October 3, 2009
I use a Lincoln SP-125 Plus MIG welder for just the kind of welding you describe. It is capable of using either flux-core wire or gas and comes with an Argon regulator for this purpose. MIG is ideal for general shop use but is not as good for fine welding of Aluminum or Stainless, though my welder will do both fairly well. This welder can go up to about 1/4" in a single pass, though I have done 1/2" steel using three passes and it worked quite well.The SP-125 is an inverter unit so it is small, light and portable. It uses 120V household current and has a 20% duty cycle.
The cheaper units often restrict you to flux-core only, which is fine if you're welding trailers but for sheetmetal work you will do better with gas. Flux-core tends to weld hotter and you will blow through thin steel much more readily. Welding thin stuff is the province of a gas MIG or Tig welder, or a good Oxy/Acet torch like the Meco Midget.
If you watch Craigslist you will see these welders come up for sale from time to time and the last two I saw in my area came in just under $300.00. If you have an Oxy/Acet setup then the cheapest way to weld thin stuff is a good small torch like the Meco.
I would go to either the Lincoln or Miller websites and do some homework to narrow down the models that will meet your needs, then look for a used model. With patience you will find it.
January 4, 2009
Come over and play with my HF 110-volt flux core welder if you want when we finally get some nice weather. I bought it for $89 before I thought I could afford a Miller MIG welder. I haven't used it much but it seems to work well and it gets excellent reviews, which it probably deserves.
Unfortunately it won't do sheet metal or cast iron, and 3/16-inch steel is probably its limit. But otherwise it should be fine for many home repairs. To do sheet metal you're going to need a gas MIG or TIG welder and it's not likely you're going to find even a used one in your price range.
February 16, 2011
I currently have a small HF stick welder. Dual voltage (120/240), it is set up for 120 right now. With a plug and simple rewiring, I can set it up for 240. I am in the process of installing a 50A/240V service to the garage, so I'd like to switch it over.
However, it's still just a cheap stick welder. I'd prefer something better, but at a reasonable cost. I know HF has flux core welders, and there are the occasional MIG units that show up on Craigslist from time to time. The problem is, I have no real experience, so buying is kinda a shot in the dark. Not having very extensive experience means I don't know what to look for or what to avoid.
So, tell me what you know about the different welders, keeping in mind that I'm not about to drop $300+ on anything. Usage would be simple repairs on sheet metal (mild steel) and plate/cast up to about 1/4" thick. I'm not going to be welding up anything critical or using it for long periods.
Any advice appreciated.