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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mcmbuilder
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Postby mcmbuilder » Mon Apr 25, 2005 8:23 pm

New to this site, but very experienced in welding aluminum. I have built over 60 aluminum boats. I am a vocational welding instructor and do consulting work for different welding contractors in the SE.

All of the info posted on this site is pretty accurate. However IMO if you are doing anything more than doing sheet metal repairs on car bodies any 120volt is a waste of $$.

Currently Lincoln products are ahead of the curve on the latest inovations for welding machines. The new Precision Tig 185 is an incredible machine and moderaely priced for a machine of that quality. Best starting arc of any machine. However if you currently have a Miller or Hobart machine and it is not giving problems keep it.

Aluminum TIG welding is an art, but with proper instruction it is not difficult to acheive good quality welds. Aluminum TIG welding is not difficult, but it can be very frustrating due to spool guns being tempermental. The Lincoln Power MIG 300 and the new 350 with the push pull gun elimanates a lot of spool gun problems but it is also a very sizable investment (4500-5200 range).

Before starting a boat I would very much reccommend getting a book that thoroughly explains the applications for the filler metals. You will never want to use incompatible alloys since underbead cracking can easily result from using the wrong alloys.

oleman
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Postby oleman » Tue Jun 14, 2005 6:11 pm

A used commercial welder is a much better bargain that a discount elcheapo one.
We purchased a LINDE for our welding shop made in 1983 for around 700. on ebay. I cleaned the rat nests out, changed the rotten gas lines and discovered it worked fine. It is a CONTINUOUS DUTY 300A mig has nice large GE amp and volt meters with the large capacity wire feeder and a spool gun. I watched a U.S. Navy destroyer being built with these things!
The LINDE is so bullit proof that I do not know how you could break it.
Parts are very available, local welding supply house had line liners and tips in stock! It eats .035 wire at any currret and feed speed. I have not tried aluminum because I know my limitations.
You will have a problem with power because this commercial welder is 3 phase 240 VAC, no problem in an industrial area.

Smith Brother
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Postby Smith Brother » Wed Sep 28, 2005 5:30 pm

If you saw all the stuff I have welded with my 12 year old Hobart 110v Handler you would be shocked. Yes lots and lots of 1/8" and quite a lot of 3/16" stuff too. I built a 5200 pound street rod, 1941 Buick Formal Sedan and put all late Vette suspension under it and did all the new cross members and frame welds. NOT ONE SINGLE SIGN OF FAILURE. Yes a 220v would be nice, but DON'T say a 110v is a waste of money. The new 110v units are much improved over mine as well. Just today I welded approx. 6' of weld on 1/8" mild steel and the welds look great. No aluminum though.

Dale
Indy
I AM ALWAYS DOING THAT WHICH I CANNOT DO, IN ORDER TO LEARN HOW TO DO IT. ~ Pablo Picasso 1881 - 1973

tintin
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Re: So, You want to buy a welding machine...?

Postby tintin » Sat Feb 06, 2010 7:04 am

hey guys I have bought a dhc 2000 as no one welder met the size of the material and it all got just to expensive - I bought the glasses and can see the weld pool - these things are amazing once you get the hang of it on ally - has anyone tried them?

Kevin Morin
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Re: So, You want to buy a welding machine...?

Postby Kevin Morin » Fri Mar 05, 2010 5:07 pm

jennydinc,
I'm not sure of the meaning
jennydinc wrote:I have my steel type welding machine, so I am planning to have an aluminum type.

The same power supply that welds steel MIG will often weld aluminum MIG. The same wire feeder will not always feed aluminum wire just because it feeds steel wire, but I'm not sure what you're asking or stating?

We've heard from lots of different types of users here, and unless they/we group those posts into types of work; alloys of metals; boats or non-marine work and so forth, we'd have a real difficult time summarizing welding power supplies or their wire feeders for MIG.

Unfortunately, as a resource for decision making this thread is a little bit random. We could look at the discussion to date as one that roams the entire Glen-L design catalog of boats. Some are tiny punts for ponds others may be cold molded offshore sailing live-aboards, and still others may be welded aluminum outboard powered skiffs.

Could we, any of us, say This is the "BEST Design" in the Glen-L catalog? Almost everyone is going to ask "best for what"? So trying to discuss welding power supplies without prefacing the discussion with use or application makes whatever follows into a random walk in the pasture instead of a guide.

Are you summarizing the discussion in the line
jennydinc wrote:Anyway, you just need to check the model the voltage capacity.
I'm not clear there either: but I do agree; there are a list of items to check when selecting a welding power supply investment!

If I were recommending a decision tree or path to making a solid buying selection I'd start with the main use. How long per day will this power supply weld? If longer than 4 hours of solid running per day- then my experience is that there is no reason to buy the home hobby rated machines as they usually have lower 'duty cycle' or power factor ratings. If you're welding 4 hours daily - likely there's business involved and not welding holds up more than one person so pay for the 'pro equipment'. [Lincoln, Miller, Name Brands]

Next I'd want to decide the aluminum welding needs. If there are long seams - hulls, tanks, boxes, walk-ways then MIG is the most commonly used. If the work is all brackets, corners, pipes, padeyes and small tanks then TIG is the main method used.

If you're doing boat work longer than 18' and will climb in and out of the hull during construction then a push pull gun will buy itself about the second day of climbing around looking for tiny 1lb rolls of wire for a pistol type wire feeder. On the other hand if you're working on trailers, bench built tanks and boxes, or small skiffs once in awhile then a pistol or "one pound" gun is more than adequate.

The maximum sustained welding power of the power supply would be next: if you're welding aluminum 3/16" or thicker all day- get a 300A (350A) 60-80% duty cycle power supply with water cooled push-pull wire feed gun. Bite the economic bullet and get the equipment designed to do the work you have planned. If you're not at these minimum thresholds ? There are many systems that may do all you need without the high costs of those in the group above.

In almost all instances there are two generations of power supplies- old and new- 60cycle transformer and high frequency inverter- large and small versions of each welding power supply. Its been mentioned above you can buy a 4-8 thousand dollar power supply that will last your lifetime for pennies on the dollar on eBay. But if you need new then expect to pay for the full value of the new -bells and whistles laden mini suitcase wonder machine.

I have owned dozens of welding power supplies and still have half a dozen spread between the two generations - one huge copper transformer based TIG machine sits next to a suitcase inverter that has more controls than I can use. They both cost about 5k US$ new. One is 30 years older than the other- they both work and I could buy the older one now for 1/10th the amount it cost new and it would weld just fine.

My point here is that costs are related to the generation of the power supply not exclusively that power supply's welding capability. So there are real 'deals' out there if you know what to look for and can get decent testing BEFORE you buy.

cheers,
Kevin Morin
Kevin Morin

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

Postby Oyster » Fri Mar 05, 2010 5:17 pm

Kevin we value your imput and your detailed responses. I can personally tell you that I have learned a lot pertaining to metal boat work. In the area of scattered postings, some of us has discussed the issues of splattering posts, single ones from time to time that never really get into details and really unable to get a handle on the real intent. Some of the reasons that I will add is that many do not reside in "developed nations" too. So please weigh this when you want to dig further into the single digit posters with no information in their profiles.

Kevin Morin
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Re: So, You want to buy a welding machine...?

Postby Kevin Morin » Fri Mar 05, 2010 5:40 pm

Sorry, Oyster, I didn't think about those other conditions, didn't intend any disrespect in my remarks.

cheers,
Kevin Morin
Kevin Morin

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

Postby Oyster » Fri Mar 05, 2010 5:59 pm

Kevin Morin wrote:Sorry, Oyster, I didn't think about those other conditions, didn't intend any disrespect in my remarks.

cheers,
Kevin Morin

No problem at all. I was responding to your comments dealing with the variety of posters and multiple content without direction as you stated. Sometimes or must I say fairly recently , there has been some posts that really do not fit the topic or add a lot to the discussion as the examples your referenced. Some of this could be in the limited translation too. You put a lot of effort into your posts, thorough and informative and we appreciate the extra effort for sure.

Unfortunately, as a resource for decision making this thread is a little bit random. We could look at the discussion to date as one that roams the entire Glen-L design catalog of boats. Some are tiny punts for ponds others may be cold molded offshore sailing live-aboards, and still others may be welded aluminum outboard powered skiffs.

Could we, any of us, say This is the "BEST Design" in the Glen-L catalog? Almost everyone is going to ask "best for what"? So trying to discuss welding power supplies without prefacing the discussion with use or application makes whatever follows into a random walk in the pasture instead of a guide.

Oyster
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Re: So, You want to buy a welding machine...?

Postby Oyster » Fri Mar 05, 2010 6:33 pm

FWIW, this thread dates back to 2003 and was bumped twice and laid dormat from 2005.

Kevin Morin
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Re: So, You want to buy a welding machine...?

Postby Kevin Morin » Mon Nov 24, 2014 10:12 pm

Another Bumped thread to spend a little time on used power supplies for new metal boat builders' considerations.

I'll assume anyone spending time reading here knows MIG from TIG and realizes that aluminum TIG is done (most all the time) using AC not DC welding power, so the DC constant voltage MIG power supply will not provide AC, constant current TIG power supply in the same cabinet.

Its possible there are newer model aluminum welding power supplies out there (Nov of 2014) but this bump tries to focus on used power supplies not the newest and best. The reason to buy used power supplies is to save money while getting a reliable welder that has decent resale value when the build is done.

So, for those who don't know yet welding power supplies (often called "machines" even though they have no moving parts except solenoid gas valves) are of two main types. The first and older type is the transformer power supply which is easy to identify by its weight. Transformers that will convert 60 cycle AC into welding current are large and heavy. So if a power supply weighs over 200lb (up to an including 1,000 lb) then it has a transformer that converts the AC power for welding by using a huge coil of wire and metal bars to convert the 'wall power' into weld power.

The next type is an inverter where the incoming power is not transformed by a huge transformer coil. Instead the 60 cycle frequency incoming power is kicked up to very high frequency so the power can be 'transformed' by a relatively small transformer and then inverted into welding power. (over simplification because we're not discussing the merits of the new versus old).

What I want to show is that older transformer power supplies that still work very well, are incredibly reliable and produce fine welds can be found for very low costs compared to buying a newer inverter type power supply. The location of these 'deals' is ebay, local welding supply bulletin boards, and craigslist or word of mouth but how can you tell if they are a deal or a rip off?

First is to test the power supply, if you can weld, then go to the location and weld with the power supply. IF you can't weld, its best to find someone who can, and take them to test weld, this is no different than having a test drive in a car OR having your own mechanic check and engine's compression, a car's brakes or other used vehicle potential areas of weakness.

If the power supply is a distance away, things get more and more dicey as you have more and more cost to go there and test, or take someone there to help you with those tests. That is where the local welding suppliers can help, not all agree to help in this respect. The idea is to have someone check out the power supply for you, for a fee, that is separate from the seller so you've got a reason to rely on them and not get a lemon power supply.

Now, which power supply is most useful? For all aluminum MIG and TIG boat building I'd suggest 250Amps of output a minimum rating. I'd even crank that to 300 minimum in both cases without blinking, since even a couple of pieces of 1/4" plate will soak up 300 A in a weld and that's not uncommon unless the boat is pretty small.

Next is the brand name where Lincoln, Miller are far and away the leaders in this market because they're still around and parts are often still available where Airco, Hobart, and some of the other (former name) brands have been bought by the DC MIG and AC TIG power supplies.

One very reliable unit is the Lincoln 300/300 TIG power supply, I have seen these power supplies sell for as little as 500$ and I know shops where they're still in service after working for 40+ years. These power supplies require someone who understands the high frequency contact points but that is a simple job to learn for the saving of 3500.00$.

Most of the Lincoln and Miller DC MIG power supplies will require some adaptation to a MIG gun. I'm not referring to a push only style gun as those tend to be very unreliable with aluminum wire, as unreliable as they are reliable with steel. For anyone considering that combination because it is inexpensive, the softer wire will coil in the liner and spring out of the tip and jamb the weld... OR it will slow down while coiling in the liner of the stretch out and burn back the tip and fuse the wire.

There are only two really successful types of MIG guns for welding aluminum, pistol style or one pound gun (named after the wire roll in the handle) and the push-pull gun for production welding. WHat hast to be considered before buying the used MIG power supply is to learn what gun used to be used, and what the voltages are that the power supply provides for a gun.

In some cases, like the MIller MIG power supplies all the gun controls except the ON/OFF are external so you end up buying an entire independent setup to feed aluminum wire.

What is important before you 'make the deal of the century' is to learn what gun(s) can be connected AND HOW THEY ARE connected to this power supply. This is subject of another post but is an important question to ask before buying a used MIG power supply.

Unfortunately there is not nation wide listing, like an automotive 'blue book', to compare welding power supplies, their model year and type and a widely accepted price. So you can be asked for almost new cost or 1/20th the cost and not really have any reference if you don't already know this market.

Last, there are 'hot' deals in used power supplies to be found, usually sold by people moving up to a newer inverter type power supply with more exotic arc controls and weld mode features. These may or may not be well cared for, but only by welding can you really tell if the welder works like it should. If you're just starting out(?) finding a reliable 3rd party is about the only way you can really test a welder. Last, it may be possible to pay a welding power supply repair shop to 'put it through its paces' and accept or reject the sale based on their tests?

Last but not least these older transformer type power supplies will likely retain their value. They've been discounted to sell as used but seem to reach a lower limit of value and stay there so a new builder could recover some of the tooling up investment when a boat was done ?

Just some notes about the idea of buying older power supplies instead of the much more expensive newer models.

Cheers,
Kevin Morin
Kenai, AK
Kevin Morin

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

Postby Kevin Morin » Wed Mar 23, 2016 4:35 pm

Bumping an older thread because of a recent conversation with friends and other aluminum boat builders updating my knowledge.

The focus is welding aluminum boats, not as much regarding steel as those welding systems have dropped in price with the arrival in the market of low cost, low wattage MIG systems, both imported and domestic.

In the past, almost all home builders may have considered it necessary to weld their own boats? Not a bad assumption, surely not illogical, but one I've come to question in the last few months while doing some threads here and reading feedback in my email from a few experienced builders who read and keep me on the straight and narrow.

I've mainly operated on the idea that MIG is the logical first power supply or welding system that one would naturally purchase if they were building a welded aluminum boat because the main hull seams are, 99% of the time, MIG welded- so it follows you'd want one of those types of welding systems. I had an email remark that this may not be the truly logical case? The reason was that MIG happens fast, fast takes more practice than slow and MIG costs more than TIG. Why not argue the builder buys a small (relatively low cost TIG system) and he tacks up, and does all the corners and air tests and details with the TIG system but ... .hires out the MIG to a shop or other service who MIG weld all day.

The premise here is that quality MIG is more expensive in equipment and hood time than short, high quality TIG. This is a good point to explore. First the relative costs of MIG both new and used, then a look at the TIG systems new and used, and finally some review of welds as they apply the boat to see if there is any 'kernel in this nut' that we can keep?

IN the next few posts I'll try to go around the bush a bit, list a few links and see if it may make sense to buy a TIG system and let someone that MIG welds all day long weld the long seams?

Cheers,
Kevin Morin
Kenai, AK
Kevin Morin

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

Postby Kevin Morin » Wed Mar 30, 2016 7:57 pm

I thought I'd simply write some vendors and ask for comparison tables and have something to show!@ Not true. I have not had any reply from the two leading import vendors' representatives that I've written.

Both Everlast and Longevity have lower cost new welding power supplies in both MIG and TIG but, seem a little shy when asked to help create a table of values versus features comparing Lincoln and Miller in the same table.

My goal was to show the four leading lines (Hobart is a subset of Miller as I understand?) both new and used systems to illustrate what cost ranges were expected. If one new dollar for a Miller or Lincoln was only 50cents in the import power supply of comparable value?? I'd hoped to show that may be a good savings for the same features of arc control and sophistication?

Moving to the new versus used, I've looked on some various sales sites, hoping to see these four systems for sale as used equipment but... there are plenty of models- they don't all go on the sales sites in the similar model and features at the same time, therefore finding a means to present a New Vs Used along with a NEW feature to feature table- looks like I'm trying to collect more information than I'm being welcomed to collect.

Still trying, to do some research as time provides.

Cheers,
Kevin Morin
Kenai, AK
Kevin Morin

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

Postby hoodman » Thu Mar 31, 2016 8:02 am

Kevin,

I know you seem to be talking about welding specifically metal boats. But, for us guys building wooden boats and considering also building a steel trailer from Glen-L plans, what would be the minimum requirements to get the job done. Would, for instance, a cheap Harbor Freight Chinese welder be able to do the job? Many of those machines have lots of great reviews on their website. For someone with no welding experience and trying to save money by building their own trailer what would be your recommendation? I don't think its possible to save money (figuring in the cost of the welder) on building your own trailer if you have to spend $500+ on a welder. Might as well have a trailer made for you. What do you think?

Kevin Morin
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Re: So, You want to buy a welding machine...?

Postby Kevin Morin » Thu Mar 31, 2016 9:07 am

hoodman,
Yes, most of my focus is on boat building welding, and narrowing that further, even more on welded aluminum boats. But building trailers does bring up a different welding scope. First, most trailers will be made of steel and second they're not a big welding project because the joints are usually short welds between steel shapes not long seams.

The least expensive way to weld a trailer is to use stick electrodes, stick welding power supplies are the least complicated welders, and the stick coating provides the exclusion of air from the weld so its the most self contained means to a steel weld too.

However lets say the trailer was 20 long (steel that long is readily available) and had half dozen cross members and a dozen brackets. That's a very limited amount of welding so justifying even the least expensive power supply is not realistic if there is a consideration for 'return' on investment. There is no savings in welding a single trailer if you buy even the least sophisticated welder to do the job.

Trailer makers, manufacturers make them by the countless dozens, use MIG welding and have all the parts jigged to weld, sheared, stamped and punched to prepare to weld. So I don't think there is enough labor cost in a purchased trailer to be offset by welding or even building the trailer yourself.

One case may be made for building your own trailer. When the trailer and boat need to have a very specific fit or frame to hold that boat, or some special rollers, guides, bunks or other feature that will cost in addition to the stock trailer - modifications you'd need to use a stock trailer; then there's a potential to build at a profit.

In general the trailer's I've seen are hot dipped galvanized after welding- very difficult for you and I to accomplish. Straight steel trailers, even well painted inside and out- are no match for the value of a galvanized frame in service life- IMO.

I don't think there are very many welding systems that can be had new for less than 500$ but some will retain their value better than others- I'm just not able to really document that very clearly right now! I have no experience with Harbor Freight's tools and equipment as I don't buy there- quality and back up are not well defined. Living in AK, I've gotten in the habit of relying on the local distribution companies- regardless of the price of tools if there is no back up- then it may be out of service when its needed most? I bought all my welding equipment when I was in business so they were all service and support decisions not purchase cost but driven by the cost of ownership. It is not working its really expensive!

I'm only familiar with Shorelander, King and a few other brand trailers, and not sure how widely they're distributed (?) but these are hard to match feature for feature. I could build a cheaper steel box beam trailer but not with equal features. If I had equal features I'd have to spend much more to build due to galvanization, and parts being purchased one off.

Cheers,
Kevin Morin
Kenai, AK
Kevin Morin

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

Postby hoodman » Thu Mar 31, 2016 11:18 am

Kevin, thanks for the reply. I was starting to think the same things although I had not thought about the issue of galvanizing. That's definitely not happening in my driveway.


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