how to pick a welder...some advice for people looking

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Old 11-29-04, 06:14 AM
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Post how to pick a welder...some advice for people looking

i've been reading this forum all night and have gone through every thread. the one thing that keeps popping up is how to pick a welder?? is this one good?? does this one run on gerbils?? do they eat much?? well i am going to write this novel and hopefully help some novices out.

some background on me. i am a professional welder with a well rounded resume. i have worked in repair, manufacturing of various heavy equipment, and layout and fabrication. i have 3 years of vo-tec school and an A.A.S. in welding technology specializing in robotics and heavy plate (D1.1).

welding is making two piece of something join together. we will talk about the hot welding methods as opposed to the cold welding methods (epoxy, JB weld, stuff like that)

(1)
the simplest and least complicated form of welding still being used today is gas welding. this is the process of taking a combustible gas and mixing it with oxygen to produce a very hot flame. you simply melt the two pieces of metal and add filler metal if needed. the most common type of fuel gas is acetylene. other gases such as propane, MAPP gas, hydrogen, etc. can also be used.

pros: portable, non-reliant on electricity, versatile torch attachments can cut, braze, pre and post heat as well as other things.

cons: gas leaks, heat, smells, toxic burning fumes if not set right, explosions if not handled right, gas tanks that can hold up to 2200 psi.

conclusion: i learned on this first and it is still used today in certain situations to weld, not exactly what i would recommend for someone at home to learn on. there is the fire hazard of burning down your house because you were playing with fire in the garage. lets face it, most home garages are not fire resistant like a weld shop is. get professional direction from a school like enviroment for this process.


(2)
stick, SMAW, rod burning, i've heard all these names and more for this process. Sheilded Metal Arc Welding is where you use and electric arc to melt and long (14") skinny metal rod. the electric arc melts the base metal and the rod melts in the arc providing the filler metal. simple is the name of the game with the process. no moving parts. just you and some modified wall current.

pros: simple, no moving parts, electrodes are available from welding specialty shops and also country marts and some gas stations, versatile when it comes to welding various types of metals, cheapest welding machine made that still does the job, good for outdoor work, tolerates dirty metal to a point.

cons: skill level somewhere in the medium range, not good for light gauge metal, relies on electricity.

conclusion: this is the second best to learn on in my opinion. electrodes are available almost everywhere. good results with some practice and maybe a few hints from people in this forum.


(3)
GTAW, tig, heliarc. Gas Tungsten Arc Welding is a very special kind of welding done only when something is needed to be the absolute best. similiar in idea to Oxy Fuel welding. a torch contains a piece of tungsten that sustains an electric arc. the tungsten and molten weld pool is shielded by an inert gas such as argon. filler metal is added like Oxy Fuel welding.

pros: excellent weld quality, clean, should be no spatter, very precise heat input, can be done on thin metal with as little as 1 amp with todays top of the line machines.

cons: relies on electricity, slow, expensive, high skill level, inert gas shielding needed

conclusion: used by NASA and other companies that need high quality welds. wish i had them jobs $$$. with some college courses one can become fairly good at it. i love this kind of welding but job demand is low for TIG welders in my area.


(4) wire, GMAW or FCAW. this process is the easiest to learn within a short time. a wire comes out of a welding torch which creates an electric arc. electric arc melts the base metal and the wire coming out making the weld.

if the wire is solid - a shielding gas is needed, most common for hobby weldors to use is C-25.

if wire is a flux cored wire, a shielding gas may or may not need to be used. it depends if the flux cored wire was designed to be used with out shielding gas, then you have what is called a self shielding flux cored wire. if it needs gas it is called a dual shielding flux cored wire. either one will work in a machine that is designed for solid wire.

other variations of wire exist but we won't go into that.

pros: easy to use, good on thin metals, easy to use, easy to use, fast, can be very versatile

cons: need that electricity, somewhat complicated machines, hard to diagnose problems with the machines when they arise, susceptible to voltage drops when used with long power cords or under sized cords, lots of consumable parts, electrode has limited availablity compared to SMAW electrodes, machines are kind of expensive, have to buy inert shielding gas if you are using solid wire.

conclusion: if you are a beginner or are doing thin metal work inside on clean metal this is for you. depending on the heavy dutiness of the machine heavier metal can be done too. this is the easiest to learn by far.


when working with an electrified welding process there are some general rules that apply to all.

voltage is your friend. if you have the choice between 120 and 240 volt machines, and you have a 240 or can install a 240 outlet, by all means buy the 240 if it is just going to be sitting in your garage. if you want to move around a bit more and you know you will have access to 120 plugins everywhere get the 120. the higher the voltage the better the machine will run. i have a miller maxstar 200 DX. it can run off of 120 or 240 and i can detect a slight change for the better when running off the higher voltage, almost like it is not starving for power.

buy good electric cables. whether it be for the extension cables to plug it in, or the grounding cables and electrode cables.

where ever you are welding make sure that flammable stuff is out of the way. i'm not just talking about getting the gas can out of the way. what about them old rags, or the wife's old blankets used to cover up plants on cold nights. wouldn't hurt to have a fire extinguisher around either. and if do have one around make sure that you know how to work it, too!!

PPE - it stands for Personal Protective Equipment. gloves, make sure you are not wearing and synthetic fabric for your shirt or pants. alot of people don't cover up their skin when they arc weld. there was a guy out at my place of work that just died because of melanoma. he did spot tacking here and there when he was loading the robot fixture. he was 38. RIP Jon. remember you work to retire and play.

when it comes to welding you really do get what you pay for. pay somebody for a $100 machine you will get a $100 machine weld. for some people that is good enough. remember i do this for a living so i can justify spending a 2700 dollar setup to my wife, even though my welder sits in the basement most of the time. i just refuse to use a machine at my place of work that is worth 6000 dollars and then go home and use a lesser quality machine. honestly people, i have seen some welding machines that were no good except for battery charging. and then there are the machines that totally surprised me and i am wondering what a great little machine for the price. the one that comes to my mind that is cheap and good for stick welding a thermadyne dragster 80. my neighbor has that and for what he uses it for, it does an ok job. there are ones from milller, lincoln, hobart, and so on.



I can change spark plugs in my truck!! WHOO WHO!! I must be a mechanic.

NO... IT DOESN'T!!

know your limitations. when you need help, get help. can't afford to take it to a weld shop. take it to a college or a vo-tec center where there are students of welding being taught by a very smart welding instructor. when it comes to welding on car frames, deer stands, or anything else that your life could be in the hands of, make sure that is done by a pro. gee, you say you saved 120 bucks by welding that car frame yourself. O....now your in the hospital shellin out two grand a day because your weld failed. yeah... you came out ahead there buddy. it is not unusual for my wife to find me down at the neighbors house with my machine and burning his electrodes on some little project. who knows who your neighbors are??...maybe you got some retired iron work down the block from ya and you don't know it. go out and meet some people instead of reading this forum!!


well, i congratulate you on reading this far and getting through this novel. any questions, drop me a line, i would be happy to help if i can.

post ya later.

red light
 

Last edited by red light; 11-29-04 at 07:50 AM.
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Old 11-30-04, 02:39 PM
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You WILL set things on fire

Excellent post red light.

The only thing that I would add to is the safety angles. Here are some things to watch for:
- Grass (as in your lawn) fires are no fun to put out nor explain why part of the yard is now black. Spray it down with the hose and leave the hose trickling onto it. You won't believe how far those little balls of molten steel will roll and bounce.
- Do NOT let the spark stream from your angle grinder bounce off any glass windows (or automotive paint jobs). It imbeds itself in the surface, then rusts, since each of those sparks is a little chunk of hot metal. The only fix is to replace the glass, which can be expensive.
- Keep a 5-gallon bucket with 2-3 gallons of water nearby. You WILL pick up some hot metal with gloves or have a glob of molten metal lay on your foot after melting through the sock. You want to get cool RIGHT NOW, so just stick the affected part into the bucket.
- For any electric arc process, do everything that you can to keep pets and people from watching the arc. Put the pets and the kids away. Have an extra helmet for those who want to watch. Put your body between the arc and nearby roads where people may suddenly appear, even more important at night.

This is particularly important in residential neighborhoods where the more typical activities are mowing lawns and cooking. Maybe some drilling, sawing and nailing now and then. Only a few folks will even know WHAT you are doing.
 
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Old 11-30-04, 06:08 PM
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Red Light

Pretty good post. Could you add some comments about the pro's and con's of AC versus DC stick welders?

Also, I use CO2 for my Hobart mig with great success. It is probably cheaper, and more readily available. Besides I can also use it on my beer kegs

IBM - 10-4 on the bucket of water. Had to use it more than once. And this time of year we are setting the leaves on fire, not the grass

Good idea on the spare welders helmets. I have to keep repeating "Eyes", when I am trying to weld with a curious neighbor around.
 
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Old 11-30-04, 06:43 PM
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Yes, I agree there is a lot of usefull info here

I've made it a sticky so it will stay on top.

I too use CO2 because of what I have to pay for a cylinder lease and mixed gas in my rural area.
CO2 also does well when used with flux core.
 
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Old 11-30-04, 11:25 PM
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Exclamation water around electric welding equipment, DC VS. AC

just a general safety rule, water and electricity don't mix (duh), but not in the way that you might think. i know that people wouldn't dare throw a bucket of water at a plugged in machine or an outlet, but some people won't think twice about standing in a puddle while they weld. say the piece you are welding is in the puddle and you are in the puddle. this can lead to a pretty nasty shock if all goes wrong. i know a few pipe welders that went to school with me and they all double check grounds and stuff before they get into a hole in the ground to weld.

i know that alot of people would say that you should keep your kids away while you are welding but i am going to have to disagree with that to a point. if your kids are like mine (around 9 or 10 years old) invite them to watch you. it is a good experience and depending on the kid it is a good chance to even try something new. nothing excites a kid like being daddy's little helper. i dress my kid up in my speed glas helmet, full leather welding coat, gloves, and safety glasses. then i get stuck using my old non-automatic helmet. neighbors are another thing. i agree with trying to close off nosey people and such, for their protection.

the one thing that i see some hobby welders do in an effort to try and close off people is shut themselves in their garage. lets talk about ventilation for a moment. look on any kind of electrode box, stick, wire, whatever and they say that ventilation is very important. welding fumes are toxic and come overcome you in some cases. so try and keep non-authorized people out but remember you need fresh air too. btw, most weld shops are typically 2 stories tall but without the second floor just so they can have the added air space.



AC VS. DC -- lots of things here to post. off the top of my head is price. we are talking about stick welders here. when making a welding machine it is easier to go from AC to AC. when going from AC to DC there are more components to the machine. this is where i say a little bit of money can go a long way, because DC polarity in a stick welding machine is very usefull.

AC

pros - cheaper machines, controls arc blow, IMHO 6013 on AC polarity is good for thinner steel.

cons - alot rods don't run well at all on AC (7018 comes to mind), sticks more, more spatter

DC

when doing DC you can either have the the electrode positive or negative. this gives you more versatility in what you want to do. DC electrode positive is the most useful. arc blow is problem with any kind of DC power source. arc blow is the build of a magnetic field in the piece of metal that you are welding. AC does not have that problem because every time the polarity changes the field is broken down.

DCEP - electrode positive - reverse polarity -- easier starts; fewer arc outages and sticking; less spatter (better looking welds); easier out-of-position welding; simpler learning curve, more penetration for heavier metals

DCEN - electrode negative - straight polarity -- lesser penetration for thinner metals.

if you are trying to remember whether straight polarity goes with DCEN or DCEP, i remember it the following way: the line that you draw to represent a minus sign is straight, straight polarity = DCEN. if you can remember that, then obviously DCEP is reverse. the one thing that i have never known and no one can explain is why the reverse and straight thing. i can't reason that one at all. if you try and explain that question remember to talk in layman's terms, for i am not an electrical engineer.


post ya later.

redlight

ps. i would post more but the wife is dragging me to bed
 

Last edited by red light; 12-01-04 at 12:28 AM.
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Old 12-01-04, 09:54 AM
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Ensure ventilation

There is a dependable, steady south wind and few fences/trees around my house. Most welding and grinding is done out on the concrete driveway, so my main concern is how to avoid facing or keeping my back to the wind.

The other caution I will add is to wear long socks. Sometimes I sit down indian-style to weld a joint on the driveway. Ultraviolet burns on unprotected ankles are particularly aggravating.

Most of my stick welding is done DCEP which is quite smooth with nice results.

For stick electrodes, it IS possible to use excessive amperage for the diameter selected. Read the amperage range on the package and do not exceed the upper limit for the welding position. If the flux cover on the electrode is now brown, but started out gray or off-white, it's running too hot.
 
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Old 12-22-04, 08:23 AM
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Great Article! Thanks...

I've heard also the fabric softener makes some fabrics more flammable. The short story is not to use it on clothing you use around welding and welders.

Is this true or an "Urban Legend"?
 
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Old 01-04-05, 06:07 PM
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Somewhat true

Warning on some liquid fabric softener labels"

"Warnings:
Some cotton-containing fluffier fabrics, including fleece and terry cloth, are more flammable than other fabrics.

By increasing fluffiness, using liquid fabric softeners can increase the flammability of these types of fabrics.
Therefore, do not use this product on clothing made with these types of fluffier fabrics.
Warning: Do not use this product on children's sleepwear or garments labeled as flame resistant as it may reduce flame resistance."
 
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Old 02-25-05, 03:37 PM
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hello, thanks, was wondering all that!! I am also on the hunt for a good, cheap, wire feed welder! (lol) Maybe I'll buy a used decent one, got any suggestions?? Going to be for mainly doing sheetmetal work on cars. Body panels, that sort of stuff. Thanks ,Jack
 

Last edited by GregH; 05-11-05 at 02:27 PM. Reason: Remove lengthy quote.
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Old 04-21-05, 02:55 PM
nick_151
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Originally Posted by unclejack
hello, thanks, was wondering all that!! I am also on the hunt for a good, cheap, wire feed welder! (lol) Maybe I'll buy a used decent one, got any suggestions?? Going to be for mainly doing sheetmetal work on cars. Body panels, that sort of stuff. Thanks ,Jack
If you're doing mostly body work, you don't need a very big wire feed. You can get pretty decent welder for not to bad of a price. Plus the smaller ones are a whole lot more portable. Except for the tank that is. Lincoln Electric makes some small ones that work quite nicely for body work
 
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Old 05-30-05, 08:55 PM
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Cool Hard to see anything

Hi red light, I am new to welding and have a new welder. I am having a hard time seeing anything through my face shield lense. I can only see the arc itself, nothing else. My new welder is a Clarke MIG 130EN, 115 volt. I am trying to use it with the flux wire (.035) that came with it. I want to weld outdoors only. The eye shield lense that came with the welder is a #11. Even though I have only had the welder for three days, If I can't see better, I will have to drop this hobby. What difference would a #10 or even a #9 lense make and what difference would there be in eye protection? I have also heard of a magnifying lense. Please share any ideas you may have since I really want to persue hobby of welding. Thanks, ebikerman
 
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Old 05-30-05, 09:45 PM
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ebikerman,

The advice you got in the other post you made on this question is sound.
The small welder you have is a fairly low amperage one that should make a #10 or a #9 lens suitable.
I'm not sure what type of helmet you got with your welder but it should be one that easily flips.

The hardest part is the time between when you position your hand untill the arc lights up what you are welding.
Working half in the dark is what welding is all about and with practice you should get used to it.
 
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Old 05-31-05, 09:20 PM
ebikerman
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Sound Advice Appreciated

Thank you for the advice...ebikerman
 
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Old 08-22-05, 08:43 AM
lesron
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advise needed

I was impressed with your write up so think your the one to help.I have a Clarke 115n ark welder and need to weld some new metal in rusted bits of my car.Although I have been told mig would be better can I still use my ark welder.Also other than discnnecting the battery are there any more safety issues. urgent need to get job done m.o.t. due. Thanks
 

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Old 08-22-05, 09:13 AM
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lesron,

Please limit your questions on this to one thread.

Post here: Link
 
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