Best Suitcase TIG Welder?
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  1. #1
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    Question Best Suitcase TIG Welder?

    Hello all,

    I am now in the market for a TIG welder, having received numerous requests for aluminum and stainless work.
    I'm looking for a suitcase-sized unit that can be transported if need be, ideally 110/220 capable

    I'm curious what you guys might have at work, or home shops, and how they perform for you. I've looked at the Lincoln Square Wave, and some other welders on Amazon, and it seems there's a significant price difference between an analog/digital machine. Is there any tangible difference between the two, and would I want to opt for a full digital unit? (ie a regular tig versus "squarewave" capable machines)

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    I'd say don't even look at transformer machines for portability; look at the inverter machines. I've got a Square Wave TIG 200 and it is a fantastic machine, and very light (40lbs I think?). I've never used it for mobile TIG, only stick, but use it for 99.9% TIG in my shop, about 50/50 AC versus DC. I really like the simplicity of the interface - it keeps me focused on what I'm doing instead of playing around with settings, if that makes sense? Also, I think there is a lower current limit on a transformer machine on 110V versus an inverter? Like 90-110A versus 140A? It has been a while since I was shopping.

    The other one I'd look at is the HTP Invertig 221. You get a bit more control over everything and another 20A up top. Very good reputation - I get most of my consumables from HTP (USAWeld.com). This is getting into the low $2k range for price.

    I have no personal experience at all with the Millers but I recall them being very spendy and I feel like the small ones in this price range ($1200-2400) were DC only?

    Honestly I think for the price the Lincoln is about the best out there. They run specials often enough. Full disclosure, I drank the coolaid early and pre-ordered a SW TIG 200. I think I've got serial number in the low 200s?

    Hope that helps.

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    Trouble is with aluminum you will need a water cooled torch to do much of anything. So the small portable machine becomes less so with a water cooler to drag around with it.
    Miller maxstar is DC only and dynasty is AC-DC, if you want to look at Millers, both maxstar and dynasty come in several sizes and options so be sure to know what you are looking at when comparing.

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    +1 on the small Miller 150 amp unit if you can get by with DC only. Super portable. As suggested above, once you start wanting to do aluminum you'll likely want enough amperage that you're talking about a pretty big "suitcase" even with the latest inverters. For smaller aluminum stuff you could get by without a water cooler, but a typical 200+ amp AC/DC TIG welder while light enough to move gets to be pretty bulky with the torch, gas bottles, etc. etc.

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    Rick, thanks for your vote on the square wave. The price seems to be nuts for the capabilities it's advertising, especially compared to anything comparable by Miller. I will look into HTP. I also like having the option for stick, which is really where the portable work comes in.

    Rob and Pete,
    Does even thinner aluminum work require a cooler? I don't plan on doing much more than aluminum hull repairs, maybe 3/16". Along with some small brackets and assemblies.
    Would this work be better suited for a spoolgun application instead of tig?

    Also, really looking for AC so I can do aluminum.

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    I have a Miller Dynasy 200. It is a stellar performer in any mode. I use it with a water cooler in the shop, but I often weld on boats, and there I use an air cooled torch. I weld aluminum all the time, and if you have an air cooled torch rated for more than the output amps (200 amps on this unit), you can really do some serious aluminum work. I find that in the field, preheat with a torch is very helpful on biggish sections, and tenting may be necessary if there is any wind. other dodges that help with aluminum are blunter electrode grinds, running 1/8" 1.5% or 2% Lantanated tungstens, a little helium in the shield gas, and running at lower frequency, such as 50 Hz. I would buy the miller in a heartbeat. 8+ years and it has never given a problem. It runs just fine on 110 or 220 VAC (with some amperage restrictions on 110VAC).
    The HTP221 welder has a good rep also. Look up "This Old Tony" on Youtube. He uses one and has discussed it on several episodes.

    For what it is worth, I suggest buying more than you think you need at the moment. My Dynasty 200 welds above what you would expect. 1/4" aluminum with a little preheat is no problem. I can't count the number of times that having a real quality TIG welder has been essential. If I had bought a cheap, lower capacity/quality unit I could never have done the work I have needed to do. That said, I would LOVE a Dynasty 280 or 350!

    best wishes,
    Michael

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    About welding aluminum on boats: I do it all the time with a heavy duty (300 amp+?) air cooled torch. I have a millermatic 350P Mig welder with Alumapro gun, and do not like it for aluminum. I guess I am just not a MIG guy. I routinely weld 5 and 6 mm 5086 with the Dynasty 200. By the way, as I am sure you know, use 5356 filler metal for marine work, especially on 5000 series material. If you are doing heavy fab work on aluminum boate, MIG is probably the way to go.

    Michael

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    +1 on the Dynasty 200. I've welded quite a bit of aluminum with an air-cooled torch with it, although mostly thinner stuff. It will run off of 110v without complaint but don't think I'd try aluminum at that voltage, it just seems a bit anemic at that voltage for whatever reason.

    I've been wanting to go water cooled for awhile but my air-cooled setup always gets the job done so I haven't justified the expense.

    Teryk

    Sent from my XT1710-02 using Tapatalk

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    Quote Originally Posted by steamandsteel View Post
    Rob and Pete,
    Does even thinner aluminum work require a cooler? I don't plan on doing much more than aluminum hull repairs, maybe 3/16". Along with some small brackets and assemblies.
    Would this work be better suited for a spoolgun application instead of tig?

    Also, really looking for AC so I can do aluminum.
    As said above a large air cooled torch will help. If you are not using it a lot you should be fine.

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    Since the general dislike for anything chinese in here I'd recommend Kemppi or Fronius.

    As others pointed out suitcase size and aluminium AC capability don't match well but at least the smaller versions are somewhat trans-port-able
    ~38lbs for 230A TIG itself and another 20-30lbs if you want water cooler unit.

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    My Dynasty 280 is light enough to be portable, down side is it's 220 only.
    I used to think aluminum was hard to weld, that changed with the 280
    enough power and good wireless foot control what was hard became easy.

    water cooled torch is nice but not absolutely necessary.
    a 200 would be about the minimum I would go for aluminum.
    you also start sacrificing duty cycle with the lower amp boxes
    when you have to use max power out put

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    Of course I forgot something! I wasn't able to ever hit the thermal cutoff on that Lincoln until I got a water cooled torch. Using a water cooled torch I started to run into the duty cycle limits on AC for aluminum. Stepping up into the $2000-4000 range generally gets you more duty cycle so do keep that in mind when you're comparing.

    IMHO, the SW TIG 200 is the best value for a small automotive or machine shop that needs to weld things from time to time. If you do welding all the time as your livelihood, it isn't that level of machine.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rick Finsta View Post
    Of course I forgot something! I wasn't able to ever hit the thermal cutoff on that Lincoln until I got a water cooled torch. Using a water cooled torch I started to run into the duty cycle limits on AC for aluminum. Stepping up into the $2000-4000 range generally gets you more duty cycle so do keep that in mind when you're comparing.
    Yup, largest commonly available air(gas) cooled torch is WP-26 and generally rated for 200A or 180A DC 60% duty cycle or 150A AC 60% duty cycle. (AC puts more heat on the electrode and torch internals)

    Sure, it works for a while even at 200A AC but is pretty fast too hot to handle without extra heavy gloves and smells like burnt rubber. Water cooled torch would be pretty high on my wish list if working more with alu.

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    Thank you for all the helpful and real-world feedback. I am a Miller fan, but the prices seem high. Good to know it's for a reason. I had heard of Fronius but have not looked into them. I'll do some more research!

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    Quote Originally Posted by steamandsteel View Post
    Thank you for all the helpful and real-world feedback. I am a Miller fan, but the prices seem high. Good to know it's for a reason. I had heard of Fronius but have not looked into them. I'll do some more research!
    Sit tight if Miller prices seem high.

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    Fronius, in the USA, is at least double Miller.
    I use a Miller Maxstar for site tig work, but it wont do aluminum.
    MIne is a 150 amp, and it runs either 110 or 220. I love it.
    I have a friend who has a 200 amp dynasty, which is also 110/220, and he does a lot of site work on breweries, all stainless. He has made a lot of money with that machine.
    It will do aluminum, but you pay for the privilege.
    In my experience, you always pay for the ability to weld aluminum.

    Good welders have never been cheap.

    When I bought my first AC/DC tig welder that would do it all, in the late 80s, it was over 3 grand. Thats when 3 grand was real money- I was paying a couple hundred a month rent for my shop, I was driving a $500 used pickup, and a sixpack of beer was 2 bucks.
    To me, the fact that a much better inverter machine today is only double that, while everything else is ten times as expensive, means those millers arent really that expensive after all.

    For site work, around here, a hundred bucks an hour is pretty common to bill. Plumbers charge more, and they just wrench parts together. They dont even solder copper anymore- they use fancy cordless crimpers.

    That pays for a dynasty pretty quickly.

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    ....and your still driving that $500 pick up.....

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    Quote Originally Posted by digger doug View Post
    ....and your still driving that $500 pick up.....
    No, I have a nice 2003 F150 that I bought new. But it still cost a lot more than it would have in the 80s. Hell- I paid over 20 grand for it. And so far, thats more than a grand a year...

    Good tools cost money.
    Welders are, comparatively speaking, a lot cheaper than they used to be.
    And they do more, and weld nicer.

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    Have 3 Thermal Arc inverter welders, and love them. Two are TA 200’s which require either 240 or three phase, but run like scalded cats. I have one on a cart with a little bottle, and a 50’ extension cord.

    The other 200 is set up for remote work, and often runs off of an 8KW generator.

    Last is a 350 GTSW with a Miller water cooler.

    They are all bulletproof beasts.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jonok View Post
    Have 3 Thermal Arc inverter welders, and love them. Two are TA 200’s which require either 240 or three phase, but run like scalded cats. I have one on a cart with a little bottle, and a 50’ extension cord.

    The other 200 is set up for remote work, and often runs off of an 8KW generator.

    Last is a 350 GTSW with a Miller water cooler.

    They are all bulletproof beasts.
    were these made in Japan?
    Since Esab bought Thermadyne 5 years ago, the Thermal Arc line is pretty much gone, replaced with similar, but probably european made, Esab small inverter welders.

    So welders like yours are only available used.


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