Seeking input on smaller tig welders. One of the guys took our old Miller Dial Arc machine home to weld some aluminum and his whole place, house and shop, burned to the ground including the Miller. It was huge and heavy, had the cooling water system, and about sucked the electric meter off the wall. Now I think I would like to replace it with a couple of smaller machines that are easy to move and can handle 3/16 material. Any recommendations? Thank you; Evan
The only thing more difficult to TIG weld than aluminum is copper. Both materials conduct heat away from the weld area so fast that a huge amount of current must be available to get a good weld. The best aluminum welding I've seen has been done with a water cooled TIG torch, a foot pedal current control, and a high frequency starting arc. Do the small portable machines have the high frequency starting arc available? If not, don't even consider one of them if you're trying to weld material much thicker than a Budweiser can! Jerry
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Cringe and wail in fear, Eloi- - - - -we Morlocks are on the hunt!
Evan, I have an Everlast 250EX [everlastgenerators.com], inverter type TIG machine that will handle most metals, including aluminum, up to the limits of its 250A, 60% duty rating. It has adjustable AC frequency, AC balance, HF start, good ability to set and control pulse parameters, and comes with a foot pedal, and a beast of a water-cooled 18 series torch (I prefer a smaller # 20 for most things, except thicker aluminum). Changing torches is easy, since it uses standard connectors. Weighs 60 pounds, so relatively portable. It's Asian manufactured, so a bit cheaper than other brands, except the no-names. There are some online videos that compare it to the Miller Dynasty 200 DX with roughly equivalent results. My machine is several years old, so I expect Everlast has newer models available, although they still sell the 250EX. Miller has newer models as well. Worth checking out Everlast, IMO.
My old Miller Synchrowave 200 has proven adequate in hobby use doing projects like these. It's low tech (not inverter) so used versions are inexpensive and plentiful.
I'm probably using it way below its potential because its cooling fan has only come on a few times in the approximately 15 years I've owned it. It cost about $1800 new including delivery to my front door.
A few years ago I thought I had to have a tig welder and spent a lot of money on a Miller dynasty 350 and a foot control and a water cooled torch and I never use it. I had been using a Millermatic 252 with push pull and I had a lot of trouble with it bird nesting. But tig welding is slow compared to wire. One of the guys working for me at the time asked me to buy a Millermatic with a spool gun. It is the best thing I ever bought. I use it all the time. I just leave the spool gun on it because I don't have the patients to switch from wire feed to spool feed. About all I use the Dynasty for is arc gauging. But my Miller D500 will do that just as well. The Dynasty setup was around $10,000 and the 112 with with the spool gun was less than $3,000 and I swear by the thing.
I don't call myself a welder, but I have done a fair amount of metal melting over the years, all with Miller products like the Gold Star, Synchrowave, Dynasty, etc. - so, I have always been partial to the "blue" machines. That said, however, I was never the one paying for them. And, for me, it would have been hard to justify the personal expense for a machine of that capability.
Last year, after I retired from my full time job, I was looking for a small TIG machine for home use. I was just about to purchase the Miller Diversion, when I happened to cut thru the welding classroom at the community college where I teach part time, and noticed a bunch of small "Red" machines. They were Lincoln Square Wave 200s. I talked to the welding instructor, and he said that they have given great service, and none of the students have been able to break one yet - which sounded like a pretty good testimonial.
So... I bought one. I have since used it a lot for small projects - both aluminum and steel. It is really designed for steel in the 0.045" to maybe 1/8" - 3/16" range, but one of the first projects I used it on had me welding 1/2" plate to 3/8" plate, so it will work on bigger stuff. You just have to make multiple passes, and keep the duty cycle down to around 10-20%, as the air cooled torch heats up really fast on the higher current settings.
I have also welded 0.060" and 1/8" aluminum with no problem. Although, once again, if you are doing a LOT of welding, that torch will get HOT, and you will need to stop and let it cool off. However, depending on you situation, this still may be preferable to dealing with a water cooling setup.
In any case...
Pros: Reasonably priced. Compact Portable Welds well on steel and aluminum. Foot pedal provides good control. Comes with a stick welding electrode holder if you ever feel the urge to strike an arc. Come with both 240 and 120 power cord. Can run on 120V - but only at lower amperages.
Cons: Fixed post flow time seems to use a lot of gas - but maybe that's to help compensate for no water cooling. Flow meter on the regulator is a little jenky, but it works. The first thing a buddy of mine, (who also bought one after trying mine), did was upgrade the regulator.
Hope this helps.
p.s. The project mentioned above was to make a base for my Dad's 1930s era Craftsman vise that I had recently restored. Since this is the "tool" section, here is a pic.
Last edited by CrowbarBob; Sat Sep 19 2020 05:36 AM.
I run a fleet of trucks and the trailers have a lot of aluminum. The welders I buy are for the shop, but I use them for my personal use too. And of course there are times I weld when I don't have anyone in the shop. Most of the repairs are done with buck rivets or Huck bolts, but at times things have to be welded. Our trailers are built by Cornhusker 800 in Lincoln, NE. The engineer who worked with me to design the trailers we pull many years ago told me Cornhusker doesn't own a TIG machine. They do everything with push pull wire. He told me it would be a waste of money for me to buy a TIG and I think he was right. I don't have anything against the red ones. My first welder was a 225 AC DC that I bought 50 years. We used it just the other day when we did some repairs on an old rusty flatbed. It was probably the mid 80's when I bought my first wire machine. A Millermatic 200 and it is still my welder of choice on clean mild steel. Last November I bought a D500 pro at auction in Houston. I will never turn the heat up very high because I don't weld anything that thick, but it has a 3 phase generator which is nice to have. And it has constant voltage for an arc gouger and a wire attachment. As for welding things like patch panels I have a Hobart Handler 140 with CO2/ Argon at my house. It will weld thing a lot thicker than it is suppose to, but It has a very short duty cycle at higher heats. I wouldn't leave it at the shop because I think it would be easy to burn up. But I can weld stuff that almost looks like a TIG job with it. I had an aluminum flatbed built for my 3500 HD a couple of years ago and went to their place in PA to have it installed. https://www.martinswelding.com/ The welds look like TIG but they too do it all with wire. https://photos.app.goo.gl/rC4itJRcWTJRquhw8