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OK - stupid HF welder question...

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  • OK - stupid HF welder question...

    Now, I am a TOTAL welding newbie... total. I want to weld some thin-wall 4130 tube (say, 1/16th to 1/8th max wall thickness), and occasionally something thicker, like say 1/4" steel plate. I don't plan on welding aluminum - I'll bolt that instead, or mill out of a solid block. This will not be in a production environment, and I will want to take breaks periodically (they are short welds, punctuated by me looking at it, and getting the next section of tube in place), so a 25 or 30 percent duity cycle is OK with me. The tube will be from 1/2 to 1 1/2 inches square stock, with occasional round sections in that size range also.

    Yeah, yeah, I know, I would like a nice $1200+ Hobart (or Miller, or...) but...

    But, just how bad is this? Is it likely to blow a diode? or a transformer? Or will it just not make good welds? Or is it the wrong kind for the task? Or do you folks think it will work OK for me? Or not?

    So, what to you folks think?

  • #2
    hi there hammerhead, knucklehead here.

    my usual advice for buying a welder is to over-buy. that is, bigger than what you expect to use. 9x outta 10, once you have the welder (or lathe, or mill, or plasma cutter, or race car) you'll end up doing more and more welding. then you'll have lost $130 towards a bigger machine.

    that said, if you're sure 1/8" is all you'll be welding, consider:

    its got a low duty cycle: rule of thumb says 1 amp per every .001".. so at 1/8" you're look'n at about 125amps. since advertisers tend to be optimistic, thats ~10% .. better put, you'll have 1 minute welding time for every 10 minutes the welder is on.

    granted, at 125 amps, in 1 minute you can probably lay a 6" bead.

    second, it has a low Open Voltage Current. thats good for you (safer) but makes for some hard starting with anything other than 6013 electrodes.



    • #3
      I have one these machines. I like it. I am not much of a welder but I do get things done with it. I have not found any problems with duty cycle yet. I did add a much heaver and longer power cord so I could roll it around to where the work is. Buy it! It's not so expensive that you won't be able to replace if you find need more power in the future.


      • #4
        hammer, i think you are on the PM site, can't remember.

        Check out my current classified.



        • #5
          The good thing about a stick welder is its durability and flexibility. There is not a whole lot to go wrong with it and, if equiped with DC straight, reverse and AC options you will be able to do a wide variety of work. It is always a crapshoot buying from Harbor Freight, though. Look around at Lincoln, even sears caries some "cracker-box" lincolns that are not very expensive for the amount of welder you get. When i bought mine i actually bought a 110 volt from sears. It handles 1/4 just fine and have never had any problems regarding duty cycle. (Of course my welding is primarily on go-karts, and other small machines) On a 30 amp breaker it cranks out 140 amps, and with the right electrodes it really kicks butt. Electrode freezing is a slight problem, though, on account of the fact it only has about 13 ocv. I do wish, however, that i had a reverse polarity option. With reverse you can do some aluminum welding, cast iron (only on certain types of cast iron) and etc.
          Don't settle for Harbor Freight unless you have to! Good luck finding a good welder.

          P.S. If you have never used a stick welder, they are a little tougher than a MIG so, unless you are committed to learning how to use it, you may want to spend more for a MIG.


          • #6
            Ditto above. Also consider that 4130 is difficult to weld without getting cracks. Make sure you get in lots of practice before relying on your welds for structural stability.


            • #7
              If you want to weld thin wall tubing and you're on a budget, I would highly suggest getting a simple MIG machine like one of these:


              If you want to spend a lot of time learning how to stick/arc weld, then get the stick/arc machine, but if you want to quickly learn how to make good strong joints consistantly, then get a MIG machine. If you can afford it, get both a MIG and Stick machine and play with both.



              • #8
                1. Everything Fasttrack and the others said, sage advise.
                2. Secure all the recommended safety equipment.
                3. Forget work habits of the “Orange County Chopperâ€‌ hacks.
                4. Consider the available power at the welding location.
                5. Designate a safe welding and grinding area.
                6. Factor cost of cutoff grinder and 3â€‌wheels.
                7. Consider 4-1/2â€‌ angle grinder.
                8 Consider larger compressor for air tools.
                9. Anticipate use factor (hours/mo.), multiply by at least 3

                If you go with a buzz box, figure on burning at least 20lb rod to learn positioning. Anticipate �weld sneeze’ all over everything including burning through your trousers, socks, and ending up sizzling your skin in your shoes.

                Avoid even trying a MIG lest you get hooked in a hurry.
                Surface prep is still just as important.
                As in any welding, protect your vision with good lenses.
                You being a machinist, take pride in your work, be the same with your welding. Do some practice welds, cut through them, mop on some acid, visually check for penetration, porosity, undercut etc.

                I rarely will spin up anything in the lathe that has been welded by someone unknown to me. I co-owned and drove a blown fuel dragster, I did all the welding. Tell ya sumthin?

                Ok, I am a safety freak, TIG’d for years, aerospace, all NASA xray, re-certified every 6 weeks, chrome moly, stainless, AL, and some weird alloys. Please be safe, have fun. Sorry for the rant.


                • #9
                  I have a TIG with the stick cable on it, does wonderful work in TIG or stick mode.

                  I have a small Lincoln MIG unit, is 120vac type and does do great for little jobs, but I keep it around for it's portability, it is not normally used around the shop.

                  I wasted my money of smaller units about 10 years ago, they were under powered and didn't have a good cycling time for me.



                  • #10
                    Listen to 3phase about the mig. It will be able to perform better on thin tubing to begin with. I started out with an AC/DC Lincoln buzz box. I then bought a welding processor when I opened my doors for business. I got lucky and had a guy give me a Presto Weld mig 130 machine as payment for some work I did for him. The only time I picked up the torch for the stickwelding is when I had to do something beyond the range of the mig welder or if I had some TIG welding to do. You will be far ahead of the game if you start with the MIG machine for what you say you want to be able to do. You can get by using flux cored wire to begin with and will be welding better beads with a lot less practise using the MIG since you won't have to undo the learning of stick welding. Good hand positioning is easy to learn and you will take off and be running in no time.


                    • #11
                      My welding shop teacher said he could teach a monkey to run a mig machine, and for me to get back in that TIG booth everytime I wandered out to see if I could try a MIG.
                      Never did learn MIG, but don't miss it. TIG is nice and stick works for most else.
                      David from jax
                      A serious accident is one that money can't fix.


                      • #12
                        Well, first, thanks for the input and opinions. So...

                        >> 1. Everything Fasttrack and the others said, sage advise.


                        >> 2. Secure all the recommended safety equipment.

                        Welding Gloves, helmet, jacket, boots - anything else that I should have?

                        >> 3. Forget work habits of the “Orange County Chopperâ€‌ hacks.

                        What work habits? Oh, you mean the arguing, yelling, and slamming of doors while making themselves go blind with the arc? Are you sure that qualifies as "work habits"?

                        >> 4. Consider the available power at the welding location.

                        Less than 30 feet away from the main power box on the house; and I have 220 single phase available there.

                        >> 5. Designate a safe welding and grinding area.


                        >> 6. Factor cost of cutoff grinder and 3â€‌wheels.

                        Got that already.

                        >> 7. Consider 4-1/2â€‌ angle grinder.

                        Got that too.

                        >> 8 Consider larger compressor for air tools.

                        Yeah - my current one is a "5HP" Coleman oilless (5HP - ya, right - maybe 5HP of noise!)

                        >> 9. Anticipate use factor (hours/mo.), multiply by at least 3

                        I do expect to upgrade later - this is just to get me started; and the proceeds from the first set of projects with it will pay for a nice big $$$ name brand machine.

                        I may have mentioned it - but one of my friends is a welding inspector (when I asked him about which welder to get, all his recommendations were outside of my budget - but, he's used to production environments, where big $$$ name brand machines pay big dividends in terms of reliability and productivity). So, I'll be having him look at all my safety-critical welds before they go into use (he's also got an infrared inspection system, and I'll have him bring that out as well). And, I fully intend to do a bunch of test welds to learn with, and cut them apart to inspect them myself (both by naked eye, and under a stereo microscope that I've got).

                        snowman - I'm into PM for 700 posts worth! Yeah - I had a look at that classified. If you've still got it, can you post some pictures of it (the actual unit) as you said "Machine has seen better days"?

                        3Ph. - OK, I'm sold on the MIG concept. Actually, I think I probably will want both MIG and flux core capability (uh... flux core is basically a stick welder, that's got a wire feeder instead of a stick holder, right?)

                        cntryboy1289 - OK, I'm listening to him.

                        sandman2234 - OK - I can be a monkey. Where's the bananas?


                        • #13
                          Oh, another thing - I've seen some machines listed with mention of cutting - how does a welder do cutting? Do you just take the wire out, and let the gas blow through the sheet, or... well, what?


                          • #14
                            AC cutting. You turn up the AC amps and use the rod to cut with is about as basic of an explanation as I can give you.


                            • #15

                              Flux core is the same as MIG except flux core wire is hollow and filled with flux to shield the weld pool. Non flux-core MIG welding uses an inert gas usually a mix of (Arcon/CO2) to blanket/shield the weld pool.

                              Welding with flux core wire will require some cleanup of the weld afterwards. Flux core MIG welding is best for outdoor windy days when you can't insure the insert gas is going to stay where it needs to, otherwise MIG welding with shielding gas is probably the best MIG setup.

                              If you plan on welding MIG in windy environments, then you might need to use Flux core. If you're going to be MIG welding and can control the environment (wind), then you really want the best quality weld and that's going to be with shielding gas (C25 mix is good: 75% Argon, 25% CO2).

                              If you know you're going to be welding (MIG) for a long time and plan to do many types of projects, then you really should buy a nice machine.. If you're not sure, then it's definitely better to buy your basic cheap $$$ machine now and see if you really need something better. You want to avoid buying something really expensive only to find out later you never use it. I say this because if you do plan on doing a lot of welding, you will end up buying a really good one anyway. I bought all cheapo welders in the beginning, then replaced them all with high end units. Now I have a bunch of cheapo welders that I never use and can't even give away.