View Full Version : Need advice - first MIG welder

02-24-2005, 09:30 PM
I recently borrowed a friend's Millermatic and decided that a MIG welder is a long overdue addition to my shop. I've done a fair amount of research and narrowed the options down to a Lincoln SP-175 and the Millermatic 175. The size, useability and flexibility of these two units fits my needs perfectly so I'm not looking at alternatives unless they fit into roughly the same class.

However, one of my requirements is the ability to occasionally weld light gauge aluminum. That is where these two differ significantly in terms of cost. The Miller requires a spool gun and adapter which, combined, cost more than the welder itself. The Lincoln only requires a $60 conversion kit.

In the words of my local welding supply sales rep the Miller spool gun option is "the right way to do it". He indicated that Lincoln's kit, which includes a teflon liner and softer feed rollers, was more problematic.

So...my question to those who have done it one way or the other is...what is your opinion? I know that for frequent Aluminum welding TIG is the way to go, and I will eventually get there, but for my first welder I'm pretty set on one of these two. Which way would you go? Is Lincoln's setup really that troublesome? The Miller setup with the spool gun is closer to the cost of a TIG-185 which makes me think I should just make jump now but I am a novice, so would that be wise?

Thanks in advance,

02-24-2005, 10:02 PM
go for the lincoln , the miller spool guns dont get into tight spots as well.

02-24-2005, 10:09 PM
i have a miller 250. and i bought the liner kit for it. it does not work. wire piles up in the lead. and then the gun is wrong too it has a cruve in it and it has tobe stright. now a push pull lead would be what you need. and to do much al. it should be water cooled.

02-24-2005, 10:13 PM
If your "requirement" is to weld aluminum, then you'd better be looking to buy a TIG, not a MIG.

02-24-2005, 10:19 PM
Havn't messed w/al, but my Lincoln 175+ works very well.
When I bought it, they were rated the best in catagory.
Miller 210 takes honors in that size.

02-24-2005, 10:28 PM
I've heard of a lot of guys who've tried the liner route and only know of one who's had success. He runs a very short whip (6 feet if I remember) and claims to use smooth rollers instead of the serated ones. He said he had too much trouble with chips coming off the wire and jamming up the works. I've seen his work and it does look good. He runs it through an older L-tec 225A machine. If you want a spool gun you have to get a good one. I tig all my alu stuff but wish I had a spool gun alot also. They are so much quicker and for most of the stuff I do a spool setup would make me more money than Tig. Good Luck!

02-24-2005, 10:33 PM
I worked in a shop that had a lincoln 175 with the liner for aluminum I dont recall any problems with it, I have a miller 175 with controler and spool gun as you comented it is a spendy setup but seems to work good (I have not welded much aluminum yet) it is very easy to switch between regular mig and spool gun, just unplug a set of trigger wires and plug in the spool gun wires ,unhook the feed rollers and turn off your regular mig gas and on the gas for the spool gun. The spool gun doesnt come with a regulator so you will have that expense also

Matt in AK

02-25-2005, 12:46 AM
The spool gun eliminates feeding problems - that dead soft aluminum wire only goes the six inches from spool to tip. Plus you can climb on top of a trailer, or go underneath a boat and not be concerned about a straight cable run. If you get paid for your welding, the MIG is twice as fast as TIG on noncritical jobs (boats, truck bodies, dirty jobs) where appearance is not an issue.

Here are two articles from The Fabricator that should answer some questions:



Barry Milton

02-25-2005, 09:31 AM
jeko... I've push quite abit a .30 Alum wire thru a mig welder using a liner. It take a few feet of wire the set the feed pressure... I used a smooth drive wheel and had no trouble using the 10ft lead and stinger that came with welder. If you have a Tactor Supply Store near you... have them run a check on all store stocks for the Hobart 185 Welding Package they may have a one around ... skw# 715959333542 inventory # 500516 tag number-3810666Look Here for pic's and detals (http://bbs.homeshopmachinist.net//Forum1/HTML/010141.html)
The welder is really nice to use if you can find the package you'd be happy with it I'm sure.


[This message has been edited by Tinkerer (edited 02-25-2005).]

02-25-2005, 07:15 PM
Welding aluminum is never easy or cheap, no matter what brand you buy- the stuff is just a pain in the ass.
Yes, you can weld aluminum with a liner kit- as long as you are patient, know lots of swear words, and arent doing too much of it. You need to fiddle, and keep the gun hose as straight as possible. Smooth wheels probably would help too.
But if you get into any kind of paying, production situation, or if you are paying employees to do it, who arent as tolerant, or smart as you are, you quickly will want a spool gun, or even better a push pull. I have used a spool gun a lot- and I hate the damn thing. It still gets birds nests from time to time, burnback will clog the tips, and it is heavy, expensive, and the little spools are pretty pricey too- plus they always run out right in the middle of a weld, and then when you change em out, the weld looks funky with the interruption in the middle. Best thing for mig welding aluminum, in any kind of quantity, is a push pull, like a miller XR system. But they cost twice what you are looking at, and that doesnt include the power supply. Maybe 2500 bucks, ready to weld.
In my area, we have a lot of aluminum boat builders, who run 25 foot long mig beads all day long. They use pulsed power supply push pull systems, and spend 4 or 5 grand on em. And they think they are a bargain, for what they do.
In the end, how much fussin you are willing to put up with is dependant on how much money you are getting paid to do it. So if it is a hobby app- then a liner kit is probably fine, and you will take the time to fuss with it and make it work. And if it is paying work, you will probably move up to a spool gun or a push pull pretty fast.
My idea of "quite a bit of aluminum wire" would be a big spool a week - maybe two. And if I was running that much wire, I would be into a push pull in 30 seconds. But your idea might be 4 feet of bead a week, and for that, a liner kit is just fine.

[This message has been edited by Ries (edited 02-25-2005).]