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  1. #1
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    Default Welder for a newbie?

    Hi everyone!

    I've never touched a welder before, other than a propane torch to join some plumbing. I've watched too many This Old Tony videos though and really want to get my dirty dick beaters on a mig welder.

    I'm in the UK and a quick look on eBay leaves me totally unsure what to go for. Since it will not be in use often, I want to use flux cored wire (No gas bottle) and limit to no more than £200. Can anyone help me with a recommendation? Many of the new budget machines look like they came off the same production line with a differnt brand sticker.

    Am I right thinking that even a mig machine designed for gas can use flux cored wire and go gasless? I saw a Cebora / Snap on machine used for £180 but does not say 'gasless'.

    Thanks
    Simon

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    Turn off the gas and now you have a gasless mig. I run both wire through mine. Once you learn a little you will be glad you bought a gas type mig. You can't go the other way.

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    That Ceroba/Snap On will be lower end garage/industrial. At that price getting old and probably well used, rode hard, and put away wet. Might be good to go out of the box, might need a heavy service. As a beginner you won't know whether difficulty welding is simple lack of skill, which just needs practice, or tired welder. Not a starter welder unless you have a mate who knows. If you do have such a mate get him to teach you with his. Half a bottle of gas and a roll of wire is a darn sight cheaper than a not good enough welder.

    Bottom line with a MIG is that its all about wire feed and the torch. Clarke are said to have the best wire feed of the cheap ones. Low end SIP have had an unenviable reputation for poor wire feed for years. Dunno if current models are better but the one I have and never use is a POS. Welds fine but making the feed behave is a battle.

    Have a search on the welding forums for advice. If I were on your budget I'd be looking at a Clarke, either new or abandoned low mileage toy with some of the original roll of wire left. Objectively not a super welder but it will work as it should so you can concentrate on learning to weld.

    Keep thinking about getting a better one myself but justifying £800 -£1,200 for the amount I'd use it is hard. High end inverter stick welder does well enough for what I do.

    Clive

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    Why do you think you want a MIG welder ?

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    If you are going to weld as little as you say just get a DC stick machine with infinate control, IE no 15 amp clicks. Stick rods will last virtually forever if stored properly, (airtight can). Fluxcore wires will go bad with age, so next year when you need the machine again the wire wont weld for shit.
    Even a small inverter tig machine if you find a used one cheap enough, most of those will do tig and stick.

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    I'll agree with Rob F. I've stick welded for over 50 years. For most steel welding, which is all you will be doing with a MIG, a stick is much easier to learn and make a reasonable weld with, especially if you only weld a few times a year.

    DV.

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    I'm not a welder, by any means. However, I would highly recommend a MIG over a stick for many applications. If you want to weld fairly thin stuff, MIG is much easier. I had a flux core and hated the results. Messy spatter everywhere. MIG leaves a clean finish, but you have to clean the metal fairly well before welding. If you want to weld rust, they stick would be your choice.

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    Best investment you might make is to take an introductory multi-process welding class. In the US, many community colleges have them -- don't know about your location. It really helps to understand the advantages and limitations of various processes and machines.

    Your budget allows a pretty light capacity flux core MIG, perhaps with an option to buy a gas setup later. Example in the US would be the smaller Lincoln WeldPak machines.

    For relatively heavy structural work, I'd suggest an AC/DC arc welder. On your budget it would likely be used. For steel up to about 3/16" -- if that's what you're doing -- a smallish MIG could make sense. For precise work (including aluminum), TIG is the choice. Some cheaper machines are now available that do both TIG and stick, though not quite at your price point. Could also be that brazing would do what you want -- and for that a set of tanks and a torch.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DualValve View Post
    I'll agree with Rob F. I've stick welded for over 50 years. For most steel welding, which is all you will be doing with a MIG, a stick is much easier to learn and make a reasonable weld with, especially if you only weld a few times a year.

    DV.
    DV,

    I must have been using a different kind of "stick" for my welding than you were. Stick welding it an art that takes years of practice to do well and to produce a sound weld. MIG welding is easily mastered, in hours....I too have been welding for as least 50 years and that's how I see it.

    For a green pea, there would be no better choice than a MIG setup using solid wire and gas.

    Stuart

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    Quote Originally Posted by atomarc View Post
    ...I must have been using a different kind of "stick" for my welding than you were. Stick welding it an art that takes years of practice to do well and to produce a sound weld. MIG welding is easily mastered, in hours....I too have been welding for as least 50 years and that's how I see it...
    Yup...I'll have been at it 50 years in July. Any damn fool can learn to weld with mig; it takes a real man to weld with stick...

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    Best stick welder ever made is the Lincoln DC bullet .......anything from the 150A Aviation special to a 300 SAE horizontal bullet..............the pick being the 250MK with Red paint job...........you can stick weld 1/2 " plate full penetration without any prep using cellulose rods.........

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    Quote Originally Posted by atomarc View Post
    DV,

    I must have been using a different kind of "stick" for my welding than you were. Stick welding it an art that takes years of practice to do well and to produce a sound weld. MIG welding is easily mastered, in hours....I too have been welding for as least 50 years and that's how I see it.

    For a green pea, there would be no better choice than a MIG setup using solid wire and gas.

    Stuart
    Stuart

    A good modern inverter welder makes all the difference when its comes to stick welding. My Fronius, admittedly a high end model obtained for £ very little on a deal, is so much better than any old style buzzbox that its almost unreal. Especially at low powers. Sticking 18 gauge / 1 mm together is pretty much routine, 24 gauge / 0.5 mm is doable with care and concentration. I suspect the limitation is more stick size than welder. Tempted to turn it right down and shove a bit of flux core MiG wire in to see what happens.

    Not so sure about the "MiG is easy folks". I could never get the hang of it. Most likely because the SIP I have has a poor wire feed and incomprehensible power setting. Also for some reason I could never get my head round the idea that its wire feed rate not current setting that controls the weld process. Guess I need a synergic one.

    Clive

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    MIG has the ability to make a good looking weld, easy for the beginner.

    Wether or not it is a good structural weld is another thing.

    Stick, while harder to doo, is much easier to see if your making a good solid weld.

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    I would think that for someone that never welded before the best is to get Oxy/Acetylene torch. It's slow, you can see the puddle form and learn how to make a good weld. Plus the torch has other uses like brazing, cutting and silver soldering not to mention simple heat treating and bending. Later you can "graduate" to electric and find TIG is darn near Oxy/Acet. welding. Lincoln and Victor have portable kits available for less than $300. I have quite a few electric welders, but would be lost without a Oxy/Acet. torch set! I don't use it much for welding but the other options make a valuable asset in my shop.

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    I agree with what atomarc says about welders. I too have been welding for about 50 years. I started out with a Lincoln tombstone welder and used it for many years. I "upgraded" to an Airco Dip Pak mig welder some years ago and the difference is like night and day to me. I have never used flux core wire so I can't comment on that. I only use stick welding now on very windy days when it is hard to keep the shield gas where you want it. Someone commented on the fact that mig looks pretty but is it really as good as stick. I can only say that when I mig weld something it stays together. I like the fact too that you can't have a fake "slag weld" that you don't discover until you beat on the weld a while. What you see is what you get. Another nice feature of mig is that if you get a spool gun, as I did, you can do some pretty good welding on AL with just a switch to 100% argon. In my opinion, nothing beats a mig welder for tacking as it makes working with thin materials a breeze compared to stick welding. For a novice who might get frustrated with blowing holes in your work with a stick welder, I would strongly suggest mig (with gas).

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    OP hasn't said what he will want to weld, that would get much better suggestions on what sort of equipment to look for.

    I'm not as experienced as the "50 years in the trade" guys here, learned to stick weld as a teen, next was acetylene/oxy, then MIG and then TIG a bit later on, MIG was by far the easiest, and it is perfect for things like auto body repairs, replace a rusted piece of exhaust, that sort of thing - thin stuff, it gets a bit more difficult if you want to weld something thicker than say 8mm, it is super easy to weld with the MIG in any position, uphill, down, vertical, everything pretty much works when the feed is set up correctly, there are numerous vids on YT that will help dialing the parameters in (weldingtipsandtricks channel with Jody is probably the best place to start), you can weld slightly dirty, scaly, rusty pieces as well, will not be pretty, but can easily be done. Acet/oxy setup takes a lot of practice to get good at, it is a bit more versatile than MIG as stated before, allows brazing and heat treat, can even cut something with the right torch, but I don't think it is the right thing to start with, there are safety concerns as well when handling these gasses. Learning stick and being able to join 2 pieces that are horizontal is one thing, welding around a tube, transitioning from horizontal to vertical to overhead etc will take A LOT of practice if you have zero experience, previous acet/oxy experience with how metal flows helped me. And TIG, while sort of easy to start, can get difficult to get consistent good results, it is very versatile, but slightly more expensive overall compared to the other processes.
    With MIG I would stay away from gasless setups, fluxcore it is very dirty, have to deal with slag, sputter everywhere, get a small argon/co2 mix or straight co2 bottle and regular mig, there are plenty of machines out there in the 200GBP range, any one will work, I would get the inverter type, transformer machines are a bit more difficult to dial in IMHO, I got my transformer MIG probably around 20 years ago, learned to master it, and couple years ago a friend bought some far eastern inverter type MIG for his farm needs, asked to show him how to use it, and I couldn't believe how easy it was to get a decent weld with it, but maybe that was the experience helping me, anyway, 15min later he would lay a decent bead down on his own, that's how easy MIG is...

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    Will you be using the welder in a small workshop or outside?

    These “Gasless” migs can give of a lot of smoke, unpleasant in a confined space.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Froneck View Post
    I would think that for someone that never welded before the best is to get Oxy/Acetylene torch. It's slow, you can see the puddle form and learn how to make a good weld. Plus the torch has other uses like brazing, cutting and silver soldering not to mention simple heat treating and bending. Later you can "graduate" to electric and find TIG is darn near Oxy/Acet. welding. Lincoln and Victor have portable kits available for less than $300. I have quite a few electric welders, but would be lost without a Oxy/Acet. torch set! I don't use it much for welding but the other options make a valuable asset in my shop.
    Too many safety issues for a beginner I think.

    Risk of flashback, knowing about keeping oil and grease away from the bottles and gauges etc.


    http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg459.pdf

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    Quote Originally Posted by lionelt View Post
    Will you be using the welder in a small workshop or outside?

    These “Gasless” migs can give of a lot of smoke, unpleasant in a confined space.
    Very true, however a MIG machine using gas does not work well outside on a windy day. It doesn't take much of a breeze to blow the shielding gas away from the the weld.


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