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Premium 4 Lyfe - Way Back Staff
'95 XLT: 5.8, MAF, E4OD, 4.56's, 6" lift on 33's
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Discussion Starter #1
Dad sold his fishing boat and wants to buy a welder for me/us. The $400 he gave the boat away for will only get us into a used, name brand or cheap Harbor Freight welder but that won't weld up much more than thin sheet metal. I've lost a lot of time and a good bit of money over the last few years, having the ATV and the Plow on the F250 welded up time and again so it's a solid investment for the property but I need something capable of welding 1/4" - 3/8" steel, not just thin tin stuff.
I'm cruising Craigslist but not being a welder or that familiar with welding (learned in AutoBody R&R class decades ago but don't do it enough to reallyt know squat) I'm having a hard time knowing what's capable and what's not, for the steel thickness of the plow blade/frame or the other stuff. I can look up specs on the newer stuff but not as easy with some of the older, more affordable welders. I'm pretty sure I can adjust down with a good mig welder for thinner stuff but you can't adjust up beyond it's capability, so I guess I'm looking for tips on what I should be looking for when shopping for a used welder that can handle the metal thickness I need to work with. FWIW, I already have a 220 plug setup in the shop, so I'm not strictly limited to standard, household power supplies, if that makes any difference.

Appreciate those tips and advice from you guys that already know what you're doing.
TIA! :beer
 

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'92 Custom w/ '95 MAF 5.0, 33's, 4.10 LSD
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2,136 Posts
I went with a used Hobart Handler 140, as it turned up frequently in "best bang for the buck" recommendations. It's about as powerful as you'll get out of 120V, but you'll want to step up to 240V for your thickness needs. I assume Hobart has something in that range, but I was only looking for something I could plug in anywhere and would have ignored those.

Hobart is owned by Miller and the Handler series uses some Miller parts, but without the Miller sticker shock.
 

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1986 Ford Bronco, 351w with edelbrock aluminum top end and holly 600.
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2,210 Posts
I’ve got a Lincoln 140 weld-pak. It’s about $150-$200 beyond your $ new. Father in law chipped in on it with me.

Anyway, I like it a lot. Weld with gas shield or flux core wire. It’s 120 volt. You can do 1/4” with multiple passes all the way down to body work It’s very flexible.

If I was only doing 1/4” plus I’d probably go with the tombstone Lincoln since the 240 wire welders get $$$.

Cheers


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Ford Hoarder
78 & 92
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A friend has this one and I have used it before, get the protection plan in case is doa or something craps out earlier.
https://www.harborfreight.com/mig-170-professional-welder-with-120240-volt-input-64805.html
He replaced his once, but they took care of it, no big deal... The 2nd one is still going just fine. It welds decently for what it is, I would have no issues buying one for home type use, and would have but they did not have it when I was in the market for my own.

I personally have a Hobart Handler 210mvp It has a changeable plug so it will run on a normal house plug or on the bigger power. I hardly ever have need to plug it in to the bigger power. You maybe able to find one of these used in your budget.

Having said that A god stick welder will do thick stuff great, and not care what the metal looks like so much either. I know several people that have an old tombstone welder that gets pulled out 1 or 2 times a year when needed, they always get the job done.
 

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Eric
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I think both Red and Blue make a portable 180 MIG welder that does from 24 GA. to 1/2" plate (multi pass with flux core). It runs off either 110v or 220v, IIRC, and uses an interchangeable plug-end. That would get the sheet metal stuff handled and tackle the thicker plate. Using flux core wire will have more splatter, but it welds thicker material better and comes in handy if you're on a budget and don't want to drop $$$ on gas. Also, it's less stuff to haul out into the field if you have an on-site repair that can't be dragged back to the shop. Just throw a generator and your welder in the truck bed. Keep an eye on CL and OfferUp for deals or cruise around to several Home Depot stores and look for discounts on "open box/display/customer return" welders. That's how I scored my little Lincoln 140 for $350 back-in-the-day. They had it marked for $430 and I noticed another date further down on the label, that was coming up in the next couple days, with an empty pricing line next to it. I asked the sales dude if that's when the next mark-down was scheduled for. He told me yes. I said, "Tell you what... if you can sell me this welder right now for $350 out-the-door, I'll take it." We got the department manager involved and she said, "Sure, that's fine. Give it to him." It was a little effort, but worth the good deal. The original customer had bought the welder, stole all the copper wire and copper consumables, and returned the thing. Never even struck an arc with it. Still had the 3 year factory warranty and everything. Took around $20 in parts to get it up and running.

Just my $0.02.
 

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Premium 4 Lyfe - Way Back Staff
'95 XLT: 5.8, MAF, E4OD, 4.56's, 6" lift on 33's
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35,879 Posts
Discussion Starter #8 (Edited)
All good info guys. Appreciate the input. I had already looked at the Harbor Freight unit shown above but being a HF regular, I tend to not trust the larger ticket items as much. That Eastwood unit seems to be a little less capable but still within' my goal and it's less expensive and comes with a good warranty. Hmmm... good stuff guys.

I think my junkyard neighbor might be able to hook me up with an argon tank. That would leave me enough money to get into a set of gloves and a shield.
Keep it comin', if ya got more. You know once I get this I'll start popping up threads on "help me use it right". :toothless


Missed that last post. Great info and very practical for someone ignorant and curious @silver70 Thanks! I've got all summer to find something, so price shopping and searching are solid options. :thumbup

So... I should be looking at welders 140 and up, to fit my basic needs? Will this be capable of bumper and/or cage welding... incase I get a bug in my butt and decide to try something big and cool like I watch you guys doing here all the time?
 

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Ford Hoarder
78 & 92
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140 welder will do most car/truck related stuff just fine. It may take some extra prep, such as beveling edges and such but if your patient and have the extra time to do that kind of prep, you will be fine.
I have done all that you mention with mine plugged into the wall.... I would recommend a good extension cord, and try to use a good wall outlet that you know has the wires and breaker to handle it.
 

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Premium 4 Lyfe - Way Back Staff
'95 XLT: 5.8, MAF, E4OD, 4.56's, 6" lift on 33's
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Discussion Starter #10
That's actually one of the bigger reasons I was looking for a possible 220/240 or whatever. I have a larger, dedicated plug in my shop, coming right off the fuse box. One of the previous owners used that pole barn/shop as a shade-tree body shop. I have plenty of 110/120 outlets around the shop but with those, they're only ran off a few lines and too many items being used at the same time around the shop will occasionally trip a breaker.

Of course, the more versatile setup that can run either way would be best, in case I have to go mobile but in all reality, with Dad around and 3 Bronco's and 2 pickups, I don't see a lot of mobility needs coming into play where I can't get whatever I need back to my home shop. I'm also comfortable enough working on the fuse box that if we move and I had to add one to a new shop, it wouldn't be that big a deal. 1 advantage of having setup many indoor grow rooms over a lifetime. :toothless
 

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have been running a Lincoln 180 for many years and very happy, runs on 220V on does everything i need around the house.
ive always wander to take a crack at oxy\acetylene welding
 

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1986 Ford Bronco, 351w with edelbrock aluminum top end and holly 600.
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2,210 Posts
My 110v 140 loves welding 3/16” so for cages and bumpers etc I think it’s perfect. I built my belly skid on my CJ out of 1/4” plate and as I said I had to do it in multiple passes (3) it it worked fine.

I made my bumpers and cage on the CJ with it and it worked great.


I also filled all my body molding holes on the bronco and it worked great too.



I haven’t used the gas setup yet but imagine it would be even better.

I bet this guy would have liked it too...too cool not to share...random




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I have the Eastwood and it burns in spring perches and other 3/16 and 1/4 stuff just fine. I am not a good welder by any means, but I just turn up the heat and get a good pool of red going. Nothing has moved to date.
 

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84 Bronco, 351w, c6, custom doubler, np208, 5.13’s, TTB44, 9”, locked f/r
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836 Posts
So I've been using an old Chicago Electric welder from Harbor Freight for about 10-12 years now, over the years I've had to put new switches and a few new MIG guns on it, but I have zero complaints. Its built countless bumpers, roll bars, suspension links, ect. No issues with 1/4" or slightly thicker. They no longer make the exact model I have, but this is equivalent to it

https://www.harborfreight.com/welding/mig-flux-welders/170-amp-dc-240-volt-migflux-cored-welder-61888.html

That would leave you plenty of money to get your shielding gas all set up and get a good welding helmet. For shielding gas I personally prefer C25(75% argon, 25% CO2). For a helmet I would get something with a wide view lens. For a long time I used that cheap auto darkening one HF sells, and while I like it and it was a good helmet, after I picked a good on up where most of the front is a lens instead of just a little 2" window, it makes it so much easier to work, especially if you are welding something in place where you are at a weird angle to the work.
 

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Premium 4 Lyfe - Way Back Staff
'95 XLT: 5.8, MAF, E4OD, 4.56's, 6" lift on 33's
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35,879 Posts
Discussion Starter #15
Now you gotta remember guys, I'm asking for the best advice on a cheap (I hate that word but when the shoe fits...) welder for my basic use. I can appreciate someone loving their equipment and if I had money to spare, I'd be looking on the higher end but damn if that HF Chicago 170 w/220 doesn't have a kick-ass price, perfect reviews (for my purpose and I've heard few complaint on the Chicago stuff through the years) saying it should be about perfect size for my needs and being able to afford the upgrade and accessories without draining the few hundred left in my life savings... pretty hard to beat that. Sounds like I'd want a better ground and a quality extension cord though.

As I said before... I was trained how to weld for AutoBody R&R and I was pretty good at it but that was back in the late 80's. That said... I can fuzzily recall the better C25 setup performance being brought to our collective (class) attention for some reason. Thanks @NickOille :beer
 

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1986 Ford Bronco, 351w with edelbrock aluminum top end and holly 600.
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My comments were for power and material type, not necessarily the brand. I was eyeballing those Titanium’s out at HF the other day and they look good. Lots of really good reviews on their website. I’d buy a new one of those over a used anything. It’s got a better duty cycle and more juice that my Lincoln. Cheers


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'92 Custom w/ '95 MAF 5.0, 33's, 4.10 LSD
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Regarding the HF options...

1) I'm distrustful of any of their power tools. However, I did borrow a neighbor's HF welder before getting my own, and it performed adequately.

2) I would want to see independent reviews supporting their claimed specs. (That goes for any of the Chinese welders, including Eastwood. Like winches, when you start digging, most of them appear to be made in the same factory.) HF loves to state what notable brand their discounted product equates to, which is made easier by inflating specs...

3) I heard in-store ~2 years ago, they were going to be eliminating the 20% off coupons and "free with purchase" products. Shortly after hearing that, they started bringing in tons of products under different labels like Vulcan and Bauer that are exempt from the coupons. I suspect much of the new stuff is just nicer packaging to justify higher price points and controlled promotion periods.
 

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ate lug
88 + 96 broncos, 96 F250
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There are some reviews of the Vulcan stuff on Youtube, some really detailed ones that fully break down the equipment. From what ive seen, they actually look like decent machines for hobby use. They are definitely nicer than the old Chicago Electric welders HF sells. I am considering the mig to replace my old Chicago Electric mig that is beginning to show its age (read: parts are beginning to wear out).

So I've been using an old Chicago Electric welder from Harbor Freight for about 10-12 years now, over the years I've had to put new switches and a few new MIG guns on it, but I have zero complaints. Its built countless bumpers, roll bars, suspension links, ect. No issues with 1/4" or slightly thicker. They no longer make the exact model I have, but this is equivalent to it

https://www.harborfreight.com/welding/mig-flux-welders/170-amp-dc-240-volt-migflux-cored-welder-61888.html

That would leave you plenty of money to get your shielding gas all set up and get a good welding helmet. For shielding gas I personally prefer C25(75% argon, 25% CO2). For a helmet I would get something with a wide view lens. For a long time I used that cheap auto darkening one HF sells, and while I like it and it was a good helmet, after I picked a good on up where most of the front is a lens instead of just a little 2" window, it makes it so much easier to work, especially if you are welding something in place where you are at a weird angle to the work.
This is the Mig i have too. Mine is also the older blue version, maybe 8-9 years now, and the switches are finally failing. For the price, it has been one hell of a welder, esp since they let me use a 20% off coupon on it! Having only 4 voltage settings makes sheetmetal repair a little tricky, but its great for welding 1/8-1/4" plate. I have successfully welded 5/16 with it but 3/8 was pushing it, needed multiple passes and some beveled edges. i did replace the power cord with a much longer one, which made it much more convenient to use. The original power cord is pretty short, as is the lead for the gun.

The big thing to remember is duty cycle. The HF stuff might be able to weld the same material as the bigger machines, but they do so at a much lower duty cycle. The bumpers im currently building, im doing so at max power, and pushing the limits of what it will do. I do trip the overtemp shutdown occasionally. Because of that im doing the structural parts (the bumper brackets) with my miller thunderbolt (example: link). If you dont know how to weld, Mig is easier to learn than stick, and will let you do sheetmetal, but nothing beat the simplicity of grabbing a rod and burning some plate. IMO, $400 will go farther and get you a better stick than it will a mig, but depending on what you think youre going to use it to do, one might be better than the other.



Also. Honestly, ive had the cheap auto-darkening hood from HF for 10 years now. I wore out the head gear and had to replace it, but the rest is still working good. I guess either i got the best one ever made, or i use it enough that the battery is still good. But honestly, it really is a pretty decent hood for home use. I have a much nicer hood at work with gold lenses, and wouldnt want the HF there, but it works great for me at home.
 

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Eric
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2,577 Posts
….. So... I should be looking at welders 140 and up, to fit my basic needs? Will this be capable of bumper and/or cage welding... incase I get a bug in my butt and decide to try something big and cool like I watch you guys doing here all the time?
My Lincoln 140 (110v) does up to 1/8" stuff to structural-grade penetration using 75/25 gas. However, I mostly use it for body work, exhausts, and small repairs around the house (square tube fencing, shelving, furniture, etc.). It is rated for up to 5/16" with flux core and I have pushed it to 3/8" for a small, non-critical, repair on a buddy's Harley. The problem is that the thicker you push the welder's capacity the less likely it is the weld will hold because it lacks the current transfer for adequate penetration. So, you might weld up a bracket for your snow plow and it'll hold just fine sitting in the garage, but as soon as you put it through some abuse and stress, the weld might fail. When you're pushing little welders to their limits it's very much a matter of what the intended application is. Always ask yourself, "How critical is this weld?"

Another thing to consider for "play time" with the welder (because who doesn't like building cool sh*t? :toothless) is the "duty cycle." I'll butcher the explanation, so it might be best to look up a formal definition. Basically, when you have lots of long weld beads that need to be run, like welding up bumper seams for plate bumpers, you want a higher duty cycle. This means the welder can perform for longer before it overheats. This is why for bumpers, cages, structural etc. I also have a Lincoln 255 (220v). When I get something fit up and tacked together I can just go to town and pump wire at higher current for longer periods. Smaller welders can do these things okay, they might just take a little longer if you hit the duty cycle. I'm not saying you need a big welder for home/ranch, but I just thought it might be more information to help make a good choice for your use. :thumbup

Again, just my $0.02.
 
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