Help me choose a welder
  Re: (...)
I'd like to get into the welding game, but I have no idea what I should get as far as a first welder. Intended use is hobby/garage/home improvement. The first project would be part of a CNC build. I'd like to have the ability to incorporate metal into my furniture projects as well.

I don't know much about welding aluminum, but I'd like to have that capability. As far as type of welder, based on my limited knowledge MIG makes the most sense I think? I do have 220v available but not sure if I need a 220v welder.

Currently looking at the Lincoln 2185 Handy MIG for about $350, but would appreciate any advice or thoughts for a newb. I have picked up a welding book or two.
  Re: Help me choose a welder by live4ever (I'd like to get into...)
I am just barely above a newbie in the welding department. All I own is an old Lincoln AC "tombstone" Stick Welder. I have used others MIG machines and they are VERY nice. Make a new guy look good usually.
Lately I have been dreaming of a Lincoln Multi-Process machine. You can do Stick, MIG and TIG with one machine. They run about a grand. So it will be a dream for awhile yet...
Mark Singleton

Bene vivendo est optimum vindictae
  Re: Re: Help me choose a welder by MarkSingleton ( I am just barely ab...)
I have an old 1980's Monkey Wards 230 amp stick welder that still works well and I use it on larger material, but I fell in love with gas mig welding when I got my first one years ago. It took a while to get used to it, but once I got the hang of it, I always reach for it first. You can do aluminum with it- they have high nickle rods just for that purpose though I haven't tried it yet.

I ended up with a HTP mig welder because someone had it for sale on a job. It has performed flawlessly after hundreds of feet of wire. I appreciate that it is made in Italy as I am told. I highly recommend them, however my next choice might be a Miller. My last choice would be a Lincoln from HD' or any box store- those are made exclusively for them, thus the "HD" in the model number- very cheaply made. Buy from a dealer if you can.

I would suggest a few video instructions- it helped me convert to mig welding.

You would probably do fine with a 140 amp migger. Argon gas is my preferred gas or 50/50 argon and CO.
"There are no strangers- only friends I haven't met.
  Re: Help me choose a welder by live4ever (I'd like to get into...)
Hobart Handler 140 is a nice 110 volt mig.
I long for the days when Coke was a soft drink, and Black and Decker was a quality tool.
Happiness is a snipe free planer
  Re: Help me choose a welder by live4ever (I'd like to get into...)
I used a pro-grade brand of Mig welder years ago for automotive work. The Mig we had was a 110v unit and it performed really poorly on welding thicker steel. We acquired it from our former body shop where I believe they previously used it for sheet metal work. After that experience I would look for a 220v model that could handle steel over 1/8" thickness. My brother's hobby is ornamental iron. He uses a 220v welder exclusively. It was nice when we were able to work together on projects with our different talents but unfortunately he relocated out of state.
Any free advice given is worth double price paid.
  Re: Help me choose a welder by live4ever (I'd like to get into...)
The 110 mig welders are going to limit you to pretty thin stuff. Also the flux core wire (the 110 machines tend to not allow for the use of shielding gas out of the box) make for some ugly welds. If you think you will be making structural welds (building a trailer, etc, etc) suggest you step up to 220. Stick welders are the cheapest way to get into the game, you can pick them up used all day long, but the downside is they don't weld thin stuff very easily, takes a lot of practice. If you don't see sheet metal welding much in your future Suggest you get a cheap stick, learn to weld with that, and if you like it and are proficient suggest you then step up to a 220 mig with shielding gas. One thing to keep in mind with Migs and shielding gas, welding out in the wind doesn't work so well.

Another thing that might help before you buy is look around and find a place to take lessons. Sometimes trade type schools offer do it yourself type classes, and there may be other places that offer lessons. Get your feet wet first and play with someone elses machines and it will make it much easier to make a decision.
  Re: Re: Help me choose a welder by mad_planter (The 110 mig welders ...)
I inherited a 220V Craftsman stick welder. I am not an expert at welding. I jumped in not knowing what to do and tried sticking a couple pieces of metal together. They looked like crap. I then took an evening welding course and learned all the things I did wrong. What ever you get I strongly encourage talking an intro welding class. They did have a MIG we got to try and yes those welds looked nicer than my stick welds.
  Re: Help me choose a welder by live4ever (I'd like to get into...)
I am not a highly experienced welder, but I have used a stick, a MIG, and a TIG unit. I'm terrible with a stick welder, but I blame it on the days before they had auto darkening helmets. What every you buy, make sure you buy an auto darkening helmet. I can't stress enough how much easier it is when you can see what you are doing before you pull the trigger.

I learned to TIG in the lab I worked in. A TIG unit can do anything you would ever want to do and the weld quality is hard to match with the other units. We had Lincoln AC/DC TIG and Stick with variable power foot control. That is the bomb. We also had a little Lincoln 110V inverter TIG and Stick unit, no bigger than a lunch pail and it was surprisingly capable. Being able to take it wherever needed was really nice. Of course, you still had to drag the Ar bottle with it unless you were using the stick unit. The great feature of TIG is that you can add metal to the weld when needed, but often you don't need to. That allows you to produce welds with those beautiful filets you see, and also flat butt welds which are nearly impossible with a stick or MIG unit unless you first grind bevels on the parts and then grind the finished weld. The variable power feature allows you to adjust the power as you are welding to fine tune the weld. This is particularly helpful as you near the end of a weld. Too much power there and you blow a hole through one or both pieces.

When I retired I bought a MIG unit because it's cheaper than a TIG unit. I miss not having a TIG unit, but the MIG does what I want. I can't make those beautiful welds I used to with the TIG though. The problem with MIG is the metal wire is always feeding, whether you need to add metal or not. The other problem is you can't adjust things on the fly. You pick a power setting and you pick a wire speed and you get what you get. If it's not the right combination for what you are welding you have to change one or the other, or both, and try again. With the TIG unit you just increase or decrease power with the foot unit and add metal or not, as you choose.

As said, if your budge is really small, an old Lincoln stick welder is cheap to come buy and works OK for structural work. You aren't going to weld a pop can back together with one, that's for sure. If your budget is a little higher, say in the $600 range, a modest 220V MIG with gas bottle will work fine. And if you want to do high quality welding w/o having to do a lot of grinding afterwards, a TIG is the best option. Aluminum is much harder to weld than steel. If that's on your priority list, definitely go get instruction, and make sure what you buy can handle the polarity and power required to weld it. Being able to weld is a great skill to have. Good luck.

  Re: Help me choose a welder by live4ever (I'd like to get into...)
Great thoughts so far, thanks, please keep 'em coming.

I'm pretty sure I want to aim for MIG. I imagine to start with I'll probably just use flux core until I locate a source for gas. Most of the initial projects won't be structural (to the extent it's a safety issue) and they won't need to be pretty. Knowing myself though, I will probably want to jump to "advanced techniques" sooner rather than later, and so therefore TIG welding will probably be on my wishlist soon after I get into this. It's the age old question of buy-once-cry-once vs. get-in-the-game earlier and then upgrade.

Budget-wise, it's easy for me to "incognito" a 300-$400 welder from LML, but getting beyond that and into the multi-process machines means I'll have to hold off for a while. The little 70amp Lincoln gets great reviews, but for a bit more the Handler 140 seems more capable.

Roger on the auto-darkening helmet.

Will definitely see if there are some welding classes around.
  Re: Re: Help me choose a welder by live4ever (Great thoughts so fa...)
You should be able to buy a small gas tank from any local welding services supplier. You really want to use gas with your MIG if you want to make good looking welds. Flux core is OK when you have to weld outdoors and the wind is blowing, but if you can weld in your garage or some other structure, protected from the wind, gas will allow you to get much better welds, much easier. I know money is always an issue, but if you want to weld 1/4" or thicker steel you really want a 220V unit. For thinner stuff a 110V one is OK. I'm basically cheap, so I kept my eyes on Craigslist and found a nearly new 220V, 180 amp MIG unit with stand and tank, 50 foot extension, and helmet for $550.


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