So, You want to buy a welding machine...?

Steel and aluminum boatbuilding. See: "Boatbuilding Methods", in left-hand column of the Home page, for information about alloys.

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So, You want to buy a welding machine...?

Postby RCS&M » Wed Nov 19, 2003 3:17 pm

I'll throw some tips out to you guys who may be in the market for a new machine or are just info hungry.

Buy the best one you can afford. That sounds like simple common sense but don't fool yourself. Sure, you can get a bargain deal from the Craftsman catalog for $350, but what happens when it acts up, or you need tips, or a new liner for the gun? You gotta call them, or take it to the service center which you probably don't even have in your area.

Even if you only plan on using it occasionally(unlike myself who feeds my family by it). Get one from a welding supply store, Arcet, and National Welders are nation wide and I'll bet have a location near you.

Miller,Hobart, and Lincoln are the most popular and have the best support among welding suppliers. The popular models are often on sale and can be had a great discounts over regular retail.
An exception is the Hobart Handler line of machines that can be bought from discount tool supply stores like Harbour Freight. Hobart is now owned by Miller. The Hobart Handler 135 is one of the finest in its class of welders. Usually for under $500 you can pick one of these up at just about any welding supply store ar discount tool store. Basically all of the big welder companies have comperable machines in each class. Expect to pay about $500 for a descent 110 volt machine that you can plug in anywhere. The 220 volt machines usually start in the neighborhood of $800-900, and go WAY up from there. My shop just purchased a Lincoln Power MIG 300 which is a pulsing DC power source with a built in wire feeder. It can be used to TIG, and Stick weld as well as MIG. With a special push-pull wire feeding system(required for welding aluminum) this thing cost $5000. That is with just the MIG set-up, not including the TIG and stick accesories. But as I said, my baby needs formula, so we do what we gotta do.

What are you going to weld? Steel and stainless have no problems being welded with a standard MIG machine and gun, that is what they are designed for. When it comes to welding aluminum, that is when it gets specialized. Special "Spool guns" are available for most 220V welders that holds the spool of aluminum wire in the handle. These for the most part work OK. I have used a Millermatic 250 with a 30A Spool gun for about 5 years now. This is Millers top of the line spool gun. It is very tempermental as are ALL spool guns. Tips get burned, it's heavy since it has a 1lb spool of wire hanging off the back of it, and it has a 30 ft long 00 gauge power cable going to it, along with a gas line, and some low voltage wires, it's a bundle. BUT, this sort of thing is REQUIRED if you want to be able to use the same machine to weld steel and aluminum. I have a 30Lb spool of steel wire in the regular wire feeder and gun, and then the SEPERATE spool gun that uses the machine as its power source only. A set-up like that will cost about $2500. Aluminum requires more heat(voltage) to weld than steel since it is a better heat sink. So, welding aluminum with a 110 volt machine will be a huge PITA, if you can even do it. Then, the Push-pull feeders I spoke about earlier are "THE WAY" for welding aluminum, but require you to change 30lb spools of wire if you want to switch between steel and aluminum. Push-Pull guns are available as up-grades to most 220V machines. Some name brands are Cobra, and Python which are named after what they look like. They look like snake heads since they have a set of drive rolls(wire feeders)hidden in the handle. I hope this helps anyone that is in the market for a welding machine, or you can just use this info to impress the guy who does your welding :lol:
Just starting to build a Cracker Box!


Thanks/books/How thick?

Postby Guest » Wed Nov 19, 2003 4:07 pm

Great info RCS&M (whoever you are!!!) (I'm not really a guest but it keeps making me think of a new username if I log in!!)

I've been looking to learn some welding and doing some research - some guy on Yahoo is selling a couple of books for $40 but if you go to Lincon Electric and track down their book store (educational I think) you can buy them for $7.50 & $7.00! They also have a RAFT of how to books starting at $3.00

Maybe you could tell me what gauge of Aly is used for boats - 16 to 25 ft?

Calgary, Alberta


Postby highyield2 » Wed Nov 19, 2003 8:28 pm

Excellent welding post. I have a Hobart handler mig and like it alot. I also have a 220V Lincoln square wave 175 Tig welder and love it. Miller also makes a comparable square wave. I weld thin wall 4130 tubing and do gunsmithing with it. It makes the guy who doesn't do it for a living, weld like a pro. Best thing with a Tig is that if you don't like the bead you just ran you can just go over it with the torch and no filler rod. Welds look like a row of dimes every time. Think I paid $1300.00 for mine with a footpedal.

John H.

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Location: Ridge, MD

Postby JimM » Thu Nov 20, 2003 6:26 am

What great info - thanks a lot! So you think the 135 would be a great machine if I pass on welding aluminum?


What to buy

Postby Guest » Thu Nov 20, 2003 10:03 am

I posted this topic on another forum and the reponses have been amazingly interesting. Try this link ... OPIC_ID=49

That's in the "welding section".

Also I followed somebodies link and found this spin on down to "Choosing a Welder". I found this useful because it's very basic and an organised response to the question

Calgary, Alberta

Eric W.
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Joined: Wed Nov 12, 2003 1:04 pm

Postby Eric W. » Thu Nov 20, 2003 11:13 am

highyield2 wrote:I weld thin wall 4130 tubing and do gunsmithing with it.
John H.

Hmmm... welding 4130. Are you an airplane builder too?


Postby highyield2 » Thu Nov 20, 2003 3:51 pm


Yes I am building a plane, 75% FW-190D. 4130 Trussed tubular frame and 4130 landing gear and other parts, and the rest is 2024 aluminum with LOTs of handbucked and squeezed rivets. A man can't have too many projects, LOL. Bridgeport with a CNC proto-trak controller is my friend to make alot of parts. I use ER70S-6 mig wire as a filler rod to TIG 4130. Stress relieve with an Oxy/Ace torch.

Thanks for asking,

John H.

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Joined: Fri Nov 14, 2003 10:01 pm
Location: River City Speed & Marine

Postby RCS&M » Thu Nov 20, 2003 6:50 pm

John, you must be a busy dude. I'm restoring/hot-rodding a '73 Datsun 240Z, and just had a baby girl, and my brother and I are now building a boat. I NEED a couple of clones to get it all done! Kudos to you!

Jim M, yes a 135 welder will probably fill all your needs.

John H., I have a Miller Syncrowave 351 Tig welder(it will weld ANYTHING you'd ever want), and a Millermatic 250, Lincoln powerMIG 300(a beast)and a Millermatic 130. I use the 130 at home for doing panel replacement on my Zcar(most are rusted out). I use the others at work.

Thinks for the compliments on the info.
Just starting to build a Cracker Box!


Hobart Handler

Postby Guest » Fri Dec 19, 2003 6:23 pm

Just reading thru' this again. Great info, thanks for starting me off on the Hobart.

I am still a novice but I bought the Handler 175 (230V). MUCh more versatile for a few extra bucks.

Also if your a newby, like me, you probably only plan on having one machine - many people advised me "don't even think about a 115V machine". My manual is for the 135 and the 175 - the comparison is night and day.

As little as I know, I still have to interject, "wrong, buy the 175!" The 135 is for people that can't get the power to their garage or already have another machine.

Calgary, Alberta


Postby RCS&M » Fri Dec 19, 2003 7:57 pm

Ken, You're CORRECT! Buy the largest machine your electrical output can handle. Remember the Miller TIG welder I mentioned I have in an earlier post? Syncrowave 351. That bad boy takes a 100 amp circuit all by itself. The plug is the size of a FOOTBALL, and that is NO exageration. The electrical contractor said it is some sort of military type connection and it must be threaded together.

Good luck!

Dave Beem
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Joined: Tue Dec 23, 2003 7:01 am
Location: Spokane WA


Postby Dave Beem » Sun Mar 14, 2004 2:02 pm

Hey all
As a part time welder I have a few from 2 stick arcs ( and I mean STICK arcs lol) to 2 migs one 110 and a old 220 miller. and dependind on the work you are doing a small welder works great but if you are welding 10 ga or better I would go with a 220vac. I have a little 110vac flux core that is great for little things, and small stick arc for the same. but dor hard surficeing I use the 220 stick! I don't know how this my help but welding in not rocket building. I guess growing up on a farm helped, but there is alot og good info everyone has put out on this topic and my nexy boat is going to be steel. just figuring out on the one.
Good Sailing

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Location: Cincinnati Ohio

Postby RonW » Tue Mar 16, 2004 9:23 am

Hey dave beem, check this out.
scroll down the page to shetland 14 workboat, a very nice small
steel boat. Good one to begin with. A buddy of mine, in his younger days had a 14 ft. steel skiff, he says he misses it and wish he still had it, it set like a rock on the water. Very stable. Excellent fishing boat.

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Dave Grason
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Postby Dave Grason » Sun Jun 06, 2004 4:01 am

Wow, I just read this entire thread and I'm really glad you started it, River City.

Lots of good info and I know that I'll be using it in the future.
Isn't it amazing!! The person that never has the fortitude to pursue his own dreams, will be the first to try and discourage you from pursuing yours.

Dave Beem
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Joined: Tue Dec 23, 2003 7:01 am
Location: Spokane WA

Postby Dave Beem » Wed Jun 09, 2004 12:16 pm

Hi There
You can weld alum with a stick arc it is a bit cheeper for the welder but the sticks cost abot 3x that 6010 sticks. I have welded alum with a mig . now this only my view and I may have done somthing wrong. but I have had better results with a stick arc on alum! I have to say this agine I own mig and stick! It my just be me but I have the better results with the stick! It may be the fact that I am not a full time welder but as a rookie I may not have the knowlege in this as a pro but I have been welding for over 30 yrs. so expermant for yourself. stick arcing is alot harder for me ( it is the walking and chewing gum thing ) but I have a hard time with running a bead with a arc! eventhough I would still recomend stick arc it has better penatration and seems to work better ( BUT YOU NEED TO WORK AT IT AND WELL I AM NOT TO HOT AT IT. I REALLY KNOW WHY THEY CALL IT "STICK" ARCING )

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Postby ksgrandell » Wed Apr 13, 2005 8:06 am

So what is a "suitable" welder for a home builder? Will a MIG offer enough penetration for hull welding? If so, what is a suitable amp and duty cycle for a home builder?

Please let me know your thoughts... thanks!

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