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Technical Do I Need a New Welder...

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by countrysquire, Jul 5, 2015.

  1. countrysquire
    Joined: Oct 9, 2007
    Posts: 162


    or do I just want one? Here's my situation: I know that I will need one from time to time for patch panels and the like, but the need for other uses does come up now and again. My welding skills are not really good enough to call them 'skills', but I'm now to the point that I'm ready to make a serious effort to develop those skills. Currently I have a Harbor Freight Dual Mig 151, which is their 'better' model, 240 volt powered and uses the 75/25 gas. I don't seem to get consistent penetration with it, but don't know if it's the welder or 'weldor'. Some say that this is a decent machine, others say that it is useless, but I suspect many who say that it's shit have never actually used one and are making an assumption (that may very well be true). I also have an oxy/acetylene rig that I've used for heating and cutting, but have never tried to weld sheet metal with it.

    I've read some great threads here and learned a lot about the different preferences of mig, tig, and gas welding sheet metal, and I'm not trying to get that argument stirred up. My goal is to have something that works well and will allow me to learn, and will lat me a long time because I don't want to buy this stuff again. That said, I cannot ever see myself doing a ton of welding, so I can't justify spending a lot of money on it.

    So here are the options that I'm looking at:

    1. Keep what I have and learn to gas weld sheet metal and learn to use the HF mig.

    2. Buy a new Miller 211 mig (which currently has a hell of a promotion on it, including a free spool gun) and use it for everything. I could still learn gas welding at some point.

    3. Buy a tig and learn to use that. If I go this route, I think that I would want an inverter type for mobility in my very crowded garage, plus I understand the transformer types require more juice that the 40 amp plugs in my garage. I could overcome this, but prefer not to.

    Anyway, thanks for reading this far through my rambling post. Any advice is appreciated.
  2. rcnut223
    Joined: Oct 12, 2006
    Posts: 1,270

    from wisconsin

    Check the electrical supply , is the wiring heavy enough to weld with ?
    Are you using an extension cord ?

    I liked the 212 miller , and I own one as well as a 125 Lincoln

    You don't need tig for what you do

    Posted using the Full Custom H.A.M.B. App!
    Hnstray likes this.
  3. tubman
    Joined: May 16, 2007
    Posts: 6,244


    I'm sure this won't help and I hate to post it, but I bought an Everlast 140 AMP stick welder. It is made in China, but uses a new technology called "inverter" that is completely different than the old transformers. I have had a chance to use it, and it is unbelievable. I have found that with 3/32" electrodes at a 40 AMP setting, it does a much better job of "tacking" sheet metal than my 220 Hobart MIG with a gas bottle. It also seems to be able to run larger electrodes at about half the amperage settings of my old Miller 225 stick welder. I am totally in love with this thing.

    As I said, sorry to be throwing bombs!
  4. Dick Stevens
    Joined: Aug 7, 2012
    Posts: 3,443

    Dick Stevens

    I'm not familiar with the HF welder, but there is no doubt that the Miller would be a vast improvement over the HF welder. MIG is easier to learn to use than TIG and both are better IMO than gas welding sheet metal and more versatile also.
    Hnstray likes this.

  5. saltflats
    Joined: Aug 14, 2007
    Posts: 11,482

    from Missouri

    Does your welding supply store have a demo model you could try
  6. countrysquire
    Joined: Oct 9, 2007
    Posts: 162


    Does your welding supply store have a demo model you could try?

    Not sure, but I plan on paying them a visit whenever I get off this damned graveyard shift.
  7. mgtstumpy
    Joined: Jul 20, 2006
    Posts: 9,200


    Don't want to dissuade you or criticise your idea but do you know anyone that can weld? Have them come over and test the HF with a few different thickness metals, it could be something like the settings; wire speed, gas flow/pressure and/or amperage or just technique? Rather than throw good $$ at something you may not really need now and into the future. In saying that, a course could give you the prerequisite skills and theory to take on those jobs and retain the HF.
  8. mcmopar
    Joined: Nov 12, 2012
    Posts: 1,711

    from Strum, wi

    I have miller matic 175, and had it for 15 years, used it for everything. I bought a miller 180 tig welder and never use my mig now. You can weld any metal with the tig. I still need the mig for spot welds some times.
  9. patmanta
    Joined: May 10, 2011
    Posts: 3,833

    from Woburn, MA

    If it were me and I had my welder purchases to do over again, I'd get the Miller 211. TIG is nice, but it takes a lot of time and skill. Not to say that MIG doesn't, but a MIG doesn't take both hands and a foot to run a bead.
  10. Mercuryv8
    Joined: Apr 26, 2013
    Posts: 17


    Check the polarity setting on your MIG welder, it should have an easy time with sheet metal. MIG welding requires DC electrode positive, or reverse polarity. The polarity connections are usually found on the inside of the machine. Also check ground connection make sure its good.

    Forget gas welding sheet for autobody work even your HF welder is way ahead of that.

    A MIG that works for you will probably serve you better than TIG

    Last edited: Jul 6, 2015
  11. pitman
    Joined: May 14, 2006
    Posts: 5,151


    First tool I go for, my faithful Victor torch. :)
    Revives many an olde Ford fender. Cowl. Sail. Quarter.
  12. Inconsistent penetration can be a sign of poor welding skills but it may also be a sign of a welding machine that is just not up to par.

    A Harbor freight machine is an of brand, and in a machine welder even more than a stick welder if you have even a momentary glitch you are going to notice things like bad penetration or skipped spots in a weld. That is not to say that it isn't operator error, but if you combine the two you are setting yourself up for disaster.

    Like pitman I like to gas weld as much as mig weld. When I was learning to weld I learned to gas weld first then stick and mig and tig.

    Oh and yes if you are going to play cars you need a welder.
  13. hooliganshotrods
    Joined: Dec 2, 2010
    Posts: 620


    Here's my 2 cents. I don't think you necessarily need a new welder, MIG welding is not as easy as pull the trigger and go like most think. Penetration is a direct effect attributed to a number of things, those being:
    1- torch angle
    2- travel speed
    3- inclination (forehand or backhand)
    4- shielding gas (CO2), C25 (75% Argon,25% CO2) etc.
    5- electrode stickout
    6- thickness of material
    7- wire diameter
    8- WFS (amps) and voltage
    9- polarity (DCEN,DCEP)

    It is crucial to remember that when mig welding with a solid wire (er-70s-6 as an example) the mode of metal transfer is short circuiting, meaning that the arc actually goes out and re-ignites, hence all the sparks. This happens upwards 200 times a second. So the biggest risk in mig welding is lack of fusion (cold lap) This happens because as the wire short circuits it begins to freeze the puddle and if the wire is not ALWAYS on the leading edge of the puddle (the front) then you run a real big risk of this happening.

    I'd suggest taking a night class at a community college or have a pro welder come by and show you a few things.
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2015
    volvobrynk likes this.
  14. Heavy Flat Head
    Joined: Jan 16, 2007
    Posts: 30

    Heavy Flat Head

    Not to get into what machine to use, but I used this mod on mine and it made a world of difference.
    Hope this can help you. If this link does not work go to google and look up mod for hf welder. Some people say it can work for the little machine but I have my doubts on that one.
  15. aaggie
    Joined: Nov 21, 2009
    Posts: 2,531


    You say that you don't really weld that much but I will tell you from experience that the better you get the more you will use the skill. I learned to gas weld when I was about ten years old and over the years I have learned stick, MIG and TIG and I use them all. If I had to pick just one it would be MIG.
    Log on to and watch some of Jody's videos. He has an archive with hundreds of how tos and it's free.
  16. redo32
    Joined: Jul 16, 2008
    Posts: 1,999


    Hey CountrySquire, You gotta learn to crawl before you walk. Walk before you run. Get the oxy-acetylene rig out & practice. It will teach you the hand/eye co-ordination and the understanding of what the molten puddle is doing that will make other welding machines easier to master. Then you pick up a hammer & dolly and practice hammer welding to correct the distortion and hammer the weld flat. Lots less grinding this way. If you get enthused about your new skills and your a tool junkie, you will buy a tig. If you're an instant gratification guy you will probably mig it. When I was your age my welding got a little shaky. Check your eyesight & get a magnifier for your hood.
    pitman likes this.
  17. Deuce Daddy Don
    Joined: Apr 27, 2008
    Posts: 5,417

    Deuce Daddy Don

    Always start with quality equipt.----It never lets you down!
    Welding since 1951, I could offer you lots of hints, but practice is the most sincere way of getting satisfaction.
    Like mentioned above, gas welding is the starting method of learning primary welding skills.
    HF welders might be easy on the bucks, BUT, Miller, Lincoln, & Victor equipt. never fails to satisfy in the long run.-----Don
  18. Bearing Burner
    Joined: Mar 2, 2009
    Posts: 1,027

    Bearing Burner
    from W. MA

    Get a good weldor friend to run some bead and check his penetration consistancy then you will know if it is you or your machine. We had some problem with our MIG and changed ground lead to a larger size and this seamed to help.
  19. countrysquire
    Joined: Oct 9, 2007
    Posts: 162


    I appreciate everyone taking the time to respond with helpful posts. To give a little more info on the HF welder, I will try to describe what I'm seeing when trying to do butt welds, starting with tacks, not trying to run a bead. I always clip the ball off the end of the wire and try to have the trigger squeezed for the same length of time, from the same angle. One weld will look good with the penetration that I want, then the next one just a few inches away will have little or no penetration. I had a Clarke mig 20 years ago and seemed to do OK with it. Not the most beautiful welds, but I trusted them. I do not trust the welds that I'm getting now. I've confirmed the polarity settings (per the manual) and always try to make sure the metal is clean, both at the joint and ground connection.

    I think the suggestion to learn to gas weld is a great one, and I will definitely be doing that, no matter what else I do. At this point, I'm leaning towards buying the Miller 211. That should do everything I need and should encourage me to improve my skills, knowing that it is me that needs to improve, not the tool that may or may not be performing properly.
  20. bobkatrods
    Joined: Sep 22, 2008
    Posts: 710

    from aledo tx

    I have a miller 250 tig and a hobart 200 mig,, a few years ago I wanted a TIG/ Stick machine that was portable,, I also bought a EVERLAST because of the cost and 5 year guarantee... My other welders are at the shop and I keep the ever last at the house,,, Naysayers what you want but this welder I have used extensively and it Tigs as good as my miller 250.... Going on 5 years and never has missed a beat....My naysayer friend was so impressed he bought one two years ago..Mine is 200 amp and can put it in the trunk of a car..
  21. oldsroller
    Joined: Jan 3, 2007
    Posts: 125

    from PA

    Had a HF welder, same problems. One time good penetration, next time none, and then hot spot and burn thru. Sold it off to a guy that just had to have it and bought a Miller 140 Millermatic, it has the preset option-just pick your wire size and then metal thickness. Works great for body work or heavier stuff up to 1/4". So probably the machine, not the man.
  22. tubman
    Joined: May 16, 2007
    Posts: 6,244


    Since others seem to have the same positive opinion on Everlast as I do, I'll add this : Though it is a 220 unit, it comes with a converter plug that will allow you to easily run it on any 20 amp 110 volt outlet. This, and it's small size, makes it really handy for lots of things. I'll go out on a limb here and recommend it as a first welder for anyone just getting into this. Add to that their incredible range of products, and I think they have a winner. Oh; and I forgot the Five Year Warranty.
  23. countrysquire
    Joined: Oct 9, 2007
    Posts: 162


    I will have a look at the Everlast. I'm also reading a lot of great things about the new Lincoln 210MP, that does mig, stick, and DC tig.
  24. tubman
    Joined: May 16, 2007
    Posts: 6,244


    If they add a Plasma-Cutter option, I'm in!
  25. bobkatrods
    Joined: Sep 22, 2008
    Posts: 710

    from aledo tx

    I was happy with the 200amp I bought so I turned around and bought a plasma cutter 50 amp for $600 5 yr guarantee,,,I have not used it as much as the welder but it works great and I have not had any problems with it...

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