Brian MegaDork
5/14/20 8:57 p.m.

For a number of reasons, now may be the time to pick up welding. I'm looking at he HF Flux 125 to start with. Looking for any suggestions. Better gear, although budget is a large factor. Practice and project ideas?

I'm limited to 120v due to rental situations, so no 240V welders sad

RacetruckRon HalfDork
5/14/20 9:10 p.m.

I'd spend a little extra and at least get the HF Titanium MIG 140. You can still use flux core in it but it has provisions for gas when you want to get a little more serious in the future.   I have the Titanium MIG140 and it's a great little welder.

TenToeTurbo Dork
5/14/20 9:25 p.m.

I will second RacetruckRon's suggestion. I have used a Harbor Freight flux core welder enough to effectively weld some exhaust tubing  and it is not pretty. The one that I used was in it's original fullwave AC configuration and is a spattery, nasty way to join two pieces of metal. They can be upgraded (diodes) to push DC, but I would get an entry level MIG machine if I had the option. 

Torkel Reader
5/15/20 3:55 a.m.


Starting with flux is making things very, very difficult for yourself. A 120V welder is fine, but get one with solid wire and gas. Get a used one, if the budget is tight. 

Also: Don't go for the "cheapest you can find" welding helmets. Spend a little more on a good on. Again, it is so much easier to weld well, when you have the proper gear. 

Project ideas: The first thing you build with your new welder is often the welding cart you want... for your new welder. 

1988RedT2 MegaDork
5/15/20 6:59 a.m.

The above recommendations are solid.  I started with the H-F flux core, and for $99, it was perfectly fine for what it was, but running solid wire with gas makes for a much nicer weld.

Question:  What is it that you will be welding?  The answer should point you more directly to the right welder.

TenToeTurbo Dork
5/15/20 7:07 a.m.

I could probably arrange a test run on my friends Flux 125 machine if you are leaning that way after all of our poopooing but wanted to give it a try first. I am in Ithaca and the welder lives in Newfield. 

Brian MegaDork
5/15/20 12:37 p.m.

Thanks for the offer, but I think I will keep looking for a proper mig machine and let my budget build up a little. 

jamscal Dork
5/15/20 12:59 p.m.

A makerspace is a good place to learn...they often have machines and a group of people to could get your feet wet for cheap compared to buying something you may regret.

bigdaddylee82 UltraDork
5/15/20 2:35 p.m.

I'd be more willing to spend my money on a used Miller, Lincoln, or Hobart than a new HF.

They're probably all gone by now, but if you've got local welder dealers, you might check with them, they were heavily discounting the older transformer Millers when they went to all inverter.  They'll likely have trade ins, and offer payment plans.

As has been stated, skip the flux core only.  You don't have to limit yourself to 120V only either.  Most of the manufacturers have multi-voltage models, my Miller 211 will run on 120V or 240V.

While you're avoiding welders, also avoid the big box store models from the likes of Lowe's and Home Depot, they're usually a special SKU made specific to the retailer's budget, i.e. Lincoln's with tapped voltage regulators instead of infinitely variable voltage regulators you'd find on the similar model if bought from the local welding supply store.

Gearheadotaku (Forum Supporter)
Gearheadotaku (Forum Supporter) UltimaDork
5/15/20 2:54 p.m.

And when you start welding, practice, practice, practice. Don't get discouraged, it takes awhile to get the hang of it. 

preach Reader
5/15/20 4:05 p.m.

First thing I welded was a welder cart. second was a dual battery tray for my CJ. Then a bunch of practice on the bench and a lot of destructive testing. Finally seeing and manipulating the puddle was a sort of epiphany to me. This was with a harbor freight flux 110v.

Then I bought a hobart 175 220v. I then started more safety/structural stuff now that I was gas shielded. I rolled into a flat skid for the jeep, then I added to the roll cage it had and promptly rolled the jeep about a week later with no issues besides bent pipe. Another cage I welded had the same thing happen with no welds breaking.

Finding tons of free bed frames will leave you with a ton of angle iron to fab stuff with. Everyone seems to get rid of those things.

Azryael Reader
5/15/20 4:48 p.m.

I have a small (but heavy) Hobart unit that's dual voltage and can do flux-core and gas-shielded, and MIG is a great process for things I'm either trying to do at a reasonable pace, or that I plan to grind smooth for a smooth joint.

For the finer things, and applications like exhaust tubing and such, I much prefer to use one of the Synchrowave Miller's at the shop. Ultimately, unless it's something structural where one process may prove advantageous over the other, either MIG or TIG will work for most applications. If you want to point and shoot and see yourself being mobile while welding, then MIG is probably a better choice. If you are sitting down, or don't mind actuating a foot pedal (I've tried the hand-held pressure torches, and I just don't like them), TIG may be more up your alley.

There's always stick welding, too. Figure out what process will best suit your needs, how often you plan on doing it, and then go from there.

I will say, once you get going, you'll look for reasons to melt metal together as it turns into a bit of bug that's gonna bite you. Get all the scrap you can and practice away. Lot's of good videos on YouTube to follow; I liked the older videos, but it seems the presenters have changed to younger dudes, who just can't capture my attention the same way the older gentleman did.

noddaz UltraDork
5/15/20 4:56 p.m.

I agree with the others.  You want a gas rig.  Easier to weld with and much cleaner welds.  Not that much more up front, better equipment.



JoeyM Mod Squad
5/15/20 4:59 p.m.

In reply to Brian :

I'm sure that I won't have anything to say here, that more experienced people haven't already said in this thread, but here are my bits of advice:

  • Start on the heaviest metal that you can.  Thick metal is more resistant to warping and distortion, and much much easier to learn on
  • Start on a scrap coupon of metal, and run a bead along the entire length. Then run one parallel to it, touching The original bead.  continue until you've covered the entire surface of this scrap metal with horizontal lines.
  • If you can't see it, you shouldn't be pulling the trigger.  Add lots and lots of light.  When I'm in the garage welding, with the door to the garage up, during the daytime, I want shop lights and flashlights all over the place shining onto the workpiece.
  • Clamp it down good. you want to make sure that when you bump the piece it can't move on you.
  • Go slow, unless you are vertical welding.
  • Yes, you want to use thin wire when you are welding sheet metal. I know that it costs more money to have more than one kind of wire on hand, but much of the warping, distortion, and burn through that I was getting in sheet metal a few years ago was due to not having the right wire.  Spend the extra money for thin wire when you are working on thin material. There's no substitute.
  • The rule of thumb that I have heard repeated - probably repeated here -is that every minute of time extra that you spend making sure that the two work pieces are nicely fitted together will save you - at a minimum -  10 minutes of grinding
  • Be patient with yourself. Every time you switch to a different metal, you are going to have to play with the settings on the machine.  Don't be frustrated, that's okay.


JoeyM Mod Squad
5/15/20 5:02 p.m.
preach said:

First thing I welded was a welder cart

Same here. Great project.  Forgiving, not difficult, gives you a great sense of accomplishment to build something you could have bought.

Finding tons of free bed frames will leave you with a ton of angle iron to fab stuff with. 

Discarded BBQ grills, water heaters, ovens.... Other people's waste is your practice material, or car building material.


preach Reader
5/15/20 7:00 p.m.

Be super clean.

Azryael Reader
5/15/20 7:36 p.m.

One of the first projects I did with my MIG was to build a stand for my mine-Dremel drill press and bench grinder. I used an old BMW brake rotor (nice and heavy) and an old post from the old stair rail going out the back garage door.

Tacked up:

Finished product:

Then I started on the real project I got this Hobart for; the aforementioned back stair rail that was a blatant code violation. I can't find the before photo I took, just know it was by no means safe...

Here's the top platform section by the doorway, all welded up and coated with an oil-based flat black since that's what I had around. I went with flux-cored wire here due to it being ridiculously windy, and moving a cart with a bottle around wouldn't have been fun, but I knew what I was in for:

Moving down the stairs:

This little piece was made using two pieces of 1" square tubing next to each other to make a surface wide enough for both the wooden hand rail to sit on top of, and to connect to the top section of the original stair rail that I repurposed:

The recylced portion of the old stair rail tacked in place:

Balusters tacked in place:

And the finished product:

I wasn't quite happy with the treated hand rail wood I got from Home Depot, but it did the trick for the time being. I'm by no means an expert at welding, but a little practice, lots of patience, and using the right process for the job resulted in a nice, sturdy stair rail that isn't going anywhere anytime soon, and exceeds the minimums for code specs. MIG allowed me to basically build it in place, making the process a little quicker. TIG would have worked too, but if I was going the TIG route, I'd have likely built each section on the bench and then moved it to the final location.

Hopefully my examples kinda get you thinking about what all you'd like to make.

JoeyM Mod Squad
5/16/20 11:26 a.m.
bigdaddylee82 said:

While you're avoiding welders, also avoid the big box store models from the likes of Lowe's and Home Depot, they're usually a special SKU made specific to the retailer's budget, i.e. Lincoln's with tapped voltage regulators instead of infinitely variable voltage regulators you'd find on the similar model if bought from the local welding supply store.

I know the Lincoln welder models from Lowe's use plastic gears instead of metal gears found in the similarly named units from AirGas.  Naturally, the plastic feed gears are not as durable, and nobody keeps replacements fin stock; not even Lowes.  (I'm not sure that a normal store can even buy the parts to sell to you.)  You'll be down for a few weeks when a plastic gear strips and Lowe's has to special order it.  If you buy a Lincoln from a welding shop, they will have the replacement metal gears for it in stock as well.

Azryael Reader
5/16/20 11:49 a.m.

I do have to add that something I dislike about the Hobart compared to its Miller counterpart, is that the Voltage is limited to 6 positional adjustments, whereas the Millermatic 211 has an "infinite" potentiometer for finer adjustments of Volts/heat. This means you can set the value between say "4" and "5", adding just a tad more heat in between increments as opposed to increasing in finite steps.

The other thing I will mention for these smaller units, at least between Hobart and Miller (not sure about Lincolns) is that the Millermatic uses an inverter type technology that makes the unit WAYYYY lighter. If I had to do it all again, I'd definitely go with the Millermatic 211 or 255 for a straight up MIG machine, but the deal for the Hobart was way too good to pass up.

But my plan is to eventually grab a Miller Multimatic 220, as it does both TIG and MIG, and does AC/DC which means I can TIG aluminum. Would I love one of those liquid-cooled Synchrowaves like we have? For sure, but I can't justify the cost nor do I have the space. They're also TIG only.

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