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Old 12-02-2021, 12:46   #1
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another 1st time welder for a boat question

Hi All,
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.
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Old 12-02-2021, 12:53   #2
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Re: another 1st time welder for a boat question

I have had crap results trying to weld aluminum using MIG. You do need a special aluminum spool gun for your MIG welder to even try it - the aluminum filler wire is too soft to push through a standard MIG setup. I’m a decent steel MIG welder. I have never tried stainless steel MIG welding. I’m a decent steel stick welder.
If it were me, I think I would invest in and learn TIG welding. The equipment looks small and manageable on a boat, assuming a good source of electricity.
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Old 12-02-2021, 12:56   #3
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Re: another 1st time welder for a boat question

I keep a small stick welder onboard for small stainless steel projects. It is the size of a lunchbox and is fine for repairs on stanchions, small projects and such.

https://www.harborfreight.com/weldin...der-64057.html
An added benefit is that it uses 110v rather than 220v.
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Old 12-02-2021, 12:58   #4
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Re: another 1st time welder for a boat question

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Originally Posted by PirateGuy View Post
I have had crap results trying to weld aluminum using MIG. You do need a special aluminum spool gun for your MIG welder to even try it - the aluminum filler wire is too soft to push through a standard MIG setup. Iím a decent steel MIG welder. I have never tried stainless steel MIG welding. Iím a decent steel stick welder.
If it were me, I think I would invest in and learn TIG welding. The equipment looks small and manageable on a boat, assuming a good source of electricity.
Thats kind of what I am thinking but "the internet" has me worried that unless I spend years training or go to welding school that I will not be able to TIG.

In my case however I would not be keeping the welder onboard, it would be in my garage.



thanks!
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Old 12-02-2021, 13:48   #5
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Re: another 1st time welder for a boat question

Get the TIG. I'm a formerly certified plate and pipe welder, and I have used MIG, TIG, Stick, and Oxy-fuel to weld.

Learning TIG isn't hard - it's just different. You can learn to TIG a decent bead in a few weeks.

I highly suggest you buy an inexpensive AC/DC TIG setup because, despite the fact that they simply are not as good or robust as a Lincoln / miller, you don't seem to need that.

I've got a LOTOS 200 amp cheapo that's going with me on my boat. It can run off of 240 and 115 V power and while you better be a damn good welder if you're going to hit anything 1/4" thick, for small stuff it works fantastically.

Now - another note - welding stainless ruins the stainless in the heat affected zone - just be aware that as a tinkerer, any stainless you weld will need to be polished WAY beyond what you imagine, or the welds will rust. But it can be done.
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Old 12-02-2021, 14:34   #6
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Re: another 1st time welder for a boat question

Go with the TIG. Can be a little tricky, but you'll get the hang of it.

If you plan on welding aluminum, you need more amps than for steel; I've got a 175 amp Lincoln and the thickest aluminum it will handle (with relative ease and an aircooled torch) is 1/4".
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Old 13-02-2021, 10:44   #7
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Re: another 1st time welder for a boat question

Go TIG I recently got a Lincoln for under $2000 that can be run 110 or 220 by using a different input cord. Ages ago I built a " Spray" in steel with DC stick.
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Old 13-02-2021, 11:00   #8
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Re: another 1st time welder for a boat question

For the shop I second buying a combo MIG/TIG/Stick machine. The thing is once you start using it, well its there, and now soooo many things are possible.

Aluminum is tricky. Am finding that good cleaning and preheat goes a long way.

TIG is tough, I think ill let you know when I learn. But watching the guys who know? Poetry.

For the boat I also keep a Harbor Freight stick machine. I do light work off my Honda 2000 generator. But I have a steel boat.
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Old 13-02-2021, 11:06   #9
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Re: another 1st time welder for a boat question

Quote:
Originally Posted by mikereed100 View Post
I keep a small stick welder onboard for small stainless steel projects. It is the size of a lunchbox and is fine for repairs on stanchions, small projects and such.

https://www.harborfreight.com/weldin...der-64057.html
An added benefit is that it uses 110v rather than 220v.

I have a similar small inverter stick welder (80A, 110v AC), from Canada's answer to Harbor Freight. I've only started to learn how to weld. Do you have any advice for how to start doing small welds in stainless steel - eg what rods, technique, limitations? thanks.
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Old 13-02-2021, 11:07   #10
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Re: another 1st time welder for a boat question

I'm a crappy MIG welder and have had zero luck with with using MIG on stainless. I'm ok on mild steel.

I'm a good TIG welder and for doing most jobs on a boat IMHO TIG is the way to go. I would NOT ever consider buying a harborfright POS welder or any of the cheapos. You get what you pay for and in welding you really need quality to begin with especially when you're learning.

I learned at a junior college. Great equipment and good instruction although not all colleges have good instructors. I've taken classes at several because it was a cheap way to practice using other peoples equipment, materials and consumables.

I decided to buy a Miller inverter TIG. After researching the various models I locked onto one particular one and started searching. I found one that was 8 years old and had never been used. The guy who bought it was shutting his business down and couldn't ever get a bead. I bought the welder and gas tank etc for $600. Once I figured out the issue it works perfectly. Buying a used welder can be a crap shoot and again, having been taught how to weld 1st gives you the knowledge to be able to make an informed, wise choice.
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Old 13-02-2021, 12:52   #11
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Re: another 1st time welder for a boat question

The Miller inverter TIG machines have a built in log. I forget the commands but the number of arc strikes and run time are recorded and can be called up on the display screen.

However, getting one for $600.00 USD with an owners tank would be like hitting the lottery. So congratulations!

I have an old Miller Syncrowave 250 TIG/Stick AC/DC machine. I've used the same machine professionally at previous jobs. It is not an inverter and it weighs over 400 lbs. So not exactly portable.

The smallest most portable would be stick. Not the best for all applications but effective, handy and easily stowed.

If you don't need to do aluminum then a strait D/C machine will suffice and cost less. Most of the lower power more portable inverters will not develop enough heat to weld aluminum effectively anyway. Not in the thicknesses found around a boat. This can be overcome with a preheat or using a helium gas mix to some extent. If it's a must have you could struggle through if the machine has A/C and the power to perform.

Higher power requires heavier "water cooled" leads and the "chiller" can be as large as the welder.

DUTY CYCLE- is a term for on time rating of the machine at load. A machine may be rated for 200 amps but the on time may be less than 50%. A failsafe shut off or thermal overload switch should protect the machine. Some machines are labeled higher than their actual useful power.

PASSIVATE - When welding stainless the surface should be passivated. This will chemically clean the surface and restore the protective layer. The chemistry used is acid soooo be careful.

If you're already good with your hands TIG isn't really that hard. Just a few basics and a little eye hand coordination. A good machine will help but Miller and Lincoln make beginner kits with everything but the bottle and they sometimes go on sale. Sure there's lots of vloggers out there to help guide.

Maybe start with a strait D/C gas cooled and see how it goes. Then consider trading up or not. A machine that can weld on both 110 and 220 volts will be a lot more versatile.


Good Luck and Best Regards
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Old 13-02-2021, 13:48   #12
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Re: another 1st time welder for a boat question

Get the tig, you can get a inexpensive decent and lightweight one just about anywhere these days for under 500.00 CDN.
Plus if you don't know how to weld yet just learn tig. Its not to hard to learn.
Its perfect for most small marine work in SS or steel but not much steel on most boats, Well unless its a steel boat then it works anyway.
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Old 13-02-2021, 14:02   #13
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Re: another 1st time welder for a boat question

If you are considering learning TIG get a unit that will take a foot pedal to control output.

Finding the balance between striking a clean arc and blowing holes in the work
is like learning to drive a car with a switch instead of a gas pedal.
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Old 13-02-2021, 14:21   #14
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Re: another 1st time welder for a boat question

I once could weld TIG on pipe (carbon and stainless) MIG on aluminum and stick (certified to weld 6010, 7018 and 110-18(which is used on submarine hulls)) but important to this thread, if it is read, is that I once welded on 40 feet over-the-road tractor-trailers and they are made of paper thin steel. What's the point? We used MIG to weld them. TIG can be used on duct-work sheet metal but MIG, surprisingly works great on paper thin stuff too and is definitely easier to learn and is cheaper to outfit. You can simply drag MIG or stick with no skill needed.

TIG and Mig require inert gas, but TIG also will need a DC welding machine, which are likely more expensive than a simple complete MIG setup.

Stainless can be welded with stick, but I never could do it.

Also, TIG requires coordinating feeding wire with one hand, controlling the TIG gun with the other and possibly regulating the power with a foot pedal (as was stated in an earlier reply)

Me, I'd hire the job out to a boatyard. The price will be high, but professionally done.
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Old 13-02-2021, 14:34   #15
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Re: another 1st time welder for a boat question

Quote:
Originally Posted by jimbojonesbos View Post
Hi All,
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!
Nassau (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.
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