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What's decent welder for the enthusiast

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  • What's decent welder for the enthusiast

    Since I took a MIG welding class and MMW is too far away for me to use their facility, I'm thinking about getting a MIG welder. My friend who took the MMW class a couple of years ago bought a multi-welder that came prepared to do MIG and stick but could also do TIG with extra parts. The welder, gas and tank, wire . . . was all less than $1k not including the parts for TIG welding. He's had good luck with it working on his Jeep Cherokee - replacing floor panels and such. I really don't know much about this so any thoughts on the matter would be great.

    Edit: My friend has a Tweco 141i
    Last edited by Red_5; 01-23-2017, 02:23 PM.
    99 Mazda Miata SuperMiata #515 - AKA Sparky SOLD
    '91 Mariner Blue Miata project AKA Napoleon

  • #2
    I got a cheap one for 300, doesn't feed right. Feed problems are infuriating when youre trying to make good welds. Doing it again id probably cough up 500-600 for a name brand.

    I really enjoy my cheap HF 110v flux core welder though. Feeds well and is great when you want to do something quick and nasty without wheeling the tank and 220 extension out.


    • #3
      Millermatic 141 would do anything that you might want to tackle as a hobby.
      Get gas too.

      Blackbird Fabworx - Quality Performance Fabrication


      • #4
        I just bought Lincoln MP210. This is a multipurpose welder and can do MIG, TIG, stick and aluminum with a spool gun. 2 year warranty, 3 optional. Base config MIG and stick is around $1200, base+spool gun is $1400 and the TIG torch+pedal can be bought for ~$350. It weights only 40lbs and can be connected to 110 or 220 volts.


        • #5
          The analog to the Lincoln MP210 is the Miller 215. I don't think you can go wrong with either of these welders. My motto these days is no more cheap tools. A good welder is something you will have for years so why cheap out? Access to consumables is also an issue - Praxair or Airgas stores are everywhere and they carry Miller and Lincoln parts. If you are not welding every day you will need all the help you can get when it comes time to glue some metal together. Either of these will make you look like a pro. If I had to choose I'd wander down to Airgas or Praxair and get their opinion. They talk to a lot of guys and get some good feedback.

          An old school welder advised me 'Never buy metal working tools at a place that sells plywood'. Words of wisdom.

          AiM Data and Video systems, Suspension Setup, Race car builds, support, and rentals. At your beck and call.

          Mark Nichols
          Iron Canyon Motorsports


          • #6
            I was advised on my first welder by a close friend who is a structural welder and is in elevator construction. He told me to get something that wont frustrate me as I get better. (He was also a ruthless judge of weld quality.)

            I bought a Millermatic 211 almost 9 years ago and never looked back. Not the cheapest but certainly not crazy either.

            The biggest selling features for me were:

            Ability to do 120/208 with a plug swap (it welds better on 208 but sometimes you take what you can get)
            Ability to do aluminum with a spool gun (admittedly not very pretty but very functional)

            One box, any metal, any voltage.

            It has paid for itself a dozen times over in time saved by not having to stop and find someone to weld something for me, or by allowing me to complete a project start to finish myself. Ive also made a good amount of my garage workspace with it by now.

            In 9 years I have replaced my whip liner once, and thats it aside from consumables.

            Dont buy cheap tools. If you buy a cheap welder you will outgrow it quickly and then nobody else will want to buy it from you. If you buy a decent one and never use it, it will at least be easy to sell.

            Example of my 1000lb capacity modular workbenches I made with this box:
            Click image for larger version

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            Last edited by anorexicpoodle; 01-23-2017, 05:42 PM.


            • #7
              Miller 215.

              I have the 211, the newer inverter based version. It's makes it so easy to get decent results even in my unskilled hands. It's practically point and shoot. Full disclosure - I'm a novice w/ welding. Tip - there's almost always some Miller rebate that adds up to several hundred off + accessories you need.

              The 215 came out recently and I'm envious. I suspect AC Tig isn't far behind at the rate inverter technology is advancing.

              Also, don't skimp on helmets. The digital shields are worth the premium. Welding is a lot easier when you can see better.


              • #8
                And buy online to save sales tax.


                • #9
                  Based on my experience I say buy only Lincoln or Miller for welders. I have gas,MIG,TIG and Plasma. AS a first machine buy a MIG machine 220V. Almost nothing good can be done with 110V. It is very easy to pull 220V into your garage building single phase 220V from 2 separate 110V lines or from the washer dryer or even an electric oven circuit. For easy living and the most forgiving welding consider using your MIG with Fluxcore wire which is gas free, works great on dirty metal, will weld the thickest metal that the machine you buy can weld, can get into the smallest areas, and can be used outside in the wind. And for all those who say fluxcore is nasty ugly I just don't think so. It is messy. Here is a random example on my rollcage before paint.
                  Click image for larger version

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by SeanB View Post
                    Miller 215.
                    With that box miller is like....
                    Click image for larger version

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                    Now I want one.....

                    Maybe when the remodel is done.


                    • #11
                      A 110V welder has more than enough power to blow great holes in anything you'll weld on a car. Flux core is miserable - spatters everywhere and you can't see the weld puddle because of its flux covering - get gas.


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by flink View Post
                        A 110V welder has more than enough power to blow great holes in anything you'll weld on a car. Flux core is miserable - spatters everywhere and you can't see the weld puddle because of its flux covering - get gas.
                        Actually you can see the puddle just fine and you can see thecolor of surrounding metal as an indication of good penetration. A fluxcore bead will also wet out into the work like you see in the picture I posted. MIG is actually the most dangerous weld imo because it is easy to have a good looking weld with poor penetration. MIG welding can be easy as pushing toothpaste out of a tube but a MIG weld is not a slam dunk. Those shortcomings are often used to promote TIG over MIG. All methods have their place.

                        You can blow through tin but 110v just isn't great with 120 wall tubing. I have seen lots of 110v bird poop MIG welds. I question their strength and penatration. If you have to weld at the track that's one thing. It is just too easy to wire your home garage with 220v plus gobs of amps.
                        Last edited by fatbillybob; 01-23-2017, 11:15 PM.


                        • #13
                          Eric, I have a Tweco 181i I bought last year. I've only used it for MIG welding but it seems like a great bang for your buck.
                          1990 S2 SuperMiata


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by albertg View Post
                            Eric, I have a Tweco 181i I bought last year. I've only used it for MIG welding but it seems like a great bang for your buck.
                            I saw that one too when I was shopping. Does it have the ability to run on either 110 or 220? Obviously at different power levels. I also saw a Tweco Fabricator 211. It all get confusing when you're new to it.
                            99 Mazda Miata SuperMiata #515 - AKA Sparky SOLD
                            '91 Mariner Blue Miata project AKA Napoleon


                            • #15
                              Miller, Lincoln, Hobart. Stick to those three for all the reasons others have mentioned. Hobarts are tanks - they run for decades and can be fixed by the same parts as the other two. You can sometimes find them second-had for a slightly better price than the other two just because it doesn't have either of their names. Trying to learn to weld with a crappy welder is infuriating because you don't know enough yet to know whether it's the machine or you and a lot of guys will waste a lot of time thinking they must be doing something wrong when the machine is just crap.

                              Get a machine that can run gas and don't look back. Other initial costs to keep in mind are the regulator and tank so if you can find a MIG welder that comes with a regulator that's great. In CA get your tank from an Airgas or Westair, and don't waste money on a tiny tank in an effort to save a few bucks. The cost of air gets a lot more affordable in larger volume and you'll be surprised how fast you go through the small tanks.

                              While you're at Westair/Airgas, get your MIG gloves there. They don't cost much and it's a lot better to try them on before buying and find something you have decent feel through than buying online and hoping. While you don't need the same dexterity for MIG as you do with TIG, feel is still important and some MIG gloves are like wearing oven mitts.
                              Last edited by thepass; 01-24-2017, 03:42 PM.
                              Ryan Passey
                              Singulär Motorsports | Goodwin Racing

                              #13 1990 Miata
                              "The sport dedicating to the spirits of time attacking motoring" -Emilio