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So Ive always been interested in learning to weld, partially to build stuff for my FJ and also just cause Im very mechanical/fabrication/do it yourself inclined. For my up coming birthday my family was thinking about buying me one of those smaller garage shop welding kits. (the ones that are a few hundo or less from Home Depot, Lowes ect. I want to be able to do a variety of things, from building for the FJ (bull bar mounts, m-pac style racks, rock rails ect) to just plain old boredom welding, makin sculptures ect. Will one of those kits work for this or no? are there any things I should look for specifically when pickin a kit or are the only ones that will work for this cost piles of money ($400+). Thanks for any help you can give.

Jason
 

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I am the same way. I would love to learn the art of fabrication. I am very interested in what the best type of welder is for similar applications mentioned above and what is the easiest to use (learn). I want to build some small brakets/mounting hardware for a few things on the FJC as well as roof rack accessories which I have designed, but I don't know the first thing about where to start with the tools needed etc. FILL US IN OH GODS OF WELDING!
 

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AH, me too. Belly doc should jump in on this. How hard is it to learn how to weld. Also, i would assume i need some cutting tools as well.
 

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I have welding equipment in my garage. For most stuff I use my Lincoln Weldpac 100, flux cored wire feed. This works well for fairly light stuff like 1/8-3/16 thick steel. This is on a cheap Harbour Frieght cart. For 1/4" I have to bevel the edges and make multiple passes. So for that I have a big 220 volt AC machine. but that is big and requires 220 volt.

There is a step up from my machine that still runs off a 110 volt circuit. Like a weldpac 155? I think that would be my choice. Then later you could add a bottle of shielding gas so you won't have to chip slab off of the welds. that also allows you to weld thinner metal. Open the side cover on one at Home Depot to see the setting guides.

Then finally I have an oxy-acetelene setup on a cart. Great for cutting, and heating to bend the metal. I rarely gas weld, but do braze a little at times.
 

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I think that a good MIG welder is going to be your best bet..
Do a google or 2 on the net. You should be able to find a good deal on a Miller 175 or bigger Mig welder. Lincoln makes a similar model. Try to get the 220 version, the 110 volt models don't really cut for the thicknesses of metal you'll want to play with.
I found a brand new MillerMatic 175 for just under $600, including shipping a couple of years ago. It has served me well and is very reliable. With the addition of the right gas bottle, I can even weld aluminum. Your not going to be able to do that with a stick welder (I don't consider tig to be stick welding).
If you can find one local, take a JC class on welding. It's worth it. If you can't do that check out SmartFlix, the Web's Biggest How-To DVD Rental Store, they have some DVD's on various welding techniques.
Hope it helps..
 

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I have been welding for years, the Navy made me do it. Ahyway, for shade tree folks I would suggest a MIG(wire feed) welder. Easy to learn and little upkeep. Home Depot has one in the $400 dollar range that I use all the time for the FJ, neighbors tractors, Yahama Rhinos, Trailers, you name it. I beleive it is the 400 and it comes pre-plumbed for a CO2/Argon bottle. this will allow you to use non flux core wire or you can disconnect the gas and use flux core. The Gas is worth the extra $$$ because it produces a great looking weld with good penitration. If you are going to be welding on a brand new rig you want it to look good. FYI, if you see those welds that look like a perfect stack of dimes that have been tipped over that is a TIG. They are alot more money and require a bit more skill. They are however more versitile and will allow you to more easily weld aluminum, chrome molly, etc. Hope this helps. One last thing. In my experience any welder that only has a 110v power source will not penitrate well enough to build suspension and other (need to be bomber) parts. The one from HD does have a 220 and if your garage is not wired for it you could disconnect your washing machine and use that plug, who needs clean cloths.
 

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I'd move this to tool thread but I'm not a mod.

I'm really itching to figure out welding. I've watched all the Expert Village videos.

I'll keep reading and watching tutorials but I guess the real learning starts after I buy a welder.

Thanks for all the info so far.
 

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I wanted to learn how to weld too for around the house/garage projects. My brother runs a diesel repair business, the one thing he advised me was to get a 220v unit, not 110. 220v units have more welding capability. I ended up buying a Hobart HH187 MIG welder. I still need some practice, but I did manage to weld up a stand for the rig that is still holding together.





These two sites were a big help. Like this forum, there is a lot of experience to learn from.

Weld Talk Message Boards - Powered by vBulletin

Miller - Resources - Improving Your Skills
 

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For a good all around welder to weld up to 1/2" in a single pass, you can't beat a Miller 251 or 252 Mig. I purchased a 251 about two years ago and love it. The price may be a deterrent for you but with Mig welders, you get what you pay for. In the $400 price range you could pick up a good Lincoln stick welder that will weld the thicker metals or look for a used Mig welder. If you are going to be welding 1/4" or thicker metals I would look for a 220 volt machine of at least 185amp.
 

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My ears were burning! :)

There are a couple of considerations in welding equipment.

First off, I wouldn't recommend gas welding equipment, although the techniques of oxy-acetylene welding are extremely valuable to learn. I would recommend arc welding for the garage hobbiest, right from the start. However, I would also recommend taking a welding class... and if you do, you'll learn gas welding first.

The central issue in welding metal together is that molten metal is very prone to destructive oxidation (rusting) while it's transitioning from liquid back to solid. It needs to be shielded. When you use an oxy-acetylene torch, the burnt gas makes a carbon dioxide environment around the weld and it actually prohibits reactive oxygen from reaching the metal while it's vulnerable. With arc welding, however, the heat source is from a high energy electric arc and there's no inherent sheilding effects. The metal oxidizes readily. It needs to be shielded by other means.

"Stick" welding (properly referred to as SMAW or Shielded Metal Arc Welding) uses a rod of welding metal that's coated in a powder layer that acts like a ceramic glaze. In the heat of the arc, the powder melts and drips onto the weld along with the metal, it forms a pool of molten glaze that floats on top of the metal till the metal is solid. This glaze prohibits oxygen from reaching the metal until it cools. Afterward, it's called "slag" and needs to be chipped off. Chipping and wire brushing these welds can be a chore, and the slag can become a problem. Incomplete cleaning interferes with paint. It also fails to get out of the way of new weld metal. If you weld back and forth, you'll create slag inclusions in the weld which significantly weakens the result. Good stick welds are as good as it gets. Bad stick welds are as bad as it gets, too.

One advantage of stick welding is that the shielding holds up well in the wind. This is an ideal situation for working outdoors in exposed areas like assembling a fence or a steel building structure. It's also a great option for an onboard system for trail repairs!

Wire feed welders don't suffer from the problem that stick welders do, in that stick welders require that you use a long stick that gets shorter and shorter till it needs to be replaced. The techniques of stick movement at the beginning are a bit different than they are at the end. Wire feed welders have a gun through which welding wire is delivered to the the tip and is electrified in order to create an arc. The gun allows the welder to have the same movement of the hands create the same character of weld all the time.

Wire feed welders can have "inner shield" or "flux core" wire ("flux core" is a misnomer - flux is a material that helps solder two dissimilar metals together so that they stick, while SHIELDING is for protecting weld metal from air) or they can use a shielding gas. Inner shield wire is still the SMAW process. There is a slag coating that needs to be chipped off of the weld at the end.

However, when a shielding GAS is used to protect the weld, the process is called GMAW or Gas Metal Arc Welding, and is also called MIG welding, or Metal Inert Gas welding. MIG is extremely convenient because the welds are clean as soon as they're cooled. They require just a bit of brushing to be re-weldable or paintable.

Wire feed welders of either the inner shield type or MIG are very practical for home use. Inner shield is slightly more economical because there is no need to get and refill a tank of shielding gas. One just has to buy wire.

Welding machines are rated by AMPERAGE and by DUTY CYCLE. A small machine that is about the size of a microwave can be run off of standard wall current (110 V AC, and a 15 or 20 amp circuit) and can operate for about 1 or 2 minutes out of every 10, meaning that it has about a 10 to 20% duty cycle. Many welding machines that are used to where they exceed their duty cycle shut off automatically.

10 and 20% duty cycle machines are very useful even though it doesn't sound like much. Welding for a continuous minute is a lot of welding! For most objects made from thin tubular material including round or square tube, flat bar, angle iron and plate metal are welded in short segments at a time. It would be common to weld a couple of inches on one corner, then a couple of inches on another corner, etc.

Most of the time spent on fabricating things out of steel involves shaping the parts that will be welded together and then preparing the metal for the weld.

The amperage capability of a welding machine roughly translates to be it's capability to heat into a piece of metal and get the mixture of molten metal from the parts and from the welding wire to deeply intermix and bond. If the metal can wick away the heat faster than the puddle of molten metal can form, then the weld will be "poorly penetrated" and weak.

For an entry level machine that can be used to learn and experiment, I recommend getting a small inner shield wire feed welder. Many of these can be up-converted to MIG with the addition of a tank of shielding gas and a regulator kit. These welders are capable of constructing many things out of thin structural steel. Thicker materials can be welded with multiple pass welds.

I took 3 semesters of welding and machine shop classes when I was in trade school. I actually trained as a commercial diver before I went back to college. I only started welding at home some years later, but the fact that journeyman welders looked over my shoulder and critiqued my technique was a huge leg-up on advancing my later capabilities. Formal instruction is SUPER helpful. If you don't go for that, at least get people who have done it for a while to work with you as you get yourself started.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
man thats a lot to take in... Thanks for all the info guys, Ill be at Menards, Home Depot and Lowes tomorrow (day off, bored) lookin and Ill see what I can find, post it up and see what you all think. Thanks again.
 

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It's not just hot melt glue for metal!

There's a lot of technique involved in getting welds to work correctly. One of the problems is that when steel heats red hot and then cools, it's not the same anymore. It distorts, mostly in the form of contraction.

If you take 4 pieces of square tube, and weld a right angle between 2, and then weld a third on at right angles to make a U, and then weld the 4th on to the third at a right angle... then measure what SHOULD be a right angle to close out the square... you'll not likely find a 90 degree angle! The distortion will probably have contracted the other 3 joints to less than 90, and the last remaining angle will be way off.

In some situations you have to weld to the right. In others you have to weld to the left. You may need to weld going away or coming toward you. You might have to weld upward or down a vertical surface. You may have to weld overhead. It doesn't take a very large project made out of steel before welding "out of position" becomes a more practical answer than trying to move your structure so that the weld bead can be laid in a flat orientation.

When you lay a bead, you watch the molten puddle and manipulate the arc in and out of it, sometimes in a slight back and forth, sometimes in a sieres of C shapes and sometimes in a big running figure 8, depending on the width and depth of the weld required. There are times that multiple passes need to be performed in order to incorporate the surfaces in a gap.

Depending on the shapes you're welding together, there may be heat buildup that starts to move ahead of the weld bead. If so, the arc and puddle will start to melt through the work. When the heat affect preceeds the weld, you have to start moving faster.

Metal preparation is EVERYTHING. If you try to hide crappy metal edges under a weld bead, you'll get a crappy weld bead. It's best to grind off the factory "mill scale" on structural steel, grind the joint edges reasonably smooth, and then wipe the region chemically clean with an appropriate solvent like acetone. Personally, I use brake cleaner.

Thicker metal parts can be bevelled at the edges to increase weld penetration. You have to know what to expect in terms of penetration in order to tune your bevelling just right. If you gap the parts slightly, it will help put weld metal all the way through the joint, but then as you proceed along a gapped junction, if you're not careful, the contraction of the cooling metal behind the weld puddle will crimp the gap closed ahead of the weld.

It can be very difficult, at times, to assemble parts with welds so that bolt holes line up. Sometimes you have to assemble the bolted parts first, and then do some welds, and then take apart the now hot bolts and complete the welds.

The dispersal of heat in a construction using welds sometimes makes very little sense. It will be gone from the work area and still burn you on a surface far away.

There's a TON of little sub-adventures to any welding project!

Be ready to learn a few lessons the hard way.
 

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Bone - if you have a Tractor Supply in the area they have a good assortment of welding gear. That's where I bought my Hobart.
 

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Thanks Bellydoc for the time spent spelling out all the different types of welding.

My shop is wired for 220V. So is my garage. Can someone give me a list of brands in some kind of ranking/order (good to bad) related to ease of use and durability (maybe fool-proof-i-ness) and maybe the best model withing the brand?

I am going to start looking on Craigslist.

Also, what accessories will I need (angle grinder-how big-brand suggested), what clamps, tools, chemicals, tanks etc.

Thanks.:rocker:
 

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I can't praise my Miller welder enough! I've got the Millermatic 252. It's truly foolproof. It has a few advanced features that I use and many that I do not, but it is NOT "too much welder" for my purposes. I previously used a Lincoln "weld-pack" which I believe was then superceded by some subsequent model, but this was a 10 or 20% duty cylcle 110 V machine. The Miller 252 uses a 220 V 60 amp circuit, and runs at about 60% duty cycle even at it's heavy settings.

Most of the things I do were do-able with the Lincoln, but I worried about penetration in some situations. I had upgraded it from an inner shield wire feed welder to a MIG with the addition of a gas solenoid and a tank, but the limiting factor was the current. For my crawler project, I needed something that would handle heavy structural welds without difficulty, and Sean K. recommended the Miller. I think I paid just a bit under 2000 for it.

I set it up to run carbon dioxide gas, and bought a 55 pound tank and the appropriate regulator. The welder comes with a regulator which is set up to mate with an argon mix type of tank, which has a different valve. The common 75/25 argon/CO2 mixed gas is an excellent choice for welding, but it's more expensive and (more importantly for me) it doesn't last NEARLY as long as CO2. Since I do my projects at odd hours, and I have trouble actually getting to businesses during their working hours, I prefer to have a tank that holds 55 pounds of shielding gas. That's A LOT!!!

Depending on what you want to build, there are a LOT of other things that you might want to have available for working steel.

If you're going to use mostly things like tubular steel and structural shapes (round, square, rectangle, angle iron, etc.) then you should probably get yourself an abraisive chop saw to cut it. You can also use a hand held circular saw with an abraisive metal cutting blade, but expect not to want to use that saw for wood afterward... it gets pretty choked up with steel grit, and it would make wood look nasty if you used it that way later. Abraisive chop saws are great for thin material (anything you'd make racks or brackets out of) but they max out on thicker material (like 3/16" or more) and start to bog down. They'll also flex, and the cut will have no relationship to the angle you thought it had. If you want to go to the next level, you can get a cold cutting metal saw which looks just like an abraisive chop saw but it's geared for less speed and more torque, and it has a carbide tipped saw blade. A chop saw is relatively inexpensive ... maybe 100 bucks. A cold saw is more like 450.

I can't say enough good stuff about my plasma cutter. A plasma cutter is an electric arc based cutting torch that uses compressed air to blow the molten metal out of the way. It makes smooth quick cuts in rediculously thick plate metal. This thing is AWESOME. I got a really nice one by Thermal Dynamics for about 1700 bucks. You get what you pay for. A cheapo at Harbor Freight is a touch less than half that and not worth the money. Plasma cutters require that you get a compressor. If you're going to get a compressor make sure that you get one that can really do some work for you. The ones that are "oil free" are louder than the ones that require oil. I found that out after I bought mine. I ended up building it a cabinet and lining it with carpet and egg crate foam to deaden the sound a bunch.

Most of my metal work is really done in the form of shaping and metal prep. The angle grinder is my friend! It's also my enemy. I've got raging tennis elbow, thanks to the stupid thing.

Angle grinders are rated by amperage and sized by the wheel diameter and the arbor (drive-bolt in the middle of the wheel). The 10 amp tool is about as good as it gets in 4.5" grinders. I've got 2 grinders, one that's ancient and one that's newer. The newer one is the 10 amp tool that I use mostly for shaping metal. The older one has a dedicated cut-off blade in it and I use it for pre-destruction before I grind, and for erasing the ever-recurring rewelds.

In order to weld things together, you need to have them held in place exactly where you want them to be before you tack them up. There are a variety of tools that will help with this, but the most important are clamps. Good basic C clamps are always useful, but there are also a variety of specialized welding type clamps which work on the same principle as vise grip pliers. Also, there are right-angle magnets which are very useful, and right-angle miter clamps. A selection of large and small try-squares, cabinet squares and protractor guages help a lot, as well as levels and magnetic angle finders. Most of this kind of stuff you'd tend to acquirre with each successive project that taxes your clamp and measuring capacity beyond the current limit.

You'll need things like wire brushes, chipping hammers, files and emery cloth in order to clean in some tough spots before and after welding. Of course you'll also need welding gloves and a decent hood. Don't get a hood with a little tiny filter. Get the nice big picture-window filter. If you want to spend for a self-darkening one, great. I don't have one, so I can't tell if how awesome it is. Puulboy just got one and loved it the last time he told me about it. If you're ever going to have to get in underneath something and weld overhead, get a full welding jacket and a hat and be ready to take a hot lava shower despite your best efforts to fire proof. Get a few pairs of safety goggles for grinding and get a full face mask for when you have to grind in some wierd position or use the cut-off wheel in the grinder (the thing is scary...).

The party line is to use acetone after surface prep to get the metal chemically clean for welding. I wire wheel and clean with windex and then brake cleaner most of the time, when it counts. I wire wheel again after welding to get the surface impurity off.

Another thing to think about is that any significant metal project is probably going to be made out of parts that bolt together.

Don't bother trying to hand drill metal for bolt holes unless there's no other choice. You should be using a drill press with a beefy motor and very good down-gearing for drilling steel. Get a good one.

In order to make welded things that bolt together, the bolting parts have to be assembled with bolts and then incorporated into the weld structure. Then, you have to make sure not to distort it so much that when you pull the bolt out, the thing springs across the room, never to be bolted up again.

The first welding project that you should do is a welding table. The heavier and flatter and bigger it is, the better. I wish mine was decked with heavier plate, but it's served me well for many years. If I did one now, I'd make the top out of 3/8" plate and the legs and frame out of 2x2 quarter inch wall square tube. I'd cross brace it thoroughly and then put it on levelling feet made from giant carriage bolts. I'd weld the deck onto the frame with only a few small welds so that the heat wouldn't distort the surface. I'd want something that I could actually use to judge flat and level, good enough for a welding project.

One of the good things about a steel table (other than that it's fireproof) is that you can clamp the ground to the table and then everything you clamp onto the table is grounded.

Get some REAL fire extinguishers, and put one at each end of your work area. Don't make yourself have to climb over your mess to get to one. Your mess may be on fire. It's easy not to notice when something starts smoldering while your hood is down. I've had rags start to barbecue on the ground near my welding table and under my project. I havent' had to use an extinguisher, but I'm obviously at risk, and I'm ready.
 

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man thats a lot to take in... Thanks for all the info guys, Ill be at Menards, Home Depot and Lowes tomorrow (day off, bored) lookin and Ill see what I can find, post it up and see what you all think. Thanks again.
I am no professional by any means in this area, but my folks looked last christmas for a welder for my brother... at any of the main department-style stores that you mentioned, you'll have a very limited selection... IMHO... you should find a local welding supply store/shop and get your gear through them... also, the "auto-darkening" helmet is a great thing for a beginner so you don't have to "nod" the helmet down... by using a local shop, you'll have access to a lot of things that you wouldn't at a home depot place (shielding gas, a wide selection of materials, a cart for your stuff, not to mention some GOOD advice when it comes to selecting the proper gear for what you want. I guess what I'm saying is spend lots of time researching, and it's good to get a shop that will help you with the process with lots of experience in the field... good luck.
 

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GREAT INFO GUYS!

I feel like I just watched an instructional video on what not to do when welding! I like learning from others mistakes. Makes my life less painful!

Keep the info coming!

Bump for all those who are welderless and want to remedy their situation.

:clap:
 
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