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Thread: TIG welder on sale @ Harbour Freight

  1. #21
    No Hope For Me Coils's Avatar
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    I think a couple people on here have them and used them. I got one a couple months ago but haven't got a bottle for it yet.

    Here's a tutorial on that welder, he's a member here, I beleive he put his opinion about it in there too.

    http://projectguns.com/tig.html

  2. #22
    Gunco Member lima's Avatar
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    Default TIG - Lessons learned

    My experiences with affordable import TIG..

    A few months back, I got a little red 160 amp TIG unit that is likely from the same factory in China as the 130 amp at HF. Great value and fun units. With practice, you will learn to control the heat and bead and will do some nice work. Except for some silver soldering, this has been my first experience welding.

    After a few small practice projects around the house, I am almost done rebuilding a milled Yugo AK with 4130 side plates. From the pictures of other people's similar MIG projects, TIG is the way to go with neat, precice controllable welds and no splatter. You could TIG weld in your church clothes and not get dirty!

    One disadvantage of these affordable import units is that there is no foot control to add amps for starting and to control heat once the arc is lit. To solve this, I bought a $3 rheostat and some wire at Radio Shack. Then, re-wired the amp control to a remote box and knob that sits right by my left hand. This made making precice voltage changes with a lit arc and mask on much easier. When I get around to it, I will rig it up to a home made foot pedal that will give a 80 amp range of current. Having a foot controllable 0-80 amp range would be ideal for the 1/4" 4130 steel I am working with now.

    For shielding gas, I use pure Argon for the carbon steel. I made a mistake and bought a new 20 CF (cubic foot) tank at Harbour freight (I think $70?). At a local welding gas place, this tank cost $26 with tax to fill. You would think with the regulator set at less than 15 CF per minute this tank would last a good long time like over an hour right? - WRONG! I don't know if it is becuase the machine sends argon to flush the line every time you power on or start the arc but this little tank needed filling after what seemed like very little work. After quickly using up three tanks worth ($78) and asking the wife to get refils three times during the gas place's limited business hours, I needed another plan.

    It turns out that most places charge almost the same to fill a giant sized tank as they do for my weenie little 20 CF tank. I have abandoned my little tank and ended up renting a giant tank from a local welding supply store. The economics are much better. Tank deposit was $200 which I will get back. Monthly rental is $5.50 or $50 per year (I did the year plan). The rented tank is huge about 5' tall (220 CF I think about 11x bigger then the weenie tank). It only costs $30 to fill and I can exchange this cylinder for another one with one trip. So learn from my mistake - Don't buy a weenie tank, buy or rent a big tank. little argon tanks are a money pit if you want to do any amount of welding without interuption.

    Summary:
    To buy and fill the the small 20CF tank (3x) with 60 CF of gas was $148 out of pocket and took three trips to get it refilled.

    For the big 220CF tank annual rental and one fill (less deposit) I am out of pocket $80 but now have argon that would have cost me $286 to buy with the smaller tank - plus saved the wife 11 trips to get it refilled!

    Other TIG advice from my experience:
    - Practice and know what to expect from the current level before you work on something you care about. When I bought my 160 Amp unit I had visions of raw power being required to make metal stick. I found most of the time I actually operate using much less than 50-70 amps for a lot of work
    - If you do not clean the work pieces completely and then degrease with something like acetone, you may get weld contamination and pops and splatters as tiny bits of grease and foreign matter explode in the arc. With TIG clean is king!
    - While starting the arc is easir with more amps, try to use the least amount of power to get penetration. Even though you may be tempted to crank it up, it is easy to burn through thin stuff and as the work piece heats up, less power is needed/desired.
    - Even though the knob is not as easy as a foot petal to control, learn to adjust the current with a live arc to get better heat control when things get too hot.
    - I have not had need to buy any collets or cups. What was useful was buying a bunch of spare electrodes, you will touch the molten puddle, stick to the work when starting and otherwise have to stop very often an regrind contamination off the electrode and keep shape on the tip when you are learining.
    - Clean and degrease your filler rod with acetone before use
    - Use the right sized filler rod for the job and current
    - Learn and practice managing that molten puddle you dip the rod into. The rod should melt in the puddle, not in the arc
    - Patience - it's not the fastest way to weld but the resuults are worth it if you are take the time
    - Use very bright lights to illuminate your work, it helps a lot to cleraly see your work from under the mask before the arc is lit.
    - Keep an eye on the electrode tip, shape, contamination and size. Regrind properly and replace when it it gets out of spec as your weld quality and precicion will suffer.
    - Buying a big thick copper plate for backing stuff was a good investment since melted steel won't stick to it, leaves a smooth finish and acts as heat sink to disperse heat and prevent warping.
    - A good comfortable work table to steady your arms and elbows or sit is a plus.

    I am sure professional welders will have more to say but I just wanted to share what I learned as a self-taught back-yard TIG noobie.

  3. #23
    Yo, what up my Ninja! gmanindahood's Avatar
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    Guys, sorry to sound like such a newbie to welding, but the fact is I am. I have no idea the difference between MIG/TIG, argon, etc.. I am looking to get a welder that will allow me to weld aluminum of varying thicknesses. I have absolutely no experience but have no problem putting in the time to learn, unfortunately due to my back problems I cannot commit to a school because I never know if it's gonna be a "good" day or a "bad" day until I step out of bed. Therefore I would like to learn at home at my pace. Could anyone please recommend a welder that I could use to do this? Can I use an ARC type welder or do I have to use gas? I would definitely prefer electric and if electric is possible, is there one that I can run off of 110volts in my garage? I also saw in the HF flyer that they have a "Flux Wire" welder for $119, is this something I could use? As always, any help is greatly appreciated and as I have said many times, it's nice to have this site at our disposal because of the tremendous amount of knowledge that you guys have. The advice that I have gotten here for everything I have ever asked has never failed to solve my problems. Thanks, gman.
    It takes a nation of millions to hold us all back!

  4. #24
    Unclear Engineer ozzy the nuke's Avatar
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    Cant believe no one has posted this yet. A review by our own administrator, Pirate56

    Harbor Freight TIG welder review
    No matter what happens, somebody will find a way to take it too seriously. ~Dave Barry, Dave Barry Turns 50

  5. #25
    No Hope For Me Coils's Avatar
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    Lima thanks for the info about the small tanks, I was thinking of getting one of those.

    Gman Wish I could answer your questions but I'm a noob when it comes to welding, I just wing it and hope for the best.

    Ozzy I thought I saw a posting about that, but I didn't look enough for it. Thanks

  6. #26
    Gunco Member lima's Avatar
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    Again, not a pro welder but passing on what I know about About TIG, MIG and ARC...

    TIG Tungsten Inert Gas uses a non consumable tungsten electrode in a holder which means it is not melted. You add filler metal by dabbing a small rod of filler material into the weld puddle the arc creates and keep molten. This is closer to gas welding/brazing or soldering electronics. If you have ever seen a really nice clean even weld that you know was not touched by a grinder, this was likely TIG. Main advantage is clean and accurate welds, no splatter, ideal for precice work. You can also weld stainless steel. Disadvantage is takes a bit of time and skill to master, slower welding and you need clean work to weld well. For me TIG was the better choice for clean accurate gun work not speed was required.

    MIG Metal Inert Gas uses a consumable electrode that is also the filler metal. It is stored on a spool in the machine and it feeds wire out to be melted into the weld pool. It is like having a gun that squirts out molten metal. If you have seen a trailer hitch held together with a big uneven gob of weld that may have some splatter out to the sides, this was probabbly done with MIG. The advantage of MIG is speed, pull the trigger and point type welding, better suited to welding grubbier things and it's fast. Downside is less control, messier weld quality and weld splatter.

    Both TIG and MIG require a shielding gas (like argon) that is blown out the torch head around the electrode to keep the weld puddle form oxidization and contamination. The exception is MIG that uses a spool of electrode/filler wire that has a flux core much like electronics solder wire. the downside of this set-up is a lot of splatter and smoke and possibly less quality to the weld finish.

    On welding aluminum - The HF type units take the power from your house and turn it into DC current like a giant car battery charger. Fancy machines have the capacity to send both AC or DC current. AC is prefered to weld aluminum because of the way the current flows back and forth it manages heat and keep the electrode and the work clean of oxides. So as a general rule, AC is prefered for aluminum but DC may be possible if you have the skills. You may also use an Argon mix for AC welding and helium as a shielding gas for DC aluminum welding.

    ARC/stick welders (consumable electrode rod held in a holder clamp) are DC welders with no gas required. The electrode often is covered with the flux material which melts into a protecting shielding gas. HF TIG welders actually comes with a bonus ARC welding electrode holder so you actually have a TIG/ARC welder. I believe you can with special electrodes ARC weld aluminum, HF even has some for sale but I have no idea what weld quality they would produce and they are probabbly un-economical to use for a real big job. ARC aluminum welds would certainly not look like nice neat boat or aircraft aluminum welds you are probabbly thinking of. Those are all done with high end AC TIG machines. If I was serious about welding aluminum, I would try to find a used Miller Econotig AC/DC TIG unit to save myself the frustration and cost of inconsistient welds and wasted material since I personally would not invest in DC aluminum welding with a low end machine. These non-import Miller AC/DC machines also have fancy automatic electronics that do things like stabilize the arc, control the amount of penetration vs cleaning action and make starting the arc easier.

    http://www.millerwelds.com/products/tig/econotig/

    Here are Wiki articles that explain MIG/TIG/ARC with more detail

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TIG_welding
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MIG_welding
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arc_welding

  7. #27
    Administrator pirate56's Avatar
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    excellentt posts Lima!

    Welding is a skill that opens up a whole new dimention to the home builder. with the availability of the cheap HF TIG setup it is within reach of the home hobbyist and well worth every penny it costs, and the time it will take to become proficcient at it.

    As for welding aluminum, you really need an AC/DC machine with a lot of power , aluminum requires a lot of heat as it has a high heat transfer. you need the DC in reverse polarity to ball the tip of the tungsten for aluminum.

  8. #28
    Yo, what up my Ninja! gmanindahood's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lima
    Again, not a pro welder but passing on what I know about About TIG, MIG and ARC...

    TIG Tungsten Inert Gas uses a non consumable tungsten electrode in a holder which means it is not melted. You add filler metal by dabbing a small rod of filler material into the weld puddle the arc creates and keep molten. This is closer to gas welding/brazing or soldering electronics. If you have ever seen a really nice clean even weld that you know was not touched by a grinder, this was likely TIG. Main advantage is clean and accurate welds, no splatter, ideal for precice work. You can also weld stainless steel. Disadvantage is takes a bit of time and skill to master, slower welding and you need clean work to weld well. For me TIG was the better choice for clean accurate gun work not speed was required.

    MIG Metal Inert Gas uses a consumable electrode that is also the filler metal. It is stored on a spool in the machine and it feeds wire out to be melted into the weld pool. It is like having a gun that squirts out molten metal. If you have seen a trailer hitch held together with a big uneven gob of weld that may have some splatter out to the sides, this was probabbly done with MIG. The advantage of MIG is speed, pull the trigger and point type welding, better suited to welding grubbier things and it's fast. Downside is less control, messier weld quality and weld splatter.

    Both TIG and MIG require a shielding gas (like argon) that is blown out the torch head around the electrode to keep the weld puddle form oxidization and contamination. The exception is MIG that uses a spool of electrode/filler wire that has a flux core much like electronics solder wire. the downside of this set-up is a lot of splatter and smoke and possibly less quality to the weld finish.

    On welding aluminum - The HF type units take the power from your house and turn it into DC current like a giant car battery charger. Fancy machines have the capacity to send both AC or DC current. AC is prefered to weld aluminum because of the way the current flows back and forth it manages heat and keep the electrode and the work clean of oxides. So as a general rule, AC is prefered for aluminum but DC may be possible if you have the skills. You may also use an Argon mix for AC welding and helium as a shielding gas for DC aluminum welding.

    ARC/stick welders (consumable electrode rod held in a holder clamp) are DC welders with no gas required. The electrode often is covered with the flux material which melts into a protecting shielding gas. HF TIG welders actually comes with a bonus ARC welding electrode holder so you actually have a TIG/ARC welder. I believe you can with special electrodes ARC weld aluminum, HF even has some for sale but I have no idea what weld quality they would produce and they are probabbly un-economical to use for a real big job. ARC aluminum welds would certainly not look like nice neat boat or aircraft aluminum welds you are probabbly thinking of. Those are all done with high end AC TIG machines. If I was serious about welding aluminum, I would try to find a used Miller Econotig AC/DC TIG unit to save myself the frustration and cost of inconsistient welds and wasted material since I personally would not invest in DC aluminum welding with a low end machine. These non-import Miller AC/DC machines also have fancy automatic electronics that do things like stabilize the arc, control the amount of penetration vs cleaning action and make starting the arc easier.

    http://www.millerwelds.com/products/tig/econotig/

    Here are Wiki articles that explain MIG/TIG/ARC with more detail

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TIG_welding
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MIG_welding
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arc_welding
    Thanks lima. Cleared up alot of the questions I had. The links helped also. Here is my next question: Although I now understand the advantages to ac when welding aluminum, my concern is with making a strong weld that I will clean up afterwards as opposed to one that is clean and pretty from the start? Some of the aluminum that I will be welding will be AR receivers and I was going to attempt welding up two halves of a charging handle. I know that regardless of what type of welder that I do go with the welds are not going to be very pretty anyway, at least until I practice more. I am sure that you are going to tell me that an ac welder will make stronger welds as well but like most of the things that many of us purchase, price is a major concern. So ultimately I am looking for a welder that can weld aluminum as well as other metals including steel, can be plugged into a standard house outlet (if electric), will be something that won't be too difficult for a beginner to use, and last but not least and just as important as the rest, be relatively inexpensive. Maybe I'm asking for too much but whatever you can recommend will be appreciated. let me know what you think will get me as close to possible to what I need. Thanks again for the help and the education, gman.
    It takes a nation of millions to hold us all back!

  9. #29
    Always sore, always tired Bradrock's Avatar
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    "let me know what you think will get me as close to possible to what I need"

    For me it's called "JB Weld"
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  10. #30
    Administrator pirate56's Avatar
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    gman, what you want is available but not cheap.

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