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Need welder recommendations

  1. #1
    Lifer ZX-12R's Avatar
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    Need welder recommendations


    To all the welders of the NESR universe.

    With the addition of a tractor and implements (some of which are used) to my garage, I'm starting to see the benefits of having my own welder. I'm looking for opinions on models that I should be considering. I do not require commercial grade hardware but I'm also amenable to spending more money on a quality product if there's a value prospect there. There seems to be a huge influx of inverter based systems from dozens of brands and I'm finding it hard to filter through what's worthwhile and what's crap. I know you can't go wrong with the big names like Lincoln, Miller, and Hobart but you do pay a pretty big premium for them where the smaller brands may offer just as much for less money.

    Environment:
    I think a flux core/mig setup would be most useful for me.
    I anticipate most work to be 0.25" or smaller with potential 3/8" excursions.
    Good low current control for work on thinner materials
    240V input is not a problem and would be preferred
    No need to work aluminum at this time
    I'd appreciate a duty cycle that doesn't have me constantly waiting for the unit to cool down.
    I'm a nerd that likes to experiment so I wouldn't mind having controls that let me play around with the weld characteristics.

    I appreciate the differences between all the process types and think the flux/mig setup will be the most flexible for my current needs. Should the need arise in the future for a Tig machine or larger stick welder, I'll consider those separately.

    What says the horde?

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  2. #2
    Super Moderator TheIglu's Avatar
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    Re: Need welder recommendations

    In my experience, go MIG from the get go. I haven’t been impressed with the flux core stuff I’ve used.

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  3. #3
    Lifer loudbeard's Avatar
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    Re: Need welder recommendations

    I have a Miller 211 MVP, I t’s a dual voltage MIG/flux core welder. Will do up to 3/16” on 120V which is great for portability, can burn 1/2” steel on 220V (max spec is 3/8” but I’ve proven out 1/2” on this machine.) Does very well on the thin stuff, but I only weld sheet metal on 220V as the machine has better current control. For what you need this is probably the perfect machine. I almost never flux core weld, it’s very dirty, should only be used in high wind situations. When you get your shielding gas, make sure you buy your bottle. Many welding supplies will try and get you into a rental program. If you buy your bottle you can just exchange with them as needed like a 20 lb propane cylinder. Duty cycle on this rig is basically all you want.

    The model has been revised a bit since I bought this 10 years ago, but appears to largely be the same. You can add an aluminum spool gun, but I have not. I’ve only ever TIG welded aluminum, I think wire welding it is more for production type work.

    Expect to spend about $2k all in after welder, cart, shield, gloves, and your first full bottle of shielding gas. Well worth the investment. A buddy of mine has been running a Hobart Handler 140 for a good 10 plus years as an alternative. Can’t quite do the same thickness of material as my Miller, but has been a good welder for him at around $500 less.

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  4. #4
    High maintenance priss
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    Re: Need welder recommendations

    Did you have a rough budget in mind?

    If I was going to get a very good MIG at a lower price than the Blue/Red, it would be the HTP ProPulse 220 MTS ($2,300). They also have some smaller units w/ less features but probably good machines based on the brand: MIG 200i ($1300), MTS 210 ($1900)

    For a more budget MIG, take a look at PrimeWeld. I don't have their MIG, but happy with their TIG machine. Good customer service vs some of the other budget brands: MTS200 ($850), MIG180 ($500)

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  5. #5
    Lifer loudbeard's Avatar
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    Re: Need welder recommendations

    Just dug up my trailer build thread from 2014. Did some fun fab work on it, both structural and sheet metal work. Most of it was just down-and-dirty-git-her-done work, but shows off the 211’s versatility.

    Track Trailer Build

    Coincidentally, this is also the thread where number9 had to come to terms with his man crush on me

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    Last edited by loudbeard; 09-12-21 at 10:19 AM.
    I went to MMI I know what Im doing here chief

  6. #6
    (4) Try not to be a dick. PurplePackage's Avatar
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    Re: Need welder recommendations

    You can get a decent MIG kit on Amazon for under $400, or find a CL used on for even cheaper.

    https://smile.amazon.com/Weldpro-Inv.../dp/B071GWBK5D

    Get it running on 220v and just practice on scrap metal for an hour. Youtube has hundreds of videos on how to learn MIG.

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  7. #7
    Lifer ZX-12R's Avatar
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    Re: Need welder recommendations

    Quote Originally Posted by keeena View Post
    Did you have a rough budget in mind?
    For occasional around the garage type work, I wasn't sure what to expect. Despite my buy once, cry once philosophy, the $2K range feels too steep for my expected uses and skill level. Perhaps in the future I can upgrade into that class of machine if I need to. That said, if I can justify why having it now would make sense, I could talk myself into spending that kind of cash. In my research so far, the $750 mark seems to be where you start getting into better quality machines. My problem is I don't know enough about the various models and what to look for to justify the various price tiers. I'm hoping for a little education along the way.

    I also see myself spending more money on a quality Tig setup down the road so I don't have to blow a ton on a fancy Mig setup.

    Also, why does aluminum welding use a spool gun instead of the machine's feed system? Is it due to the aluminum being softer so it doesn't feed well over longer torches?

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  8. #8
    Lifer gixxer72's Avatar
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    Re: Need welder recommendations

    If you’re not in a huge rush you might consider taking a welding class before you buy anything.

    Be wary of advice and consider the sources. I see experienced “welders” come to my shop all the time who can’t pass a 1G test. Buying a machine from a local shop / gas supplier may also connect you to staff that can properly guide and support you.

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  9. #9
    Super Moderator TheIglu's Avatar
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    Re: Need welder recommendations

    Quote Originally Posted by gixxer72 View Post
    If you’re not in a huge rush you might consider taking a welding class before you buy anything.

    Be wary of advice and consider the sources. I see experienced “welders” come to my shop all the time who can’t pass a 1G test. Buying a machine from a local shop / gas supplier may also connect you to staff that can properly guide and support you.
    This. Your local vocational school probably offers night classes.

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    Lifer loudbeard's Avatar
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    Re: Need welder recommendations

    Here’s the Hobart equivalent to my Miller 211, it’s about $600 less than my rig and looks like the it has basically the same capabilities:

    https://www.hobartwelders.com/equipm...-welder-m00229

    Agree with what was said on taking classes. I did not, I learned on weldingtipsandtricks.com. I also don’t do it for a living or put anyone’s life on my welds. Also largely agree on working with a local shop, that’s how I went about buying my Miller.

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  11. #11
    High maintenance priss
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    Re: Need welder recommendations

    Quote Originally Posted by ZX-12R View Post
    Also, why does aluminum welding use a spool gun instead of the machine's feed system? Is it due to the aluminum being softer so it doesn't feed well over longer torches?
    Yep - can't push the soft AL thru the long length of cable. Do you have 240v available in your garage? What's the thinnest stuff you expect to weld?

    Like the other guys mentioned: I took a couple night courses at Assabet Voc here in MA many years ago and it was invaluable. In my case I started with gas & stick welding, but the fundamentals will help a lot before jumping to TIG. I think MIG is the easiest process to get "wrong" if you don't have any experience.

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  12. #12
    Lifer gixxer72's Avatar
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    Re: Need welder recommendations

    In case anybody is hungry for fillets...built up plate girder.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Need welder recommendations-37708e19-c013-4cf3-9994-fc3c1e645e88  

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  13. #13
    Burns retinas nhbubba's Avatar
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    Re: Need welder recommendations

    I recently inherited an old 110V, 110A MIG welder. I also have a small 20lbs bottle of CO2. It isn't the optimal setup, but I've been told it works. Unfortunately I also have a house full of kids. Zero time to screw with it right now. If you want to extended borrow it, say the word. My wife would love it if I didn't vanish into the garage to experiment with that welder all day. I jumped on it because the price was "free; included with annoying extended family". I figured I'd sit on it for a few years until I have the time to get serious about it. I'm down with storing at your place until you decide on something bigger/better/nicer/whatever. Maybe work something out where you lend me an implement for a month or so at some point.

    The one catch is part of the gas line was repaired. Kind of a hack job. I think it works, but it isn't elegant at all.

    Before I inherited this I had my heart set on a "Titanium" 140 or 170 from harbor freight. All I ask about them say they work way better than they should. Short comings are the relatively cheap feeling guns, ground clamps and duty cycle. Runner up after that was a Hobart. I think I was hooked on a 140 or something, I forget.

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  14. #14
    Burns retinas nhbubba's Avatar
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    Re: Need welder recommendations

    I recently discovered aluminum brazing sticks. Mind you, I have barely any idea wtf I'm talking about. But my read is for small aluminum projects and repairs this may be more than good 'nuff. All you need is a mapp torch and some of the sticks. Again, I hear the HF sticks aren't bad.

    Another thought. If you are getting squeamish over a $2k welding setup, price the endless variety of grinders, cutting, drilling and misc fabrication tools! As with everything, it never ends.

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  15. #15
    Lifer ZX-12R's Avatar
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    Re: Need welder recommendations

    Quote Originally Posted by nhbubba View Post
    I'm down with storing at your place until you decide on something bigger/better/nicer/whatever.
    I just may take you up on that offer. My short term needs don't require large Amps so that'll likely work perfectly. You're always welcome to borrow attachments. I have the 6' box blade, grapple, forks, and 6' rake available although I need the welder to do some small work on the rake.

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  16. #16
    Lifer ZX-12R's Avatar
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    Re: Need welder recommendations

    Quote Originally Posted by gixxer72 View Post
    If you’re not in a huge rush you might consider taking a welding class...
    Quote Originally Posted by TheIglu View Post
    ...vocational school probably offers night classes.
    Quote Originally Posted by loudbeard View Post
    Agree with what was said on taking classes.
    Quote Originally Posted by keeena View Post
    I took a couple night courses...
    I had been considering taking a course for some time now and I just have to find a waking moment to do so. I also have access to my company's machine shop and their welding equipment. One of the old timers has offered to work with me off hours because I help him with electronics projects. The equipment they have is way beyond what I would be buying for my personal use.

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  17. #17
    Lifer ZX-12R's Avatar
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    Re: Need welder recommendations

    Quote Originally Posted by keeena View Post
    Do you have 240v available in your garage? What's the thinnest stuff you expect to weld?
    240 is available which my air compressor uses. I can always bring a second outlet in if need be. I have the electrical side of the equation covered in spades.

    As far as thinnest material to weld, I have no expectations at the moment. My primary intent is to repair tractor implements which tend to be heavier but I don't want to limit myself. I'm sure once I have ready access to a welder, I'll find other projects to put it to work on.

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    "...i would seriously bite somebody right in the balls..." -bump909

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