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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
ok, i know theres probably something like this on here already, if there is please someone point me to it. i want to get a welding set up so i can fab my own tube bumpers and rock sliders and the like. i want to be able to weld without breaking the bank either. theres some at harbor freight mostly right around 150 electric arc welders a few of them you can select either 120 or 240. will these work out for me? there is also an oxy set up for 100 bucks minus the tanks, i heard that the gases get real expensive real quick. any input would be really helpful thanks guys.
 

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with as easy as MIG is, I wouldn't look at the gas. I think Harbor Freight occasionally has the $89.99 110volt gasless mig welder. It uses flux-core wire (which is more expensive than solid-core) but it gets the job done. If you can upgrade to a MIG that has a shielding gas set-up, it makes prettier welds and is much easier, plus the cheaper wire will help offset the cost of the 75%/25% gas. Expect to pay ~$100 for a new argon/CO2 tank for the gas MIG and then ~$25-30 to refill it.

You can also pick up a stick welder for pretty cheap, but then you have to buy rods and each rod has a different metal mixture. I haven't done stick-welding yet, but I would like to.

How much are you planning to spend?
 

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If you want to fab tube bumpers, sliders, roof racks, brush bars and the like there is no doubt.
Buy a MIG welder.
If you intend to work outdoors in windy conditions I would consider a flux core wire feed welder.
But for me there isn't enough motivation to be bothered cleaning welds and knocking down slag and spatter with a flap wheel.

With MIG (or wire feed) there is a quick learning curve.
Once you pull the trigger you are committed to move.
Practice on off cuts and check for penetration.
 

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Sorry, but welders ain't cheap, especially good ones.

For anything you want to be structural, a cheap HF 120V wire feed isn't really going to cut it, they'll make a pretty weld.. but (in the case of rock sliders) I wouldn't trust it to hold up my 5,000lb truck. They really don't have the amperage to penetrate deep enough a single pass. You could make it work by beveling all your work and doing 2 passes, but that means 3 times the work. Also those small cheap welders tend to have really low duty cycles when maxed out which means on a project with lots of long seams to weld (like steel plate bumper) you would be spending half of your time waiting for the welder to cool off.

Oxyacetylene welding is difficult to penetrate very deep as well, anything more then 3/16" and you need a tip so big that it overheats the whole piece instead of just the weld area. Oxyacetylene is also much more difficult to do well IMO.

For what your talking about doing the only 120V machines I would trust would be the Miller or Lincoln ones like this guy which can do 140amps with a respectable 20% duty cycle. Plus you can always add a spool gun to them to do aluminum if you want. Oh and I would get a little tank to go with them, I hate flux-core wire.

BUT... If your willing to learn to stick weld you can get an 240V AC/DC machine like this one (exact one my family has on the farm) for less money, and on AC it can go up to 225amps, if you get good at it some skinny 7018 rod makes nearly as nice of a bead as MIG does too.

Also remember welding isn't something you can pick up and be an expert at overnight, it takes lots of studying to learn all the technical stuff, and lots of practice to get the skill. Don't think you're gonna buy a welder and build a bumper with perfect welds the next day. If you don't have somebody to teach you get some books, or take a community college class or something.

Personally I want to get one of the fancy AC/DC squarewave TIG and SMAW in one machines. But I don't have $9K to spend on it :(
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
harbor freight has an arc welder that can switch between 120v and 240v for right around 110 on sale. would this be a good option? it says it can weld up to 3/16".
 

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Duffy said:
harbor freight has an arc welder that can switch between 120v and 240v for right around 110 on sale. would this be a good option? it says it can weld up to 3/16".
Wire feed, stick and TIG are all arc welders FYI, I'm guessing for that price it's a stick (technically SMAW for Shielded Metal Arc Weld)

Either way... like I said before, decent welders aren't cheap, truth is a $110 welder is guaranteed to be a piece of crap. I would stay away from Harbor Freight and other oddball welders and stick to name brand stuff like Miller, Hobart and Lincoln .

If you really want a welder to to what you're talking about you need a budget of at least $400+ new, and probably $200+ on the used market. If that's not in your budget then you'll need to beg, steal or borrow to get a welder for your projects. FYI steel ain't cheap either, you'll spend probably $200+ just on materials to build a nice plate steel winch bumper, and $100+ on materials for sliders. Also how are you going to cut it? not with a hacksaw, and oxyacetylene torches or plasma cutters ain't cheap either. There is a reason why nice steel bumpers from places like ARB and Indy4x cost $800+, they aren't cheap to build.

Not trying to throw a wet blanket on your creativity and ambitions here, I love to build stuff myself and totally get the desire. Just realize that it ain't cheap. Look into taking a community college or tech school welding class, then you can learn on and use the nice equipment they have to do your projects. Most college courses require some kind of final project anyway, you could make it stuff for your truck. Heck I built a 16' flatbed trailer in metal shop in high school, and it's still getting used today.
 

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Sags,
You're right. I didn't see anything about a $150 budget when I made my post. :blackeye:
I'd expect to spend that much on just a MIG gun and liner or a TIG torch and cable+hose.

Lot's of welding has been done with cheap 220 'buzz boxes' but as you say the duty cycle isn't there.
Waiting for the welder to cool isn't very productive.

I don't know if it's the case anymore but more than a decade ago it seemed you could pick up a quality welder (like a Syncrowave 200) for peanuts at school auctions.
Many districts were eliminating their industrial arts programs.
Maybe you'd have to buy a new torch, but most of these never saw a lot of duty, just abuse and hamfistedness.

Duffy,
Perhaps it would be best to spend some money on a welding class and use the bumper as a project?
Then you'd have the benefit of better equipment and some guidance as well.
 

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Here's a good thread:

viewtopic.php?f=20&t=36531

Read BigPoppaX2's post. :wink:

If you only want to buy once, make sure to buy a 220v. Don't overlook craigslist for good old warhorses too. Sometimes you can get a heckuva a deal on an older heavy duty machine. Stick with a brand still around though just in case you ever need parts.

Oxy-acetylene is good for cutting, heating, maybe the occasional muffler stuff but not a good workhorse welding setup. It's also very sloooooowww welding compared to electric arc.

IMHO the weld class option is really good if you have the cash.

Good luck bro. :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
didnt think of doing a welding class before, thats a great idea.
 

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I took welding long ago in high school ... Old buz boxes and then torch welding... Ive tought myself to weld aluminum with my service truck ,using a shielded rod. Kinda cool !! At my work we have a 220 miller, great welder !! I bought a little Hobart 110 with the option of gas hook up. It's handy to run off of my service truck gen/welder out in the field. Arc welding takes much longer with all the cleaning chipping and wire brushing lol... If you have any friends that weld to get some pointers from or any shops you know of. A class would be very benificial to. Building tube bumpers with an old buz box style arc welder isn't fun. I've had to fix/rebuild gates/fencing out at jobs. it's doable but trying to get the temp down and strike up an arc blows !!! It's takin many hours of welding to be proficient lol. Sometimes doing buckets felt like a lifetime. Running 6' long beads. Yes at times it sucks !! :)... Not the only thing I do at my job at least ... I would look into a next step above the small 110 welders. The 220's probly will have a better duty cycle. Best would be a 200 size and up.
 

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Stay away from anything that involves welding with Harbor Freight equipment except for their gloves or hoods. These guys are right you won't find a mig welder powerful enough to weld material thick enough for the things you want to fabricate. Your best bet is a arc welder and it isn't as messy as everyone thinks. It will take some practice but with the right rod and temperature settings you can lay a nice looking bead that when it cools the slag/flux will peel or fall off on it's own. Alot of chipping and brushing is only when you are first learning also you can pick up a pneumatic needle scaler from Harbor Frieght wich will help alot when removing slag.
I've picked up about 4 welding machines off Craig's list over the years and all of them have been in the $150-250 price range, oldies yes but very capable of welding up to 3/8 steel reliably. Just stick with the big names like Miller, Lincoln, Hobart and Linde. Stay away from anything Craftsman, Snapon, Kobalt or rebadged becuase then you get into cross referencing parts even though they are actually made by big name brands. We actually prefer the older machines over the new ones the new ones just come with too many features that don't work or break especially on TIG welders.

If you can take a class talk to the instructor ahead of time let him know you are just looking to learn mig or arc to piddle around with stuff on your car, your not trying to get certified or make a career out of it. Sometimes they will just teach you what you need to know and leave out alot of the theory.

Also don't forget to bevel joints you are going to weld it will help get better penetration and bonding to both peices along with a nice radius fill if if is on a angled section.
 

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Good welding in my opinion costs money. I use a decent welder, a hobart 140, and for a while I welded using flux cored wire which is whats being suggested. I read about all the pluses of flux core and really pushed my self towards becoming a good with it, but I dunno.. I didnt really like the splatter and at times it I felt like I would lose control of my pool. I got a 24oz CO2 with regulator for the hobart for like 30 dollars and I felt like it was much better. I cant ever go back to flux, I think it's ****. Maybe this is all psychological. Maybe I feel like my welds are better because they look better, not necesarrily better in the sense they bond the metal together better. But I can most definitely say the welding it self is much smoother now and inconsistencies dont show up like they used to. So in my very unprofessional opinion, if you go MIG use gas.

Maybe pick up a stick welder(arc)?
 

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MIG is Metal Inert Gas welding.
Anything without argon/co2/whatever is just wire feed welding... or FCA (Flux Core Arc)
 

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ArdWrknTrk said:
MIG is Metal Inert Gas welding.
Anything without argon/co2/whatever is just wire feed welding... or FCA (Flux Core Arc)
I guess you're right. the ones that only flux core weld are called flux wire welders.
 

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The hobarts can do both, corflux and hard wire with gas... And if you really wanted to you could load it with aluminum wire
And play... My big miller 250 could run it to if I wanted to.. But the clean weld with 75/25 is my preference..
 

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Watch using aluminum, it takes a different gas and will bird nest if you don't have a the spool on your gun. The wire is too soft to be pushed through the feeder to the gun without it. And once you get that solved, the aluminum was the only thing I ever welded that I started with a small gap and tripled the size of the gap on the first pass! Blow out is a much bigger problem with aluminum.
 

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N law have you ever tried welding aluminum with a stick, it kinda cool... I've always been told the same thing about trying to feed through the cord... I've yet to try... But as far as the aluminum welding rid goes I've built fuel injection manifolds and stuff (welded the injector bosses on to an existing manifold) for my vw's.. I was able to weld the floor panels together in my buggy that way....
 

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bradzuzu said:
The hobarts can do both, corflux and hard wire with gas... And if you really wanted to you could load it with aluminum wire
And play... My big miller 250 could run it to if I wanted to.. But the clean weld with 75/25 is my preference..
Yeah I meant the HF welders. They say flux core wire cuz they can't be switched to MIG. I've always just called wire fed welders mig. I run CO2 for the extra penetration since the 140 is kinda on the edge with thicker metals. I've never tried an argon mix but so far I've had good penetration with the CO2 and good technique. The angle which you weld really makes all the difference. Hopefully I get a TIG one day.
 

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I've seen tig welders up close and personal, never have used one that I can remember... They can do tons of stuff I guess... There kinda like the plasma cutter with wear tips and stuff arnt they ??? Get to close and you damage parts... The mug welders are very forgiving... Your dead nuts about the straight co2 gas Medic, it burns hotter... A friend of mine uses that for his stuff... Years ago when I came to work at my company we had an older miller 220 with the switchable power settings with the cord..( It had an internal 6 pack of capaciters along with the transformer thing).. It welded so nice and smooth !! The new 250 is electronic (nice and all) but it just doesn't flow/weld quite as nice.. A lot more spatter... But it cranks way the heck up and puts out a green arc (I've played with the temps and power for fun), I haven't had any down time with it either... The old one would slowly work the strips loose on the capacitor screws...
 

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I use an Eastwood Tig at the shop and love it. Makes great welds but you just have to practice, like any type of welding. As for the Mig vs Flux debate, if your on a 110/115v setup, you'll be able to weld stronger and thicker metals with flux. It runs hotter and penetrates better than Mig wire. With c25 shielding gas part of the arc energy is consumed by some dynamic events very near the surface of the weld puddle. These events are caused by some changes going on within the sheilding gas itself. With flux, more of the energy is directed at the right at the wire/surface, and this is because flux wire is made from a "tube", and current density is alot higher because of this. Alot of people say flux core sucks because that's what they have heard or never learned to weld with it. Is Mig alot cleaner, hell yes, but on a smaller machine (140amp-ish), you'll never get enough energy for the thicker metals using Mig. If you go by manufacturer recommended chart, my Lincoln doesn't list anything below 10ga to be used with Mig, but on Flux I can weld 5/16" steel no problems. Here is a pic of a flux weld I did on my trailer when I first got this welder, not splatter removal, just hit the weld with a wire brush (not powered, just with my hand to knock the color off it).



I've driven my Passport, the Mustang, a Civic, a GMC Sierra on 39" Boggers, newer F150 long bed and a few other things over this and it still looks like this almost a year later. If you have a large enough machine, then Mig is the way to go by far, but if you don't, you'll get a better hold on thicker stuff using flux. If you have a Tig, well just use it lol. I love Tig, such a pretty weld and so easy to get porosity out.
 
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