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Old 26-04-2021, 08:41   #1
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Welding on board?

Hello,

I currently live aboard full time, and will hopefully be starting a 10-yr circumnavigation in the next year or so. Thinking about learning to do some basic stainless steel welding, and then buy a suitable, but small, welding rig to carry aboard to do repairs and small project fabrication. Not looking to make money with this, but being able to handle my own projects, and help fellow cruisers, seems like a good idea.

I have a 7.6kW diesel generator that (I think) should be able to power a small 110VAC welder.

That said, I'd love to hear from folks that have done this. What welder would you recommend? What additional tools and supplies are needed? Angle grinder, flux-core SS wire, wire wheels, grinding and polishing discs, etc?

Regards,
David
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Old 26-04-2021, 09:09   #2
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Re: Welding on board?

Flux core stainless wire isn't a common item (and it's pricey), so you'll need to hunt around a bit for that if you want to avoid carrying gas. Gas will generally give prettier welds than flux core, however.

Your generator will definitely power a 110V MIG welder. I haven't used it on stainless, but I've got an Eastwood MIG135 at the house that I'm happy with (as a novice welder).

Wire brushes, a grinder, etc. are useful for cleaning up welds. Personally, I prefer a wire cup in a drill over a wire wheel on a grinder. Less messy to use and doesn't throw wire bits as readily.
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Old 26-04-2021, 09:41   #3
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Re: Welding on board?

I would suggest that the OP does the training, then gets a few SS welding projects under the belt, and then decides for his/herself what kit would suit best.
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Old 26-04-2021, 09:45   #4
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Re: Welding on board?

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I would suggest that the OP does the training, then gets a few SS welding projects under the belt, and then decides for his/herself what kit would suit best.
Part of the process of deciding what to do involves making sure that what one is doing is not some hare-brained idea, and does not involve far more equipment than one is prepared to buy and store aboard. That's the reason for the questions, soliciting input from people more experienced than I am.
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Old 26-04-2021, 11:31   #5
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Re: Welding on board?

I have done MIG welding of stainless steel with a 220V, Lincoln welder. This was welding with tri-mix gas. The welds were okay. I have seen welds done with flux-core wire. They were not as nice. And if you want truly professional looking welds in stainless steel, then you really need to do it with TIG.

So, if you don't care much about the cosmetics of your welds, I would say that you can do it with a wire-feed welder. If you DO care about the cosmetics of your welds, then you are going to need gas. And that, in my opinion, takes it beyond the realm of manageable on-board anything but a VERY large boat.

Good luck, whatever you choose.
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Old 26-04-2021, 11:39   #6
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Re: Welding on board?

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I have done MIG welding of stainless steel with a 220V, Lincoln welder. This was welding with tri-mix gas. The welds were okay. I have seen welds done with flux-core wire. They were not as nice. And if you want truly professional looking welds in stainless steel, then you really need to do it with TIG.

So, if you don't care much about the cosmetics of your welds, I would say that you can do it with a wire-feed welder. If you DO care about the cosmetics of your welds, then you are going to need gas. And that, in my opinion, takes it beyond the realm of manageable on-board anything but a VERY large boat.

Good luck, whatever you choose.
I'm more interested in form and function over aesthetics, so flux-core wire welding seems like it should be "good enough", and avoid the need for gas bottles, etc. But I'm still figuring things out, and do appreciate any constructive comments like yours.
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Old 26-04-2021, 12:21   #7
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Re: Welding on board?

I took a little inverter unit (Campbell-Hausfield I got from Grizzly a million years ago) with the TIG kit and a small CO2 bottle. Only used it once in anger. Galley sink had developed pinhole leaks around the drain. It was an oddball size, couldn't find a replacement sink from marine sources or Home Depot etc. Before gutting and replacing the entire galley, gave welding a shot. It worked out well. I did also have an angle grinder and dremel-type tool on board and had to run out and buy emery paper, which were necessary for a decent finish.
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Old 26-04-2021, 12:55   #8
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Re: Welding on board?

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Flux core stainless wire isn't a common item (and it's pricey),

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Old 26-04-2021, 13:30   #9
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Re: Welding on board?

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Originally Posted by Davidhoy View Post
I'm more interested in form and function over aesthetics, so flux-core wire welding seems like it should be "good enough"...
I would agree. You did, however, mention doing things for fellow cruisers. You just need to be sure that if you are doing work for someone else, they understand what it is they are going to be getting.


Good luck.
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Old 26-04-2021, 13:33   #10
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Re: Welding on board?

I'm no welder, but my dad has welded stainless for my hardtop on my former boat with a stick welder, using E308L-16 link rods. It's not the prettiest weld but with a little grinding and polishing it suited my purposes and saved me tons of $ over having something fabricated. Advantages of stick welding are no cover gas needed, and it's very easy to change weld chemistry.
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Old 26-04-2021, 13:46   #11
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Re: Welding on board?

Aluminum argon tanks. They look like tall scuba tanks. Easy to move. Really light. No rust. Miller Inverter TIG. Period. Its all you need. Im running 220 off an 8 kw Northern Lights. The Miller will weld from any source and is well worth the money. A used Miller can be test run and will still give years of service. Try your local welding supply shop because guys are always getting new equipment. Dont buy imported junk. An inverter machine gives you complete control ...balance, frequency, and pulse setting. Once you learn to TIG you will appreciate a Miller Inverter and forget the cost. You cant get quality welds with a cheap junk machine. Especially on stainless or aluminum.
Go to Welding tips and tricks web pages. Everything you need to learn is there. Miller has videos and settings. For aluminum get an on off button for your hand.
Jody has the best stainless videos. Just do what he shows and you will be fine.
Auto dark helmet and good gloves really help. You can teach yourself with the videos out today. Its just practice.
Happy trails to you.
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Old 26-04-2021, 13:46   #12
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Re: Welding on board?

Palm Beach Community College might have welding classes.

The welding classes I have looked at taking are cheap, almost free, when you consider what it would costs to teach yourself and have to buy metal, equipment, and consumables.

Check out the community college.

Later,
Dan
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Old 29-04-2021, 07:15   #13
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Re: Welding on board?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Manateeman View Post
Aluminum argon tanks. They look like tall scuba tanks. Easy to move. Really light. No rust. Miller Inverter TIG. Period. It’s all you need. I’m running 220 off an 8 kw Northern Lights. The Miller will weld from any source and is well worth the money. A used Miller can be test run and will still give years of service. Try your local welding supply shop because guys are always getting new equipment. Don’t buy imported junk. An inverter machine gives you complete control ...balance, frequency, and pulse setting. Once you learn to TIG you will appreciate a Miller Inverter and forget the cost. You can’t get quality welds with a cheap junk machine. Especially on stainless or aluminum.
Go to Welding tips and tricks web pages. Everything you need to learn is there. Miller has videos and settings. For aluminum get an on off button for your hand.
Jody has the best stainless videos. Just do what he shows and you will be fine.
Auto dark helmet and good gloves really help. You can teach yourself with the videos out today. It’s just practice.
Happy trails to you.
Captain Mark and his Miller Blue Manatee crew.
Nailed it.

I also run a Miller inverter TIG (Dynasty 210DX...not on the boat, though) and if you want to do any exotic metal welding (aluminum, SS, etc) TIG is really the route you want to go. I'll MIG or stick mild steel all day, you will likely be disappointed with your results on other metals...and so will your customers/friends. TIG also offers zero spatter...and spatter is NOT nice to gelcoat/epoxy/fiberglass.

Only thing I will caution is this: if you plan to weld outside, it needs to be dead calm. Wind will disturb your gas coverage, and your welds will suffer. Gas lenses help. This is why stick is so popular with pipeline and structural guys---you need the flux if there's even a hint of a breeze. Don't expect to TIG a broken stanchion if it's blowing 20kts. Bring it below.

The neat thing about those inverter machines (and virtually all TIG units) is that you can plug in an electrode holder and be stick welding in minutes, if need be.
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Old 29-04-2021, 07:45   #14
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Re: Welding on board?

For MIG, keep in mind there are 2 kinds of flux core: gasless and dual shield. Dual shield is meant to be used with gas (so the flux is in addition to, rather than in place of).



Personally, I've only done 409 stainless with mild steel flux core wire with a MIG. And one 409 to 304 joint that worked ok, but a bit uglier. I've never tried the flux core stainless wire (although I do have a spool on hand) and haven't done much with any 300 series stainless.
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Old 29-04-2021, 08:06   #15
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Re: Welding on board?

Manatee Man has got it, despite being under the influence of fat flatuent marine mammals. Welding stainless with MIG is not for the faint hearted. TIG does it.

But, where are you going to do this welding? Welding throws sparks - I lost count of the ground cover fires I caused while building my boat in a horse pasture. Anywhere around fiberglass is going to be at the minimum a risk to the gelcoat, and probably an unacceptable fire risk. Remember - fiberglass resin burns like greased paper.
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