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To weld or not to weld

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by Michigan Don, Mar 13, 2014.

  1. whtbaron
    Joined: Sep 12, 2012
    Posts: 571

    from manitoba

    I hear you, but don't buy a cheap POS machine, or you'll never learn. I went 220v because I already had the plugins for the arc and I've never regretted it. Go with a mig from a good name brand... Miller, Lincoln etc. I have the Lincoln 180C with the bottle and it's been a good machine. Flux cores will give you crappy looking welds when you start. Yes, people will claim to have learned how to overcome that, but you are a beginner. Ditto for torches... if you get one, get a good one. I bought one at Princess Auto (same as HF crap down there) and it was a waste of time. Regulators don't regulate and you can't maintain a setting on the cutting torch. It's ok for welding, but I should have left it on the shelf. Harris "style" is not the same as a Harris and Victor 'style" is not the same as a Victor. Air Liquide or Liquid Air down there is another good one. Deal direct with the company that makes quality equipment. I put $200 into a piece of junk that could have half paid for a quality torch. Everybody bitches about expensive tools, but there is one thing I have never ever done with a Snap On wrench. I've never thrown one out, but I've tossed lots of cheap junk. Buy quality and it will be the cheapest tool you own in the long run.
  2. fordcragar
    Joined: Dec 28, 2005
    Posts: 3,179

    from Yakima WA.

    Whatever you decide to do, don't buy cheap welder. If you go with a gas outfit, buy a good quality brand that has been around and will be around. I bought a new Victor torch 40 years ago and can still buys parts for it; which wouldn't be the case for some of the Chinese stuff that is being sold today.
  3. Buy a torch set up and learn to weld with it. Relatively inexpensive and versatile. Once you learn to gas weld, other types of welding will be very easy to learn. "turn away from the light, and go towards the flame!!!"
  4. mixedupamx
    Joined: Dec 2, 2006
    Posts: 513


    to me the mig with gas is the most bang for the buck and easy to learn. Eastwood's has very good machines at a great price. I bought a 220 V machine from them last year to replace my old 110 V and it is one smooth operating rig. Super pleased!!
  5. ChefMike
    Joined: Dec 16, 2011
    Posts: 647


    you need to invest in a good welder buying a cheap one wont work, tig is better but harder to learn go with a mig and pratice before working on your project or you'll have bigger probleams then you started with.
  6. finn
    Joined: Jan 25, 2006
    Posts: 755


    A 110v with gas. from a reputable supplier will do all you need and last a lifetime. Mine happens to be an HTP which I bought in 1981, when the company was just starting out, but a small Miller or Hobart handler will be available most anywhere at reasonable cost. The Farm stores or TSC are a reasonable local source.

    I have a larger Miller now too, but still use the HTP set up with .023 wire for all my sheet metal work.

    I tried gas before I bought the Mig, but the learning curve was too steep for me

    The small 110V machines are often available used, but make sure the seller demonstrates it before you take it home.
  7. BAM55
    Joined: Nov 2, 2012
    Posts: 26


    I tig and mig weld sheet metal. You can do a great job with a mig welder, the more you weld the better you will get at it.

    Like said earlier by lots of the guys. Practice on scrap and once you get the hang of it. Practice different kinds of joints because you are going to run into all of them. Butt welds, lap welds, corner joints.

    That way noting will intimidate you. You already done it.

    Start with the small jobs and work your way up. Your confidence with grow and before you know it you will think nothing about taking on the big jobs.

    When you start getting really into it these tips my help you.

    Panel fitment is important so get that panel to fit the best you can. When butt welding try to have a nice gap, if the metal is slightly touching that's great. Your gaps should not be wider then the welding wire. Shaped your patch to perfection before you start welding, and if you have access to the back grind your welds on both sides and use you hammer on dolly to stretch the metal back to its original shape (welding causes shrinkage, sometimes very little but always) as you are welding it in.

    You don't run a bead on sheetmetal you tack weld and move around alot to keep the metal cool. What I do is tack the piece in and grind my welds use my hammer and dolly, tack some more, grind, hammer and dolly until the patch is completely welded in. This allows the metal to cool and I'm also continuously working.

    Oh yeah when you hammer on dolly to stretch the metal, hammer only the HAZ (heat affected zone). The haz is the area where the metal changed colors from the heat. If there is warping from welding getting rid of that warping is all in the HAZ even though the warpage may be outside of the HAZ it could even be on the other side of the panel. Stretch the HAZ and the warpage will disappear.

    I hope this helps.
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2014
  8. Lots of good ideas so I will try to summarize. When buying welders you get what you pay for, a $100 HB welder will frustrate you so bad that you will give up on your project. In your case, I also wouldn't buy used. If something is wrong with the welder, you don't have the knowledge to try it/check it out. This leaves new, either a oxy-acetylene torch, or mig. OA will weld, cut and heat, is totally portable, but is more expensive to operate. MIG (don't try to get by without shielding gas) will be more expensive to purchase, is easy to learn but is limited when you have to weld out of position and the weld is harder, which will cause trouble when you learn metal finishing. (you do plan to learn metal finishing sometime, right?)
    Lastly, don't by a cheap auto-dark helmet!!!!! Some of them don't protect your eyes, and they don't sell braille welding rods! If you need to save money on a helmet buy a standard large window helmet. I consider an auto-dark helmet a luxury for a hobbyist.
    Going to a welding supply house and talking about a package deal might be a few dollars more, but if you can get a little instruction it will be better than just pulling the trigger and guessing what to do next. (watching some You Tube videos is free and might help you get some knowledge right now, so you can make a good decision as to which way to proceed.
  9. HemiRambler
    Joined: Aug 26, 2005
    Posts: 4,204


    Nothing against your Uncle, but he is steering you wrong. Listen to the guys telling you to get a good machine! A cheap POS Mig MIGHT stick 1/8" metal together just fine, but I guarantee you will frustrate the hell out of you with sheet metal. The reason is simple - it cost MONEY to build a welder that has some finesse in terms of controlling the power. The cheap POS welders simply DO NOT have the circuitry to do the thin metal - period. That's one of the things you are paying for when you buy a "good" welder! You'd be better off gettin' an OA setup than buying a cheap POS Mig.

    Edit: BTW I have personally used a POS Mig to weld thin sheet metal - total waste of time. You might as well try super glue - probably work better. I was OK on 1/8" stuff, but try butt welding 18 or 20 ga. Forget it! OTOH My buddy bought a used Miller Side kick (small 110V Mig) at the swap meet for $150 - works great on sheet metal - it was set up for gas but didn't come with a bottle. Deals can be had - you just gotta look around.
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2014
  10. whtbaron
    Joined: Sep 12, 2012
    Posts: 571

    from manitoba

    My vote is still a good quality MIG with gas to start, but if you do decide to go O/A, these guys are worth checking out. I haven't done business with them yet, but I wish I had.
  11. luckystiff
    Joined: Mar 20, 2002
    Posts: 1,465


    i'm gonna play devils advocate here a little.......

    Not everyone has $600-2000 to drop on a welder. in case you've been sleeping under a rock the economy sucks and alot of folks like me don't have a ton of cash laying around.

    i found myself in that situation recently. i needed a small 220 mig capable of doing framework. i looked and the cheapest your getting into a big name small 220 is about $600 and if your buying the full set up add a coupla hundred for the smallest or $300 for a decent size tank and another $100 for a cheap auto darkening helmet. so $1000 easy. i had the tank(though i'd like to go bigger than my 60cuft) and helmet as they were with my constantly breaking old TSC mig. still $600-700 would hurt my current budget alot. so i took the chance. i happened to have a coupon for one of the harbor frieght 170 migs for $169. 100% satisfaction guarantee so whats to loose. got it home and the first one leaked gas at the trigger and went back. second one has worked great. now heres the other thing i will say. their welders come with a 90 day warranty. for another $50 you can add an additional 2 years no question over the counter warranty. if it breaks or anything goes wrong within 2 years and 90 days you take it back and get a brand new one. so your about $225 in on a welder that if it starts to do ANYTHING you don't like in that time take it back.

    we've been using this one for a coupla months now. welded in my jag ifs with it, rear step notches on same truck. my buddy is using it to weld a camaro sub in a truck and 4 linked the same truck with it. it burns in good. the duty cycle isn't as strong as some and i've probably pushed it on that a few times but oh yeah wait IT'S UNDER WARRANTY FOR 2 YEARS hahaha. the arc isn't uber smooth but not bad either. if your used to a miller,hobart,lincoln you'd notice if not probably not.

    I've heard the 180 at HF has a smoother arc and is not far off from a bigger brand. BUT i went with the 170 for A) the coupon. it's regularly $299 and was on sale for $169. and B) the waranty policy. anything $299 and under is over the counter replacement. anything $300 or more is send for repair which can be up to 30days before they replace/repair.

    There a HF coupon for the 170 mig in the june Rod and Custom(mine came in the mail yesterday) for $159. again 2 year additional warranty and all you'd be about $225 in it. I will say however i would not advise buying it without the additional warranty....

    Take that for what it is. I will buy a nicer Big Name to replace it at some point but this buys me a coupla years at least for a small investment at a time when i'm doing side work and funds are low....ken....
  12. FTF
    Joined: Nov 13, 2002
    Posts: 99


    I'm going to wade in here, I've been a AWS CWI for over 35 years, I've been a welding instructor in SMAW / GTAW / GMAW Aircraft , Pipe, structure etc. the advice to the novice to buy the cheapest wire machine then state you and your friend have been using it for frame work might give the novice the idea he could too. Granted it's a poor man that blames his tools and I assume you guys are "hands" but somebody's going to end up getting hurt or hurting somebody.
    The little 110 machines are fine for sheet metal, if your going to weld on a frame get some schooling or buy books on welding and if you can't make it look like the pictures take it to some one who can.
    I wouldn't recommend flux core for sheet metal. I use coat hangers for Oxy and
    ER-CuSi-A / AWS A5.7 / ASME SFA 5.7 for sheet metal with mig or tig work great w/Oxy also. Soft grinding. Low temp.
    With what ever process you decide on take everyone's advice and practice before you try it on your car.
  13. BarryA
    Joined: Apr 22, 2007
    Posts: 643


    Going against the grain here but I wouldn't recommend MIG for learning to weld - IMO the point and shoot nature can teach some bad habits and it isn't great for sheet metal due to the hard bead and excess material that makes for a LOT of extra work in dealing with distortion (which is going to happen no matter what process you use)
    O/A is a great option, but I'd suggest a small DC inverter that you can setup for scratch start TIG - where I am you can get a decent one with TIG torch for around $300-400. A good used machine from someone upgrading might be a better option than a new cheap brand.
    I learned fusion (ie no filler) TIG with about 5 minutes of instruction and maybe 30 minutes practice and teach the same process in my metal shaping classes. High frequency start is great but if scratch start is good enough for these guys it should be good enough for anyone starting out.
    Get hold of David Gardiner's (Mindover) DVD at
    Best money you'll ever spend for learning to shape and weld sheet metal - he prefers O/A, but the process for TIG is pretty similar.

    You'll also be able to run stick with the same machine.
    Whichever way practice, practice, practice.....
  14. chopolds
    Joined: Oct 22, 2001
    Posts: 5,877

    from howell, nj
    1. Kustom Painters

    Geez, don't you guys know you can buy good used machines? I would never pay 6000 for a new machine for "hobby" work. There's always good welders for sale on Ebay, Craigslist, and even the local welding store bulletin board.
    I recently sold a Miller 350 Synchrowave Tig welder. 1500. worked great. Just WAYYYY too large for me. and my shop. Picked up a Miller 180 with the money from that, plus some new pieces for it (torch, foot pedal, consumables)
    Lots of shop switching over to inverter machines now, so the older models are going on the market in droves.
  15. Cowtown Speed Shop
    Joined: Sep 26, 2010
    Posts: 1,182

    Cowtown Speed Shop
    from KC

    I understand all too well about not being able to afford the right equipment, However as stated below by a former welding instructor, advising someone to cheap out in alot of cases is going to get someone hurt!! could be your wife and kids on the same road as this person you are telling with no welding experience to jump on the Harbor Freight bandwagon and go for it....In some cases if you can't afford to do it right, DON"T DO IT AT ALL!!...I mean if he wanted to go sky diving, and he could not afford to buy a parashutte, Would you suggest he just use a trash bag and some string??....LOL I realize I am being funny but you get my point!
  16. BUHOG
    Joined: Sep 2, 2006
    Posts: 37


    Try looking up the Henrod Welder on the innerweb they work great on sheetmetal also
  17. MIG with argon/CO2 is the only way to go. I started welding with a tourch and made an easy transtion to MIG welding (self taught). As mentioned previously, training is very wise. If not .........videos + practice= success.
    .02 here
  18. 57Custom300
    Joined: Aug 21, 2009
    Posts: 1,344

    from Arizona

    They also fight the last war.
  19. models916
    Joined: Apr 19, 2012
    Posts: 380


    Isn't the polarity wrong for the flux wire on sheetmetal? I'm thinking co2 and solid wire only.
  20. adam401
    Joined: Dec 27, 2007
    Posts: 2,392


    My advice would be to use the network of people around you. I f someone near me needed a small repair and could get the car to my shop I'd help em weld it up for an afternoon and I would think someone in the circle of car guys in your area would do the same.
  21. rottenleonard
    Joined: Nov 7, 2008
    Posts: 1,973


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