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  • Harbor Freight MIGs?

    My cousin would like a cheap MIG, was thinking of HF. That's OK as far as it goes, but they have several models. Which one? Does flux core wire work OK? Should he go for a machine that can use gas if he wanted to?

    My own MIG is a big Lincoln 480-volt job with a Miller wire feeder, I have no experience with this low end stuff.

    I think his needs will be very light, no heavy fab work; he does have a stick machine.

    TIA: <<Jim>>

  • #2
    I've used a HF flux core welder. I bought it just to find out if I had any aptitude for welding.

    Like all other cheap welders, they have limits. They work OK within those limits if you use them as a professional would. Prep is essential to get much out of them. Cleaning, beveling, fitting and pre-heat a 1/4 inch plate just like you would with a 3 inch slab when using your big Lincoln.

    The down side to the HF welders is the cheap ones have very few settings. The 120 volt machines have a limited duty cycle and limited output. The more expensive inverter machines have better controls but still run a 30% duty cycle at 90 amps. It's even less at higher amps. To get more than 90 amps will take a 20 amp circuit because it will pull up to 25 amps.

    For small stuff, he would do OK with one of the newer inverter based models if you help him learn to use it right. I found that I could use the 90 amp flux core to weld badly. I gave it away and bought a Lincoln SP-100 which I still use from time to time.


    Dan
    Last edited by danlb; 12-01-2019, 08:13 PM.
    At the end of the project, there is a profound difference between spare parts and extra parts.

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    • #3
      If the SP-100 worked better, the HF must be nasty.

      The Lincoln claims a 20% duty, and means it. I've used one, worked OK on 1/8" x 1 1/2" square tube, but much above that and you would need a preheat torch to get anything done.
      1601

      Keep eye on ball.
      Hashim Khan

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      • #4
        The old HF welders weren't worth much. I have one of the old blue Centurys on a shelf somewhere. After I cut a giant hole in the case and put a 10 inch cooling fan over the hole it would weld about 2 inches of narrow bead before tripping the over heat. It would start to weld badly half an inch before that. The newer machines might be better. Some say the HF Vulcan welders are approaching the same quality as some of the recent name brand (AHP, Everlast, Etc) machines. Basically in the "prosumer class."

        Flux core vs actual MIG. I have run both. Flux core will weld anywhere except in a gale. MIG will weld indoors or in a protected area better, faster, and cleaner. When I was contracting I often used my little HF welder and later my little Lincoln Procore to weld a handle on a gate outdoors with little or no wind shielding. The Lincoln Procore isn't much better than the old Century. I would lay down 3-4 inches of narrow bead before it started to weld badly.

        For the shop I have a Miller 212 dual bottle dual stinger machine. For years I used it with flux core because I couldn't get it to MIG worth a damn. Then one day I realized there were no holes in the gas diffuser. Its a dream to work with now.

        I would suggest that a medium to high end prosumer machine hat can run a gas bottle for real MIG and can run on dual voltage 120/230 would be the most versatile. Use it in the field on an extension cord with flux core in a pinch, and plug it into 230 with some C25 for semi production work in the shop. If he wants more machine than that he can buy his own. A passable prosumer MIG machine these days is under a grand.



        *** I always wanted a welding stinger that looked like the north end of a south bound chicken. Often my welds look like somebody pointed the wrong end of a chicken at the joint and squeezed until something came out. Might as well look the part.

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        • #5
          If I was going to buy a Harbor Freight MIG welder today I'd buy this one. https://www.harborfreight.com/migmax...psugg_q=vulcan
          *** I always wanted a welding stinger that looked like the north end of a south bound chicken. Often my welds look like somebody pointed the wrong end of a chicken at the joint and squeezed until something came out. Might as well look the part.

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          • #6
            I would get a regular straight MIG machine because then he can do both MIG and Flux Core depending on whether he has gas. A higher-end MIG machine will also be more flexible in its operation, leading to less frustration. I would avoid the low-end machines because of a lack of parts and support; I usually recommend the Hobart Handler 140 available at Tractor Supply around $600. It's a 110v machine popular with auto shops. I do believe they have them in your area.

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            • #7
              Haven't used one of the MIG machines, but I have used their flux-core machine. For the $100ish I paid for it, it works about as well as I know how to weld. Caveat there is I only barely know how to weld. Still though, it sticks the <1/8" pieces of steel together that I need to weld

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              • #8
                Originally posted by epicfail48 View Post
                Haven't used one of the MIG machines, but I have used their flux-core machine. For the $100ish I paid for it, it works about as well as I know how to weld. Caveat there is I only barely know how to weld. Still though, it sticks the <1/8" pieces of steel together that I need to weld
                I managed to weld together two 1/4 inch plates with the 90 amp fluxcore HF machine. I had some 4 inch wide bars of 1/4 inch steel and needed an 8 inch plate to mount a different motor on my mill. All it took was beveling both sides of both pieces to a knife edge, leaving a narrow open root and then running a single pass down the front and another pass down the other side. Lots of splatter to clean up, but a flapdisk on an angle grinder knocked that down quickly.

                I could have just made a few welds an inch or two long on each side and it would have been strong enough. Beginners often make welds much longer than is needed.

                At the end of the project, there is a profound difference between spare parts and extra parts.

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                • #9
                  I have one of the HF Vulcan Mig 210 I think it is. 115/230 volts. I have never ran up against a duty cycle issue on any of my home welding jobs, except when using a Miller 180 SD TIG welding aluminium. That Vulcan compared just as good as my Miller at a lot less money .
                  Retired - Journeyman Refrigeration Pipefitter - Master Electrician - Fine Line Automation CNC 4x4 Router

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                  • #10
                    If it were me buying a HF wire fed welder I would save my money and get something like what Bob La Londe recommended back in post #5.
                    When buying an entry level machine it's not just the amperage output it's capable of or whether it is able of using shielding gas or flux-core only only.
                    Consider the quality of the the arc and how smooth and forgiving it is when your torch position isn't quite ideal. Also as important to achieving a smooth arc is how well the wire feed drive is able to maintain a stable and smooth feed rate of wire to the contact tip. A lot of folks simply do not appreciate how much this feature alone helps to make ones work look more professional until they are shown the difference.A tachometer feedback type drive system is a nice feature, not sure if the model that Bob linked to has it but I'll bet it does at least have a much better drive system than a flux-core only machine will have.It will also have a nicer and more stable arc than and entry level machine. Some things just cost money and these features are just not in the cards when spending the lowest possible entry fee.

                    I'm not saying that those machines are all totally useless, however they are extremely limited and will cause more frustration than smiles.The machine will just end up gathering dust in the corner, save your money.
                    If he's bound and determined to get into a wire fed machine at the lowest possible cost my advice to him would be to keep the cash and either save it for a better machine or buy some more electrodes for his stick machine.
                    Home, down in the valley behind the Red Angus
                    Bad Decisions Make Good Stories​

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                    • #11
                      You want a DC wire / Mig / flux core...... not AC, read the spec’s. The cheaper AC flux core ones do work but DC is better looking weld.
                      Retired - Journeyman Refrigeration Pipefitter - Master Electrician - Fine Line Automation CNC 4x4 Router

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