Need to buy a welder: are TIG + STICK + PLASMA combo units any good?
I'm trying to put together my shop. I already bought an old Southbend lathe and I'm loving it so far. But I also need a welder for welding aluminum, steel, cast iron, sheet metal and maybe some stainless once in a while. I've done a bit of stick welding (have a motorized Lincoln generator/welder now) and a bit of oxy/acetylene gas brazing, but that's it.
I know the basic differences between all the different types Mig/stick/Tig etc. I'll probably mostly be doing light grade stuff for hobby purposes with some heavy welding just once in a blue moon. I've been seeing these multipurpose machines that have Tig/Stick and plasma cutting capabilities. I like the idea of everything being wrapped up into one machine because of the lower expense and less space required (I'm working out of my little 2 car garage so space is an issue). The Everlast three in one units look good, but it's not a Lincoln, Miller or Hobart so I'm worried about the quality and reliability. Anyone have experience with these Everlast models?
I checked Lincoln, Hobart and Miller's websites and none of them offer a 3 in one machine like this. Any idea why not? I take that as a sign the technology has not matured yet to be considered reliable. I'd really like to have a plasma cutter too, I could really use something like that as well. I'm also not sure if I should get a Mig welder instead of the Tig/stick units. I'd also like to have the capability to use either 220VAC and 115VAC because there will surely be times that I'll have to move (and use) the welder to locations that a 220VAC outlet is not convenient. Confused about the whole thing. What do you guys think?
There is only one company that made a unit that does all three. That was PowCon. They were rather unreliable and they stopped making one.
You can buy a combo tig/stick/mig. They all run around the same output voltage, 10-30v under load. Plasma runs at 200v at the torch. Bad idea to combine anything like this.
The old saying goes. Does everything... poorly.
Buy a good quality machine. I prefer Miller on welders and Hypertherm on plasma. Miller is almost all made in the USA and Hypertherm is as well in New Hampshire.
The Mig vs Tig/stick has been gone over, I still stand with a mig for a first machine.
Thanks macona. Yeah I know there must be a reason why the big three don't make a 3 in 1 machine...at least not yet. I also know that Everlast is a chinese product, although in fairness it wouldn't surprise me a bit to find out Lincoln, Hobart or Miller either use Chinese components or have subbed out some or all of their production to Asia in one way or another. I'm sure they use better QC standards though.
Guess I'll stick with dedicated machines. I thought I was going to go for a MIG but now I'm leaning more towards a Tig/stick machine. Maybe a lincoln 175. Don't know much about plasma cutters, but will look into the one you mentioned. Thanks again...
I have a Lincoln 175 TIG machine. I also have a Ltec 250 MIG.
For general home shop use I recommend a TIG. Weld a wide variety of materials, excellent control, even do stick welding if you get a stinger.
For auto body work, angle iron fabrication, building a trailer I would choose the MIG.
Limitation of the TIG is it's slow for doing a lot of welding, also an air cooled 175 won't be able to do heavier work. Limitation of the MIG is lack of fine control and weld filler selection.
Lack of weld filler selection? Have you seen what's is available? Everything from steel to titanium to bronze.
Hey thanks stroker. The 175 is exactly one of the possible candidates I'm looking at buying. My understanding of Mig welding is that it's a simple point and shoot affair. Good for quick, high volume welding like that required in a manufacturing plant (for cars, motorcycles etc). Tig is slower but capable of more precision and more versatile in that it can weld nearly any material (is that right?). I definitely wont be doing a large volume of welding. Just little jobs here and there. I also do want precision welding capabilities as I plan on eventually building a bicycle frame or two in the future. I want to be able to weld really precise welds like I see on high end, ultra-light aluminum bike frames (with tubes of almost beer can like thickness). I know these bikes are usually welded with Tig, as are aircraft parts. So maybe Tig really is for me after all? I had almost convinced myself to go with Mig instead, but the more I think about it, maybe a Tig/stick welder is best for my needs.
How do you like the 175? Any other candidates similar to it you would consider?
All welding takes skill and practice.
TIG seems to take a lot more than MIG.
If you're doing it infrequently, MIG is probably the better choice.
MIG will weld all the metals you indicated you want to weld,
with the right shielding gas, filler wire, etc, of course.
The prices of some of the fillers might cause you to reach for
the JBWeld though (look into the price if NI wire for CI :-)
Miller has a set of machines that run on 220 or 120,
such as the Millermatic 211 and one of the Diversion machines.
That might fit your desire for 120/220 operation.
If you already have a stick welder, you don't need to get a
combined TIG+STICK machine --- which for Miller are high-end
systems. You can look at tig only machines, such as their
Diversion series, which are targeted for non-commercial users
(IIRC these machines received some good reviews on the Miller
The 3-in-one machines, such as Everlast, seem to get mixed
reviews on the other welding-related message boards. They
have their defenders and their detractors. I've not used one.
The comments I've read seem to sum up as "When they are
good, they are good, but when they are not good, they are
atrocious" --- with their badness being everything from poor
weld quality (but that can also be operator error) to poor machine
quality (ignoring the made-in-USA vs made-in-PRC argument).
My only complaint with the Lincoln 175 is the torch overheats when welding heavier stuff. 3/16 steel works good, 1/4 inch steel plate is about the limit. Aluminum thinner. Water cooled torch I suspect would largely eliminate this problem.
Macona: Not sure I want to buy a spool of titanium or bronze MIG filler wire for a small job. TIG you can split off some parent material to use as filler if you wish.
As for Mig vs TIG and practice...... I have been welding for less than a year...... I find TIG to be much more natural, even though I am still not that good at manipulating filler + torch etc.... I can see what is going on better with TIG, never did see clearly with stick or MIG. Much simpler seeming to drag around the pool with TIG.... no idea why I find it easier to comprehend and do, I just do.
That's what we have at work.... I like it a lot..... max I have done is 1/4 inch so far, and the amperage was probably a bit light for that. I believe in the "amp per 0.001 inch" rule, and even with my fairly minimal experience, I've got to where I'd rather control too much current than try to weld "cold" with too little.
Originally Posted by strokersix
We have it set up for water cooling, the torch has never ever got hot yet..... nothing fancy, we circulate the water from a 5 gal bucket... works because we don't weld more than an hour or two at a time, with breaks for re-setup, parts changing, etc. (and the odd bit of tungsten sharpening, I still manage to stick it more often than I'd like).
I'd buy one myself if I had enough welding to do at the home shop. Cheapest I've seen is over $500 used without cooling.
Last edited by J Tiers; 12-14-2011 at 10:15 PM.
You can get small spools of wire. 1-2lb depending on the wire.
Originally Posted by strokersix