“Give me five minutes, and I can teach a monkey to wire weld.”
Welding AluminumWelding Steel

That is what I heard from a Forman as S&H Trailers in Madill, Oklahoma.  It will take a bit longer than five minutes but, it’s true.  Anybody can weld aluminum or steel.

Wire Welders or MIG

(1) Wire welders or MIG (metal inert gas) welders have a spool of wire inside and a motor drive that pushes the wire through the umbilical to the gun. Along with the power for the arc, and shielding gas such as argon to keep oxygen away from the weld.  A trigger on the gun starts the power, wire, and gas. A ground camp must be attached to the work so the electric circuit is compiled.

(1) Hobart, Ironman 210 MIG welder

(1) Hobart, Ironman 210 MIG welder

Hobart Ironman 210 Manual  My welder is a Hobart Ironman 210 purchased at an auction for $600  then I purchased a 5 foot tall, 300 cubic foot gas bottle for the argon gas needed for aluminum welding.  And we have since replace the gun with a 15ft ProFax 250. Shielding gas for steel welding is optional, as you can buy flux core wire for steel that generates it’s own shielding gas.

(2) Spoolmate 185, spool gun with a DIY water cooled barrel. I added a home-make water cooling system for the barrel. The details for that are on the Welding Aluminum page.

(2) Spoolmate 185, spool gun with a DIY water cooled barrel. I added a home-make water cooling system for the barrel. The details for that are on the Welding Aluminum page.

The biggest problem with wire welders come when you have a big build site, like a large boat. Because the wire has to be pushed by machine through the umbilical, the length of the umbilical from the machine to the gun is only 10 to 15ft.  You can upgrade to a gun that has a motor in the handle and drive wheels that pull the wire.

(3) Miller XMT 350 VS power source and X-TREME 8 VS SuitCase.

(3) Miller XMT 350 VS power source and X-TREME 8 VS SuitCase.

These are called push-pull guns and while that are much more expensive they will only get you about 30 feet. (2) The other and less expensive option is to use a spool gun. These don’t use the wire feed in the welding machine. Instead a small spool of wire is mounted on the gun and the gun connect to the welder to get it’s power and possibly gas supply.  I use a low cost Spoolmate 185 spool gun with my Hobart welder to do all of the welding on my submarine.

(4) Suitcase MIG Welder

(4) Suitcase MIG Welder

Spool guns are cheaper to buy than push-pull guns and they can be extended to give you lots of freedom to move around with having to move the welder, but the wire spool makes them more awkward to use than a normal wire gun and the wire needs to be replaced more often and if it runs out in the middle of a weld you will likely burn up the tip on the gun and need to replace that too. Buying wire in 1 pound spools is also more expensive that buying it in 40 pound spools. And keeping Aluminum wire it clean and dry like it should be as it rides around on the gun is extremely difficult.

Arc Welders or Stick Welders

(2) Arc welders or Stick welders start around $300.  They use electrodes that burn in the arc’s heat creating their own shielding gas while melting filler material into the weld. Since there is only a power cable that runs from the machine to the stick you can extend the cable to100 feet and move around a build site without having to drag the welder around.  They down side is they require more practice to use, especially if the joint is not laying flat.  They are also considerably slower than wire welders in the same power range.

The Best of Both Worlds : MIG/Stick Welders

Nothing gives you the easy of moving around like a Stick welder. Just add 100ft of welding cable and go.  But the Stick welder machine and the same welding cable can be used to supply power to a portable MIG suitcase. The suitcase contains the 40 pound spool of wire and the push feeder.  It can also include a gas solenoid valve to allow you to use gas shielding for the weld and a small gas supply hose then runs back with the power cable to a gas cylinder sitting beside your welding machine.  The loaded suitcase will weight 80 pounds but it’s a lot easier to move around that the 120 pound MIG welding machine. (3) (4) The Miller XMT VS at a street price of almost $3000 is high dollar example but it will power a sick as well as a $1,700 X-treme 8 VS SuitCase wire feed box and Bernard Q300 gun.

Welding Vernacular

Welding vernacular is often needed to describe the position and direction of a weld. All welding is flat, horizontal, vertical or overhead and most are fillet or groove as shown in the diagram.

Welders then add further description like “Down Hand” and “Up Hill” referring to your position and the direction of the weld. “Down hand” comes from stick welding where your welding hand is palm down. “Top hand”, is when your palm is up, as in overhead welding, or when coming around a pipe during the first pass or “root” or “stringer” pass.

Forums

Miller   http://www.millerwelds.com/resources/communities/mboard/index.php

Welding Suppliers

www.weldingsupply.com Best Price on ER4043 .035, 1 lb spool wire, Part# 40430351
www.weldingdepot.com  WeldingDepot – Good Service
www.Welding-Direct.com  Spoolmate 185 parts, Tips are part #186406.  Welding-Direct – Poor Service and slow.
www.abrasives4sale.com  Grinding Wheels — Cheap but not my favorite.
Grinding Wheels: The local AirGas store sells Flexcel 7″ A-medium disk with 5/8″ hub  $9.84 each.  Ouch!
Best Welders Supply, 1824 Southwest Blvd (918) 587-0183 ask for Dwayne

Aluminum Suppliers

www.metalsalesusa.com MetalSalesUSA
Tridant, 5555 South Garnett Road, Tulsa, OK  252-5781
Quick Service Steel, 1155 N Peoria, Tulsa OK  587-5909
Interstate Steel and Metal, 2100 N Lewis, Tulsa OK 585-3844
Integris Metals, 1888 N 109 E Av, Tulsa OK 838-9821