So, you really want a Tig welder.......Here are the things I considered before buying

Discussion in 'Workshop Tips and Secrets / Tools' started by ekimneirbo, Mar 14, 2012.

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  1. Mar 14, 2012 #1
    The discussions over whether to use a Tig or Oxy/Acetylene outfit will go on forever and really just a matter of personal preference. If you decide to weld with either of these processes you will have to make a sizeable investment. The cost of O/A equipment isn't as cheap as it once was, but you can find some used items. For aircraft welding you will need a specialty aircraft torch which is smaller and lighter and more adjustable in a thin tube weld situation. Couple that with a set of tanks and you may be nearing the $1k range. You can buy the smaller tanks and get by more cheaply initially,but for the rest of your life you will pay more per cu ft. You can rent tanks, but then you pay a monthly fee. The most economical way to have tanks is to buy them outright. When you exchange them,you will just be given a different tank every time you fill up, but you will have title to own some tanks. As time/your life passes by, the tanks will probably increase in value. If you ever do decide to sell them you will get most of your money back, and maybe even make a profit. I have owned my own tanks for over 30 years. Recently, my Mig and Tig welders were stolen. When I went to two local companies to price replacements, the 300 cu ft bottles were quoted at $335/$385 + $70 for the gas inside. As I said,if you buy the smaller bottles you will be paying a lot more for gas refills over your lifetime.I know this is supposed to be about TIG welders, but the point here is that purchasing TWO bottles for an O/A set up is not cheap.You are looking at somewhere between $700/$1000 for your tanks. Add the price of a good aircraft torch and a decent cart to it and you are in the $1500 range.If you cut corners and buy the little hand carry lightweight tank setups you will regret it.Now lets talk about a TIG machine. OK, the first thing most of us do is to try to justify the money we are about to spend. We may start out looking at homebuilt units built on the cheap. For those of you who really believe you can make something with a car alternator that will do the job, don't waste your time reading any farther.......you are going to show me that I'm wrong, so there is no sense wasting your time here. Go get your parts and get started.For those of you who want a professional TIG, you will spend time like I did researching what you need and what its gonna cost. You are still looking for the best buy for the least money. Well, for once in your life why not take the approach that you are going to buy a quality tool and spend a little extra if need be. This will be your right hand sidekick for many a year,and many a project.Bite the bullet and get something that will last and serve you well. If you ever decide to sell it, you will find that it has retained its value well and you can recoup a lot of your investment. A five year old welder will probably be worth 75% of its cost. A 10 year old will bring 50% or more. Its better than spending half as much for something that may quit and have no value.What do you need? First you should realize that you want a machine that is capable of both AC and DC welding modes. If you look at the American made (usually) machines you will find that below $1500 you usually get something that only has only DC. DC is what is used for welding steel, while AC is what is needed for aluminum. (Thats a basic description) You may never need the AC, but as your welding skills progress you may want to. Your machine will be a more desirable resale if you ever decide to part with it.Pulse weld feature: This is an adjustable feature which will be very valuable when welding thin materials such as chromemoly tubing. Its often credited with being the feature which allows you to get a weld that resembles a "stack of dimes"........but its real value is that it causes your arc to fluctuate between the weld setting and zero while you are welding. It can be very rapid to the point of being barely noticeable or slowed to suit your needs. What it does is allow momentary cooling while you are welding, so that you don't burn thru with a continuous weld. I highly reccommend NOT buying a welder that DOES NOT have this feature.I purchased a Lincoln 185 Precision Tig after attending an EAA workshop on Tig welding. It would be an excellent choice,but its no longer being made. My sole reason for being lured away from a Miller was that the Lincoln came with a Pulse feature as a standard item. To get the feature on a comparable Miller was a $500 option. Today things have changed somewhat. The Lincold Precision Tig 225 is now what is available. Its the same as the 185 but has the additional capacity. They can be purchased on Ebay currently for about $2200. A Miller can be had for about $2500. My personal preference is for the Miller. Hey, I'm from Kentucky and I like Blue.....what can I say.Both of these are excellent machines. The thing with these machines is that they do have some weight and they are both machines which operate off a transformer as opposed to the newer lighter weight inverter machines. The inverter machines allow you to play with the arc you are generating so you can adjust the amount of penetration vs the amount of cleaning action taking place.(Again, a simple description) Don't be intimidated by the additional features as you don't have to fool with them if you don't want/need to. I like the setup of the Miller control panel better than a Lincoln, seems simpler to me. The Lincoln inverter reminds me of some of the machines built in Italy, whichI think has some involvement in its manufacture.What about the Chinese manufactured units: I looked at these and the HTP (Italy mfg ?). I had heard good things about HTP, but decided that for the $ difference I would stick with a Miller. I'm talking about inverter machines now. I called HTP to get some information and someone who obviously wokred in the office (secretary?) answered the phone. She was unable to provide any real info and did not offer to transfer me to anyone who could. Although I had heard really good things about HTPs customer service, I was disappointed. I have not heard anything bad about their product and they have been around for years. The Everlast was another unit I investigated. There are videos on the net which show people using them and they seem to work well. There were some comments about failures and disatisfaction, but also many seemingly happy customers. The thing that stuck in my mind was that they apparently use other companies to construct their products and sometimes those companies have substituted parts which subsequently failed. Supposedly they have addressed this problem and it will not happen in the future. ???????I decided that since I'm nearing retirement that buying a new welder was hopefully going to be a one time thing and I hope it lasts as long as I do.......so I went with the quality Miller unit.Unfortunately, thieves have caused me and my insurance company to have to purchase a new one before I ever got it plugged in. So, a quick point here. I never had a problem with theft in the 35 years I lived here. I kept thinking about putting an alarm in, but procrastinated. At the very least,put something in that will sound a siren. You can get cheap motion detectors and a siren for less than $100. I'm telling you it is not a good feeling when the sanctity and security of your home is suddenly gone and everytime you leave you have to worry.....and its far more expensive than the $100. There are people who watch what you do and you never know it until its too late.Multi voltage: I guess its nice, but if you buy a welder get something that runs on 220 volts. When you switch to 110, you also have to change the plug. Don't get something that has onlt 110 volts for operational power. It reduces the capability of the welder.Why is Tig welding so hard: When you first start to look at Tig, there are many things to consider.Do I use AC or DC. What type of gas do I need? What type and size of Tungsten do I need? What is a gas lens? It seems very complicated. Well, basically you will probably be welding steel, so set it to DC and forget it.Select an electrode that works with steel and get a couple of sizes. You will change them to smaller sizes if you are welding thinner material and can't adjust the current low enough with the setup you are using. You only need a few sizes. Gas Lens: All this means, is that your torch has a tip which has a small fine screen inside. As the gas flows from the torch, the screen decreases the turbulence of the gas and gives a better layer of shielding gas around the weld area. Its nice to have but not necessary, and not very expensive.I would recommend before buying anything that someone interested in Tig welding spend $40 to purchase the Ron Covell/Miller Welding DVD on Tig Welding which will explain the settings on the machines and show you how to weld. If possible I would also recommend attending on of the EAA workshops on Tig welding. The main confusion on Tig welding is how to set the machine up. With a little work, you will find that it really isn't a continual fight, but rather just establishing some basic settings and usually working from those settings.Lastly, the Helmet. Get a decent ($150) helmet that has replaceable batteries, and instant on/offshielding. Look for something with a low light range (9-10) so if you are using low amp settings which produce less light, the helmet will still work.


    One other thing, the newer machines will have the ability to start your arc without touching/contaminating the electrode, and have the squarewave technology built in. Older machines will weld quite well but don't have the newer technology, but they can you up and welding much more cheaply.


    These are my opinions on how to go about buying the right welder. Hopefully it may help others in their decisions................
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 14, 2012
  2. Mar 14, 2012 #2

    djschwartz

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    Re: So, you really want a Tig welder.......Here are the things I considered before bu

    Often you can find an excellent older commercial quality TIG machine for a good price. Look on Craig's List or check out industrial equipment companies in your area. Usually the biggest drawback of these older machines is their size and weight. I found a Hobart CyberTIG 300 that way. It has all the features mentioned above, is intended for continuous duty commercial work, and came with a full large argon bottle and accessories. It cost me $1200. The down side, it's huge and weighs about 600 lbs.
    071204-201726.jpg
     
  3. May 7, 2012 #3

    GESchwarz

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    Re: So, you really want a Tig welder.......Here are the things I considered before bu

    I got P&H welder that's the same size and twice the age. The weight doesn't matter because I'm not having to lit it every day; it sits in the same place all the time. the size?...the top makes a nice big shelf.

    It cost me a thousand bucks about 30 years ago.

    It still works great after all these years. It helped put man on the moon.

    Because it weighs 600 pounds, nobody in their right mind would, or could steal it.
     
  4. May 7, 2012 #4

    bmcj

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    Re: So, you really want a Tig welder.......Here are the things I considered before bu

    And all this time, I thought it was Werner von Braun... :gig:
     
    Last edited: May 7, 2012
  5. May 7, 2012 #5

    cvairwerks

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    Re: So, you really want a Tig welder.......Here are the things I considered before bu

    A couple of cautions about buying a used industrial unit. First and foremost, verify it is working and complete before you lay down your cash. If the unit price is real cheap, you may be facing a very expensive repair to get it working or having to lay out some cash for a torch and or cooler. Secondly, make sure you have the power capacity at your shop to run it. Getting a great deal on a unit doesn't turn out so great if you have to drop a couple of grand to get it powered. Most of the units I see here in the DFW area are 440/3P. Not a lot of homes and few small hangars have 3 phase power. Sometimes adding 3p is not too bad, but most of the time it's expensive. Check before you buy, as you may find it cheaper to buy a 1p unit new with all the bells and whistles over going used and adding power.
     
  6. May 8, 2012 #6

    Head in the clouds

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    Re: So, you really want a Tig welder.......Here are the things I considered before bu

    I spent years deliberating about 'which TIG' because I like to buy the best so that it will last my lifetime and more - if I can afford it. Otherwise I look for new and a cheapie with a warranty. Couldn't find anything really good anywhere near my price range. I wanted a Millers of course.

    So I went against my own best instincts and bought a Chinese 200amp for $700 delivered to the door. It has all the bells and whistles, squarewave, variable AC output, ramp up/down, pulse etc and also is very portable (about 45lb/20kg), can be used for SMAW (MMA/stick) welding and is also a plasma cutter. It also came with large and small torches and air and argon regulators.

    Incredibly it does all its functions really well, a kid could tig weld with it. And even more amazingly it hasn't broken down yet. Usually I have to fix anything chinese before it's usable. Actually I did have to redesign the foot control because it tended to stick in the on position but that was just a matter of repositioning a microswitch.

    I'd still rather have a Millers...
     
  7. May 8, 2012 #7

    jmt1991

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    Re: So, you really want a Tig welder.......Here are the things I considered before bu

    I've been looking at the ones Eastwood Tools sells at: Eastwood -TIG Welder | TIG Welders | TIG Welding Equipment & Accessories. I've had their plasma cutter for some time now, and it is fantastic! The large number of positive reviews helped me make my decision, as does Eastwood's stand behind malfunctioning units. My mind wanted a Miller, but my wallet said Eastwood. :grin:
     
  8. Jun 3, 2012 #8

    racegunz

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    Re: So, you really want a Tig welder.......Here are the things I considered before bu

    Me to jmt1991 , but after a friend asked me how I liked the eastwood because he was going to buy one I told him "you'll never regret buying a Miller, he asked me what was wrong with the Eastwood and honestly there was nothing wrong with it. To make a point quickly, I sold him my almost new Eastwood at a little loss and spent 3 times as much on a new Miller synchrowave 200. You'll never regret buying a Miller.
     
  9. Jun 3, 2012 #9

    Hot Wings

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    Re: So, you really want a Tig welder.......Here are the things I considered before bu

    You'll never regret buying a Miller.

    I do.

    I've got a Syncrowave 200 that just collects dust. Waste of gas to hook it up. Most other welders I've used can weld aluminum or steel with little more than a wipe down with a clean rag, with a split electrode, just about any flow of shield, and aren't too picky about power. The Syncro on the other hand with perfectly cleaned material and a nice fresh tip of the correct type, just won't join metal with any consistency.

    Internet sources said it might have an older board that could be upgraded, but none of the local weld shops or the district rep knows anything about such a part.

    Maybe I just got a lemon :dis:
     
  10. Jun 4, 2012 #10

    TFF

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    Re: So, you really want a Tig welder.......Here are the things I considered before bu

    Boy that is strange. It looks like a capable machine. The two I have access to are a 25 year old Miller and a New Lincoln, both are about equal to what you have maybe one size smaller.
     
  11. Jun 4, 2012 #11

    racegunz

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    Re: So, you really want a Tig welder.......Here are the things I considered before bu

    A lemon? well anything is possible, I been using mine all week welding in new 5/8 barrels into my wingstruts, welding the thin 4130 to the 1" 4130 barrel and no problems with joining the metals or controling the arc/puddle. I haven't used it on aluminum yet and never heard or read anything bad about the synchrowaves until your post. Anyone can put out a lemon, I would have been getting it looked at when it was under warranty, assuming you bought it new. I've noticed one thing right off the bat it doesn't use near as much gas as the eastwood , but to be fair I don't have a flow meter either so the eastwood could have been better if I'd had one.
     
  12. Jun 4, 2012 #12

    Hot Wings

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    Re: So, you really want a Tig welder.......Here are the things I considered before bu

    I been using mine all week welding in new 5/8 barrels into my wingstruts,

    Jealous of your success.

    I would have been getting it looked at when it was under warranty,
    assuming you bought it new.

    Did and did. Tried everything I could think of. Pure argon, argon helium mix, pure helium, and even tried CO2 for steel. Tried all sizes and types of tungsten, perfectly ground and/or balled. When I first bought it I thought it was just me since it had been a couple years since I did any TIG. But shortly after that I was working where there was a lot of aluminum welding going on. Using their abused and neglected equipment during the day to make beautiful welds on aluminum that came straight of the brake or shear and then going back to my non welding 200 really rubbed it in.

    Tried to teach my brother to TIG with it but he didn't have much luck. He later bought a Miller inverter of his own with a PC-300 and had no problem teaching himself, so one can't condemn the whole brand.

    Just must have got a lemon. We plan on trying my 200 with his PC-300 later to see if it helps.
     
  13. Jul 26, 2012 #13
    Re: So, you really want a Tig welder.......Here are the things I considered before bu


    Is it possible that your polarity switch might be malfunctioning or that the AC/DC switch might be broken....thereby not giving you the setting you think you have? Other than that it sounds like a bad circuit board. Did the dealer test the unit? Surely they can find the problem by testing it. Like you say, anyone can make a bad unit but I've never heard of Miller not standing behind their product.
     
  14. Jul 27, 2012 #14

    KeithO

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    Re: So, you really want a Tig welder.......Here are the things I considered before bu

    Put an oscilloscope on the output to look at the waveform in the different welding modes, even better if 1 channel is a current clamp and the second is the voltage. That would help the manufacturer diagnose the problem pretty quick.
     
  15. Nov 18, 2012 #15

    TreeTopPilot

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    Re: So, you really want a Tig welder.......Here are the things I considered before bu

    You will be way ahead of the game with what I use.... maxstar 150 STH.jpg

    Then after some yaers of using you will get welds like this
    I use a ThermalArc most at work, but the little Miller Maxstar STH is simply all I would ever need. It will operate from 120VAC or 220AV...Dang fine machine
     

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  16. Nov 18, 2012 #16

    TreeTopPilot

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    Re: So, you really want a Tig welder.......Here are the things I considered before bu

    This is the stuff I work on building......
     
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  17. Nov 18, 2012 #17

    4trade

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    Re: So, you really want a Tig welder.......Here are the things I considered before bu

    Fancy TIG welding machine is not really important for aircraft welding. Even best equipment in a world cannot improve bad welding skills, and good welding skills don´t need fancy machine. I was welding my friend Starduster project week ago, and his welding machine cost approx 300 $. It was all that any fuselage builder will need. Cheap TIG welder like that have enough power to weld all possible thickness that fuselage have to be welded. Welding amps for typical fuse will be between 35-100, and even these cheap Chinese will cover that one.

    Most builders will weld one fuse in their lifetime, some few even more. Builder that will use TIG for only couple of fuse don´t need anything more than cheap, basic machine. Actual welding time for fuselage is only few hours, most time is wasted for putting stuff in right places, finding good welding position for work, rotating fuselage and cleaning all surfaces before welding....but that actually welding time for job is only hours.....

    Cheap welders like that cannot weld aluminum, but most plans will need only gas tank to weld for it, and that one can weld any pro welder in local metal shop for 50-200 $.
     
    dcstrng likes this.
  18. Nov 18, 2012 #18

    Patrick Hayes

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    Re: So, you really want a Tig welder.......Here are the things I considered before bu

    Impressive fit and welding there Tree Top. :beer: 2 thumbs up.
     
  19. Nov 18, 2012 #19

    Patrick Hayes

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    Re: So, you really want a Tig welder.......Here are the things I considered before bu

    What's the deal on the car?
     
  20. Nov 20, 2012 #20

    topspeed100

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    Re: So, you really want a Tig welder.......Here are the things I considered before bu

    I agree.
     

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