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Hi, Christmas is coming and I'd like a review of easy to use wire feed welders. I did some welding as a teen, but I consider myself very green, and I'm sure equipment and technique has changed over the past 40 years. I have one 220 outlet, and many 110's in the shop. I'm looking for light duty such as needed for cub equipment and other around-the-place things that break. I appreciate any input.
I'm a novice, so when I bought my welder I went to the master himself, Rick Prentice. He said to stay away from the cheapo welders because they have plastic drive gears. He said a good beginner wire welder is the Millermatic 140. It has a steel drive gear and it is designed to take the guesswork out of welding. It's almost as if you read "Welding for Dummies" when you use it. It is 120 volt and does a great job. You can add gas to it as well. Although I am still learning, I like it a lot.
http://www.millerwelds.com/products/mig ... del=M00234
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Gotta agree with Rick on that one. Millermatic 140 is a good mig welder and not too steep on an entry price. I have looked at the Deca welders at Princess which would be similar to the ones at Harbor Freight and that is one item I would not buy from Princess as much as I like them. The Millermatic is the one that John my instructor at the college recommended that we buy.
I've got a Hobart Handler 140 mig welder with argon gas (Tractor Supply). Local welder suggested it for beginners (like me) and because Hobart is now owned by Miller. Very good quality and ease of use. The 140 will weld up to 1/4" plate steel (multiple passes), but I've done 3/16" plate with one pass. It's the largest 120 volt unit they make. I purchased my argon gas separately at Air Gas Supply (bigger bottle than TSC had) and a cart at Harbor Freight.
If you want a 220, then the Hobart Handler 190 would be worth it.
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I guess it matters how much you are going to use it and what you can justify spending.
I am a newbie welder, so I got an entry level (low cost) 220V wire feed model from Harbor Freight to start with.
It has some limitations as the duty cycle is quite low.
A high amperage weld setting only allows for about 45-60 seconds of welding before it needs to cool down. Lower amperage welds (more commonly used with wire feed) allow for longer duty cycles between cooling. I have had no issues with wire dispense or function.
It seems to be a decent setup to learn with. I don't feel the need to upgrade at this point, but I am still having to grind my welds cuz they aren't pretty. I don't think that has anything to do with the tool, more of an operator issue. It does the job I need as a homeowner / hobbyist.
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Pencil and paper in hand, visit the local merchants selling welders and welding supplies (consumables). Make notes. Talk to the knowledgeable person. Research each product on the internet.
I bought a wire feed welder several months ago from a local vendor because the vendor carries all of the consumables and if necessary provides repair support.
I have an excuse. CRS.
do not buy the cheapest one you can find. I have one of the Campbell Hausfeld cheapies that I got from a guy that sold freight damaged stuff. It is useable, but just good enough I will not throw it away, and bad enough to make me really wish I had a good one.
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I bought the Harbor Freight welder also....I am not happy with it and as a beginner don't know if its me or the welder but I do know the duty cycle is short....My downhill neighbor recently welded the pipe frame structure on my loader tractor with his hobart stick welder and recommended I get a stick welder instead of a wire feed....Said you don't have to be so particular and for "farm implements" etc its better...I need to go to a welding school I guess...Anyhow thats my 2 cents....Dave
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Look for some of the older, big units if you have 220 power available. Very good machines for a reasonable price.
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I have two stick welders. If the metal is 1/4" or thicker, I use one of the stick welders. I think I get much better penetrations with the stick welders. But then I learned to weld with a stick welder, 50 plus years ago.
Welding classes. Check with your local junior college, technical school. Sometimes the offer welding classes. Couple years ago I took a course. The course consisted mostly of oxygen/acetylene welding - which is great for thin metal. I think the course was centered on oxygen/acetylene welding because a number of participants were interested in making metal art objects.
I have an excuse. CRS.
I have a 220 volt Lincoln mig welder and I'm happy with it. I prefer to use gas as opposed to flux core wire. One of the main things to consider is availability of consumables, parts and service. Most everywhere that sells any hardware will sell Tweco consumables so you might want to consider a welder that uses a Tweco gun. Lincoln, Miller and Hobart welders would be my first pick but you need to see what is carried by a good long time local dealer. Harbor Freight goes with the lowest bidder and the manufacturer that made their welders this year might not be who makes them next year.
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Plus you no longer get the 20% coupon on welders at Harbor Freight...
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A lot of good advice has been given here. I especially agree with checking out your local dealers to see who has the product support you'll need in the future, along with pricing & such. I consider Miller, Hobart & Lincoln to be the big three and you should be satisfied with any of them, but there are other quality brands available and you may find your dealer carrying & supporting one of those, that's ok too. As to what size & voltage you choose, you'll have to make that decision based on your intended use.
Thanks for the input. From what I've been told by friends locally, the wire feed welders are easier to use than the stick welders. My work would be very light duty and limited to 110 should be good. I've been watching Craigslist and most of the local welders for sale are old industrial 220 units on wheels.
I have somewhere around 10 welders but still consider myself just a hack. My Hobart 140 has been very reliable but very light duty. 1/8 inch with C25 mix is questionable. Slightly thicker with flux core wire. However, right now I am patching a '52 Dodge truck and the thin sheet metal welding is easy with the 140. For basic work I would not get a 110 volt such as the Hobart 140. I would get a 220 volt unit if you have access to 220 volts. I initially did not so I bought the Hobart 140. Hobart makes a dual voltage wire feed or you can just get a dedicated 220 volt welder. Wire feed are easy to use, expensive initially with the purchase and the gas tank. Stick are less expensive, no gas, not much to break in the sense of electronics, not good for sheet metal, slightly harder to use.
Like Eugene, 1/4 inch or larger I use one of my stick welders or TIG. If I had a larger wire feed then I would be using that welder. I also have 50 Ft leads on one stick welder so it is easier to get the current to where I am working rather than having to drag a welder and gass bottle.
Unless you are welding thin metal only, I would just get a larger 220 volt unit. The wire feeds have electronics to break and cable shields that may need to be replaced so I would go with a unit with some lasting support such as one of the big 3.
A wire feed is simple enought that you can become decent just with practice and some youtube videos. "Welding tips and tricks" has very good youtube videos with very good video techniques.
In my area a basig mig course is around $600 and likely is worth the effort but I cannot make it to the course due to my job. However, a welding course is a good idea if you have something local.
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