Welder questions.

Discussion in 'Tools' started by bud16415, Dec 17, 2017.

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  1. Dec 17, 2017 #1

    bud16415

    bud16415

    bud16415

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    Hey guys. Being retired now almost 3 months and having extra time on my hands. Have the work shop looking great projects getting caught up on and the rest of my life to fill. I’m taking up welding as a hobby. My whole work life I have been involved with welding as we built locomotives and with my design work I have spec-ed 1000 of welded projects and have spent 1000 of hours standing next to someone that knew what they were doing producing beautiful welds. I understand most of the technical side to it. I just haven’t done it. Last time I welded anything was 40 years ago when I was an apprentice machinist and I needed something welded and the boss pointed to a thing the size of a fridge that was a dirty red color and said go for it. It was an ancient stick welder with knobs the size of paint bucket lids and big knife switches with wood handles. I found a helmet and saw you had to time flipping the helmet down with striking a arc was a skill in its own. I wasted most of a can of weld rod, got a good sunburn on what wasn’t covered and with the help of a couple of old timers managed to get my parts stuck together good enough as ugly as it was. Decided welding wasn’t for me.

    I have been looking for a cheap MIG used welder on line and the other day a dairy farmer about 40 miles away in a blizzard had one for sale. Ad said only used a couple times. He didn’t mention it had set in a dairy barn for 5 years. I drove off into the blizzard just as it was getting dark to take a look. I got there (another long story involving asking Amish directions and ending up in a feed mill asking more direction) it was really dirty with everything you find in a barn. He had it wired up to 240 thru a 50’ homemade cord made from a 120V cheap green Christmas light extension cord wired back into the panel. I said isn’t this 240V and he said oh the guys know don’t plug anything into this. It had a tank for gas 25/75 mix and regulators that he told me he was out of gas I would have to get filled. He had two pieces of .25 thick rusty steel and he told me the welds wont look too good without gas and solid .035 wire but he wanted to show me it would work. I was more scared one he didn’t have a weld hood on and two he was going to catch the barn on fire as he was doing this in straw and with 25 cows standing there. Low and behold it worked and made a fair looking weld that was pretty strong from what I could tell. I wasn’t expecting the gas hook up and I know the regulator was maybe 100 bucks.

    I asked why he was selling it and he said it is useless on the farm not enough power and his ex girlfriend bought it for him and it reminded him of her.

    I told him I would take it after that drive I wasn’t going home empty handed. He said it would be 50 bucks and I told him he could keep the extension cord. It is a Harbor Freight 110 amp dual mig #94164 with gas.
    http://www.manualsdir.com/manuals/97950/harbor-freight-tools-94164.html

    I got it home took the cover off cleaned it all up blew it out real good inside. I had some #10 gage very flexible 3 conductor wire and I replaced the short #14 feed with a nice 25’ long feed with a proper 3 prong welder plug that fits my outlet in the garage to make it a little mobile. I plan on upgrading the ground wire also with a better clamp and larger wire. It’s pretty heavy with the tank on I’m guessing 70-80 pounds and with my new wire at least 100 pounds so I will be putting it on a cart I have and will be able to work in the main garage or the drive way. I bought this helmet over twice what I paid for the welder lol.

    https://www.harborfreight.com/weldi...safe-auto-darkening-welding-helmet-63749.html

    I bought a roll of .035 flux core wire and a couple nozzles and 10 pack of tips and a chipping hammer. Now I’m into it for 250 bucks and only struck enough of an arc to see that it works.

    First question is do we have a sister forum that is more about welding I should be checking out?

    Most of the skills I have learned in life have been self taught or at least no formal training. Learning from others as I go. If I get the bug and this cheap welder doesn’t cut it I’m sure I will end up buying a name brand with stronger duty cycles etc. I don’t see me needing to do much really heavy gage stuff or long runs where I wont be able to stop and start to let it cool down. I’m not planning any commercial jobs. Just want to fix the lawn mower or build a mini bike. Always wanted one of them when I was a kid. Never too late.

    So question two any tips?
    :thbup::down:
     
  2. Dec 17, 2017 #2

    oldognewtrick

    oldognewtrick

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    Congrats Bud, I've been wanting a welder also. Look and see if there's a local community college that offers a course on welding. Just a thought...know any of the welders from your old job who'd come tutor you a bit?
     
  3. Dec 17, 2017 #3

    bud16415

    bud16415

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    Both good ideas. I know a few guys that weld and I’m sure wouldn’t mind stopping out. One guy is main welder in the building I worked in I talked to quite a bit about these cheap welders before I retired. He said he had a friend that had one and was surprised at how well it worked for the money. Most of them sell new for a couple hundred bucks and the next step up is around 600, and then the sky is the limit.

    I also have an old neighbor that just lost his wife he’s in his 80’s and they tell me he was a cracker jack welder back in the day. Come spring I know he is a lost soul because he was out grinding his leaves with his riding mower at least twice a day for a month in the fall.

    They do have adult classes at the vo-tech school couple nights a week for an hour and once the weather gets better in the spring I might look into that. My 14x16 shop is heated but I wont be welding in there. The main garage will be much better or outside and it has been to cold for much of that. So I figure if I take a class then I want to come home and do some homework.

    Right now I’m learning a lot watching youtube vids sitting in the living room with my feet up. I need to find out how to go about getting my tank filled and if it is going to be too small to mess around with and what size bottle I should have. The one I have is about 6” in diameter and 18” tall.

    Great we are thinking alike about welders. You need to get one we can figure it out together.
     
  4. Dec 18, 2017 #4

    MrMiz

    MrMiz

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    Go to the local Community College and see if the have an "Auditing" type class. If you can talk with the Professor he might be able to open a class that works around your schedule. Not only will this give and excellent safety run through, but it will allow you access to machines that are financially out of reach. This will serve you well as you go to asses the value of machines. It may also introduce you to other processes like Tig that you might like better.
     
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  5. Dec 18, 2017 #5

    Chris

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    I taught myself to weld by buying a cheap welder like you did. If you can get good with flux core you will do great with gas. Makes a much cleaner weld. The advice I have are.

    Clean your metal good.

    I have a magnet ground and live it, way better than a clamp.

    At first get a bead going and do half moon shapes back and forth pulling the bead with you, I found this to be the easiest to learn.

    Practice with thicker material, thin metal is harder to weld.

    If you have flux core make sure you have a flux core tip and not a gas tip.

    Get gas asap, when setting up pressure I run 17 psi while trigger is pulled, static is about 25 psi.

    Angle grinder is your next best tool. I use cutoff wheels and sand paper flap discs. I'm scared of the wire wheels for them and have seen alot of wires fly off into eyes and whatnot

    You're bottle will be fine for occasional work but if you weld a bunch you will want a bigger bottle. Get it filled at most any welding supply or gas supply place.
     
  6. Dec 18, 2017 #6

    Chris

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    Also my buddy took a 7 week class tgen learned more last Saturday in three hours at my place than in the class. Nothing beats practice
     
  7. Dec 19, 2017 #7

    bud16415

    bud16415

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    Thanks for the advice guys. I have yet to strike an arc with my budget welder (Well I struck enough of one to test it is all.) I had it all apart twice and added the longer heaver power cord and today I lengthened the ground cable with a new longer and twice as heavy gage. The clamp that came with the welder was a joke and I saw it as a weak link. I picked up a real clamp today and looked at the magnet clamp Chris mentioned and wished I would have read his reply sooner but that can go on my Xmas list.

    After I got back from Tractor Supply I started putting it all on the cart I have one of those harbor freight red carts https://www.harborfreight.com/quickview/index/index/id/10957
    I have been tripping over for ten years and I wondered why I bought it because it is a place to pile junk up. It seemed like a good idea to have the welder mounted to that and have all the tools for welding in one place so I modified that thing into a pretty nice weld cart I think. I will have to get a picture when I get a chance. I like the idea of keeping it locked up in the heated work shop but being able to roll it out to the main garage or the driveway to actually do some work.

    I’m well set up with grinders and air tools and I agree wire wheels you need full face PPE and some good leather cover ups. Also forgo the budget products. I don’t want any wires sticking in my eyes.

    I need a small weld table with a steel top I can drag out to the center of the bay to work on. That will be one of my first projects.

    I bought a roll of flux core and will start with that and then take your advice and go with gas.
     
  8. Dec 19, 2017 #8

    MrMiz

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    I would also recommend starting out with ALL the safety gear. While many people like to debate what you need and don't need I like to think of it as risk and reward. Without safety gear it's all risk and no reward, with all the safety gear it's moderate risk and maximum reward. Here is what I personally use every time:
    Best Helmet you can afford. I started out with a budget helmet and I just upgraded to a low to mid priced helmet and it was a huge improvement. I personally don't use my helmet for grinding protection even if it has a grinding mode. I want my primary welding helmet to be as clean as possible for as long as possible especially because they cost so much.
    Full leather upper jacket. I have the one with the open back but full front leather. Interestingly enough it came in the most handy when grinding. I was grinding away and the sparks were coming back at about my waste. I looked down and the leather had started to pull together and was singed from the heat. It also happened that my phone was right on the other side of the burn mark and had done a thermal shut down. If I had regular cloths on ... they would have been on fire. Lesson also learned about paying very close attention to where your sparks are going.
    Safety classes on even under the helmets.
    Ear protection
    Do not wear frayed clothing I learned this one second hand at the community college. Where ever the fray is in your closing it's like fire tinder and gets the fire started really fast. You don't want to be doing the "fire safety" dance when your pant leg catches on fire. It's only funny if nobody gets hurt. I'm not saying you have to buy brand new clothing to weld with just don't wear your shabby frayed stuff or at least cover the frays with FR/leather. I saw at least 3 college students pant legs catch on fire, and one of them got a pretty bad burn.
    Respirator This one is debatable I get that, but some of the metal you could be working will be melting toxic (toxic to you) chemicals. Things like galvanized metal, aluminum, zinc etc. Best not get sick from it even if you only occasionally do it. You can try to pay attention to what metal you're working on but if you're like me your not going to mess with a mask right in the middle of the project. I have to just put it on and leave it on. Also think about the fact that you could be welding with a gas like argon or even the flux material that is getting atomized right in your face.
    Boots or fully enclosed shoes and good rubber soles This is another area where the weld spatter will drop in and give you a painful fire dance.
    Gloves I prefer the cheaper ones for mig welding and I change them often. That weld spatter will find any little hole in your gloves too.
    Don't wear metal or at least make sure its completely covered. This includes belt buckles, rings, ear rings, nipple rings. These aren't that big a deal if your mindful of the next safety tip.


    Probably most important is - Know and heed the flow of electricity. Never allow yourself to get between your work and the ground clamp. Neither directly or passively. I get the argument that electricity will follow the path of least resistance, but they call them "accidents" for a reason. This is where wearing metal can really catch you. Staying in full safety gear and paying attention to electrical current should keep you from winning a Darwin Award.

    Sorry to be "Safety Sally" but it's important to me. When I was a kid I started learning to weld on the farm with little or no instruction and my equipment was in really bad shape. It was stick welding and main cables were frayed and shabby at both ends. The person that was supposed to teach me told me jokingly that I would only get a "little electric shock from it". I was probably 12-13. Next thing I know I blew a hole in the metal table I was working on. I honestly don't know how it happened. I had my helmet down and you can't see anything out of those old style helms. I was moving to get a better angle on my work and there was an explosion about 2 feet from my head. I thought I bumped the electrode on the table but afterward I looked at it and the hole I blew in the side was about the size of a quarter in some 1/4" plate. I didn't touch welding equipment for another 28 years, and I was thankful to have a College level instructor explain to me how everything worked so I better understood how to be safe. Obviously this list isn't all inclusive, but please try and do your best to be safe. I'm a hobbyist welder at best though I've been told I could easily pass any certification I wanted to take. I would never claim to be anything other than a novice. So just be careful no matter what advice you get.
     
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2017
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  9. Dec 19, 2017 #9

    nealtw

    nealtw

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    And cotton coveralls.
     
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  10. Dec 19, 2017 #10

    MrMiz

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    Yeah I forgot about that tip... I've heard you can get nasty melting burns from things like nylon or other non-cotton type materials. Where cotton on the other hand doesn't melt and it's easier to put out if it does catch.
     
  11. Dec 19, 2017 #11

    MrMiz

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    here is my harbor freight modded cart. I need to do some cable management, but I just finished this mod at the beginning of this month. So give me a little slack. My welding projects have been:
    welding table,Front porch railing, credit card swipe stands (for the local university), gun safe leveling stand, Gate repair, posts and brackets for some storage decking, modification of some tool boxes, fancy gaming chair repair, heirloom bar stool repair, cart mod, plasma cutter cart, cold saw cart, window well covers, Ikea table legs, guitar pedal stand, 4wheeler fuel mount bracket.
    Those are the ones off the top of my head, and I've still got a list about 30 other future projects. Oh and one more tip Tell your family you like to weld at your own risk. The very moment you tell them you like to weld, projects will flood in from family. LOL I would say about 75% of my work comes from family and it's all on the weekends. I'm a computer geek by trade (another job that your family will flood you with projects).

    IMG_0773.jpg

    IMG_0771.jpg
     
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2017
  12. Dec 19, 2017 #12

    Chris

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    I like the cart you made although I prefer my machines separate just for ease of moving them around and having them a little less bulky but it is sure nice having everything in one spot. I need to still make a cart for my plasma cutter and tig welder.

    Most of my work is for others anymore, I haven't had a lot of time to work on my stuff but everyone that knows me sure needs work done.
     
  13. Dec 19, 2017 #13

    MrMiz

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    I've only manged to squeak in a few of my own projects. It's pretty amazing how many people have small welding projects. In my area there is an oil boom right now so the oil fields have swallowed up all the welders and nobody is willing to do small projects.

    I started out thinking I was going to go down to HF and just buy another cart for the Tig, but since I had the scrap and I'm bad at managing space and organization I just whipped something together to get by. It's rarely more than 5 feet from my table so I don't do much moving it around. That said it moves just fine. I also originally though I would be sharing the gas between aluminum and mild steel. One is pure argon the other is 75/25 but I haven't had a need to switch them yet.

     
  14. Dec 20, 2017 #14

    bud16415

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    Again thanks guys for sharing. MrMiz your cart looks great and thanks for the safety pointers.

    Where I worked for 44 years until retirement saw many changes over that time and for the last 20 we have been a VPP certified plant and no mater if you worked on the floor or hid behind a desk every aspect of safety was always front and center.

    When I started as a young man stick welding was what most of the work got done with and I remember the heavy fab building going over to do some work. the building is about a quarter mile long and you couldn’t see more than 20’. I found the guy I needed to see and waited till he flipped his hood up to get his attention and I couldn’t believe my eyes he was smoking a stubby cigar under his helmet. They would cut the cigar into 4 pieces and smoke them that way. When I retired I was over there still a welding building and the whole plant was tobacco free and I could see the whole length of the building.

    I got dragged to Xmas shop today all day so didn’t get to play.

    My original idea for my weld cart wasn’t going to have wheels. I have a blue HF hand truck that I use non stop and I thought just make a stand that matches up with the hand truck and roll it around on the 10” air tires. I wanted my 240V power lead in to be long enough to reach anyplace in the garage and out to at least the rear of a pickup truck in the driveway.

    I see your bench is wood did you add a steel top? That’s what I’m thinking of building.
     
  15. Dec 20, 2017 #15

    Chris

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    I made a 25 foot extension cord for my welder. I found it better than just making a long cord off the welder. I can use it for other stuff as well
     
  16. Dec 20, 2017 #16

    bud16415

    bud16415

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    Good idea. At some point I’m sure I will upgrade and when I do I will do exactly that. Right now it’s the only 240V thing I have to plug in.

    Do you guys see any problem if I make my table top out of stainless steel? I have a big piece laying around I could use. I know a lot of welders Jig stuff up on their table by tacking blocks and clamps to it. I don’t plan on doing any of that.
     
  17. Dec 20, 2017 #17

    MrMiz

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    That's actually my generic shop bench. I built my own welding bench. I went a little over board, but it was my final project for my welding class I audited.
    I couldn't find any recent pictures so these are from when I moved into my current shop so don't mind the mess.
    IMG_0015_2.jpg

    IMG_0016_2.jpg
     
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  18. Dec 20, 2017 #18

    bud16415

    bud16415

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    Very nice weld bench. MrMiz. Over the years I must have designed 50 weld benches for the shop and most looked a lot like yours. Different areas in the plant had different requirements depending on the type of work they did. Being a heavy fab business and having access to anything we wanted in material most of the guys wanted 1” thick tops. Now paying for things myself quarter inch seems thick enough. As of now my weld shop also doubles as the place I park my car so my bench will likely be 2 saw horses with something I can lift onto them as a top and that can lean against the wall when not in use.

    I stopped at our local Airgas place today to see about filling my 25/75 bottle. Seems what they do is exchange bottles and they had a room with about 100 different gas bottles but nothing the same size as mine. Tomorrow one is to show up from wherever they get them. So the woman there looks my bottle over and shows me the date stamp is 2017 so of course it need inspected so she tells me I will get charged for the gas and another 20 bucks to certify the tank for 10 years. I told her to go ahead and get me one in.

    The bottle that’s going to now be good for 10 years I wont have and I will get one with a different date. Is this the way it normally works? I guess I look at the one I get and if it says 2018 I better use it up in a year or I’ll be paying again.

    I did switch weld wire to the flux core and played around with my new helmet. I don’t know a great deal about helmets but this Vulcan seems to work really well. I have watched a lot of welding over the years and the visibility thru this helmet seems great. A lot easier to see what is going on than I expected. I have a pile of .06 steel pieces that should be good as practice pieces. Tacking was pretty easy to get the hang of and running a filet was some trial and error getting the settings correct but within 6” of weld I got a not pretty but good enough for government work fillet laid down. Lots of splatter as expected. I only had 15 minutes to play I was just glad to see that the 50 dollar box works with my mods.

    The guy (farmer) I bought it from said he uses gas and flux wire together and has great results. I never heard of that and he said there are two different types of flux wire. Right now I have the HF flux core in. I see the gas place has a big selection of weld wire also.

    Looking forward to playing around more when I get some time.
     
  19. Dec 27, 2017 #19

    bud16415

    bud16415

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    Here is my quickie weld bench I slapped together out of 2x4’s and a piece of .06 stainless I had left over from the swimming pool I tore down to build the deck from.

    It is quite a bit better than the chunk of plywood I was using as it doesn’t catch on fire. It weighs about 40 pounds as it has 2x4 joists 10” OC. So I can lean it against the wall when not in use and lift it onto the saw horses myself in a couple minutes when I need it. Down the road I think I will build a heavy duty one as Holly already has her eye on this one as a potting bench for her garden. I should countersink the screw holes and use flat heads I still might do that.

    Total cost free.

    IMG_7655.jpg
     
  20. Dec 27, 2017 #20

    oldognewtrick

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    What's all that white stuff on the driveway Bud?
     

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