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

Post by Kevin Morin » Mon Aug 14, 2017 3:19 pm

Since this thread was bumped up a little, and has had at least some views over the years, I'm going to help those asking and those attempting to post useful answers - a little.

Replies would most often come from those who have welded for a while and perhaps owned a variety of equipment to do variety of different welding. Not only are alloys, steel, aluminum or SS, different welding types important to consider, but entire welded hulls (steel or aluminum) are different from the needs to weld tanks, brackets and hardware for boats made of non-metal materials.

Next, it would help those considering learning to weld, and therefore to acquire a power supply and torch assembly, to rank for themselves the amount of effort this hardware or tooling will be used? Are you planning one each 22' welded aluminum run-a-bout on your bucket list or are you planning to offer Glen-L designed steel tugs as your new business venture? Will you weld a few hours a month or 30 hours a week? Do you plan to evolve into commercial welding service or remain in your garage and weld once in a dozen week ends?

So for anyone reading the thread that is considering buying a welding power supply, I'd like to suggest your realistically evaluate and state your intended use- one or more boats- week end welding or full time welding; and even go so far as to quantify the hours per calendar you're planning. For example "I'm going to take a vacation for two months, and build a 30 steel sail boat and I will work full time (12 hours per day) the thickest metal in the plans is 1/2" keel."

Or someone else may state " I'm planning to build a Chinook in welded aluminum over a period of 2 years, in my garage," Two very informative but different statements - in case anyone had advice they'd be able to see how the overall question applies- which welding power supply is most appropriate?

The effective time of the effort helps understand if your power supply has to be 'bullet proof' and work 12 hour days running 10 hours? Those power supplies are more expensive due to their parts being more reliable and heat tolerant- but represent a higher value investment. On the other hand if you plan to work for 30 days on your boat- and the power supply gives up the ghost on day 3- due to welding 10 hours a day? That implies the higher duty cycle, higher capacity and much more expensive tool was the better choice- in hindsight.

As regards the power supplies' ratings- the total amperage rating (MAX A) is a rating to help you understand how thick a material that power supply will weld in a single pass? Duty cycle is the amount of minutes per hour the power supply can be at max rating and still not shut it self down to cool? Combining the two ratings allows you to buy wisely- if you plan to build a small boat from thin metal over a longer time- smaller range of output and at a lower duty cycle are very acceptable. On the other hand if you plan to build a larger boat with thicker scantlings, and do the work in long hour days- you'll need both the heavier amperage power supply and one with a greater duty cycle.

Last grouping remark is a mention I've already posted several times so just a reminder here- there are countless good deals on older but fully functional power supplies where your 2017 dollar can buy you a high amperage, large duty cycle power supply for MUCH less as compared to the new cost of power supplies with similar ratings. So, shopping used is a very wise choice IF... IFFF you can find someone to help evaluate the buy. In the same sense, you can waste your dollars if you can't correctly evaluate the power supply- so while used can be a wise choice- that course requires a wise buyer to make sure the steps to verify the power supply's value.

Hoped to help readers understand that the a realistic description of your use for a welding power supply will help you to get more informed answers.

Cheers,
Kevin Morin
Kenai, AK
Kevin Morin

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

Post by sbeausol » Sun Sep 10, 2017 12:01 pm

I know this is a difficult question to answer, but I'll throw it out there anyway. I'm a hobbyist/DIYer with an interest in building boats. I've read a lot about stitch and glue and aluminum boat building. I keep coming back around that aluminum would be the best material for the type of boats I'm interested in. Specifically, I'm looking to build a 10-12' Drift Pram, and maybe eventually a drift boat/ power drifter around 15'. I'm not in a rush, and I don't intend on making welding a source of income for myself. I understand welding aluminum is considered difficult, and I know I will waste time and money learning, but that's ok with me. I'm comfortable with a $2000 or less investment on equipment. I'm fine trolling craigslist until the right equipment comes up and buying used. I will consider taking a class locally, but in general I will take my time learning the process. I'm curious if there is a recommendation on the type of equipment to start out with that would suit my needs? I've read about the lincoln square wave tig 200 but I realize TIG my not be best for welding plate together to build a hull.

Input is greatly appreciated!

Kevin Morin
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Location: Kenai, Alaska

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

Post by Kevin Morin » Sun Sep 10, 2017 2:18 pm

sbeausol,
I have not personally explored in any detail the Oriental Import power supplies of Longevity, Everlast and some other names? I do know however, there is a real price point difference from Miller and Lincoln. Further, these power supplies can't be completely and uniformly failing (some complaints online about durability and reliability) right out of the box- or they couldn't continue to sell?

So regardless of MIG or TIG welding processes- if you're not planning to invest heavily? it may be worth while to find a dealer in your area for these imported power supplies and see what they can offer in long term support- repair? replacement for stock? mean time between failure? cost comparisons? and guarantee period? Other forums, focused more exclusively on welding as whole -n o t boat building like Glen-L's site and Forum- have mixed reviews but admittedly a strong following of import welding power supply users.

Cheers,
Kevin Morin
Kenai, AK
Kevin Morin

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

Post by Yofish » Mon Jul 30, 2018 10:00 pm

I can't help but reply to Kevin's last post on this ancient thread. I build boats (really, just skiff's these days) and have been doing it for awhile. I've used lots of different machines over that time and am at the end of my career. A couple of years ago it became apparent that I needed something other than my 1985 Hobart Porta-Flex (I've had two, they were one of the first inverters in Hobart's attempt to butt into Powcon's efforts) which was getting owly and NO parts are available. There is no way I can amortize or justify a 6-8-10k machine given my situation - wannabe retired. Previously, I had bought two Everlast machines; a 200A tig/stick (the first) and I liked it enough, though I'm NOT a tig guy (I just use it to dance over MIG welded starts and stops on fuel tanks) and then (the second) a little gem - iMig200 - that I hooked a Miller 30A spoolgun up to for remote work. I was blown away by how well that little thing works! At the high end, its duty cycle is limited but I welded a masthead for a seiner out of 3/4" and 1/2" plate - with pauses - for example. I can throw it in the skiff along with a 40cuft argon and a 50' 10ga power cable and away I go. Best six hundred bucks I've ever spent and made it back on the first remote job. It will run on 120V, but why even think about that?

Fast forward to two years ago when I sprung for an Everlast 275P. Single pulse, I've NEVER been able to make it gag and I was able to easily hook my two Miller XRA feeders to it; one with .035 and the other .047. The synergic function does not work, of course, but I wouldn't use that anyway. It can be supplied with a push-pull gun (Parker) as it internally holds a 12" spool. But, again, as I said, I'm at the end of MY duty cycle and did not spring for it. The power supply cost (then) was $1,900 and it welds as good as anything I've ever used. As a matter of fact, I really like it. Digital controls do save time. Wanking a pot back and forth to get it right is tiresome. As one can easily see, I've been too long in the stone age!

FWIW

Kevin Morin
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Joined: Thu Jan 24, 2008 11:36 am
Location: Kenai, Alaska

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

Post by Kevin Morin » Tue Jul 31, 2018 12:00 am

Yofish, thanks for the post. (the readers don't know enough of what you do; because you haven't done a build thread here!)

If I can generalize? ( and I usually do in reply to your posts) you can recommend Everlast power supplies for building welded aluminum boats, AND.... from personal experience (after building many boats, over a long time) you are willing to vouch for the work that can be done with these power supplies?

Not everyone will be able to mix and match to drive a given 1lb./Pistol grip style torch but your experience using the Everlast, a very experienced builder, is: these power supplies are worth investigating.

Thanks for the update- and we'd like to see a build thread, Please.

Cheers,
Kevin Morin
Kenai, AK

(Yofish is in Homer, AK, we're neighbors- of a sort)
Kevin Morin

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

Post by Eenarl » Wed Aug 01, 2018 2:58 am

Let me start with a preface: I am a millwright, I have a machine shop / metal fabrication shop and weld mostly heavier industrial things and some lighter sheet metal. I have an old TIG / Stick welder that is probably 30-40 years old that I bought used 20 years ago and currently a lincoln 250 amp Mig welder, and in the past several Miller MIG welders. OK with that said, here is my suggestions:
a. It takes more knowledge and skill to stick weld, but if you learn to stick weld you will have a foundation where learning to MIG will be a piece of cake. Stick welding has some benifits, you can weld steel, stainless, hard face, cast iron, and sort of aluminum. You don't have to have everything super clean to get a decent weld, (but it alway helps). You can weld outside in the wind, (hard to with MIG or TIG). you don't have to have a bottle of gas, regulator. You can get deeper penatration, and stronger welds with a stick, but it is not as fast to lay down a lot of metal as it is with MIG. You can find cheap used stick welder fairly easy, some of them industrial duty for what you can buy a MIG at Home Depot or Lowes.
b. Because MIG is seemingly so easy to do some people pick up a gun and just pull the trigger, that they never really learn how to weld. You can get very good quality welds with MIG, TIG and stick, but you have to learn. Because it is harder to get the feel of striking an arc stick as opposed to just pulling the trigger on a MIG gun some folks think that they are getting decent welds with Mig when all they are doing is piling some metal on top of what they want to weld with out really welding. However if you know how to weld and watch your puddle you can get good welds with both MIG, TIG and stick.
c. I agree with the gentleman earlier: find your local welding dealers. They service that industry only and they know their stuff, Home Depot is a lumber yard not a welding supply house. Yes HD can have some good buys, (I can get cut off wheels for my chop saw cheaper one at a time there then what I pay for a box at the welding supply), but they only carry the smallest welders and the smallest selection of supplies.
d. Don't buy a wire feed welder that is not set up to use gas shielding. No flux core!!! Yes it is cheap, but you will regret it and fight with it and it just isn't user friendly. Don't buy a welder that runs off of 110 volt power, it is too small and when you get into welding you will regret not having a "real" welder. Also 110 VAC welders have a low duty cycle, weld for a couple minutes then stop and let it cool down.
e. OK now I will go off on my personal rant!!! In todays economy there are great deals in used equipment. This is usually industrial equipment used by business that have gone out of business long before their welders were used up. Because I buy equipment at industrial auctions I daily get emails on upcoming auctions. There is also Craig's list, there are a lot of guys that bought tools or toys and need the money now. In my opinion the two biggest names in welders is Miller and Lincoln https://mechanicguides.com/best-cheap-welders-money/ they are the big names because they earned that reputation over many decades, this is not to say that there aren't others, buttttttttttt. I personally like Miller, but the last wire feed I bought was a Lincoln because they had a promotion at the time. the way I see it you can either buy a new bottom of the series small welder or a used more than you will ever need industrial machine for about the same price.
f. one other plug: you will need a helmet: I buy the el cheap o auto darkening helmets at harbor freight for $39.99 on sale. I know usually harbor freight stuff is crap, but the helmets are a good deal and work well. I also buy their welding gloves. sometimes you can get away with cheap gloves and a decent helmet, but not your welder, get something worthwhile.
g. Find good local suppliers: a good welding supply house, a good steel warehouse or service center and look on their bulletin boards for used equipment and ask them if they know of anyone wanting to sell used machines. Welding supply houses may know a customer who wants a bigger, or different machine but hasn't bought it because they have a good used machine now.
h. Like any skill, read and learn all you can then spend time doing it. Get some scrap steel and weld, weld weld. watch your puddle and play with it, pull it, push it, watch it.

Kevin Morin
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Location: Kenai, Alaska

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

Post by Kevin Morin » Sun Aug 05, 2018 2:06 pm

Eenarl,
welcome to the Glen-L Forum and the metal category of threads.

Here's my take on your post about learning stick welding as the building block or foundation of welding skills.

Unless a reader is planning to build a steel boat- there is almost no gain to learning to stick weld since the new welders' reflexes will be taught to be "slow". Stick welding is the slower of the major welding processes - and is really only applicable to steel boats. Steel isn't very effective for boats under 25' (without serious building skills) since those craft would end up pretty heavy for their size.

Aluminum is the metal of choice but is harder to weld, and as you mention, not very effectively welded with coated electrodes. So MIG and AC TIG are the only two processes really effective for welding aluminum boats- and these processes, especially MIG, travel at much higher rates than would be typical of stick welding steel.

While I understand the idea of stick being a good welding foundation; in my experience of trying to teach dozens of welders to MIG aluminum- I find their reflexes are 'slow motion' compared to what is needed in MIG aluminum. In fact, I'd say a newbie welder will learn MIG aluminum faster to attain proficiency without any previous stick welding experience. I have had the dickens of time getting stick welders to speed up enough to weld alum. MIG.

AC TIG, used on aluminum, is another weld method I find easy to teach from scratch- they're not unlearning muscle movements/memory in order to get the movements correct. There is some gain in understanding the need to hold arc length- but since the flux obscures the puddle's back edge so much with stick- I've found that teaching AC TIG to newer welders was easier if they didn't rely on previous stick welding time.

After training on MIG, going back to acquire stick skills is almost automatically learned- but I haven't seen stick as a reliable first skill in trying to train welders to build welded aluminum boats.

I do agree that older models of transformer power supplies do come on the market (still) and are a real value in terms of cost to get welding versus the new cost of that older model power supply or a newer inverter. There are several companies selling new inverters for very low costs (imports) but there have been issues with reliability and repair due to their sales networks being centralized not in local neighborhoods.

As a welder who's built boats for a while my take on welding helmets is about quality. I use the Optrel (Swiss? import?) and prefer that hood to others and would buy a Harbor Frt hood at the same time I gave my Lincoln and Miller power supplies to buy a Harbor Frt. welder!

I like the glove that has a replacement heat shield that snaps on the left hand glove. (https://steinerindustries.com/stick-wel ... at-shields) I can buy the shields and replace them as they burn up (the back of left hand is nearest the arc and gas cup in both TIG and MIG as my 'prop' hand) cheaper than buying gloves regularly. I'd say I was using the same left hand glove I've had for 8-10 years - just replacing the heat shields when they get crispy. It thought mine were black stallion but couldn't find them online.

I agree that practicing welding (which ever type or mode you use) is critical to developing the skill. In many cases- aluminum off cuts from the boat building process can be purchased below new metal prices from shops that regularly cut and produce boats or aluminum equipment. Since it has a relatively high scrap value- a new welder should plan to buy those scraps for their practice welding time, not just haul them off!

Cheers,
Kevin Morin
Kenai, AK
Kevin Morin

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