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Hi, All! New Guy; Couple Questions

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  • Hi, All! New Guy; Couple Questions

    Greetings, Everyone!

    I'm totally new to welding. Been browsing the forums and tutorials here, and found a site called that I've been reading.

    I'm interested in welding, as a hobbyist, to help me with projects I want to make. I'm skilled in woodworking. 53 year old airline captain. I love to create and make that all important question "what do you plan to weld?" is probably best answered "anything and everything that seems like fun". And my creative streak usually leads me all over the place so I've found it's better that I get good equipment when I buy, because I'm likely to be led all over the place with ideas I want to try. I've been browsing the project photos and there are so many things in there that I think "man, I wish I could do THAT".

    Because of my job, I work a lot of weekends, so it's gonna be tough getting live training in welding...and I know I need that. But I'm wondering how far I can get with training videos. I might try to contact a welding instructor and pay him for private instruction if my scedule won't allow anything else.

    I'm enthusiastic about getting started. Money isn't a huge problem (I'll bite the bullet and spend for the right thing. I guess my max budget is around $5000 or a little more, but that has to include welder, safety gear, cutting and grinding tools, a drill press, etc.), but buying the right stuff initially is confusing. Only thing I know for sure is I'm gonna get the top Miller helmet, good gloves, and all other needed safety stuff. I have an air compressor, mainly for airing up tires and blowing out the shop. I really dislike having to pressurize the thing every time I use it. But some air tools might(?) be smart?

    Question 1: What should I buy? (lol, I know I know...ha!) I'm really fascinated by TIG welding and am in lust for the Dynasty 200DX. I want a plasma cutter just want one. Dumb? I'll get the shop wired for 230 volts (if I got that number right), no worries there. I've been looking hard at the ebay seller "weldingsuppliesatioc". They seem like a great source.

    I know TIG is harder to learn, so I don't mind being told "not so fast". But I really like the idea of good control. If you tell me "hold your horses, start with MIG or stick"....well, okay, that's what I'll do.

    Question 2: My shop, and fire hazards.

    I have a basement garage with a big garage door on it. Unfortunately, that is my shop as well as motorcycle storage and lawnmower storage. So I have venting gasoline present as well as sawdust. So how do you work with welding, cutting, grinding in that environment? No go? Build some partitioning shields? Move the work outside the door a bit? (I understand TIG is sensitive to breezes).

    It is my pleasure to meet you guys. I participate in a number of forums online and it's easy to see this is a group of top notch folks. (ain't a**kissing great???? lol). But it's true. I know the difference. I look forward to your advice.

    Thank you for taking the time to read this.


  • #2

    Welcome Perry!

    I can help with a few things: Hopefully you've noticed the Improving Your Skills section in "resources" on our site. Here's the link:

    There are manuals to download, calculators, etc. There are also several videos in the various sections that talk about machine set-up, etc.

    There are some resources for sale also that you can get to from the same section. People seem to be happy with our new Ron Covell MIG and TIG DVDs.

    Miller doesn't offer welding training to the public, but Hobart Institute does. You could also try a local tech school?

    You could also take a look at our tradeshow schedule and see if there's one that's convenient for you. One of our demo trucks are at most shows, so you could talk to the Miller Reps and try the various equipment before you buy. We have a big weld expo coming up in just a couple of weeks in NJ. (you can get info on that from our home page) For the other shows:

    Hobart has a nice e-learning section as well...

    As far as product selection, definately take what the guys say on here as good advice, and armed with that knowledge, give our Smart Selector a try.

    From my personal experience: I agree that TIG is pretty difficult. I went through some welding training and was thrilled when I simply got the metal to stick together -- nevermind how it looks! Obviously, with practice it can be done, but it was pretty frustrating for me. I had the most fun with stick. I've heard different people like different processes more than others on the first try though, so you'll have to find out what comes easiest for you!

    Good luck on your new welding adventure!


    • #3
      Welcome aboard!

      Just fasten your seat belts and please refrain from smoking. You are in for a fun ride!

      Anyway, I know pretty much what you are looking for and I think the fact that you are a super willing participant and ambitious, TIG will be one of the machines you should get. I also think that the MIG is a needed machine as well especially since you expressed interest in creative artsie things. The mig would be good for tacking your creations and then can be finished with TIG. Knowing what it takes to be a pilot, I believe you have the hand, eye, foot coordination it takes to learn TIG.
      My advice on machine selections are:

      Small MIG. Maybe a MM 180. I know you are lusting after a Dynasty 200 and then the small Spectrum 375 Extreme. Don't forget the DIGITAL Elite welding hood. It's great for your type activity because of the different weld, cutting, grinding modes.

      Where are you out of?? I was just at the EAA Sun n Fun air show in Florida and could have given you some intro lessons.

      Good luck


      • #4
        Perry good to have you with us!

        I think the machines Andy suggested are perfect. I had no problem learning tig but I did a bit of welding in Junior high shop 25 years ago. Put you location in your CP so we know where you are and maybe someone can suggest an instructor or help you out there. I'll show you some if you're in the philly area.

        As far as the garage there are a couple of things. #1 a good all over cleaning. Saw dust and sparks don't mix well. Tig dosen't make many sparks so a decent cleaning and you should be OK. I'd see if you could move the gas cans or if nothing else, get a fan to vent out the garage to prevent the fumes from building up and move the cans outside when you weld. I am very limited in my garage space with 80% of it filled with a car I want to eventually restore. I have one corner that is immaculately clean and I tig there, on a small 2'x4' table. I mig / stick weld in the driveway out front with the garage door shut. Thats also where I grind.

        feel free to pm or email me if you have any questions.


        • #5
          X2 on a Mig to start IMO. Even if you move on to Tig you will not regret having the Mig. Mig is my go to for most of the day to day type welding Ido as it is fast and consumes less gas per inch of weld. I too am a former wood worker and have slowly sold off most of my wood working gear.

          To add a little to the good advice given. You will need a good place to work. Metal work takes up space just like wood does.
          You should limit any welding and grinding gasses from getting into your house. If you have to weld inside use a fan that sucks the air out of the welding room to outside.

          Keep a fire extinguisher next to you. I have a CO2 extinguisher right on my welding cart. You can shoot a short burst of CO2 to put something out and go back to work with no messy powder. It can be used over and over until the gas is all gone too. Powder is one shot and done. You will set a fire or two. Grinders can start fires too. They will throw sparks all over.

          Get at least 2 grinders. I have five 4.5 inch and one 7 inch and wanted one more 4.5 last weekend while working on something. I like paddle switch grinders for wire wheels and blending wheels and thumb switch for grinding wheels. I never use a wire wheel in a locking on grinder, wire = paddle only. They like to catch on things, flip out of your hand and run across the floor, or up your chest as they tangle up in your jacket.

          Get a Milwaukee deep cut band saw. $300 and they are far handier than you might think. Great for cutting project size metal and not a lot of bucks upfront.

          You will need a work bench that has a good sized vice on it. A vice is a given in project metal work.

          Cut up a bunch of metal and start welding. Set to the recommendations inside the wire compartment cover and go at it. Weld up and try and break the weld. Don't make something right away. If you do it will hang around and remind you of how bad you early welds were
          Cut and weld and expand the methods and your skills by doing butt, inside, outside and corner welds. 1/8 thick is a good place to start not too thin and not too thick. Try changing the settings and see what happens. This will help let you know what is good and what is out of range. Too hot, too cold, too slow, too fast.

          Have fun and post your handy work. Don't tell your friends you have a welder! You will be up to your armpits in "friends" with busted stuff in hand. They will not know anything about welding but will know just how long something will take to fix. Everything is "a half hour" to the non welder.
          Last edited by Vicegrip; 04-29-2008, 12:43 PM.
          Weekend wannab racer with some welders.


          • #6
            Hi, All,

            Thank you for the warm welcome! I'm in Fayetteville, Ga. Just a few miles south of the Atlanta airport.

            Ok, so....narrowing things down....looks like my short (and EVER growing) list is:

            Millermatic 180
            DIGITAL Elite Welding Hood
            Ron Covell MIG DVD
            Couple of good CO2 Fire bottles.
            Gloves and other apropriate clothing

            For grinders, are we talking air or electric? I'm thinking electric, cuz I hate powering up my compressor, but if you tell me to "think air"...well, okay. I'll at least give it a thought.

            Also, I cannot get my brain wrapped around a portable bandsaw. I knew I'd want a cutting tool, but I was thinking a cutting disk. Why the bandsaw? and why not one on a stand so I can make perfectly square or angled cuts? Just asking, cuz I really have no clue.

            Or are you guys gonna 'let me' get the plasma cutter and build jigs to make square cuts? heheh. (again, if a Plasma cutter is over my head right now, just say so and I'll drop it for the time being).

            I'm trying to process all the suggestions you guys gave, so don't think I just ignored you if I didn't mention something you said. But you are welcome to beat me over the head with the obvious (to you) stuff I need.

            I updated my profile to include my location.

            I have an electrician coming out to run a 230 circuit to the shop.

            Now if they could only get Mexican restaurants to deliver........



            • #7
              I'd go electric for first grinders. I only use the air ones for specialty jobs. It's more expensive to compress the air and then use its energy than to just use the electric to power the tool to start with. Obviously there are other advantages to air tools, though, such as size and they run cool, assuming you have a large enough compressor to power them through the big jobs.

              I, too, like the idea of the small 230V MIG. It'll be an incredibly useful machine right out of the box, and give you lots of ability for bigger jobs, with some instant gratification of decent welds while you learn what to watch for as the puddle joins the metal together.


              • #8
                If you want to do tig "Go for it." IF you can find a local vo-tech with a night course that would be great. Ours here is really flexable so every can go at their own pace. Barring that it shouldn't be too difficult to find an expirienced tigger to give a lesson from time to time.

                Thermal Arc 185-TSW
                Millermatic Challenger 172
                Atlas Craftsman 12 by 24 Lathe
                Esab PCM-875
                Wholesale Tool Mill-Drill


                • #9
                  I think you have to decide to either go all in or enjoy the ride. Most people here started with one unit and limited tools and then bought stuff as they developed the need. I'm guessing as an airline pilot with some experience money is less of an issue, and you will be more than capable of handling the Technical end of things. I agree with the MM180 and Dyn200 to start if your going to jump in. The Digital elite, gloves, good ear protection and a few pairs of safety goggles (EYES!). A decent grinder, magnetic clamps, c clamps etc. Plasma is great but its not very precise, if you could swing it, i would get a good bandsaw, horizontal and vertical. The TIG unit will tie up a lot of time with torches, coolers, cups, collets etc and learning. With the MIG you will be welding rtather quickly. I would go to a decent metal supplier and get some 1/8" x 1.5" flat stock and shear it up into 6" coupons and start welding, outside corner, lap, fillet, and butt welds with the MIG. Once you can make something build a bench. Since thisis a hobby (keep inmind you can get almost any welding machine you may want in 2-3 days) i think i would let the need develope before you buy. Once you have a bench and the experience of building it you will see better what you really need. And don't forget were here 24/7 to help if you need us.
                  Dynasty 200 DX
                  Millermatic 175
                  Spectrum 375
                  All kinds of Smith OA gear


                  • #10
                    The plasma cutters are not all they might be on paper. Usefull, yes. Fun, yes. End all of other other existing tools, no. Cutting a tube or H with a plasma is a chore compaired to a band saw. The bandsaw does not throw sparks all over ether.

                    I mentioned the portable band saw only as it is inexpensive when compaired to the big stationary ones. (Horible Fright junk does not count. I bought one of the smaller ones and gave it away after fiddling with it getting it to work OK one time too many) You can make a mark on a flat, tube, C, H or angle, clamp it in the vice and cut it with the handheld saw. The saw takes up no room and it goes to the metal not the metal to it. You might find that for most things, unlike wood 1/16" +/- is plenty close enough. I have built entire race car cages with only a portable band saw and a fish mouth tool used for tube cutting. It lives on the back of my small welder cart. Grab, cut, replace. Got the $ and the room for the feed in and out table the stationary saw will make finer cuts. You can purchase a table top miter box for the portable as well. It will cut through a 2X1/4 flat or a 1.50X.095 wall tube in 10 seconds or less.

                    Electric grinders all the way. Don't cheap out on the grinding, flap and wire wheels ether.

                    Good advice on the eyes. you will get something in you eye at some point. You will get burned. You will nick a finger with a grinder. Welding makes nasty gasses. I always use a 1/2 face resprator when welding and grinding and even cut my hood to fit it. I also cover my ears and eyes when grinding and cutting. I have messed up my ears over the years working in many loud trades.
                    Last edited by Vicegrip; 04-30-2008, 09:44 AM.
                    Weekend wannab racer with some welders.


                    • #11
                      Wow, these guys have given you a 'pilots IQ' worth of info already.

                      I've heard Youtube has many welding videos. But since I'm still on dial-up, I've never seen one.

                      I like the complete control-ability of TIG. It's the slowest and most expensive process. If it's weldable, TIG can weld it. It's also a low spark process.

                      If you're into old posts, search root's threads. He was a newbie in Feb (I think) and we both learned much from his questions. Most of the info there was TIG from an entry level viewpoint.

                      I read back through 96 pages of history when I found this site. I only picked the titles that interested me, maybe 25%.

                      My second favorite tool, any one of my 6; 4 1/2" grinders.

                      See my sig, never wanted to be self impressed.
                      RETIRED desk jockey.

                      Hobby weldor with a little training.

                      Craftsman O/A---Flat, Vert, Ovhd, Horz.

                      Miller Syncrowave 250.


                      • #12
                        For videos checkout, way better than buying them!
                        Dynasty 200 DX
                        Millermatic 175
                        Spectrum 375
                        All kinds of Smith OA gear


                        • #13

                          i'm a hobbyist/weekend-warrior like you...

                          as for learning how -- i took some night classes at the local adult
                          education. it wasn't enough to be a professional weldor or the like,
                          but it was enough of the basics -- i have a rudimentary understanding
                          of the basic processes, equipment, terminlogy, and so on, enough
                          knowledge so that i (probably) won't electrocute myself, etc, etc.
                          think of it as the flying lessons you took before you did your first solo...

                          as for the equipment you need -- it depends on what you want
                          to do. another nice thing about the night school was that they
                          had a wide range of things so i got a chance to see what the
                          different processes could do, etc, etc. i decided that for the things
                          i wanted to do (some garden things, metal furniture/structures around
                          the house, and so on), a 110v mig (mm140) was adequate. so it's
                          best to really figure out what you need and then buy it, rather than
                          going down the "i might need x some day in the far future, so i'll
                          buy it now" path... it saves space in the garage, and lets me
                          spend more money to buy better-quality things that i do "need".

                          and of course, don't buy cheap stuff -- it's just throwing the money

                          i would also find a local welding supplier (lws) and do business with
                          them. it might cost some extra $ as compared to buying over the
                          net -- but you'll end up having a resource you can draw on for questions,
                          help, and so on.

                          as to your shop -- it's not optimal... fire is one problem. the other
                          is that welding does make fumes, and getting them in the house might
                          upset the domestic tranquility... i do mine in our detached garage.
                          the wife is happy, i'm happy, ...

                          if you don't have a detached building, you could get some curtains
                          or other shields and set them up as you need them outside.



                          • #14
                            If your the type of guy that has bought to small of a tool the first go around to only sell that tool to buy a larger one, I would go with the following:

                            1) (MIG) Millermatic 252 - Medium sized mig machine that can tackle almost any job, but still do the light stuff.

                            2) (TIG) Dynasty 200 DX - Medium sized tig machine that has a nice range of features.

                            3) (Plasma Cutting) Spectrum 2050 - Very capable plasma cutter that can handle the thicker stuff if needed. I also have the smaller 375 extreme plasma cutter and it is very impressive for it's size, but it really only does good on 3/8" and below.

                            4) Dry cut chop saw - These are much nicer that than the abrasive chop saws and only cost $200 more.

                            Anyhow that's my two cents. It does not cost much more on the MIG machines to move up to the Millermatic 252 from the smaller machines and it is capable of doing almost any size metal.
                            Millermatic 350P
                            Dynasty 350DX
                            Trailblazer 302
                            Spectrum 2050
                            Spectrum 375 Extreme


                            • #15
                              I like that list except for the carbide dry saw INSTEAD of an abrasive. Yes, they are much nicer at what they do, but an abrasive saw is far more versatile. I would not get the carbide dry saw unless I knew I would never need the versatility of the abrasive or unless I already had one.