Purchasing first welder

Discussion in 'Modifications And Maintenance' started by GrawvyRobber, May 6, 2020.

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Harbor Freight Cheap Welder to start?

  1. Yes

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  2. No

    5 vote(s)
    83.3%
  1. GrawvyRobber
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    GrawvyRobber Active Member

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    Hey All,

    After some shopping around auto body shops to fix my rusty quarters, I went ahead and ordered some patch panels. I'm sacrificing my WRX as I learn, and will eventually go wide body thanks to @pleiades suggestions...

    With that being said, I'm looking to purchase my first welder and subsequently learn how to weld. Dumb idea? Yeah, probably, but I'm going to learn one way or another and now is the time. I've purchased some books (lol) and have been watching loads of the ol 'tube on how-to and things to not do etc. I'm going to get some scrap pieces as well and not really start on the wrx.

    I'm leaning towards just getting a cheapie MIG setup from Harbor freight :cigar:. Any welders out there that can guide a tard like myself?
     
  2. glen
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    glen Well-Known Member

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    I would suggest you buy a "name brand" welder, it will be tougher to learn if you don't have a consistent machine. If new ones are too expensive, you can try to find a used one, but I think you will see that they hold their value pretty well (which makes your investment a little safer/easier)

    That said, I don't do body work, so if that is what you are buying it for, other opinions may be more relevant.
     
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  3. Chux
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    Chux Well-Known Member

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    Grain of salt, I haven't used anything else long enough to compare, but I had a couple people who weld a lot (one who welds for a living, he has an HF one at home) recommend the HF Mig. I bought one last year, and finally put a decent 220v circuit in my garage and have been welding with it since the winter. I've just be using it in flux-core mode right now, but I rewelded the exhaust on my wife's Outback, built a cart for the welder, and added pads to the bottom of my jack stands with it. Planning to use it to fab motor mount adapters and exhaust for my 1UZ 4Runner project.
     
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  4. euro
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    euro Well-Known Member

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    I've had 3 harbor freight welders (2 flux core mig and one tig) and one miller welder. The horrific struggle of trying to dial in those welders was enough to convince me to never buy anything less than name brand (in regards to welders). With that being said i still have a flux 110 mig i keep around for scrap work but i only use the miller for "nice" stuff.
     
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  5. Krazylegz1485
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    Krazylegz1485 Well-Known Member

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    If I was in your shoes I'd try to find a decent deal on a used name brand one first, then if you strike out and wanna take a chance try the HF ones. I just picked up a used, "older" Hobart Handler 150 (220v) mig and I know it's a proven machine. Got a sweet deal on it that I couldn't pass up.

    Also, for a cart I think I got mine on Amazon a few years ago (for my other welder). It was cheap but the reviews were awesome. And for how much I use it it works perfectly. It's a tall cart and holders a smaller machine and a tall gas bottle. Also has a little shelf or two for your goodies.

    From a "cheap" welder experience, my first welder was/is a Firepower (Napa brand I guess) 110v mig setup I got from a friend for free because he upgraded. Obviously a sweet deal, but it has its cons. Mainly finding parts... He had cobbled the spool holder and long story short, it didn't feed wire for sh!t. I finally tracked down the parts to fix it but it's still never really worked right. Honestly it prevents me from wanting to weld because it always ends up pissing me off more than it benefits me. Hence the reason for upgrading to the Hobart.

    And quite honestly, I was gonna ask where you're located with the intention of passing on a free welder to you, but I hesitate as I also don't wanna pass on a headache and have you end up with the same experience I did. Haha.
     
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  6. pleiades
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    pleiades Well-Known Member

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    If your garage is wired for 220 or if you don't have a problem adding a circuit I'd go with a quality used unit. From what I understand Hobart and Miller are kind of the go-to brands and keep going reliably for years so even an older Craigslist find would likely work out. As far as teaching yourself, I think you'll do alright if you have books or YouTube to guide you. I had barely done any at all when I started my college welding classes and picked it up fairly quickly. Just practice as much as you can on similar metals before going to work on your wagon. I'd try to get some old damaged fenders or something from junk yards or body shops to hone your skills.
     
  7. CornyTumbleweed
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    CornyTumbleweed Well-Known Member

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    If you watch finnegans garage on YouTube he’s giving away a miller tomorrow in a live episode. On his last episode he said he’ll be asking questions about 4 previous episodes (9,49,65,86). Then comment the answer in the live video. Something to try for if you’ve got the time.
     
  8. WRX1
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    WRX1 _ Staff Member

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    First and formost, what do you have for power where you are going to be welding? Then what do you think you will be welding? Just sheet metal? any structural items (more than 3/16 think)?

    I would say that if this is something you really plan on doing, buy once and cry once.
    https://www.millerwelds.com/equipment/welders/multiprocess/multimatic-215-multiprocess-welder-m30090

    That will keep you running at 110v or 220v and if you want to try your hand at tig welding, it is capable.

    Esab also makes a couple of rebel models and the one that would be about the same as the miller is the 215ic.
    https://www.esabna.com/us/en/dare/index.cfm

    When I was at Lejeune, we had about 30 millers (dimension 650 and series 70 feeders), most of which were 20 years old. I could still get any part I needed to keep them up and running and worst case is that Miller could get me what I needed. We had about 15 of the lincoln cv305 welders and they were nothing but problems with little support.

    If this is something that you think you will definitely get more into, buy something good that will last forever. If you are also going to be jumping around with different gauges of metal, you want something that can handle it. It really sucks when you are either too hot or too cold when you are trying to do sheet metal.
     
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  9. MrBlue
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    MrBlue Active Member

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    For a first timer welding on sheet metal stay away from anything flux core, you need to be welding with solid core filler and shielding gas Mig or Tig. Your not going to need a lot amperage.... but if you want to do anything other than sheet get a 220v machine they weld way smoother.
    Practice a bunch and get to know the machine.... I have a fender you can have from my bugeye to play on...
    If you can find a used Miller or Hobart go that route, for a New machine look at AHP or Eastwood... just my .02
     
  10. joebush44
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    joebush44 Well-Known Member

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    I sold my Miller Millermatic 125 MIG when I bought my AHP 201 AlphaTIG welder last year and almost immediately regretted it. Anything out of position (exhaust on a car, for example), TIG is a pain in the arse. So I was looking to buy a "budget" MIG welder recently and ended up scooping up an Everlast iMIG 200 https://www.everlastgenerators.com/product/mig/power-i-mig-200 . I don't have 220 out in my garage, so I was specifically looking for a dual voltage machine (110/220). I've been using it quite a bit on a trailer I recently picked up, welding 3/16 steel with just flux core wire and on 110v pretty nicely. The digital readout is pretty slick too. I'm really liking the unit so far.

    In your case, for body work, definitely get a machine capable of running gas (not a cheapo flux core only machine) and it will make welding thinner sheet metal much easier and look prettier with less cleanup/grinding. When I was doing some body work on my RS I started with flux and found it to be a little difficult to control. It was night and day after switching to 75/25 gas. Just go slow and move around so as to not warp the metal and do little individual tacks at a time until you get it all welded in (don't try to rip a big long bead lol).

    Good luck!
     
  11. MidnightImpreza
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    MidnightImpreza Well-Known Member

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    Dig deep and get a good Miller. Even the entry level Miller is better than HF. A better machine will produce better results. And will be easier to learn. Once you've established some skill, you'll be doing side jobs that will pay it off in no time!

    I've done some welding. It takes practice. Mostly experience with the different metal thickness and welder power to make it blend nicely.

    My car is going to need patches sooner than later. ;)
     
  12. Vector
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    Vector Rally Organizer

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    The more modern HF welders like the "Vulcan" brands seem to be really well liked. The older ones "Chicago Electric," etc, are horrific.

    Hobart is Miller's consumer brand. They're in most ways Millers with downsized transformers and other parts that essentially mean they can't run 100% of the time like a professional welder, but for a weekend warrior, they're fantastic. You'll spend a lot more time setting up and prepping to weld than actual trigger-on time.

    I have a Hobart 187 220v-185A unit, and I love it. I haven't fired it up in a few years, but I wouldn't sell it either. Only thing I wish it had was a spoolgun for aluminum. When I had a professional welder weld up the rollcage in my rally car, he was very impressed with how well it worked and he used it rather than haul over his normal rig.
     
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