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Thread: Wannabe Welder

  1. #1
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    Wannabe Welder

    I want to get a inexpensive welder on Marketplace or Harbor Freight. I am totally overwhelmed by the choices: MIG, TIG, Stick, etc.. gas - no gas.

    I just want to learn to weld some frames or simple repairs. Where does a hobbyist get metal, aluminum that one can get for a reasonable price and not require a forklift?
    Rich

    "If everyone is thinking alike, someone isn't thinking."
    - General George Patton Jr

  2. #2
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    Tractor Supply, Ace Hardware, Lowes, Home Depot, eBay, etc..

    Don’t expect to be able to weld aluminum either cheaply or to start with.

  3. #3
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    Stick may be the cheapest to get into but it is difficult to weld thin pieces say under a 1/16 thick but it can be done with the right rods and developed skill. Not good for aluminum.
    MIG flux-core wire welders are popular and they can lay down a nice looking bead with lousy penetration that will fall apart easily. With skill they do work. I believe that you should get a 220V model, the others are too light. Proper penetration is a prime parameter of a good weld!
    The IG stands for Inert Gas and with a gas layer covering the work you can get better welds and can weld aluminum but having gas is not cheap.
    TIG, which is Tungsten Inert Gas is considered the top-tier. You can weld anything with it, given the appropriate skill. One of the benchmarks of being a good TIG welder is to cut an aluminum soda can in half and weld the very thin aluminum back together.
    When I was trying to learn to stick weld I got cut-offs from metal fabrication places and just scrounged scrap wherever I could find it.
    You might try to find a welding forum, you aren't the first person to wonder.

  4. #4
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    Take a night class at JC.
    Stick must be dc for beginners.
    Many wire feed welder guys do not understand penetration and the welds look great but fail.
    I would not bother with gas unless you get good.
    Bill D

  5. #5
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    Get a MIG machine. You can run flux core wire (no gas) or you can run solid wire w/ gas if you want later. MIG is super fast and pretty clean so it's hard to beat from a "I don't really care about show welds, but I want to make this structural project today" standpoint.

    Stick makes a lot of splatter. Mig can be very clean (with gas). TIG machines can do both TIG and stick (have to use different leads). I like to TIG things when I'm trying to get better at welding on projects that aren't necessary, but just for fun. I think from that perspective it's hard to beat TIG. It's the most involved and enjoyable laid back version of welding (excepting maybe Oxy Acetylene welding).


    Structural steel is everywhere. Just google steel supplier. Weldable aluminum is harder to find. Steel that isn't plain A36 / 1030 / etc is harder to find, but doubt you'll need anything else anyway. As far as going to the steel place, they are quite used to cutting the "sticks" of material in half for you to load in your pickup. A normal stick of material (tubing, pipe, angle iron, etc) total length will depend on your supplier and shape, but tend to fall between 20 ft to 24 ft long. So you'll either have to come with a trailer or have them cut the pieces in half. All the places I've bought from will also cut to various lengths, but will have a fee per cut. Nothing outrageous. Cutting steel is a thing in itself and requires investment.

    I don't own a forklift and I've bought many many a load of steel. Each stick only weighs so much.



    If you really want to go old school and have fun with it, get some oxy acetylene torches and you can weld and braze with a pretty simple set up. I've done that before and it's pretty fun AND you get to weld and braze with no electricity! Silent work (in my opinion) is always fun and pleasurable.
    Last edited by andrew whicker; 11-05-2023 at 12:51 PM.
    Yes, I have 3 phase!

  6. #6
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    I started off with a stick to learn on. I had about a week of being taught while in middle school shop class but it wasn't until I got a basic Sears AC welder. I wasn't that good but could repair stuff. Years later Costco had a 100a flux core Lincoln welder I bought (impulse buy) which was a lot easier. Anyone who says flux core doesn't penetrate or is weak doesn't know how to weld. Flux core penetrates very well. Where people screw up is they get a small flux core welder and think they can weld 1/2" thick steel with one pass.

    Forget about aluminum unless you are willing to go from inexpensive to expensive. Stick with welding steel. I don't have one but have read people who bought their welders and love them. I have a plasma cutter from a company called Everlast that has worked well for the last 10+ years for me. If you don't mind spending a few extra dollars my advice is to get a MIG (gas) welder that has the ability to also stick weld. I would go with something around 200a at a duty cycle of 25% near it's maximum output. Duty cycle is how long you can weld for vs the total time the welder is turned on. For example a 25% duty cycle means you can weld for 25% of the time while 75% of the time the welder needs to cool down. I would also get a new inverter welder over a used transformer model just because of the weight differences.

    If you want to go cheap you should be able to find a used Lincoln "tombstone" stick welder. The basic ones are AC only but are bullet proof and millions of welders learned on them. Just make sure you buy the correct welding rods as some are DC only.

  7. #7
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    Years ago a gas welding / brazing setup made sense but today the cost of gases and the hazmat fees do not make it cost effective. TIG takes a lot of skill and practice not for a beginner unless you want to take a class. I have a TIG setup I don’t use.

    A good DC stick welder is great for anyone to learn on and have.

    I have a Primeweld 180 that does stick, MIG or no gas flux core, aluminum with the included spool gun with required Argon gas. I use C25 mix gas when I MIG weld. I can also Use on either 230 or 115 volts.

    Nothing wrong with starting out with Flux core and the going to gas MIG when and If you want. You get proper penetration by setting it correctly, more amps. If you have 230 in your shop, get a 230 V welder.

    I have been welding off and on for over 65 years, and built and welded up many projects since my days growing up on the farm.
    Last edited by Bill George; 11-05-2023 at 2:07 PM.
    Retired Guy- Central Iowa.HVAC/R , Cloudray Galvo Fiber , -Windows 10

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alex Zeller View Post
    ….….….
    …..Anyone who says flux core doesn't penetrate or is weak doesn't know how to weld. Flux core penetrates very well. Where people screw up is they get a small flux core welder and think they can weld 1/2" thick steel with one pass….
    Alex said a lot, but I think this needs more attention.

    There is a learning curve. Temperature, amps, speed, angle, wire/rod size, gas/coatings, material, thickness… just some of the variables that will affect a weld. For some welds -who cares?? But, I had a newbie welder friend that bought a welder and fabbed his own utility trailer. He was so proud, till a weld failed as he was pulling it down the road. With one side of the trailer digging into the gravel road it pulled him into the ditch. No injuries, but it could have.

    We weld with steel because we expect to put it under a lot of stress. Your welds need to be as strong or stronger than the rest of the structure. One bad thing about mig is they come out looking pretty after little practice. But that prettiness can hide some pretty bad defects.
    Consider taking a class at a community education center. You will have an experienced welder/teacher to evaluate your work to help you get better.

    Until you get good, stay away from any critical projects; and you may not realize a weld was critical until it is too late (personal story: when I was about 12 or 13 my dad was tasked with welding some black pipe into coat racks for our church. He let me weld a couple times. I thought I did well. A year later a kid was hanging on one and it broke. He slid down the pipe and the sharp metal from the broken weld put a nice cut on his head. Before the days of instant litigation or it could have been bad for the church and my family.)
    Comments made here are my own and, according to my children, do not reflect the opinions of any other person... anywhere, anytime.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Dufour View Post
    Take a night class at JC.
    Stick must be dc for beginners.
    Many wire feed welder guys do not understand penetration and the welds look great but fail.
    I would not bother with gas unless you get good.
    Bill D
    +1 on the welding class at the local JC.
    I did that.... I don't weld and so don't own any welding equipment, but I'm glad I took the class.
    "What you see and what you hear depends a great deal on where you are standing.
    It also depends on what sort of person you are.”

  10. #10
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    I took a weekend welding class at the Marc Adams school. It was a ton of fun and I learned a lot, but also learned that at least for now if it's not art (eg it needs to stay together) then hiring a competent welder is still the way to go. There's a lot to learn. A serious night course at the local tech school is almost certainly the way to go, then practice. practice, practice. Our instructor was of the opinion that beginners should not fool around with stick welding, just too hard to get decent results. We didn't try it in the class, just mig, tig and gas. I found, surprisingly to me, that I did best with old fashioned oxyacetylene gas welding--keeping in mind that we were doing only a few hours of each type. Brazing with the same setup seemed to be very useful. The ability to cut most anything was also very attractive.

  11. #11
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    Rich, I also plan on getting a welder and learning to do the craft, largely for just personal enrichment, so I thank you for posting your question.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  12. #12
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    With stick welding if it looks like Crap its a crappy weld. If you learn to weld with stick and DC is better, learn to Bend test your practice welds and learn about penetration. There is a reason why pipeline and pressure vessel welding is either Stick or TIG. Read some books, watch some videos, take a class and Practice, practice, practice its a Skill treat it that way.
    Retired Guy- Central Iowa.HVAC/R , Cloudray Galvo Fiber , -Windows 10

  13. #13
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    Flux core is my least favorite process. If I could only have one process, I would begrudgingly chose a wire welder with flux core wire. Don't get a cheap-o. The duty cycle is so short they are almost useless.
    Best Regards, Maurice

  14. #14
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    I also took the Marc Adams class and found it very helpful as a starting point. My needs are for light repair work on lawn/garden equipment and perhaps some light fabrication. As for equipment, here's the route I took. I bought a multi-process welder, 120/240. For now I am only doing flux core MIG. Everything needed for that (except the wire and safety gear) came with the welder. When I get better and feel the need, I can add a gas bottle and do gas MIG; the welder supports it. The regulator and hose for that came with the welder; obviously the gas bottle did not. Should I progress to the point where I want to weld aluminum, I can add a spool gun and another gas bottle; the welder supports it. And if I want to jump into DC TIG, I can add a foot pedal and TIG gun and another gas bottle. Again, the welder supports it.

    I may never need or want to progress past Flux core or MIG. If I don't, I overspent on the welder. But if I do, the incremental cost for each step is pretty reasonable, compared to buying another welder.
    --I had my patience tested. I'm negative--

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maurice Mcmurry View Post
    Flux core is my least favorite process. If I could only have one process, I would begrudgingly chose a wire welder with flux core wire. Don't get a cheap-o. The duty cycle is so short they are almost useless.
    Duty cycle? Buy a more expensive welder and you will get a longer Duty Cycle which rarely concerns the Hobby welder anyway. Hobart, Miller or Lincoln make decent welders but buy one that can do flux core and Then be switched to gas when you decide you want a decent looking weld. 30 to 60 percent duty cycle is good enough for most people, even 20% would be fine.
    Retired Guy- Central Iowa.HVAC/R , Cloudray Galvo Fiber , -Windows 10

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