Welding? Tips? First welder?

Ideas, advice, tips, and tricks for making installations of all sizes or making smaller pieces and jewelry.
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bm_cricket
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Welding? Tips? First welder?

Post by bm_cricket » Sat Mar 15, 2014 9:39 pm

I'm considering building a little art project and I need to learn to weld. If I had a couple of hundred bucks to spend on a welder, what should I get? I'm planning to build an art car. Any suggestions?
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Re: Welding? Tips? First welder?

Post by A-RockLeFrench » Sat Mar 15, 2014 10:11 pm

Most community colleges will offer a beginning welding course for pretty cheap. If you don't have a mentor or teacher to show you the basics I'd recommend looking into your local community college.

Wire feed MIG welding is the easiest to learn and use, basically like using a hot glue gun with steel. A couple hundred bucks could get you a decent used MIG setup off your local craigslist, most of the welders you can buy new in that price range aren't worth much if you're planning on any serious projects. Miller and Lincoln are two quality brands. Stay away from the Harbor Fright machines.

Depending on what you're planning on welding you can get one that runs either on 110v or 220v. 220v will give you more power to weld thicker materials, but you need to have a 220v power source.

Most quality MIG machines will have the option to run shielding gas, usually argon. The gas creates an oxygen-less bubble for the weld to take place. If not using gas you will need flux-cored wire. Shielding gas will give you nicer looking, smoother welds, while flux welding is usually a little uglier. One nice thing about flux welding is that it can be done out doors as the gas can get blown away if there is any wind. That and you don't have to deal with renting and filling tanks.

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Re: Welding? Tips? First welder?

Post by bm_cricket » Sat Mar 15, 2014 10:29 pm

Thanks for the tips! I'm afraid that 1) I work 8-6 Monday-Friday so my "welding" time is pretty much limited to nights and weekends. and 2) my local community college, while great, doesn't have night and weekend welding classes. Thankfully I've done a small amount of welding before and I'm happy to learn more on my few remaining nights and weekends.

I think I'll focus on a somewhat nice 220v craigslist welder. If I limit my search to Lincon and Miller then my starting prices are just about okay ($500 for a welder) but quickly jump to >$5,000. I'll need plenty of scrap metal to get good enough to weld something well enough to take some force. How do you suggest filtering the crappy Lincon or Miller welders for $500 from the real "great finds" that may go for $600. I know that the big nice ones are tow behinds with built-in generators. I'm considering a 220v deal that could plug into my kitchen oven (big long cord) vs a generator powered unit.

Also, all of this relates to creating some sort of an art car/trike/bike. I probably won't have time this year for an art car but I could probably make time for an art chair. ;-)
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Re: Welding? Tips? First welder?

Post by tatonka » Sat Mar 15, 2014 10:44 pm

[media]
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Re: Welding? Tips? First welder?

Post by bm_cricket » Sat Mar 15, 2014 11:08 pm

Holy crap, discharging batteries that fast must get them hot! I think I'll stick with the off the shelf welder for now.... ;-)
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Re: Welding? Tips? First welder?

Post by Elliot » Sat Mar 15, 2014 11:27 pm

A-RockLeFrench wrote:... ...
bm_cricket wrote:... ...
Image

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Re: Welding? Tips? First welder?

Post by A-RockLeFrench » Sat Mar 15, 2014 11:54 pm

bm_cricket wrote: Thankfully I've done a small amount of welding before and I'm happy to learn more on my few remaining nights and weekends.
Well then you probably know enough to learn the rest of what you need to know on your nights and weekends! :)

If you have the basics down you can learn a whole hell of a lot online about different techniques and methods. Another good resource is just to pick up the textbooks for a welding class.

Unless you plan on welding things for a living or building something gigantic you wont need a tow-behind welder/generator combo. Just about anything that says Miller or Lincoln on the side should be a good find unless it's been outright abused by the person selling it. They're pretty durable units, and the internal moving parts are easily serviceable/replaceable. Hobarts and Craftsman are halfway decent as well, but maybe not 'pro' quality like Miller or Lincoln. If you find something on CL you can google it to see what it goes for new, get the specs and read any reviews. Usually it'll tell you how thick of material any specific machine will handle.

FWIW, I have a 110v Craftsman welder that works just fine for anything up to 1/8" thick, it has a gas inlet on the back but I just use flux. It's fairly portable, I don't need any fancy outlets to plug into and I can use it outside. I scored it at a yard sale for $150. If I'm working with anything thicker than 1/8 inch I'll either grind deep channels for multi-pass welds or I also have a couple buddies with bigger 220v gas shielded machines I can access.

Good luck, be safe and have fun!

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Re: Welding? Tips? First welder?

Post by gaminwench » Sun Mar 16, 2014 2:28 am

safety third? :roll:
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Re: Welding? Tips? First welder?

Post by GreyCoyote » Sun Mar 16, 2014 4:49 am

BMC: The big question is what are you welding? Before you spend any money, figure out which process (MIG, TIG, stick, oxy/fuel) are applicable. If its mild steel, then just about anything will work, but other metals require different processes.

Once you figure out the process, buy the best you can afford. And dont be afraid of the old, heavy machines. They command a premium because they were made to be workhorses. If the windings are good, all the other parts are still available. Many estate-sale people assume because its old, its bad. Not true. If you can get an older machine cheap from someone who is clueless, you can sell it later for more than you paid for it. In the Olde Days, before inverters, these things were solid copper. Very stable arc and beautiful restrike. All the professional pipeliners are using 30 year old equipment for this very reason. :mrgreen: Stick with Miller and Lincoln brands for the old stuff.

Are you limited to 120v/20 amp service or is 240v service available? Your options and flexibity go up dramatically if you have 240v service available.
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Re: Welding? Tips? First welder?

Post by bm_cricket » Sun Mar 16, 2014 5:06 am

GreyCoyote wrote:BMC: The big question is what are you welding? Before you spend any money, figure out which process (MIG, TIG, stick, oxy/fuel) are applicable. If its mild steel, then just about anything will work, but other metals require different processes.

Once you figure out the process, buy the best you can afford. And dont be afraid of the old, heavy machines. They command a premium because they were made to be workhorses. If the windings are good, all the other parts are still available. Many estate-sale people assume because its old, its bad. Not true. If you can get an older machine cheap from someone who is clueless, you can sell it later for more than you paid for it. In the Olde Days, before inverters, these things were solid copper. Very stable arc and beautiful restrike. All the professional pipeliners are using 30 year old equipment for this very reason. :mrgreen: Stick with Miller and Lincoln brands for the old stuff.

Are you limited to 120v/20 amp service or is 240v service available? Your options and flexibity go up dramatically if you have 240v service available.
Everything you said makes sense, I just never knew how those MIG/TIG/stickwelders worked. I think that before I buy a used one I should learn how it's built on the inside. To answer your power question, yes, I have 220v power. I would need an excuse to 1) disconnect my electric oven, and 2) buy a 100ft length of 8awg cord, but so be it. I rent so I'm not going to be punching any holes through the walls.

As for what I'm welding, I'll be sticking with 1.5" square tube with .25" wall thickness or less. I'm doing all of this to build an art car or art bike. If I don't get moving very fast then it will be an art bike and probably some sort of 3 wheeled pedicab style bike. I'm also looking for very small wrecked chassis of automatic transmission Mazda Miata sized cars. I would much rather get something that has a frame, parts of a drive train, even an automatic transmission that could become a super golf-cart but that's probably a project for next year. Step one is having the tools and knowing how to use them well.

Anyway, in short, I'll check out older "professional" quality welders and see what I can find. If I get a real deal on a nice 220v welder then buying a used 8/3 100ft cord won't be such a big deal.
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Re: Welding? Tips? First welder?

Post by GreyCoyote » Sun Mar 16, 2014 5:22 am

For mild steel, just about anything mentioned will work. But if you'll be welding on HSLA steel (ie, a Miata uniframe), then that pretty much takes-out the oxy-fuel and the stick as a contender. This use dictates a shield gas to prevent embrittlement and a lot of temperature control to weld.

Sounds to me like MIG would be the way to go. I'm a TIG freak myself, but this is not something you just pick-up and do well. It takes a lot of practice. MIG is what I call "squirt-gun" welding. You can pick-up a MIG machine and in a half an hour be making respectable looking welds if you just dial it in per the charts in the manual and have a little patience.

The only suggestion I would make is to get a machine that can do either gasless (ie, flux-core wire that generates its own shield gas) or gassed (solid core wire with shielding gas supplied from a cylinder). Too many folks try to get the cheapie self-shielding-only machines and find-out the welds they produce suck. Then all that money they "saved" goes into redo's and grinding wheels and cussing. And they make a mess. Not to say they don't have their uses, but flexibility is key.

Another thing going for the MIGs these days: Many parts and supplies are now carried by the Big Box home improvement stores. Makes it easy to grab a spool or a pack of electrodes at 8 PM on a Saturday if you run-out.

Good luck with your project! Hope to see it in the dust!! :mrgreen:
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Re: Welding? Tips? First welder?

Post by unjonharley » Sun Mar 16, 2014 8:21 am

Tip for first welder,, Suggest you do not weld in the nude..

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Re: Welding? Tips? First welder?

Post by unjonharley » Sun Mar 16, 2014 8:21 am

dammit bill

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Re: Welding? Tips? First welder?

Post by trilobyte » Sun Mar 16, 2014 9:15 am

I'm giving this a nudge to the Q&A board, since that's a better fit for general preparation questions.

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Re: Welding? Tips? First welder?

Post by A-RockLeFrench » Sun Mar 16, 2014 1:37 pm

unjonharley wrote:Tip for first welder,, Suggest you do not weld in the nude..
Actually a good point, not to mention the slag and spatter but I've received 'sun burns' on my arms from the UV light after welding in a t-shirt on a hot day. Leather works good for spatter protection, most hardware or welding supply stores will sell a variety of protective clothing.

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Re: Welding? Tips? First welder?

Post by GreyCoyote » Sun Mar 16, 2014 2:25 pm

Welding rays, and especially rays from a plasma cutter, are "hard" UV, and even have a bit of X-ray component. They dont tan. They burn. Badly. Sorta like puttin' yer weiner in a warp drive.

Hot tip from Unjohn: no naked welding. (i will refrain from asking him how he knows...) :mrgreen:
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Re: Welding? Tips? First welder?

Post by bm_cricket » Sun Mar 16, 2014 2:48 pm

GreyCoyote wrote:Welding rays, and especially rays from a plasma cutter, are "hard" UV, and even have a bit of X-ray component. They dont tan. They burn. Badly. Sorta like puttin' yer weiner in a warp drive.

Hot tip from Unjohn: no naked welding. (i will refrain from asking him how he knows...) :mrgreen:
Thanks for both of your tips! I'm not going to let my tip or anybody's nips near my soon-to-be MIG welder without proper skin and fire protection. Safety deserves at least second fiddle this time.
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Re: Welding? Tips? First welder?

Post by Tiahaar » Mon Mar 17, 2014 12:46 am

There is an ironic truth that an experienced welder can 'make-do' with a cheapie scaryfright welder, but the things are harder than a pro model for a hobbyist to use...kinda like a pro musician can make a crappy instrument sound much better than it should.

I personally love love my old Lincoln stick farm welder and truck mounted monster for serious big welding but most all my playa projects have been done with the little flux-mig-110thingie. For 1-1/2" square tube that does the job nicely and I can plug it into the back patio outlet.

34237611 coupon code will get you a 4.5" grinder on sale at the boatharbor place at the moment, ya needs one of them and an autodark helmet too...and a wirebrush and gloves and weldhammer and....happy welding! 8)
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Re: Welding? Tips? First welder?

Post by FlyingMonkey » Mon Mar 17, 2014 3:31 pm

I got great deals buying my TIG & plasma cutter online. So much so that it was worth driving a couple of hundred miles to pick them up. If you have time to shop around, start looking on e-Pay & Greg's list. But as stated above, know what you want to weld before you buy anything, as different materials utilize different machines & skill sets. There are also many forums online that will provide you a good beginners knowledge base. millerwelds.com is a good site with tutorials even if you don't use their product.
I would not be afraid of buying an old used welder as long as its in good shape, works, & the price is right. I would be a little skeptical of some of the equipment for sale that claim to do everything at a low price. As with most tools there is some truth to "you get what you pay for".

I second the thought that if you get a chance, take a local welding class. Course schedules change so one may open up that works for you. I took one at night & a lot of the guys had taken it several times for access to all the equipment that would otherwise be too expensive to for just 1 or 2 projects.

If you are like me, once you get going you will look for any excuse to melt some steel.

Good luck.
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