Cheap welders?

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Cheap welders?

swampedout
Im not sure how to begin this but Ill do my best to explain the situation.

my "shop" has no electricity except a 3600 running watt generator so all my tools are battery powered or pretty low wattage.
I have an old school Apache stick welder which is a briggs n stratton motor with a dc weld unit. Im not too clear on the history of this product or the company that made them but theyre cool units. I found one much cheaper than todays alternatives and the duty cycle on mine is way higher.
However...its a stick welder and I want something to do sheet metal.
Ive been looking at HFs $100 flux core welder, anyone have experience with any of these ridiculously cheap welders?

I might get a bigger genny some day soon so im not neccesarily limited by the 3600w number but I would like to keep it low.
I wish I had money for a nice Miller but the budget for this is a shoe string.
Im also not married to the idea of buying the cheapest welder out there but Ive heard enough good reviews about HFs welders that Im willing to run it through some work in the 1st 90 days and if its junk, return it.
Thoughts?
Sam
New Mexico
1984 F250. 460. C6. 4x4. MSD Ignition. GVR Overdrive. 4x4. Airbag rear suspension
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Re: Cheap welders?

Rembrant
I know nothing about these $100 welders, but the price makes me curious. I have a nice little Lincoln machine, so I don't need a welder, but I'd be curious to hear how well a $100 machine works.
1984 F150 4X2 Flareside. Mild 302 w/ M5R2 5spd swap.
1980 F150 4X4 Flareside  Disassembly and inspection stage...
1993 E350 Cutaway RV. 460EFI Covid-19 2020 project.

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Re: Cheap welders?

Gary Lewis
Administrator
I don't have any experience with HF welders either.  And no experience with flux core at all.

But what I've heard about flux core is that it leaves residue similar to a stick welder.  If that's true you have to clean the weld between each pass as you would with stick, meaning use a chipping hammer and/or wire brush.  However it is a whole lot less expensive as you don't have the bottle, hoses, and regulator.

So, for $100 I don't think you could go too far wrong.
Gary, AKA "Gary fellow": Profile

Dad's: '81 F150 Ranger XLT 4x4: Down for restomod: Full-roller "stroked 351M" w/Trick Flow heads & intake, EEC-V SEFI/E4OD/3.50 gears w/Kevlar clutches
Blue: 2015 F150 Platinum 4x4 SuperCrew wearing Blue Jeans & sporting a 3.5L EB & Max Tow
Big Blue: 1985 F250HD 4x4: 460/ZF5/3.55's, D60 w/Ox locker in front & 10.25 Spicer/Trutrac in back, & EEC-V MAF/SEFI

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Re: Cheap welders?

Turnburn720
So I'll repeat what Gary has said, a flux-cored process leaves slag behind, much like a traditional stick process. The difference is that there are basically 2 types of FCAW (flux-cored) processes: inner-shield and dual-shield. IS relies on a heavier flux to protect the puddle from atmospheric contamination while it cools back to a solid state, and DS uses a lighter core PLUS a gas-shielded component (typically either 75/25 mix or pure CO2) to accomplish the same thing. Either will leave behind a coating of slag, with the IS requiring more effort to remove. FCAW is used in situations where you need to lay a lot more metal than SMAW (stick), not necessarily for stuff like sheet metal.

All this is my long-winded way of saying that FCAW stinks for thin stuff (IME, I could be wrong), especially IS, because you need to run heat to get the flux to flow right. The good thing is that for a few bucks you can retrofit almost any FC machine to run traditional short-circuit mig, just by changing out the drive rollers, and maybe the gun liner depending on whether you're changing wire diameter. The main thing is whether the machine is set up to run dual-shield or inner-shield, which is to say that you need to check if it has a barbed gas hookup on the back. If it does, then it's set up to run dual-shield, and it will send gas through the line when you pull the trigger. If it doesn't, then I wouldn't bother.

If you have a stick welder you could always buy a cheap Radnor scratch-start rig, a regulator, and 25 feet of gas hose, and swap the leads to make a poor man's tig welder.
1983 f150 RCLB, carb 4.9, np435 4 speed, 4x4

Connecticut native, bullnose novice
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Re: Cheap welders?

Rembrant
Turnburn720 wrote
So I'll repeat what Gary has said, a flux-cored process leaves slag behind, much like a traditional stick process. The difference is that there are basically 2 types of FCAW (flux-cored) processes: inner-shield and dual-shield. IS relies on a heavier flux to protect the puddle from atmospheric contamination while it cools back to a solid state, and DS uses a lighter core PLUS a gas-shielded component (typically either 75/25 mix or pure CO2) to accomplish the same thing. Either will leave behind a coating of slag, with the IS requiring more effort to remove. FCAW is used in situations where you need to lay a lot more metal than SMAW (stick), not necessarily for stuff like sheet metal.

All this is my long-winded way of saying that FCAW stinks for thin stuff (IME, I could be wrong), especially IS, because you need to run heat to get the flux to flow right. The good thing is that for a few bucks you can retrofit almost any FC machine to run traditional short-circuit mig, just by changing out the drive rollers, and maybe the gun liner depending on whether you're changing wire diameter. The main thing is whether the machine is set up to run dual-shield or inner-shield, which is to say that you need to check if it has a barbed gas hookup on the back. If it does, then it's set up to run dual-shield, and it will send gas through the line when you pull the trigger. If it doesn't, then I wouldn't bother.

If you have a stick welder you could always buy a cheap Radnor scratch-start rig, a regulator, and 25 feet of gas hose, and swap the leads to make a poor man's tig welder.
I bought a nice little Lincoln machine a few years ago. It's uses gas, and it is a small one...but I bought it specifically for doing light sheet metal work. It's a commercial grade machine, but at the bottom end of the scale. It is absolutely lovely to weld with, I must say, but it wasn't cheap either. I've done a lot of stick welding over the years, and I've done quite a bit of work with this one I have now, but I have never touched a flux core wire machine without gas, so I know nothing about them.

I had to weld new rocker panels on to a VW New Beetle a few years ago, and they were paper thin...I think 22ga steel, but the welder worked great on them.

Anyway, that's sort of off topic...

I don't know anything about the welder in question, but for $100 it certainly seems worth the risk.
1984 F150 4X2 Flareside. Mild 302 w/ M5R2 5spd swap.
1980 F150 4X4 Flareside  Disassembly and inspection stage...
1993 E350 Cutaway RV. 460EFI Covid-19 2020 project.

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Re: Cheap welders?

Turnburn720
I used to use inner shield flux core a fair amount when I used to work on bridges, as they're a lot less temperamental where wind is an issue, and as a process it's really effective for it's intended application, which is to replace stick welding for deposition-heavy jobs. I think the main reason it's terrible for sheet metal is that there's not anything to cool the puddle down while you're welding other than the heat sink of the piece your welding on. At least with dual shield the c25 can carry quite a bit of the heat away until the puddle is thick enough to shed heat on it's own.

In any event, yeah, I agree, 100 sheckles isn't too much of a hit to deter a little experimentation. The biggest problem with cheap machines IME is that they'll melt metal just fine (we've been doing it for a while now and most of the kinks have been ironed out), but the cheap parts make an unstable arc, so there's a ton of spatter.

I guess that's what they make grinders for though!
1983 f150 RCLB, carb 4.9, np435 4 speed, 4x4

Connecticut native, bullnose novice
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Re: Cheap welders?

Weberman
I have the Titanium Flux from HF. First time welder and machine. I've been happy with it so far. It is an inverter welder so there is minimal splatter. Its been putting out some nice stuff for the skill that I have (which is 0). I would buy again. Its not the cheap $100 one they have, but I caught it on sale for $150.

Here is a pic of it. Not my best weld but I'm getting there. Any splatter that it made I wiped off with my glove on this.
1982 Bronco - 5.0L/C6
1406 Edelbrock, Edelbrock Performer Intake, Comp 268H
2004 F350 Crew Cab - 6.0L/ZF6
Bulletproofed, tuned SCT X4
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Re: Cheap welders?

ArdWrknTrk
Administrator
I bought the titanium FC welder last year to fix things around the barn and paddock.

The $100 Chicago Electric welder is AC transformer while the little green lunchbox is IGBT and only 17 Lbs.
It even comes with a shoulder strap!  

There is no gas provision with either one of these, but that's to my advantage, as I don't want to be lugging an 80 around the yard.

Honestly, I have to say get yourself a MIG if you want to do body work.
Even turned way down the titanium 125 is too much for that and it leaves soot and spatter.

My MIG is a cheap Italian job from 1980.
Still going strong.
I installed a 120V muffin fan blowing over the rectifier to increase the duty cycle.
And just last week bought a new whip from Amazon because it was old and kinked, plus the trigger was frustrating me.
Wish I had spent that $45 before I welded in the new floor and rocker.

Find something like this for $100 on CL or Marketplace.
You'll be a lot happier.
 Jim,
Lil'Red is a '87 F250 HD, 4.10's, 1356 4x4, Zf-5, 3G, PMGR, Saginaw PS, desmogged with an Edelbrock 1826 and Performer intake.
Too much other stuff to mention.
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Re: Cheap welders?

TheScatch
I had bought the cheap $100 one last year to fix some metal gate frames where the angle iron has broken, thought about using it also to weld in the repair pieces to the rusted out rear cab mount/cross member on my truck. Got wayyy to busy with other projects and haven't used yet. BUT I just got all the other materials I need for my gate and will let you know how it runs. At the time I bought it I didn't have a generator capable of running 240 or a 240 outlet in the garage.

That has all changed (8000w Firman duel fuel and working on 240 in the garage soon) so if it is too unsatisfactory ill get a different one, but I am not using it for a pretty weld, but function and putting down a lot of material.
1986 F-150|Standard Cab|4x2|300Six|C6Transmission w/3.08 rear|Name:TBD
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Re: Cheap welders?

ArdWrknTrk
Administrator
The titanium is WELL worth the extra $50-60.
I've used them both.

I'll have to post some pics of the railing I made, when I can get a new phone.
 Jim,
Lil'Red is a '87 F250 HD, 4.10's, 1356 4x4, Zf-5, 3G, PMGR, Saginaw PS, desmogged with an Edelbrock 1826 and Performer intake.
Too much other stuff to mention.
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Re: Cheap welders?

swampedout
Ok, thanks for all the opinions.
Id definitely prefer Mig or Tig for body work so we'll see where I go.
Im probly picking up an 8500w generator today with 120 and 240 outlets so my options may be broader than I thought.
The first welding I ever saw was FC and a lot of it was outdoors so Im used to spatter. And all my welding will be outdoors as well.
But I also got some tiny 1/16 6013 to mess around with this weekend. All I really need to do is spot weld and tack panels. This is for a toyota guys, dont worry, Im not welding on the Ford. So it doesnt need to be pretty.

Sam
New Mexico
1984 F250. 460. C6. 4x4. MSD Ignition. GVR Overdrive. 4x4. Airbag rear suspension
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Re: Cheap welders?

ArdWrknTrk
Administrator
None of it needs to be pretty, as long as it's solid.  💪

My truck is proof enough of that.

How low can you drop your amperage and still burn 1/16 rods?
That's like .063, and I prefer .025 to .030 or .035 in my MIG for body panels.
 Jim,
Lil'Red is a '87 F250 HD, 4.10's, 1356 4x4, Zf-5, 3G, PMGR, Saginaw PS, desmogged with an Edelbrock 1826 and Performer intake.
Too much other stuff to mention.
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Re: Cheap welders?

swampedout
Thats what Im hoping to find out this weekend. Ive only welded 1/8 rod so I really dont know what I can do with smaller stuff.
Once Ive burnt holes through all my thin gauge scrap metal, Ill give you a real answer, Jim.

Ive seen youtube videos of people doing what id like to do with smaw, but they have a lot more practice than me.

I picked up the generator today so now I have options for the future if I do decide to buy another machine. Id love to go TIG some day
Sam
New Mexico
1984 F250. 460. C6. 4x4. MSD Ignition. GVR Overdrive. 4x4. Airbag rear suspension
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Re: Cheap welders?

ArdWrknTrk
Administrator
Don't forget to use a ground stake with your new generator.
It really does make a difference to the machine.

I'd really like to have a big old Synchrowave, like I picked up from a school auction back in the day.
That thing weighed a ton and was barely used (probably because they didn't have a welding instructor, iDK)

When liability rates reared their head and public policy decided every kid needed to go to college, public schools started shedding their 'industrial arts' classrooms like their pants were on fire.
I bought a water cooled 350 with high freq for under $500 at a school district auction.

 Jim,
Lil'Red is a '87 F250 HD, 4.10's, 1356 4x4, Zf-5, 3G, PMGR, Saginaw PS, desmogged with an Edelbrock 1826 and Performer intake.
Too much other stuff to mention.
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Re: Cheap welders?

swampedout
Well I got some welding done on 18 ga with 1/16th 6013 electrodes. I got two plates spot welded enough to take five whacks from the biggest little hammer I own. With more practice, Im sure I could do more but the generator really doesnt like going low amps. The lowest my machine goes is 35 amps but I was having trouble striking an arc. When I stuck the electrode, the welder really didnt like that. I had it mostly btw 40 and 45.

Makes me wish I was in tech school and could experiment with someone elses welder!

So ultimately, the search continues. Im thinking Mig now but im still welding outdoors so idk...
Sam
New Mexico
1984 F250. 460. C6. 4x4. MSD Ignition. GVR Overdrive. 4x4. Airbag rear suspension
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Re: Cheap welders?

ArdWrknTrk
Administrator
Welding outdoors isn't impossible with MIG.
Maybe you need a windbreak? Maybe you need a bigger cup and more gas?

I did plenty of it a month ago.
My welds were ugly but solid. I definitely need practice.  

You're at the mercy of the breeze, and it's not optimal.
The other thing I don't like outdoors is light inside my helmet.
I don't have a pancake like a pipeliner, but I see why they wear them.
Draping a black tee shirt over the back of your head helps a lot.
 Jim,
Lil'Red is a '87 F250 HD, 4.10's, 1356 4x4, Zf-5, 3G, PMGR, Saginaw PS, desmogged with an Edelbrock 1826 and Performer intake.
Too much other stuff to mention.
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Re: Cheap welders?

ArdWrknTrk
Administrator
In reply to this post by swampedout
If you were closer I'd offer to let you take my Titanium 125 fcaw for a spin.
I've got plenty of wire, and the machine is inexpensive and light enough for me not to worry about it.

Have a look at what some of Ramses was doing to his soon-to-be dually welding rig.
He was obviously using flux to weld his seat frame and cab corners.
So it's not impossible to accomplish with practice.

http://forum.garysgaragemahal.com/New-from-PR-tp56855p62882.html
 Jim,
Lil'Red is a '87 F250 HD, 4.10's, 1356 4x4, Zf-5, 3G, PMGR, Saginaw PS, desmogged with an Edelbrock 1826 and Performer intake.
Too much other stuff to mention.
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Re: Cheap welders?

swampedout
Wow, thats good work.

I know what I want to do can be done with FCAW, I have seen other people prove it. My welding skills are not there at all.
Now Im wondering what would a cheap MIG setup cost and how would it do outdoors, maybe with some sort of windbreak for my welding area.
Sam
New Mexico
1984 F250. 460. C6. 4x4. MSD Ignition. GVR Overdrive. 4x4. Airbag rear suspension
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Re: Cheap welders?

swampedout
Thanks for the offer on using the 125. Part of the reason Im thinking HF is because theyre so cheap. Even if I cant weld sheet metal, I still have a decent little welder that will definitely be put to work on other projects.
Sam
New Mexico
1984 F250. 460. C6. 4x4. MSD Ignition. GVR Overdrive. 4x4. Airbag rear suspension
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Re: Cheap welders?

swampedout
In reply to this post by ArdWrknTrk
Just out of curioisity (spellcheck?), whats the smallest gauge youve done with the 125?
Sam
New Mexico
1984 F250. 460. C6. 4x4. MSD Ignition. GVR Overdrive. 4x4. Airbag rear suspension
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