If you built my CNC Construction Set plasma table, you will soon be looking for a welder to help complete some of those metal projects you are working on.
Lets look at the welders I own or have owned in the order that I purchased them. My welding history if you will. Hopefully this will give you some incite.
My First Welder
This was the first welder I ever owned. Probably about 12 year ago. The only reason I purchased it was to teach myself how to weld and to repair a part on my tractor. The Kabota dealer wanted twice what the welder cost me to do the simple fix, so it was a no-brainer.
Its a 110V only unit that will do flux core and shielded gas.
It certainly worked but was finicky, and pretty heavy to move around the property.
The flux core was very spattery, so I broke down and purchased the C25 gas cylinder and started using that. I did repair my tractor. I was not heavy into metal working at the time so I eventually sold this welder and tank.
My Second Welder
Years later I started to get a little more into metal working and decided to give this Harbor Freight flux core welder a try.
I think I paid $89 bucks for it at the time.
I was able to complete a couple projects, but this welder was horrible. The spatter huge, and the penetration not.
The problem stems from the fact that this is a 110V AC welder.
I soon sold the welder as I wanted to get into TIG welding.
My Third Welder
I was fed up with the spatter and smoke from my previous welders, so I decided to teach myself TIG.
I was pretty serious about learning to TIG weld so I purchased this Everlast 255EXT TIG & Stick welder.
I went to a local steel yard and ordered up about 50 steel coupons to practice.
The 255EXT is an Electronic pulse TIG welder, so it can do some pretty remarkable things, if you willing to practice.
It is also an AC TIG Welder so you can weld aluminum.
This is a serious welder and will do a 60% duty cycle at 250 Amps. Note that it is a 110V/220V welder and will deliver half the maximum power at 110v.
After some practice, I was able to TIG weld small pieces like these. The more more I TIG weld the better I get.
All in all I have been, and still am, very happy with this welder.
TIG welding does have down sides:
The parts must be cleaned down to shiny metal.
Argon gas is expensive
Its a slow process
I like the TIG process, its very clean and, unless you are doing something crazy, it requires very little ventilation.
The problem I had with it was that I was starting to get into more hot rolled steel welding. Since I was prototyping TIG welding was just too slow for me. Both the extensive stock cleaning and the welding speed. I was ready to jump back into MEG welding.
Note that the 255EXT welder is not a cheap welder. I think it still runs $2300 or so, and you still will probably spend another $400 on a gas cylinder and consumables. That is kind of pricey if you are not going to be using the welder full time.
My Fourth Welder
Since I have been happy with Everlast welders, I decided to stay with the brand.
After some research I, decided to buy the Everlast 251Si multi process welder.
It can do:
Flux Core Welding
TIG Welding (DC Only)
I immediately went out and purchased a C25 Tank and had it up and running the day I picked it up.
While this welder will do DC TIG, I pretty much have it dedicated to MIG as changing the gas needed for TIG welding can be cumbersome.
While it does have pulse MIG, I rarely use that feature. It does have a Synergic function where the wire speed will automatically be calculated for you. I just set the Amps and the machine calculates the rest based on the wire size I am using.
I keep it loaded with a 11 Lb spool of .023 wire. That gives me a great range for the thickness of metal I am welding. For me its mostly 22 gauge to 1/4”
I love this welder. It has pretty much been my go to welder in the shop. The one problem it has is portability. Did I say this was a large welder? It is a freaking large welder. It is designed to hold 12” spools of wire. You have to use an adapter just to hold 8” spools. And does not support the smaller 4” spools. You can make a 4” spool work if you put your mind to it.
My Fifth Welder
I have found myself doing more smaller project where I am welding zinc hardware.
For this kind of welding I have found the flux core welding process to be the best.
While my 255Si can do flux core with the best of them, it is kind of a pain to change back and forth.
You have to remove the spool and solid wire from the torch and cable, and install the flux core spool. Note that you also have to change the small drive rollers as well.
I decided to purchase one of the new Harbor Fright Titanium Easy-Flux 125 flux core welders. I think I paid $169 with a coupon.
This is a very small welder. About 12Lbs. It is extremity portable and have found it to work in all my 20Amp plugs.
This is not your fathers flux core welder. It is a DC inverter based welder. It has full adjustments on both wire speed and voltage.
Shown here is the very first project I used the Flux 125 on.
The parts I made.
If at this moment, I was looking at purchasing my very first welder for some general purpose welding, I would certainly recommend looking at the Titanium Flux 125 welder.
Even if you upgrade later, you can keep this one for the smaller flux core jobs. I do not recommend an AC flux core welder at any price.
If you want to start with something with more power look at the Everlast PowerMTS 221 or 252. They both do AC/DC TIG and synergic MIG. They both will get the job done for about any process you want to use. Just know that the 252 Weighs almost 3X that of the 221 welder. If portability is your thing go with the 221.