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How to Pick Your First Welder

After many requests from viewers, Kevin tackles the question of how to pick your first welder. The answer isn't the same for everyone - there are a lot of variables to consider, so Kevin walks you through the questions you need to ask yourself to decide which is the best welder for you. First he asks, "Where are you going to work?" Are you in your garage? Are you outside in the backyard? Are you in a shed? "What metal are you going to be welding?" Steel? Copper? Brass? Bronze? Aluminum? "What are you going to plug into?" Do you only have 110 in your garage? Fortunately, they make welders of different amperages that run on 110. There are also dual voltage machines that run on 110 or 220, so you could buy a welder that you could run on 110 until you get 220 power run into your shop or studio when you're ready to get a little more power out of your welder. He shows a small MIG welder, the Longevity MigWeld 140, that uses flux core, which doesn't need gas, to weld steel. It also has a spool gun that, when you add the right gas, allows you to weld aluminum - on 110 volts! Kevin says it's a great machine to start with, but you can't use it to, for instance, build a battleship or work on competition race cars because it doesn't have enough amperage to weld anything thicker than 3/8". If you have 220, you can move up to a bigger MIG welder, like Longevity's MigWeld 250P, which has pulse control. "Are you going to be working outside?" If so, you probably want either the MIG with flux core wire or a stick, or arc, welder. He then shows a Lincoln "tombstone" arc welder, also known as a "buzz box." Kevin started with a machine like this, although his was an AC/CD welder and this is straight AC. It runs on 220, and sucks a lot of power, in part because it uses transformer technology; the two MIG welders he showed are inverters and demand less energy. Those MIG welders run gas (unless you are using flux core wire), can use spools of wire, and are made for long welds and production welds. MIG welders are also great for welding one-handed, which is handy when you are putting together a big sculpture, working under a car, etc. and need to hold something in place with one hand and tack it with the other. Then you can come back and weld it. The downside is that MIG welders are smoky, dirty, splatter and require some finish grinding and clean up, just like the arc welder. A TIG welder creates no smoke, no splatter and less or no clean up, but it's harder to learn how to weld with it, especially for a beginner. Once you learn how to weld with it, though, TIG is much more versatile. You can weld steel, aluminum, copper, brass, bronze, nickel, titanium, magnesium, etc. - it will do it all. And TIG offers a smaller welding area, which reduces distortion and heat. A 110 volt TIG is great for making jewelry and delicate work. Then Kevin shows an oxygen-acetylene welder. It uses gas, an open flame, and allows you to weld, bend and cut all with the same machine without any power whatsoever. It's smoky and messy, though, so you can't use it inside. Also, it's hotter, so it leads to greater heat distortion on the metal. Interestingly enough, once you learn how to weld with oxygen-acetylene, you're most of the way to learning how to TIG weld, because they're that similar. You can get smaller bottles, which makes oxygen-acetylene easier to work with, too. Next Kevin discusses price. The oxygen-acetylene welder with a midsized bottle runs $350 - $550. The Longevity MigWeld 140 MIG welder is $330, plus you need to buy your wire and / or your bottle and gas. If you're running the welder with flux core, you're looking at about $350. The Lincoln 225 arc welder runs $600, but you can get other 110 volt brands for under $100. The Longevity MigWeld 250P MIG welder runs about $1600, and the Longevity TigWeld 250 AC/DC TIG welder was about $1900, plus you need to buy bottles, gas, etc. The last question Kevin asks is, "What kind of person are you?" Are you mechanically minded? Can you learn by watching something one time and teach yourself? Or are you someone who just wants a welder that is just really easy to use? Do you prefer a cleaner weld or a quicker weld? Answering these questions will point you in the right direction.

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