Originally Posted by jimbojonesbos
I have read numerous threads on welders but didn't feel like any hit the exact target for this question.
I have some experience with a fluxcore wire welder. I am generally handy and good with detail oriented work. I would like to buy a welder for boat projects. All the first time welder advice I see is geared toward steel with most suggesting a MIG or stick welder for a beginner with MIG being easiest to learn and stick being best from a weld strength and skill building perspective. I don't want to become a pro welder, nor do I want to get into welding as a hobby on its own, just repair 316 stainless and make small brackets and whatnot. I don't ever expect to welding large seams, just an inch here and there.
So here is the question; am I crazy to consider buying a TIG setup to teach myself? Everything I read says TIG takes forever to learn, but tig seems ideal for small marine jobs and low power
inverter TIG machines are cheap and can do stick as well. Clean precise welds and only one gas bottle are appealing. I have also heard some folks proclaim that they picked tiging up pretty quickly on their own.
Is a small mig machine a better idea? This gives the option of aluminum but then the need for multiple gas mixes comes into play. MIG welds also don't seem appropriate for small boat
projects and I have been told it is easy to make a pretty mig weld that is weak.
My grandfather was a welder and machinist, I only wish I had been old enough for him to teach me before he died :-(
Thanks in advance for any thought or advice you might have for me.
Crazy? Maybe. Here's the deal. If your work is going to be in a 'controlled' environment
- like a marina slip or with the boat ashore, you can learn and use any process you want.
If you expect to be welding in remote
locations, like on the hook where prep work (making sure everything is clean & dry) is difficult, learn to stick weld.
My experience is in heavy construction, including shipyards (steel boats but on a grand scale) but mostly oil
refineries and power plants. Boilermakers (my trade) work in some horrific conditions, where the repairs are very difficult and everything is covered in oil
, and flyash, and refractory and rust. And worse.
Most of our welds are on very heavy steel, and pretty much all of them are x-rayed.
The contractors usually hated TIG as everything is slow and requires meticulous preparation. MIG is popular as you can lay down a lot of weld. But in the real world, NOTHING welds like stick in difficult, damp, tight or rusty places.
Don't let those guys in the weld store tell you they have MIG wire that will weld paint
, rust, etc. It's a lie. I've helped several steel boat guys (including commercial) dig themselves out of a tough spot after making a big mess with some 'fancy miracle' wire sold
by unscrupulous retailers.
For MIG and TIG everything must be dry, and clean. Plus wind
is a factor - you cannot TIG weld in even a gentle breeze without something to block the wind
Same with gas shielded MIG, although if it's flux-cored wire with no additional shielding gas it's a bit more forgiving.
In 40 years of full-time welding, I never welded S.S with MIG, so I won't speak to that. If you're building custom bikes for Jesse James in a nice clean shop, heli-arc (TIG) welding aluminum is lovely. But in the real world it'll be MIG with a spool gun - with the wire spool on your forearm - for aluminum.
They have stick rod for aluminum now, which I've never run. I've heard mixed reports.
Anyway, unless you are going to be in a 'shop-like' environment
, go with the stick. As you mentioned your machine could TIG weld should you choose to do so, although I wouldn't have a gas bottle on the boat myself. Plus, you must use both hands to TIG weld, which means no hand for the boat!
(and others manufacturers) make stick electrodes that actually do weld in wet conditions. I mean wet; I've used it myself (at about $6 a stick) repairing leaking tanks
and the like in the field. It's fabulous; unbelievable. And great fun.
Some folks might learn TIG welding on their own. But it's a challenge.
Pretty much everybody I meet in the cruising and Rv world is a 'welder', ALL farmers can weld it would seem.
But I generally stay out of those discussions unless they ask me to bring my hood
. Then we'll see.
And yes, you can put down a gorgeous MIG weld that'll fail with one good whack from a 4 pound beater. Plus porosity is common especially with dual-shield MIG. Any process that involves a bottle supplied shielding gas tends to be fussy.
A decent pass with E-7018 stick (low hydrogen) will hold with amazing tenacity.
You know where you'll be welding. I'd stay with the stick.