wire feed, and uses a "Torch" that has an electrode in the center of the tip, surrouded by a ceramic cup. A shielding gas, most commonly Argon or a CO2/Argon mix flows from the cup and shields the arc from the tip of the electrode to prevent rapid oxidation and contamination of the weld. You typically use uncoated welding rod with it and it's a lot like welding with an O/A (oxygen/acetylene)torch. It is not as forgiving of poor fit of the pieces to be welded, is slower and takes more time for setup. It also makes the prettiest welds with little or no cleanup. It is also what ya need if you are going to weld non-ferrous metals like aluminum.

MIG is actually known as GMAW (Gas Metal Arc Welding) and is what you know as wire feed. It's the "glue gun" of welding. Fast setup, fairly decent looking welds (depends on adjustments of the welder and how steady your hand is) and can be more forgiving of poor fit of parts. There are two basic types of MIG setups, one uses shielding gas, like TIG and the other uses a flux core wire, without the gas. The flux is a lot like the coating on the stick welding electrodes you used in High School and it required more cleanup - it tends to spatter quite a bit. The gas type requires a tank (like a welding tank), and a regulator/flow control. There are choices of gas, including straight CO2 (cheap, but leaves a dirtier weld and spatters more), but more often a 75%/25% Argon/CO2 mix, which leaves a clean weld, with good penetration.

There are a lot of good references on the net - Google "AWS" or just check this page out :

I don't do much of anything thicker than 1/4 inch plate for most of the stuff I fab - like motor mounts or some add on for the Cub or my Skag ZTR. I have recently been woking on some 3/8 plate for the "universal mounting bracket" I'm building for the back of the 129 and that took all 250 amps on my Linde TIG setup (very old equipment - early 70's, but still works good). Most everything I do now, I use my MIG, just because it's faster, but because I bought a smaller unit, 1/4 inch plate is pushing the limits . The hardest setup on the MIG welder is changing wire size for heavier or lighter projects and that only takes a few minutes to strip the old wire out,put the new wire and change the tip. Geez I rattle on - let me know if this helps.

(Message edited by kide on December 30, 2005)

Thanks for the info. Don't worry about "rattling on". For me the info is invaluable. I have heard that a wire feed (MIG) is the way to go. From everything you said it sounds as though you have confirmed that for me. Given that space is a commodity for me and that I am likely only to weld steel I see the advantage of a MIG. I think as well that 3/8 is the heaviest I would weld. I probably sell myself a little short as I think about it and think about things I have done in the past without the "preferred" tool for the job but I have maxed out those abilities for my projects and arrived at a need not a an option for welding.
Chuck- gas or gasless mig will do nicely for a small-space budget- if you did some arc in high-school, you'll adapt to MIG alright.

As for welding thick, keep in mind that for those occasions where you need deep-holding-power, you can always fit up the parts and tack-weld them in place with a small welder, and then take the assembly to a friend's house to dig it in deep. MIGs are really handy for tackin' things together when you're fitting it all up.
When you say the MIG will do nicely for a that is encouraging. And adapting from arc is a plus. When you say welding thick, what thickness are you talking about. I've done a lot of thinking about what I might be welding and I'm pretty sure that 1/4" is likely to be the thickest. Will a MIG successfully handle this?

I doubt I'd ever get near 3/8 or more. In the event that I do however, couldn't I chamfer the edge to be welded and make multiple passes?

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