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I wanna learn to weld...maybe I made a mistake on my first purchase

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  • I wanna learn to weld...maybe I made a mistake on my first purchase

    Howdy everyone. I found this forum via a link someone posted at a car site. I clicked...and Jackpot! Just what I need...lots of helpful folks and info. to get started on my learning curve.

    I've never welded anything, but always had the desire. After some reading, I bought a MM175. Today I'm hooking up 230v service @ garage, so the unit is still ******, new in the box.

    To start, I would like to build things like storage racks, carts, stands, tables, that sort of thing for home use. Eventually, I'd like to weld some light structural items like trusses maybe or steel beam/column members. Not sure what I'll get into. Just wanna move beyond wood and screws.

    Sorry about the long intro. My question is, should I have gone with a different rig to start? I'm just starting to realize I won't be able to work with Aluminum if the need arises? For instance, a while back a guy gave me an electric "jack hammer" tool (maybe $800 new) that has a large crack across the Alum case, but still works after he bandaided it back together using metal straps. I thought one day I'd fix that better.
    Then there's the mini-parrot aviary project I already have aluminum pieces for. It'd be nice to someday be able to weld on that as well.

    Should I return the unit and upgrade right off the bat? I suppose I could justify another $500 to $1000 if it made sense. Or should I keep and just make future equip purchases later as the need may arise? I'm not real clear on how upgradeable the MM175 is.
    Move toward the light...

  • #2
    This may help...this is a question I asked a few days ago....good luck on your decision!


    • #3
      Oh and one thing I forgot...I am buying the MM210


      • #4
        I think if I were to fix that drill I would likely TIG it up not use a MIG on it, even with a MIG machine capable of welding aluminum.

        If it were me and you haven't used the MM175 yet and could return it, I'd step up to a MM210.

        Good luck.

        - jack


        • #5
          "To start, I would like to build things like storage racks, carts, stands, tables, that sort of thing for home use. Eventually, I'd like to weld some light structural items like trusses maybe or steel beam/column members. Not sure what I'll get into. Just wanna move beyond wood and screws"
          How's that old saying go? Yer in a heap of trouble Son!
          Since you've never welded anything, and on the presumption all your construction projects aren't geared toward being weapons of mass destruction, let me offer a couple suggestions.
          First, make a decision here and now, do you intend to do sufficient aluminum to justify the cost of welding aluminum, or not.
          Second, undderstand that while the 175 is a great machine, it isn't the 210, and doesn't have the capacity of the 210. For items like load bearing trusses, you will need two things, capacity and experience.
          Third, before you "weld" anything, understand regardless of the machine used, the quality and load bearing capability of any weld is more a function of the man making the weld than it is a function of the machine.
          Accept the fact that for the first few months, the only welds you can make are practice welds, and practice. Once you start practicing, you'll quickly realize there is a lot of learning to do before you want to stand under things you have welded. That's the starting point.
          Also realize that you need to get good with steel before you think about aluminum, so you might as well not even think about that yet.


          • #6

            aluminum needs more heat because the heat spreads out and you don't see any sign of penetration on the back and once you think you got it the material is burnt through and there goes your project,and aluminum has to be cleaned to the fullest extent it can be especially on the backside because oxides and other defects will draw back into the weld and you won't have a good weld and it will probaly crack up, In my opinon i would try to stay with a heli-arc welder for aluminum and for just plain Low Carbon steel I would use either mig or stick.For castings such as cast iron I would either braze or Stick Weld it with nickel rod.You can do a lot of work with the welder you got.

            Good Luck and Hope it works out and let me know what you decide and what you want to make.

            Good Day Now


            • #7
              John V,
              What was the main reason you went with the 210...was it the extra power or some other advantage you desired? How much more is the 210 typically?

              right, I have not taken the MM175 out of the box yet, but I'm close to being set up (elec outlet). It's a local supplier I bought it from, so I think taking it back to upgrade wouldn't be a big deal...just more $$.

              Your advice is, I mean heeded Thanks. I'll do my best to take this learning process one step at a time and not do anything stupid. Classes coming up, too. I don't think I'll be doing lots of aluminum, but I will want to do some...eventually.

              hey, thanks for the info...very helpful. I think I'll give myself another day or two to ponder what to do, then take a leap of faith and either fire up the 175 or go spend more $$.

              hmmm, any more input greatly appreciated. Trying to avoid a bad case of buyer's remorse....
              Move toward the light...


              • #8
                Yes, you should have bought a Powermig 215!


                • #9
                  Welding classes or other?
                  Strongly recommend at least one welding class if at all possible.


                  • #10
                    DaVinci, I started into this thing with the same goals as you. IMHO the [email protected] is a great first machine. It has the power to weld pretty thick stuff, and the duty cycle to let you do it regularly. If your goal is to make light-to-medium steel assemblies, that are not critical load-bearing, then you got exactly what you need. That machine will fabricate just about anything you can come up with. Most people who buy a MIG are just doing occasional fabrication, and this range machine is what they want. If metalworking becomes a major hobby for you, you will regret not getting a 210-class machine. The difference between a high end hobby machine, and a low end industrial box is a big step.

                    The concern here is when you mentioned the magic word "structural". When you start talking beams, frames, trailers and load bearing, that changes the ballgame. A 175 machine is only good to about 1/4" thick material, wide open, and in the hands of an experienced operator. This is not the machine of choice for those operations. The 210 is a much stronger machine, and can go into spray mode, the process of choice for the bigger stuff (in the MIG range of capabilities). The 175 will be in short circuit mode for everything but aluminum, which is a great process for making metal stick together, but its just not enough for thicker stuff.

                    I would throw out another alternitive, get a 180-250 amp TIG machine. This would give you the ability to do the thinnest of sheet metals, and aluminum, as well as allow you to switch the machine around into stick mode, and weld some pretty hard core stuff (once your kung fu is strong). The bad thing about TIG is that its a slow process, and takes a lot more effort to become proficient, and with stick, you cannot weld sheet metal. The other thing is TIG aint cheap. For your first machine, 2000$ is a heck of an investment, just to learn that you can't stand heat, smoke and sparks.

                    There is also the 'scratch start' TIG, made from a converted stick machine. There are some pretty snazzy kits out now.. check out for some ideas on low cost TIG work. Despite what you might have seen on TV, an awful lot of field-work TIG is done scratch start.

                    I think in the end, the best shop has more than one machine. Every tool has its place in metalworking. Mig is great for sheet metal, and light fabrication, and certainly the fastest of the processes for setup and tacking. Tig makes beautiful welds, and the versitility to weld any thickness and composition material you can find. Stick is the workhorse process, when you need to weld on the stuff that you can't pick up by yourself. Get out your crystal ball, and figure out what you want to weld, and how much money you have to spend over the next 5 years in equipment.

                    As for me, I got a HH175 to get my feet wet, and an O/A rig to do the oddball stuff. My next purchase will be something like a Squarewave 180, to give me TIG and stick process capability. And that will hold me for a long long time. I weld for fun, it will take me years to make enough gates, candlesticks and furniture to 'pay off' my tools. The 175 will have to be enough. Here i am though, less than a year into it, i look at dan's picture perfect spray beads, and regret not buying bigger.

                    Also, if your interest is in structural stuff, I highly recommend you consider taking a class at the local voc-ed. Taking the MIG class, you will learn a lot about what it can and can't do, and a lot about what the other processes are for, and a lot of the knowladge is transferable into the other types. My local school even has a multi process intro class, 4 weeks of each, MIG, Stick and TIG. Its not enough to master, but it would help you understand what you like to do.


                    • #11
                      Thanks, man...that was a great read and rundown. I spoke with the local guy who sold me my unit and he said something similar: recommends I start with the 175 I have, then accumulate a variety of equipment over time as my needs and capabilities expand. You mention a 'Squarewave 180" and I think he suggested a "Synchrowave 180"(?) TIG in the future. Maybe I just heard him wrong. He also said I should probably get a plasma cutter at some point as well.

                      This sounds logical to me. I've located some courses I can take nearby, so I'll be doing that soon. I think I can pull the unit out of the box and fire it up with some peace of mind now.

                      My first task this weekend will be a steel seismic moment frame for a 3-story hillside home. Wish me luck!
                      (just kidding)
                      Move toward the light...


                      • #12
                        I'm not a tig guy...yet. i haven't made up my mind.. The three big choices for <2000$ seem to be the MILLER SYNCROWAVE 180 SD, the Miller ECONOTIG, and Thermal Arc Pro-Wave 185. Lots of people are talking strong about the T/A, for the features for the $. I'm still a while out from making my desicion, but i'm down to the 180SD and the T/A 185.

                        Plasma cutters are not cheap (700-1500). I don't have one on the radar, and if i did, it would be CNC. If you end up doing a lot of sheet work, its a great tool, but it can't cut thicker stuff (>1/8th), so its no good for mitering angle iron. I'd rather buy a nice nibbler, a cutoff wheel and bandsaw, and save my money for the tig rig. I dont do much sheet, and those silhouette things are cool, but not my bag. Probably not on the short list for a hobbyist unless you have a calling to cutouts. That said though, there are some great pics in the projects forum from some plasma cut work.

                        Take some pics once you feel like you got the hang of it, and we will happily tell you why the welds suck. It's all in good spirit, but some good critique early-on will help a lot till you get to class. Search around for keywords like stickout, travel, push pull, weave, lots of quality instruction for free from the pro weldors on here.


                        • #13
                          If you are a tool guy the 210 gets my vote. The 210 will run 035 without cranking its guts out and do 1/4 really well. My neighbor just got a 175 and its enough machine for him and being portable and space was an issue. You would not likely have a panging need to upgrade the 210 and it could make that type of machine a one time purchace.


                          • #14
                            If you are going to stay with a 175 amp machine I d go with the HH 175 over a MM 175. I own a MM 175 and a HH 175 and I can tell you that the HH 175 out performs the MM 175. The quality of the short circuit transfer arc on the HH 175 is much better then the MM 175. The tapped voltage selection on the HH 175 makes it a simpler machine to operate and a much easier machine to tune the arc in on.

                            For any critical welds on 1/4" with one of these 175 amp machines you can install a roll of self shielded fluxcore onto the machine. With this wire you could realistically multipass 3/8" steel. Of course this is based on having the necessary skill level.

                            Now, I also own a MM 210, and if your looking for machine for producing critical welds on 1/4" steel with a solid wire this is the smallest size machine to consider. As JoeHobart stated with the proper shielding gas this machine can produce spray transfer (see attachment), which translates into a deeper penetrating weld then short circuit transfer can create. Also, due to the level of fusion that spray transfer can potentially create, it helps compensate some for lack of experience by the person running the machine.

                            Like the HH 175 the MM 210 is a tapped voltage selection machine that once again makes tuning the arc in on the machine a simpler task then on the variable voltage controlled MM 175. The short circuit transfer arc on the MM 210 is also much better then the arc of the MM 175.

                            I also have to agree with Sberry27 about the size of the MM 210. For the average hobbiest weldor this machine is going to cover most any welding job that they ever need a wire feed machine for.

                            I decided to add a little more about the MM 210. For critical welds on 1/4" steel with solid wire you don t necessarly have to go the spray transfer route. You could just run spray transfer settings with a C-25 or Co2 shielding gas and produce a deeper penetrating weld then short circuit transfer will with these shielding gases. the draw back to thiis approach however is that there will be spatter, where as with spray there should be no spatter.

                            Last edited by Dan; 01-10-2004, 05:07 AM.
                            MigMaster 250- Smooth arc with a good touch of softness to it. Good weld puddle wetout. Light spatter producer.
                            Ironman 230 - Soft arc with a touch of agressiveness to it. Very good weld puddle wet out. Light spatter producer.

                            PM 180C

                            HH 125 EZ - impressive little fluxcore only unit


                            • #15
                              Thanks for the detailed response, Dan. Really appreciate the advice. After reading it, I've still held off on removing the MM175 unit from the box! Based on what I've read here, I think my plan is to make an attempt to trade up to the 210. If the store gives me resistance (due to the fine print), I suppose I'll be forced to stay with what I have for now.

                              The welds and info you post are inspiring. I spent the past few hours going thru dozens of old posts and trying to gain some exposure. Can't wait to begin my'll be a whole new world. I see a TIG machine in my future as well, but I'll force myself to be patient.

                              Will post at some point when I have something to put out there for early criticism. Eeeeek. Be sure to make it known when you make your next purchase. I'd be interested to hear which course you decide to take regarding the various products you mention.
                              Move toward the light...