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MIG Welder Buyers Guide, Part 1

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  • MIG Welder Buyers Guide, Part 1

    An article borrowed from migwelding forum, UK, an article that will guide anyone interested in buying a MIG welding machine in the future. Hope this read can give us some understanding in general( wider scope ) about selecting the kind or type of MIG welder we have in mind.


    PART 1


    Buying a MIG Welder

    The main difference between cheap and expensive MIG welders is ease of use. For anyone new to welding that can equate to possibility of use.

    It's really difficult to put the differences into words. On the forum we have a section that helps people learn to MIG weld where people can post photos of their welds and ask for advice. It's easy to tell from the photos which price range people have bought in.

    Those who have bought a decent welder tend to post photos of good welds first time, and we can help them improve. Those who have bought welders from eBay or from their local supermarket tend to post photos of bird poo and spatter. It's difficult to give them sensible advice and sadly those guys normally give up both their welding and their project.

    Go through that section yourself and you'll see what I mean. Notice both the forum and this buyers guide are independant, but we also have a welding shop on here which might be worth a look around.

    Don't buy a machine just because it's cheap! Ask on the forum before you buy and post the specifications if you can. We'll point you to feedback from owners of similar welders and give you feedback on whether the specs will suit your application.

    For the specs to watch out for read on. But mind - the cheapo rubbish manufacturers have read this page and are altering their specs to suit.

    How many amps - Maximum?
    The first thing to decide on is what you are going to weld, and how often. Here's my own estimate of what each hobby sized welder can do. Manufacturer's claims vary, but they'll generally claim to be able to weld unreasonably high thickness. Ignore what they say and use this chart instead:

    Maximum Amps:

    90 amp

    110 amp

    130 amp

    150 amp

    180 amp

    * Maximum steel thickness (butt weld)

    2.0mm

    2.5mm

    3mm

    4mm

    5mm

    * Maximum steel thickness (with V and root gap)

    3.0mm

    3.8mm

    4.5mm

    6mm

    7.5mm

    * Find out what your welder will do using the MIG Calculator.
    * An example of V and root gap and an edge to edge butt weld are shown in the 90 amp thickness challenge.

    For welding on a modern car with thin chassis panels a small welder might suffice. For an older car with separate chassis a 130 amp welder would be the minimum, and a Land Rover would require 150 amps or more.

    Read the spec sheets to determine maximum amps and don't go by the model name. Welders used to have the max amps in their name, but marketing departments have started to become creative. for example the Lincoln SP-135T still offers a maximum current of 135 amps, but the Clarke 135TE only goes up to 130 amps.

    How many amps - Minimum?
    Don't forget the minimum amps. Most smaller MIG welders have a minimum of 30 amps which is OK for 1.0mm sheet, and passable on 0.8mm steel with a bit of care and technique (see welding thin metal). Some welders have 20 or 25 amp minimum which would be more usable on 0.8mm steel.

    Any welder with a minimum of more than 30 amps (normally only very cheap or very powerful welders) would be unusable on car bodywork. One really cheap 100 amp welder has a minimum setting of 85 amps. That'll give a range of 1.5mm to 2mm steel which is all but useless for most jobs. Many big welders designed to run all day at 300 amps will not go below 40 amp minimum.

    Workshop power supply
    It should be possible to run a welder up to around 150 amps on a UK 13 amp plug. Larger welders would need a 32 amp round blue plug and suitable dedicated wiring, although they can be operated on a 13 amp plug on the lower settings. A 13 amp plug should be changed about once a year as they aren't really up to supplying high currents for long durations.

    Some of the cheaper welders (and I won't mention country of origin) seem to be blowing fuses at surprisingly low outputs. I don't know the science behind how they manage it. but if you are on a cost mission respect their advice on power supplies and fuses.

    Avoid permanently live torches!
    This is where the manufacturer saves a few pennies by leaving the contactor out of the welder. The contactor is the part that switches the electricity supply to the torch when the trigger is depressed. Without the contactor the torch is constantly live, so if you happen to touch anything while positioning the torch you'll get arc eye. Great.

    I didn't think anyone made anything this rubbish any more, but it seems that Wolf Welders do. A discussion on the forum is a good read: Why avoid live wire feed. If anyone finds any other makes with a permanently live wire feed then do post on the forum and I'll update this page to warn potential buyers.

    Manufacturers will not mention the permanently live torch in their literature so ask before buying.

    Quality
    The quality of MIG welders (together with the prices) continues to fall as more of them are manufactured in Eastern Europe and China. Expensive MIGs are more forgiving to use than low end welders because they have better electronics inside and better wire feed units. The cost-down performed on cheaper welders does compromise the functionality.

    One benefit of a slightly more expensive welders is the wire feed control automatically varies to suit the power. The wire speed knob on these is just a fine control which doesn't need fiddling with when you change power settings. If you can afford one with that feature you won't regret it. Another feature of better stuff is a good sized wire feed motor and a quality wire feed mechanism. A decent wire feed is important for easy welding, much more so than the other bits and pieces inside the machine.

    Generally speaking, welders get nicer as they get more expensive, and there is a great deal of choice in the 200 to 500 hobby to semi-professional market.

    Duty cycle
    This is the percentage of a 5 or 10 minute period (depending on manufacturer) that you can weld before the welder overheats. For example if a welder has a 60% duty cycle at 100 amps over 10 minutes, then the welder can be operated continuously at 100 amps for 6 minutes before it will need a 4 minute break.

    Generally duty cycle isn't important for automotive repair work, as the amps tend to be low (higher duty cycle at lower amps), and 9 minutes out of 10 is normally spent setting up, so any welder with fan cooling should have a good enough duty cycle. It would be a big consideration for a fab shop welding steel I beams together all day.

    Smaller welders without fans (non-turbo welders) running at full power will tend to have a very low duty cycle and owners report that the thermal cut outs can be annoying even for car restorations.

    Which Manufacturer?
    Surely all hobby welders are made by Telwin in Italy and are all the same?

    Not at all. Welders are made in many countries. The brand can still provide a clue. A decent brand may chose to have their welder manufactured in Eastern Europe, Mexico, or even China. If the brand has specified the design, determijned all of the component specs, and they have decent quality control then these brands might offer you an equivalent product with a cost saving. If they haven't then their brand will start to fall into disrepute. Ask on the forum before you buy.

    The Welder Chassis
    The chassis is the case and wheels that contain the MIG welder. The main things to consider are whether it has wheels - make anything bigger than the smallest hobby welder much easier to move around, and whether is has a shelf on the back for a decent gas bottle. Most sub-150 amp welders don't have a gas bottle shelf these days, although a DIY shelf can normally be made and bolted on to the welder.

    The chassis isn't a major consideration as making a welder trolly can be a great first welding project.



    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    CIGWELD Weldskill 250 amp Mig Welder
    AHP Alpha-TIG 200X welder
    HITRONIC 300 Amp DC Inverter IGBT Welder
    YAMATO 300 amp AC Stick Welder
    YAMATO 200 amp DC Inverter IGBT Welder
    DeWALT Chopsaw
    HOBART and ESAB Welding Helmets


    cloned STIHLs

    MS 044 chainsaw
    MS 070 chainsaw

  • #2
    Re: MIG Welder Buyers Guide, Part 1 & Part 2

    PART 2


    Gas vs Gas less
    MIG needs some sort of shielding gas to keep oxygen away from the weld. The choices are gas shielded (oxygen is displaced by an inert or semi-inert (active) gas mix contained in a bottle), and flux cored wire (where a protective covering is produced by a compound included in the wire itself). There are advantages and disadvantages for each type of welding, but gas shielded is by far the nicer method to use, so unless you know you'll only want to weld with flux cored wire it makes sense to go for a welder that can do both, or a gas shielded only welder.

    There's a page about gasless welding, but in summary you can't see what you are doing, it spatters a lot, and needs the slag brushing off before painting. On the positive side it can be used outdoors in the wind just as effectively as indoors, and the weld quality and strength is OK once you get the hang of it.

    Things become easier with gas shielding. You can see the weld pool, the welds are neater, there is less spatter. The disadvantages are the cost of gas for occasional users, and the need for wind shielding if welding outside.

    Gas comes in different sizes and tends to be consumed at around 10 liters per minute. So the tiny disposable bottles costing 10 will last for 6 minutes of continuous welding (about 1m of weld). The BOC size X bottles hold 2,300 liters and cost 50 per year bottle rental plus 30 per bottle full of gas. For a car restoration that would take a year they work out at 1/5 of the price of the disposable bottles. Another alternative is to use CO2 from a friendly pub, or local welding suppliers might be able to provide a lower cost alternative to BOC or Air Products.

    Differences between different gases are covered in the welding gas comparison.

    What else will you need with the welder?
    Torch
    The torch almost always comes with the welder, but there are differences to consider. Torches can wear and depending on how much use the welder gets they may need to be replaced during the life of the welder. If you get the option go for a eurotorch - these have a universal quick release connection to the front of the welder, are readily available and cheap. If the welder has a built in torch a replacement will have to come from the manufacturer and will probably be poorer quality and will probably cost twice as much as a nice eurotorch.

    Gas Regulator
    The main choice in gas regulator for a full sized bottle is whether to go for the cheaper single gauge one (that measures the pressure remaining in the bottle) or the twin gauge (which also measures flow rate). The twin gauge ones are only 10 more expensive and you'll probably save that in gas if you overestimate the flow rate.

    Safety Equipment
    Molten metal is hot, and the UV light produced by welding is a lot stronger and nastier than sunlight. Cotton overalls and welding gauntlets (thick heat resistant gloves) are a must.

    Welding Mask
    Most hobby welders come with a hand held mask which is useless as the spare hand can be put to far better use in steadying the welding torch. A full face mask that fits on your head and can be flipped down for welding will only cost 10. People learning MIG welding report that an auto-darkening helmet makes life much easier. These remain transparent until the welder starts arcing which makes positioning of the torch easier.

    A few members have reported that the auto helmets bought cheap from eBay have an excessively dark shade, despite being described as shade number 10. Better quality masks will start at about 50.

    Features that can be found on more expensive welders
    A hobby welder will normally have two controls - one for the power and one for the wire speed. Top end hobby welders or semi-pro welders might have an additional control for burnback. This controls the amount the wire burns back towards the tip after welding, and is useful on thick metal where a machine without burnback will leave a long piece of wire that would need to be trimmed with wire cutters.

    Another common control is a spot timer. This is simply a timer that cuts off the power after a certain time and is used for "spot welding" by building up weld on one side of a panel until it penetrates through to the other. A stronger and more fail safe alternative for DIY welders is the plug weld.

    Moving higher through the price range (1000 and more) and synergic or pulsed MIG welders start appearing on the market. These introduce an alternating or pulsing current into the power supply which provides improved arc stability and hence increase control and result in a neater weld. Anyone considering this sort of welder will probably know more than I do about them.

    Synergic and Inverter MIGs
    Inverters are starting to find their way into MIG welders, and they can offer a lot of features at a lower cost to the traditional transformer based welders. The inverter technology is currently aimed at increasing the deposition rate (and speed of welding) in high amp spray transfer, and avoiding the transitional globular transfer phase.

    Welding of thin metal is carried out in dip transfer, and inverter based welders don't currently offer any advantages for car body work.
    CIGWELD Weldskill 250 amp Mig Welder
    AHP Alpha-TIG 200X welder
    HITRONIC 300 Amp DC Inverter IGBT Welder
    YAMATO 300 amp AC Stick Welder
    YAMATO 200 amp DC Inverter IGBT Welder
    DeWALT Chopsaw
    HOBART and ESAB Welding Helmets


    cloned STIHLs

    MS 044 chainsaw
    MS 070 chainsaw

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: MIG Welder Buyers Guide, Part 1

      If I'm going to be using gas less Mig welding then I'll just buy a Stick welder.

      For gas Mig welding ... now this is a different story. Slag free welding is great.
      Millermatic 180 Autoset Mig Welder
      Miller Spoolmate 100 Spool Gun
      Victor Firepower 350 Oxy Ace Outfit
      3M Speedglas 9002X AD Helmet
      Makita LC1230 Dry Cut Saw
      Ingersoll Rand Air Tools
      Snap On Tools
      Metabo Power Tools
      Norseman Drill Cutting Tools
      Bosch Power Tools
      3M PPS

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: MIG Welder Buyers Guide, Part 1

        I haven't used a Mig machine yet but I'd like to keep an open mind on both type of Mig welding, the gas and gas less type have both their advantage and disadvantages.

        Using the gas less or fluxed cored welding would seems easier to handle outside of the studio since the protective flux is within the wire itself, so no problem with wind blowing, the torch handle is more shorter and closer to the hand compared to a stick rod which is sometimes if not often difficult to control or manipulate.

        And with the gas shielding type wire on the other hand is limited only inside the confines of the shop but of course again easier to use and produces no slag at all and I guess less spatters too compared to the stick welding process.

        Well only my personal opinion.
        CIGWELD Weldskill 250 amp Mig Welder
        AHP Alpha-TIG 200X welder
        HITRONIC 300 Amp DC Inverter IGBT Welder
        YAMATO 300 amp AC Stick Welder
        YAMATO 200 amp DC Inverter IGBT Welder
        DeWALT Chopsaw
        HOBART and ESAB Welding Helmets


        cloned STIHLs

        MS 044 chainsaw
        MS 070 chainsaw

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: MIG Welder Buyers Guide, Part 1

          Finally, i found some time to visit the forum. Kudos to sir rosy for taking time and interest in spreading the wonderful word of mig welding. Mig welding is on its infant stages here in the philippines specially for the hobbyist and amateur welders. Little do we know that mig welding is a lot more easier to learn than stick welding, control and handling is easier to grasp in just a couple of runs. And most of all the kind of weld output, range of weld material and flexibility makes it all worth it . Assuming of course that you have a decent machine. There are cheap mig machines out there that with a bit of tinkering would run decently for a hobby welder.

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: MIG Welder Buyers Guide, Part 1

            Nice to see you around again JanMike, its been quite a long long time that I've seen you made a post in the forum bro.

            Yeah you are right very few know what Mig welding is, most neighborhood welding shops all over the country still uses the stick welder for their welding applications and even hobbyist/amateurs are always starting with stick welders. Perhaps due to the facts that stick welders are much much cheaper than other welding processes, Mig, Tig or Oxy_Ace set ups.

            It has become my aim too to spread awareness of the use of Mig to other members of PHM if they will be interested, though I haven't used one yet but tried once with a friends OZITO brand, though the brand name was not that promising, the welder was giving some erratic weld applications.

            Hope we can find cheaper Mig weld machines that can be considered as an entry level or starters for those guys interested in learning the process.
            CIGWELD Weldskill 250 amp Mig Welder
            AHP Alpha-TIG 200X welder
            HITRONIC 300 Amp DC Inverter IGBT Welder
            YAMATO 300 amp AC Stick Welder
            YAMATO 200 amp DC Inverter IGBT Welder
            DeWALT Chopsaw
            HOBART and ESAB Welding Helmets


            cloned STIHLs

            MS 044 chainsaw
            MS 070 chainsaw

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: MIG Welder Buyers Guide, Part 1

              I have been welding for over 40 yrs and used tig. mig. arc and plasma cutting machines as well.
              if you buy a mig get Dual both gas and gasless .. forget about gasless welding it is a time waster... tig is good for Al and SS but you need to have a big demand for it to make it worth while SS and Al mig works ok but need a different gas..Got an Ozito 135 amp seem ok so far but want to try CO2 instead of Argon.
              Don't buy any thing under 100 amps because one day you will need more power and will have to go out and buy a bigger welder .

              Comment


              • Odie
                Odie commented
                Editing a comment
                I am almost certain to buy a Dual Gas and Gasless MIG inverter welder until I read this post from Glen48. Was his statement "forget about gasless welding it is a time waster.." back in 2013 still the case to date?
                ​​​​

            • #8
              I am almost certain to buy a Dual Gas and Gasless MIG inverter welder until I read this post from Glen48. Was his statement "forget about gasless welding it is a time waster.." back in 2013 still the case to date?
              i'm no expert but fluxcore aka "gasless" does have its uses especially for a guy like me who welds like every 2 months no gas to worry about. works great outdoors on a windy day. no gas tanks to transport. etc

              i've done a few projects w/ it and i'm satisfied w/ the results. the important thing is to get a good fluxcore wire. i've tried 3 different brands before i got the results that i wanted.

              Comment


              • #9
                guys ,

                i am torn between a Mig or TIG welder,

                the primary purpose will be used for welding aluminum/build up ng aluminum parts like motorcycle crankcase /parts.

                what is the more suitable for wleding jobs like this?

                thanks

                Comment


                • #10
                  An ac/dc TIG welder bro.
                  CIGWELD Weldskill 250 amp Mig Welder
                  AHP Alpha-TIG 200X welder
                  HITRONIC 300 Amp DC Inverter IGBT Welder
                  YAMATO 300 amp AC Stick Welder
                  YAMATO 200 amp DC Inverter IGBT Welder
                  DeWALT Chopsaw
                  HOBART and ESAB Welding Helmets


                  cloned STIHLs

                  MS 044 chainsaw
                  MS 070 chainsaw

                  Comment


                  • #11
                    thanks bro Rosy

                    Will a 200A Tig welder suffice?i saw some welder with Tig and MMA capabilities but did not see with AC/DC variant, can ypu pls shed a light on how important is AC/DC?.... ill try to check with Mr. Google also

                    btw , ano ba ginagawa ng mga machine shops if they build up aluminum parts?i dont see them using Tig/Mig but pinababaga nila yung pinak body then me tintunaw na aluminum material para pang build up?

                    i dont know if alin ang mas maibay yung ganung process or yung Tig wled build up?

                    thanks po uli
                    Last edited by adzz; 02-06-2018, 08:58 PM.

                    Comment


                    • #12
                      Actually bro you can also use a MIG welder provided its a spool gun ready machine like Miller or Lincoln brands of mig welders. There is a separate spool gun to be attached to the machine and inside the gun is a spool or reel of aluminum wires.

                      Now for a TIG machine/welder, like I said an AC/DC is the one to choose. For aluminum welding you use the AC frequency and for mild steel and stainless steel, its the DC frequency using argon gas. 200 amps for a tig machine will be enough for your purpose.

                      There are a lot of TIG machines being sold in the local market but they are usually for DC only. Another is DC stick welders with TIG function, usually these are only lift tig or scratch tig for mild steel or stainless steel.

                      RILON and HiTronic brands sells AC/DC TIG machines. Check out Goldpeak Tools and Hardware and ask coolmaxheric for the HiTronic AC/DC Tig machine.



                      Hope this helps !
                      Last edited by rosy; 02-11-2018, 02:12 AM.
                      CIGWELD Weldskill 250 amp Mig Welder
                      AHP Alpha-TIG 200X welder
                      HITRONIC 300 Amp DC Inverter IGBT Welder
                      YAMATO 300 amp AC Stick Welder
                      YAMATO 200 amp DC Inverter IGBT Welder
                      DeWALT Chopsaw
                      HOBART and ESAB Welding Helmets


                      cloned STIHLs

                      MS 044 chainsaw
                      MS 070 chainsaw

                      Comment


                      • #13
                        hi bro Rosy,

                        yes it certainly does help appreciate it very much.

                        i was browsing the thread on our expert Alu Tig welder a few page back but the pictures arent showing na ,sayang....

                        yeah actually i am basing my plans accdg to the price from Goldpeak pricing din..


                        thanks a lot bro

                        Comment


                        • #14
                          Glad I could help kahit sa konting paraan at paliwanag.
                          Good luck on your purchase of a TIG machine, whatever brand you will choose !


                          CIGWELD Weldskill 250 amp Mig Welder
                          AHP Alpha-TIG 200X welder
                          HITRONIC 300 Amp DC Inverter IGBT Welder
                          YAMATO 300 amp AC Stick Welder
                          YAMATO 200 amp DC Inverter IGBT Welder
                          DeWALT Chopsaw
                          HOBART and ESAB Welding Helmets


                          cloned STIHLs

                          MS 044 chainsaw
                          MS 070 chainsaw

                          Comment

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