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Author Topic: Are cheap MIG welders any good?  (Read 10021 times)
belfert
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« on: June 06, 2006, 05:11:58 AM »

My friend can weld, but he has no welder.  I'm thinking that buying an inexpensive used MIG welder would be better than hiring a welder.  I can always resell the welder when done.

Are any of the cheap 110 volt MIG welders any good?  Campbell-Hausfeld has some really inexpensive models.  I really don't want to spend the money on a big 220 volt model unless I can be reasonably assured of selling it again for most of the my money back.

I am only looking at welding in some pieces of 3/16" thick steel tube so I can cover over windows and have something to rivet into.

Brian Elfert
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Ross
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« Reply #1 on: June 06, 2006, 05:44:08 AM »

I used to sell CH welders.  They are garbage.  Only really any good for sheet metal work and then they won't do a real decent job.  Lincoln, Hobart and miller make a good 110V rig that will do 3/16.  I sold my Hobart when I bought a 220V, 180A Thermal Dynamics and I regret it.  The small hobart was much more portable.  I did all the framing for reskinning on the bus with it.
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gumpy
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« Reply #2 on: June 06, 2006, 05:52:29 AM »

Personally, I wouldn't buy a cheap CH or other brand, and wouldn't waste my money unless it is gas capable. If I were looking for a 110v unit, I'd look at the Millermatic 135.  

And, I wouldn't sell it after I was done with my bus, but if you decide to go the Millermatic 135 route and still want to sell it, let me know. I wouldn't mind having a smaller, more portable 110v unit.

craig
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Craig Shepard
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Dallas
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« Reply #3 on: June 06, 2006, 06:01:37 AM »

Brian,
I bought one of the cheap CH migs that was gas capable. What a waste of money.
By the time I was working on the 4th roll of wire I had to change the liner, which caused it's own problems as CH uses a smaller liner than anyone else. I ended up buying the smallest Tweco liner I could find then force it into the hose. After that I tried welding some aluminum and found that the gas tube was perforated all along it's length.

My advise? Like Gumpy says, buy the Millermatic 135.
You'll also find that once you learn to use a welder, you'll never want to get rid of it. It just makes life a lot easier.
Welding is also not hard to learn, watch your friend, talk to some guys that can weld, try the gun yourself and practise, practise, practise.
soon you'll be welding like a pro.

Even with my crappy CH 90amp, I use it a lot.

Dallas
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Casper4104
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« Reply #4 on: June 06, 2006, 06:03:21 AM »

Hey Brian,

I've used a few of these little guys, and in my experience there are a few issues.  (Note: this goes back a few years - the newest/biggest/bestest might be different).

1:  Duty cycle.  Some of these little fellers only have a 25% duty cycle, meaning that you can burn at max amps for maybe 5 minutes, then you need to let the little guy cool off for 15 minutes or so before you can go again.  A little red light on the front of the unit comes on and she just quits workin' until it's cooled off enough to run again.  Maybe not such a big problem - just gives you time to cut, fit, set up your next weld.

2: Flux core only.  Often there is a "gas kit" that will let you add a purge gas (usually Nitrogen or Argon) available at additional cost.  The basic machine will only run the Flux core wire.  This is not necessarily a bad thing.  Flux core is a little hot, and a little smoky and a little expensive - but with practice you can do nice work with it.  The only downside is the possibility of "slag inclusion" (getting the flux down inside the weld), which you can learn to not do with some practice.  This is not such an issue with a true Metal-Inert-Gas (MIG) process since there is no solid flux.

There is an old saying about making a skillful welder.  Take a man of some intelligence, give him a little training, then chain him to a bench and make him weld-weld-weld until he's sick of it, and then make him weld some more.  I believe there's some truth to that.  I'd say that if you buy the little "suitcase welder" and some extra tubing and make the kids a swingset and mama a picnic table, you should get your hands trained and be ready to do some nice work on your bus.

Also - check in with the experts on this board.  It think that sexy new bus of yours has some brains installed that might not like you striking an arc on them.  Isn't there some stuff you need to unhook or isolate?

BTW – Ross, Gumpy and Dallas are right.  CH is the Yugo of welding machines.  Lincoln/Hobart/Miller are much much better machines and well worth the price diff.  The resale will be a lot higher too.  There’s always a market for quality equipment, while a used CH welder would probably be worth more if you gutted the box and sold it as a really ugly briefcase.

FWIW -YMMV - Good luck.

Casper4104
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belfert
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« Reply #5 on: June 06, 2006, 06:12:09 AM »

Also - check in with the experts on this board.  It think that sexy new bus of yours has some brains installed that might not like you striking an arc on them.  Isn't there some stuff you need to unhook or isolate?

There are big warnings in the engine compartment to unhook the Vanner and pull the ECM fuses for engine and tranny before doing any welding.  I will certainly do so as I don't need to replace a $2k ECM.

Brian Elfert
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Ross
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« Reply #6 on: June 06, 2006, 06:20:37 AM »

Also - check in with the experts on this board.  It think that sexy new bus of yours has some brains installed that might not like you striking an arc on them.  Isn't there some stuff you need to unhook or isolate?

There are big warnings in the engine compartment to unhook the Vanner and pull the ECM fuses for engine and tranny before doing any welding.  I will certainly do so as I don't need to replace a $2k ECM.

Brian Elfert

Poor grounding is usually what causes electronics to pop.  If the welder is not grounded to the work properly, current will take the shortest path to ground and if that happens to be through your wiring, it can take out the computer.  Always disconnect what you can, but also ground the welder as close to your work as you can.  IE: If you're welding a trailer hitch, ground to the hitch you are working on, not the front bumper (I know, I'm exaggerating, but you get the idea). 
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belfert
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« Reply #7 on: June 06, 2006, 06:23:22 AM »

Okay, I won't buy one of the cheap 110 volt welders.  The only reason I was looking at 110 volt is to save money, not because I can't do 220 volt.  The downside to 220 volt is the welder is less portable.

I did some more research and it looks like by the time I get a welder, gas cylinder, and protective gear I would be better off just hiring the work out even if I sell the welder when done.  I'm guessing $200 to get the work done, but I haven't actually taken the bus over to the welding shop for an estimate yet.

Who makes welders for Matco tools?

Brian Elfert
« Last Edit: June 06, 2006, 06:32:36 AM by belfert » Logged
coachcrazy
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« Reply #8 on: June 06, 2006, 06:33:56 AM »

you can always rent a 220 unit from a rent all store.  i cant bring home units from work, not because they are too big just management are (insert discriptive here).  So i have from time to time rented a unit.
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DavidInWilmNC
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« Reply #9 on: June 06, 2006, 07:31:01 AM »

I had never welded before and a friend tried to teach me to weld.  He has an older Craftsman.  I couldn't get it to weld.  All I got were little balls of molten metal everywhere no matter what I tried.  I bought a Miller 175 (220 volt model) for around $650.  I took it home, set it up, and welded.  I  moved aside and let a friend try it; he did fine too.  I let another friend give it a shot, and she had a blast... and got a decent bead, too.  The point is the other welders may work, but seemed to be much harder to use.  In my case, so much harder that I couldn't accomplish anything until I got the Miller.  Millers also have infinitely adjustable voltage and wire speed, which makes it a bit easier to tweak.  I'd go ahead and buy a decent welder; I can't imagine owning and working on a bus without it.  There's just too much metal involved to not have a welder, in my opinion.  Another handy tool is a plasma cutter.  The same friend loaned me his and it's great.  It's been a life saver for cutting the aluminum skin for the windows, making the frames, and anything else involving cutting metal.  Good luck.

David
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« Reply #10 on: June 06, 2006, 07:37:00 AM »

I've got a litttle hobart "Handler" and for lightweight stuff it's not bad.  But I also have a Miller 250 (220 volt) and the difference is quite clear.  The Miller will do 1/4" plate with very good success.... the hobart will do thick sheetmetal well but that's about all.  Plus stability, smoothness and weld bead are all much better with the Miller...
My shopmate has a Miller 400 and for anything over 3/16 it kicks the bottom off the little miller. The difference in weld quality is amazing.
So I'd say get a REAL good welder if you can afford it.. Lots of tools are great from Harbor freight but you shouldn't skimp on your welder.
FWIW
Gary
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gumpy
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« Reply #11 on: June 06, 2006, 07:40:42 AM »

Brian,

The Millermatic 135 is a 110v unit... just not a cheap one. As pointed out, it's duty cycle is pretty low, but for your needs, it would be fine.
The big advantage is the portability. You can pick it up and carry it into the bus. Yes, adding gas costs a bit more. The smallest bottle is around $110 at Toll, and another $25 or so to fill. You can buy a bottle through Harbor Freight for less money and put it in Toll's system, and pay an inspection fee every 5 years or so.

I believe the Millermatic 135 comes gas ready, with regulator and hose. All you have to add is the gas.

craig
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Craig Shepard
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kyle4501
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« Reply #12 on: June 06, 2006, 09:45:02 AM »

A good welding machine is the best & most fun tool you can buy.

If you doubt your welding ability, don't. Buy a good MIG welder, & practice welding. You can go to local manufacturing places & usually get free  (or really cheap) metal to practice on. My Miller came with a video that made welding so easy to learn. I started on 1/4" thick to learn the puddle. Then I went to thinner stuff to learn how to control the heat & not blow large holes as often.

Welding allows so much more creativity in making things. It will allow you a little more independence too.

The welders at work told me that a Miller has the smoothest arc, but Lincoln & hobart are very good too. Mine is a Millermatic 172 & the only time I exceeded the duty cycle, the welder was in direct sunlight, it was 100 F & the welder was on max. I love my Miller Grin

You should talk to the local welder supply place, maybe they will have an off lease unit or know where to get an older unit.

I have heard that there are new inverter welders that are a fraction of the size & weight of the old copper wound units so they are really portable, but they are very pricey.

Before you buy a 'cheap' welder, see if it is repairable. A neighbor bought a lincoln from Home Depot, 2 years later, it died & he was told that since it was a 'homeowner' model, it was not designed to be repaired & it would cost more to fix than a new one.

Good luck
kyle4501
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FloridaCliff
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« Reply #13 on: June 06, 2006, 10:46:01 AM »

All good points above.

Just remember you can always use a 220v welder to do a small job, but you can't use the smaller 110v welder to do the big job.

Once you have a decent welder you will be amazed at how much you can fabricate, and how fun it is. Grin

A couple of projects, slides, battery trays etc...and the saved labor has paid for the unit.

Best of Luck

Cliff
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Ace
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« Reply #14 on: June 06, 2006, 11:11:36 AM »

All good points above.

Just remember you can always use a 220v welder to do a small job, but you can't use the smaller 110v welder to do the big job.



Cliff I hate to go against your thoughts here bud but I have a Miller Maxstar that runs on 110 OR 220 and to tell you the truth, when on 110 it welds damn nice using stick or rod. I also have a Lincoln mig welder that runs off 110 and uses gas or no gas and so far, using it with no gas has been very impressive as well on large metal jobs such as my frame for my generator. I used the Miller for making my tanks and hangers. I also used the lincoln for building my corn cooker and making many changes to my corn kettle all that consisted of using 1/4 inch steel. I say you can weld HD steel with te cheap 110 welders pretty darn good! Granted I paid 1100 bucks for the Miller and 200 for the linconl mig but that's a pretty cheap price to pay IMHO! Smiley

Ace
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