First welder- casual use

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I've started thinking that I'd like to try some welding. Mostly for quick repairs on old equipment- but also for light fabrication.
I was thinking of getting one of the $100 MIG welders from Harbor Freight just to see if this was something I could learn. But then I read on some tutorial online that MIG was not good for painted or rusted surfaces- and most of what I'll be welding will probably be both.
So-- do I switch gears and look at a different setup- or get used to using a wire brush?
Any suggestions for a must read first book that might help me choose a welder- and then how to use it?
[Suggestions of websites- forums- and Usenet groups appreciated.]
Thanks- Jim
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Probably the least expensive and most useful setup would be a stick welding rig like Lincoln AC-225. you'll probably need a cutting torch as well, if you plan to fabricate anything. Any how to welding book will give you the basics, then you just have to practice the various types of welds and positions. Once you get good at it, if you have the need, you can spend for shielded arc and specialty equipment

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Jim Elbrecht wrote:

...
No specific title. Anybody can learn to weld, the question is how quickly and well... :)
What I would recommend that's pretty inexpensive in general is if you have a local vo-tech or community college, go sign up for a first course--they'll supply the tools, expertise and you can normally bring in a project or two and in a couple of months you'll have the basics covered including safety--always a key.
Then, if you're wanting more, go for it. Here the course fee is $60 for county residents plus (I think) $40 lab fee--pretty cheap...
--
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-snip-

I'll check around some more- but it looks like my local college uses a local "Welding School" - "Modern Welding School" in Schenectady, NY.
The school looks like it caters more to businesses- but it offers a 6 hour course for $179. [and these are broken down into MIG, TIG, Gas, etc- no 'overall' intro course.]
There must be other courses available- I think it might be money well spent.
Thanks, Jim
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They usually end up being a whole lot of fun also. I've done several with friends just as a diversion.
s

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S. Barker wrote:

..
There are a couple of women here in town that have been "taking" the vo-tech class for about five years now. They're into artsy kinds of stuff as well as wrought iron, etc.
Started out as total newbies, now are damned good, both of them. They bought an old clunker truck and attend local farm auctions and buy up most of the junk and scrap metal as their raw material. One was fighting cancer when started and started out as a diversion and the other started to simply be supportive. Now the guys in the classes see what they're doing and virtually all end up making at least one or two decorative items besides the "just welding" -- there's some really nice work coming out of there besides a qualified high-pressure gas pipeline weld (this is oil production company so that's where a bunch of the guys doing it for a "real job" end up).
--
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A welder is only as good as the operator and how well you can prep the materials. I've welded many rusted metals and painted as well. Grind, chip or do what ever you can to remove the contaminents, then weld. Stick is a little better at welding painted/rusty metal, but not much better. As long as you get it hot enough, should be fine.
I'm a welder by trade and I know your not always gonna get perfect, clean metal. Some new metals need to be cleaned up before welding as well. Welding is 10 percent welding, 90 percent prep, better prep, better the weld and fusion your gonna get, no matter what the condition of the metal.
Yes, new metal is easier to weld, but who can always afford new, when old/used is cheaper.
--
Steve

"Jim Elbrecht" < snipped-for-privacy@email.com> wrote in message
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keep in mind the 120v units won't weld much more than 1/8" stock properly. You need a 220v unit with at LEAST 130A output for real fab work on 1/4 to 3/8 material.
steve

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ditto
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On Tue, 1 Jan 2008 10:18:42 -0600, "S. Barker"

Thanks- just talked me out of 120v. Dammit- I don't have 220 in the garage yet.
Jim
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wrote:

Do not let the 220 intimidate you. My Lincoln 175SP+ is rated at a 22 amp draw MAXIMUM. I weld at about half power on most things, so you won't come close to hitting max or your duty cycle. A friend of mine is a union electrician with 37 years in now. He looked at it and stuck in a 20 amp breaker. I've NEVER popped it in five years now. With a stick, it's another matter. You don't need a huge honker 220 high amp circuit to run a 220 MIG with .035" wire. And that will do 95% of what you want to do.
Steve
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You won't need a whole lot of power. 10ga wire on a 30a breaker will run any weld you'll ever do.
s
wrote:

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oh, another thought: Do not get one of those lincoln AC "buzzbox". If you try AC welding to learn, you'll tear your hair out and never do it again. If you're going with a stick welder, please spend a few extra dollars and get a DC machine.
s

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ditto
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First, you are stepping into an abyss. Welding can be addictive, and it opens up doors you don't even know are there right now. So buy a machine that will do the work. You say casual use, but once you start welding, you'll do more.
What kind of welding are you going to do? It is nearly impossible to find a machine that will do everything, so we have three types: MIG, stick, and TIG.
For you, the beginner, a MIG or a Stick would do it. I would say a 220 MIG.
Please consider that if you start to do ANY welding at all, you may outgrow a small cheap starter machine in no time, and be having another capital outlay soon. That said, I would suggest these:
Lincoln 225 AC/DC Miller Thunderbolt AC/DC Any of the Miller or LINCOLN wirefeeds, but I tend towards the 220v, as you can use flux cored wire, and essentially don't need a stick. That one machine will do MOST of the welding you want to do. If you get to the point of needing big stick, you'll be able to find a good used Lincoln or Miller stick for around $500, probably less. Once you get good enough to run 7018, you'll make that much on one job.
MY CAUTION TO YOU: Buy Red or Blue (Lincoln or Miller). You can find parts, and their warranties are outstanding. The HF stuff is a PITA, unless you get the one in ten that works. If you do buy the HF, get the one with the heftiest handle, as that makes the best boat anchor. When it fries, or doesn't work, or you can't get consumables, that's about all it's good for.
I will get all kinds of flames from people who have had cheap machines and they worked fine. I'm just telling you that you get what you pay for in a welder, and if you want to do nice work, and not have the thing down or in the shop half the time, spend a few extra bucks now. As you know, there are some tools that you can do a much better job with than a cheaper model.
Let's put it this way: you're going into the hauling business. Do you want a cheap wimpy low capacity truck, or one that will haul bigger loads and make more money and run more of the time? No sense turning down work and money because you got wimpy equipment.
Steve, who's been welding since 1974. I got the Lincoln 175SP+
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-snip-

Thanks for the detailed remarks--- I've started looking at lightly used machines and see lots on Craigslist & Ebay-- probably makes sense once I decide which way I'll go.
-snip-

There won't be any 'for hire' jobs in my future [he says confidently. . . ] -- but I do know the experience of thinking 'if I'd just gone one step bigger when I bought the first tool. . .'.

I'm still a HF fan-- but your point is well taken- on a complicated tool that relies on consumables, I am probably better off buying used Red/Blue.
-snip-
Thanks, Jim
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wrote:

But it at Harbor Freight, and you'll be tossing it in the garbage by next New Year. Spend the extra money and get something that will last.
To prepare painted or rusty metal, be sure you have an angle grinder. Wire brushes are far too slow for most work. You can put both a grinder wheel and a wire wheel on the angle grinder. I own 3 grinders. One has a cutting wheel, one has a grinding wheel, the 3rd has a wire wheel. It's just too much hassle to keep changing wheels during a job. I'll have to admit that the wire wheel grinder is just one of those cheap imports that cost under $20. The ones that get the hard work are better quality. Angle grinders are one of the easiest way to cut metal in a small home setup, unless you got lots of money to buy power tools and torches made for cutting metal.
I personally own and use an old Sears AC stick welder. It gets the job done. Knowing how to weld is 90% of the job. Check out this website. Lots of tips and stuff to learn from: http://www.millerwelds.com/resources/improving-your-skills They have a PDF file on there to download and it's full of good educational stuff about welding.
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Having multiple grinders is about one of the handiest things I can think of. I got a four plug on the end of my extension cord, and have a grinder, electric brush and a paddle sander.
Steve
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yet@none_chosen.com (not-registered-yet@none_chosen.com) says...

I use a sawzall with a metal blade or a 14" cutoff saw for almost all my cutting.

Yeah, I have an old Wards AC welder that works just fine. Only 40% duty cycle at 200 amps, but I don't do production work, just farm welding.
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On Wed, 2 Jan 2008 00:40:30 -0800, Larry Caldwell

That's exactly what I use mine for. I dont know what my duty cycle is, I just know it works, and never stopped welding on it's own. I dont do production either, except the time I made 16 ten foot fence panels out of some scrap metal I got. That was a chore !!!!
I've never used a DC welder. I have no idea what it would feel like. I once used a small (borrowed) wire feed welder. Either the welder was too cmall, too cheap a brand, or something else was wrong with it. All I did was fight to keep the very thin wire from getting too long or too short or getting stuck. I was not highly impressed, not to mention the price of the wire compared to plain stick rods.
Not to discourage the OP, but I think the wire feed welder was something like Harbor Freight would sell. Cheap junk if you ask me, but then I wont even step a foot into H.F. or places like it. I normally I buy quality tools, but if I only need something to use once, or for light duty, I generally buy them at Menards, which have proven to be fairly decent for the price and easy to return. (They dont sell welders though).
My only problem with the AC welder and stick rods is welding thin material. Sometimes it just burns thru no matter what I do. Although the choice of rod types helps somewhat.
Have you (or anyone else) ever used a DC welder? What's the difference? I learned to weld with AC, got fairly good at it, and that's pretty much all I know.
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