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Old 08-07-2010, 12:58   #1
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So I'm Thinking of Buying a Welder

Hobart 140, to be exact. I have some welding jobs I need to do (primarily SS tubing), and I remember seeing some comments on here about it not being impossible to learn. For the cost of having someone else do it (a couple grand), I think I could buy the welder, the tubes, the wires, the gas, and train up on some scrap pieces before I went after the real projects.

Any helpful tips on starting off in welding basic stainless and regular steel in the boat world? At 20 amps / 115/120 I could run it dockside but I'd need to switch out to the 3000 Honda generator to run it portable which I don't know if I'd really do. They have a battery pack version (the Trek) which looks pretty cool too. I've heard great things about the Hobart 140 and tri-gas.
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Old 08-07-2010, 13:14   #2
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I have a Miller Maxstar 150 TIG on board. It will run at 60amps off a 15 amp circuit, and have done some emergency repairs off the 2000 watt inverter. I have two tanks of argon, a 80cubic ft and a 120 c/ft. with a Tig and the right rods you can weld a lot of different metals, even cast bronze. I have made a lot of cruising bucks off this machine. bought it new and have about 2K in it. with the Sailrite sewing machine and this welder, I can pull into most marinas and pick up some work... So your idea of welding is great, you will never regret it...Tig is more cosmetic(pretty) than a MIG ,but it will work just a lot more post clean up.....Ed
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Old 08-07-2010, 14:06   #3
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I hate to throw water on an optimistic soul, but I don’t think you will ever be happy with your welds, following this simplistic scenario.

It takes a lot of experience to do good welding and it is not just about the weld but the jigging, the heat, the rod, the gas and the final passivation to make it into real ‘stainless’ steel.

No one brand of welder will make you one but some do weld easier than others do. I can’t comment on the Hobart except to say they took a great name in industrial equipment and made it into a line of consumer stuff.

I looked at the website and it makes it appear that you can run aluminum in the machine but I doubt it. Aluminum wire does not feed in a wire feed because the drive is in the machine and the wire gets pushed. Works fine for hard steel wire but not so well for aluminum.

I have seen some production setups using guns with very short whips and feeding downhill, working to weld off a table so the geometry never changes.

I would have to use a spool gun to make my wire feed work with aluminum and I don’t like MIG aluminum welds well enough to go there, much preferring the TIG for aluminum. TIG has no entry level of skill as it takes a lot more of all of the above plus gas selection, tungsten selection, tungsten point grind and a lot more.

Make someone demonstrate the unit using aluminum and see if they can do it.

I have all the equipment and have welded off and on for all my life. I find that I am very rusty when doing repairs and need to get up to speed before I step in and screw something up. I have welded a fair amount on my boat and I trust my welds. More important, sometimes, I can tell people I did the work because it does look pretty professional.

Looks are only part of the story too. Will you really be able to trust your welds when your life or your crew’s lives depend on that pulpit holding when it get hits by a couple hundred pounds of guy being swept overboard?

You need far more than a few practice passes before you will ever be willing to admit that it’s your welding because it’s going to look like a drunken teenager found a welding machine. I am not saying it can’t be done but I disagree with the folks who make it sound simple.

Um Saudade
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Old 08-07-2010, 14:17   #4
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Look at the miller MaxStar series.

Watch out though, there is a MaxstarŽ 150 STH, Maxstar STR, and a MaxStar 150S. I believe the STH and STR is both TIG AND STICK while the S is only Stick? Check out their site

Im in the market myself
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Old 08-07-2010, 14:49   #5
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After building custom motorcycles and cars I know I'll do just fine with this rig. Have already done some custom jobs around the marina we are in...
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Old 08-07-2010, 15:00   #6
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You might want to consider the product in the attatched link. HTS 1000 for aluminum and HTS 528 (I think) for iron, etc. I've only begun fooling around with it and seems to work fine without the drama of a welder.

Aluminum Welding - Aluminum Repair - Aluminum Brazing - AluminumRepair.com
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Old 08-07-2010, 15:30   #7
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Look at MaxStar's... I've been welding for 30+ years, (Titanium, Inconel, Monel, etc. plus stainless and the usual array of steels.) Yes it takes practice but come on... it's a personal issue.. if I could teach my 16 yr old daughter to TIG weld stainless well enough to win a gold medal in High School competition, you can do it too... Practice makes perfect.
If you have a collection of welding wires (not rods) in the 309L to 316 catagory you can even weld mild steel to stainless. It isn't rocket science but it is VERY dependent on your eye-hand coordination. I'd forget the school stuff and find a welder that can weld good and ask for some help on your technique. Most welders are either 1- just getting into it and need to learn everything there is including how to set the machine. 2- Can weld good enough to pass a welding test and hold a job but don't know the tricks yet. 3- The experts who know the tricks to make it easier and can easily set the machine in their sleep and... 4- Those who would love to teach but their eyes are old and they'd rather not weld unless they absolutely have to and then they need a pair of cheaters in the hood (like me. LoL) and can weld like there's no tomorrow.... but just don't do it steady.

There's a bunch of "inverter machines" on e-bay for the 500-700$US price range that are combo machines that plasma cut as well as TIG weld and run off 110-120 VAC or 220-240 VAC. They are nice... and made in the us. TIG requires Argon mostly unless some special reason calls for Helium (Expensive) so that's simple. If you have a air compressor on board that can pump to a 100 psi and has a small storage tank, like a 5 gal or so, then you'd have plenty of air to do small stuff with the plasma. You aren't going to go in a cut out a mass of parts full bore on a pice of 4 x 8 x 1/2" thk stainless so you should have plenty of air (and time) to do any cutting necessary on smaller gauge stuff like 3/16 or 1/8 inch plate.
Good luck. It ain't rocket science.... it's just a learned skill. everyone has to learn. If you can see and you can chew gum and walk at the same time then you can weld. It just takes practice and time to learn what you need to do after that arc is lit up.

If you want to weld aluminum, it'll most likely require a High Frequency unit to initiate the arc and keep it going. Yes, you can spoolgun the stuff and spoolguns are used because pushing aluminum wires starts to wad up in the liner and you throw out more than you weld with. Spoolguns PULL the wire from the roll and for a MIG outfit they're nice but I've used on about 10% of the time. Hardly worth the pain... although I TIG aluminum the other 80-90% of the time. They make good stick rod to weld aluminum with but it's not lightweight stuff you'll be welding. I personally use my BIG 300 amp machine to weld aluminum with since it requires double or more the amerage of welding stainless or carbon steel. Yes, lots of amps... something not really possible with a small generator.
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Old 08-07-2010, 16:20   #8
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I had never welded so I bought a POS Harbor Freight unit for something like $140. The tank of argon cost me much more.

I have now done some aluminum welding with it. It does not have a spool gun and the alloy wire feeds pretty well. It will snag once in a while. Then I cuss and make it work again. It is still pretty new, I have not run most of one spool through it so perhaps it will get worse with wear.

For the investment it gave me the idea that, yes I really can do this. If I were to get another welder I would buy something better with a spool gun. But for now this is just fine.
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Old 08-07-2010, 16:22   #9
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Wow I'd like to know more about the integration of the Plasma cutters! extremely useful!

I wonder if it is worth buying off ebay just to use as a plasma cutter, and then use a MaxStar for welding purposes.

rebel heart - don't be dismayed by the nay-sayers. Get a welder!
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Old 08-07-2010, 17:21   #10
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Originally Posted by aboutgone View Post
I have a Miller Maxstar 150 TIG on board. It will run at 60amps off a 15 amp circuit, and have done some emergency repairs off the 2000 watt inverter. I have two tanks of argon, a 80cubic ft and a 120 c/ft. with a Tig and the right rods you can weld a lot of different metals, even cast bronze. I have made a lot of cruising bucks off this machine. bought it new and have about 2K in it. with the Sailrite sewing machine and this welder, I can pull into most marinas and pick up some work... So your idea of welding is great, you will never regret it...Tig is more cosmetic(pretty) than a MIG ,but it will work just a lot more post clean up.....Ed
Thanks man, that's kind of where I'm thinking of going with it. And like someone else said above, I'm under no illusions of becoming a master welder overnight but you don't get better just talking about stuff so I figure the sooner the better. And if it's like anything else on the boat the first few jobs will be garbage and they'll get better over time. No big mystery, just takes practice and experience. But you don't build those without doing it and learning from mistakes.

Glad to hear about making a few bucks cruising too; I was thinking about that as well. I'm also a diver and have been eyeballing some of the commercial underwater welding stuff although that's a long ways off. But either way it would require me to do some more diving and welding to get there. And if I don't want to do that, at least I'll be a better diver and welder in the end.
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Old 08-07-2010, 19:11   #11
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Do you have a friend who has a welder and would let you try first? Most of the big name units out there these days are pretty good, I haven't used all of them but I have used several and all of them worked relatively well. I have only used one Hobart which was a mig and worked well, it even worked well with a poor man's tig hooked up to it. The reason that I suggest trying out some gear that a friend has is to make sure that it is something that you want to do and are reasonably quick at learning. If you like it, I would encourage you to go ahead and get the gear, it might even be a good excuse to build a few things for around the house or a new go-kart. There are whole forums dedicated to welding where people debate each machine to death.

Buying welders is dangerous as it gets expensive fast and you end up with a lot of gear. If you think that you might ever get into aluminum, you will either want a tig unit or a mig that can accept a spool gun. Mig is great since it is quick, easy (make sure that you are getting good penetration though) and only takes one hand. Tig is much prettier and gives a skilled person more options but is pretty hard to do in an uncontrolled environment. I have spent a lot of time kneeling while resting on my elbows and operating the foot pedal with one knee with tig where mig would have been a much better option. The other thing that you need to choose is how powerful a rig you want. Sooner or later, you will want something that can't plug into a 110V 20A circuit since it won't have enough power. Then you will be installing a different outlet at your house and buying another unit, just be warned.
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Old 08-07-2010, 19:42   #12
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I don't know, but I get the feeling your vessel is very organized, and you demand high quality. Get the welder, but don't expect to have your welding make you happy for a loooonggg time. Most likely not before you go cruising........i2f
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Old 08-07-2010, 19:59   #13
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Hobart, great little welder

I have the Hobart 135, slightly lighter cousin to the 140. Great set up for home use (for the money anyway, I know there are better units out there). Welds stainless great if you use the right gas. Arc is pretty stable when you stay in the duty cycle too. I have used other 110v welders with much worse results. The Hobart is a good unit and will do Aluminum too but no where near as good as a tig. A friend of mine with a bad aluminum fuel tank in his NorSea borrowed my welder to fix it and told me that once he learned the tricks it welded the tank pretty good. I used it to weld 1/8 SS angle to make a hatch frame with great results. It was almost easier than mild steel, just have to get the power setting and feed rate correct (and gas) for what you're doing and you will be happy with your completed work.
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Old 08-07-2010, 20:26   #14
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I learned to weld with a torch building chrome moly race frames...when it came to using a Tig, it was like an electric torch with much more control..it didnt take long to get good and proficient.. I just had to learn application ,already had the rod and torch dance.but you get threw the mistakes and learn from them. and with a thumb control on the torch you can stand on your head with your feet sticking out of a 12 point roll cage and weld....so grab you a good Tig rig and start learning...today we have a great tool that we haven't had before....the web....so much info on welding of all types....if you want it...go get it..Like you said ,talking about it is wasted time........ed
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Old 08-07-2010, 21:21   #15
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"Palomar College's Welding Programs
Palomar College is a 2-year, public school attended by approximately 27,000 students each year. It's located 20 miles outside San Diego in San Marcos, CA. Palomar College offers several certificates and an associate's degree in welding.

Welder Certification Course
This 16-hour course, offered through Palomar's Workforce and Community Development program, is taught over the course of a 3-day weekend. Students gain experience welding metals, plates and pipes in carbon steel, stainless steel, aluminum and various exotic metals. Those who complete the course will be eligible to test for welder certification through the American Welding Society."
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