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You need to learn then Tommo. A cheap MIG machine with a roll of good flux core wire (not the HF branded wire) can get ya started for just a few hundred bucks. MIG is about the easiest to learn, and works on all but the thinnest or thickest metal projects. Now ya can make things. And fix them.
 

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I had done stick, gas and mig, but my first self owned welder was a cheapie HF 220v fluxcore. Still have it although I replaced the torch and hose all the way back to the box. The liners in the original one were plastic and over the years the wire wore through the sides where ever it was bent to the point the line stopped feeding. The cheapie replacement has a steel liner for the wire. I pretty much stopped using it once I got a Hobart mig welder though. Much nicer and extremely easy to weld with. Recently picked up a HF 220v spot welder which so far has worked great.

If you're remotely interested give one of the fluxcores a try but as the Kernel said, pitch the flux core wire that comes with the HF machines. I used mostly hobart or lincoln wire and it welds much smoother.
 
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Discussion Starter · #4 · (Edited)
Thank you very much for the information and encouragement kernelkrink and moleman. I will have to try a MIG welder this winter when the temps are down in my garage. I have spot welded rails in receivers with an HF spot welder.
 

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I've had good luck with the Blue Demon branded welding wire, usually a bit cheaper than the "major brand" stuff. Ebay and Amazon sell it. The advantage of using an actual MIG welder for flux core is when you eventually want to try MIG with plain wire and gas, all ya need is the tank and maybe a regulator. MIG has to have perfectly clean metal though, no flux to clean the steel. The wire wheel on the bench grinder will get used, as well as the angle grinder.

Back when I was laid off work for about 6 months the local employment office put me through welding school at Ivy Tech, a local trade school/community college. Class size was limited and ya had to get good scores on some tests, which I thought were fairly easy but apparently a lot of folks had trouble with as we started out with a lot of candidates and IIRC one shy of class size once the low scorers were eliminated. Even then a couple guys just never could get good at welding, I suspect because of poor eyesight more than a lack of trying. The State even paid for a set of steel toed ironworker boots, a Harbor Freight autodarkening hood, gloves, and a cotton welding jacket.

Was for MIG welding, first day after basic instructions on how to use the Lincoln pro machines we just did sheet metal 90 degree filet welds, which is so easy even a caveman could do it. You basically just tack the ends, lay the nozzle against the seam at an angle, pull the trigger and slowly move down the seam at a steady pace. In about 15 minutes most everyone had 4 or 5 vertical "walls" attached to the base. Couple guys never got past the sheet metal phase, again I think because they couldn't see too well. The rest of us moved on to 3/8" plates, butt welds in flat, vertical, and overhead. Vertical and overhead were challenging, especially overhead, but at least half the class passed the welding inspection test on their coupons, earning AWS certification in 3G (vertical welding) and a few of us got the 4G overhead as well.

There are lots of financial programs to help with education, Pell grants, the GI Bill, many employers/unions will pay for training, and of course the employment office. Dad taught me stick welding but that was all he had, the rest I am pretty much self taught but the class helped a lot. Lots of little tricks an experienced welder can pass on, as well as instant feedback on what you are doing right as well as wrong.
 

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There are many more types of welding than just the 4 shown here.
There is the old gas welding, resistance welding (AKA spot welding), & a few new types like friction welding (spin welding)used a lot in the plastic industry. There is electron beam welding & laser welding for the high end technical needs. Here is a link that lists 12 types of welding.
But I like TIG welding because you can see the actual weld as you are laying it.
 

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You might check your local vo-tech schools. Lots of states will cover the tuition for "older" students who go into vocational programs. I went through most of a welding program that way about 10-12 years ago. I figured I should get something for the lottery tickets I'd bought...
Welding is a good skill to have at least a passing familiarity with. It comes in handy sometimes, even for an IT nerd like me.
 
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