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Old 06-07-2009, 11:11 AM   #1
HomebrewJeff
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Default Harbor Freight Welder

So I'm thinking about getting this welder from HF. On sale and after coupons etc, it looks like it would be about $190.

My needs would be:

  • Welding aluminum, mild steel (ibedframes) for brew cart.
  • Odd jobs around the house (repairing lawn tools, etc)
  • Tacking together metal frames for trellis, etc.
I've spent the last day or so scouring the interwebs for reviews, and I've almost convinced myself to go ahead and take the plunge. From what I understand, it's possible to make welds in stainless with MIG welding (i.e. full coupler on a keg) but it's a lot more difficult than TIG. This would be a great bonus, but not really needed.. I understand the duty cycle on some of this rigs is not the best, but I'm willing to sacrificing extra work time if it means saving a few hundred bux.

What I'm not looking for is anyone trying to convince me to spend $1000+ on a hobart / miller / lincoln welder. Thanks, but... this is around the house stuff, not production / fab work. I've also got a garage full of HF stuff, and am very happy with 98% of it, so that's not really a concern to me.

Any thoughts? Given the above needs, are there any major concerns that anyone has?

Thanks!
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Old 06-07-2009, 01:23 PM   #2
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That welder will do ok. not great. I have a Lincoln 135 that I picked up at HD a few years back, and I think it is a lot better given the reviews. Check craigslist too. A lot of these are sitting out there with 1 job on them.

First, you won't be doing aluminum any time soon. It's not practical with the MIG. It will do ok on stainless with 100% argon mix, which means you will need to get a gas kit.

Second- the TIG really does a nice job, but TIG is the more difficult one for certain! It takes skills that you need to really develop - which takes time.

For reference, I have a MIG & a TIG welder, and I found it better to take my keg to a welder. $65 for an hour of his time.

You can use the MIG for the other things.

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Old 06-07-2009, 05:18 PM   #3
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Without going big bucks like you stated it looks like a welder that will fit your needs. The lower price plus 230 volt instead of 120 machines, able to convert to a gas bottle plus the voltage control that looks like a fully adjustable knob and not a click stop in different heat ranges. This a big plus as you can fine tune better than a machine with only click positition stop changes.
Hell go for it it's not like your going to be unhappy on a $1,500 to $3,000 machine it's not going to break the bank. I would go for the largest owner owned bottle vs lease bottles, you'll save money on refills and lease bills by paying up front now has its rewards over time. You will be surprised on how fast the months go by on lease bottles, call it wasted rental money as all you have is lease receipts and still no bottle when at the start you can call it your own. Go owner owned. I just got lucky and offered $30 on a 150 cu/ft Argon owner owned bottle, hydro i'll pay as I want this +plus 10% charge rated bottle besides it has the restamped over Swastika as it came from that era that now become 4 squares inside one big square. No biggie just I like this as a history bottle plus the 10% over fills it can handle. My future Stout Nitro bottle it will be in the future.

On your welder give it good power and a large gauge cord if extending to weld a long ways away from the wall plug. Voltage drop on a high current draw will make any welder lay down and your heat range control becoming a added problem you don't need. I would use C25 gas mix for your steel, less splatter vs Co2, straight Argon works just as good as Tri-mix gas plus you might be able to push aluminum if the torch line is kept straight. Liners need to be changed out, do not mix them with the different filler metals. Try some stainless but use the smallest diameter solid wire stainless, you might get lucky and get good results with Mig doing your fittings. Test on scrap first and borrow a bottle plus purchase a new liner. The backup with spare parts to the HF welders would be my only fear vs a brand names like Lincoln, Hobart or a Miller. Go and enjoy.
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Old 06-08-2009, 04:12 AM   #4
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i bought a hardly used hobart handler 120 (125 amp, 110v) with a 20# alumni bottle.. $400. it still had 1.9# of the factory 2# sample. for $500 or less you can get a much better not made in china model, for ultimate reliability look for copper windings not the alumni that everyone uses now days.

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Old 06-08-2009, 07:20 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HomebrewJeff View Post
So I'm thinking about getting this welder from HF. On sale and after coupons etc, it looks like it would be about $190.
At that price, I say go ahead and grab it. Last year I bought an even cheaper HF flux-core welder...on sale and with a 15% off coupon, it ended up being about $85! Now I'm no welder, but this little cheapie works just fine for all of the minor jobs I've used it for. While I've hardly mastered the skill of welding (barely scratched the surface, actually!) I was able to make useful, solid welds after about an hour of practice on some scraps. Should I get more serious about it, I'll look for a used Lincoln or Miller on CL, but for now it suits me fine.
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Old 06-08-2009, 06:51 PM   #6
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Having also owned the $99 HFT welder, I would say save some bucks and get the $99 one instead. I had one for years and it was great! It's 110V so you can use it anywhere. I welded brew stuff, truck parts, built a trailer and a bunch of other projects with it for 4 years, then sold it for $95. That's a buck a year!

I did add a fan to it that just pulled air through it while it was on, and that doubled the duty cycle. Duty cycle was never a problem.

I did move up to a Hobart handler140 ($400) and got a free gas bottle off craigslist, which is much nicer, but I'm welding sheetmetal with it so I need more control.

You will need gas to weld SS and AL (different mixes) and regulators for both, that will be some $$! For mild steel you can use the flux core wire or solid wire and a standard bottle of Argon/CO2 (and reg). The flux core wire is messier (more splatter) and the solid makes neater looking welds, but they're both strong. Some folks will flame me, but you CAN weld SS with the Ar/CO2 mix, no problem. For personal use it's fine, but the proper gas actually makes it easier.

Also, AL wire does not feed very well through the hoses and is often on a spool that is part of the torch tip to eliminate this problem, so I don't personally think it's a good fit for any cheap welder.

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Old 06-19-2009, 04:51 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HomeBrewJeff
So I'm thinking about getting this welder from HF. On sale and after coupons etc, it looks like it would be about $190.
Quote:
Originally Posted by BlindLemonLars View Post
At that price, I say go ahead and grab it. Last year I bought an even cheaper HF flux-core welder...on sale and with a 15% off coupon, it ended up being about $85!
Well, I had actually talked myself out of getting one, just on the expense alone. Then, as luck would have it, for Father's day they have a 20% off any item coupon, so I was able to get it for $159 +tax.

I figured at that price it was too good to pass up. Hopefully I'll be able to try it later this month. Hopefully...
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Old 06-20-2009, 12:12 AM   #8
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Practice, Practice, Practice, before you try to weld 'the real thing'. And get the Argon gas hook-up. I did and never looked back. And be sure to get one of those auto-darkening welding helmets.

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Old 06-20-2009, 12:23 AM   #9
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Without a spool gun, you won't be welding aluminum with that rig. It's probably good enough for the occasional light duty mild steel job, though. Do your homework before attempting any stainless projects.

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Old 06-20-2009, 12:58 AM   #10
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Its all about the duty cycle. Be prepared for cool down periods. It will weld but it may not be pretty. To increase weld times before the internal circuit breaker pops place a fan at the end of the welder. Get the weld gas option and as stated invest in an auto dark helmet.

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