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Decisions, Decisions!!!

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  • Decisions, Decisions!!!

    Hi Everyone,

    This is my first post here, although I have been lurking in the background for some time now. I would appreciate it if the resident gurus here could steer me in the right direction as to what process and machine(s) will best fit my needs. Please help!

    Background: I have a 1970 Chevelle that needs a frame-off restoration. It needs new quarters, trunk floor, wheelwells, and floorboards. In addition to that work, I could possibly forsee some aluminum fabrication/welding eventually such as for a twin turbo setup.... or even chromemoly work for a rollcage. Anyways, I'm a "backyard" hobbiest who does this for fun, not a commercial shop. I'm not too concerned with welding speed (I'm not making money here!), more so concerned about quality and learning curve (process).

    With that said, I'm a Newbie weldor with a capital 'N'. Today, I do have a smaller OxyAcetylene setup that I've used on 2-3 small non-auto projects... mostly for cutting rather than welding/brazing. Works great, but I definitely can see where it's going to take a lot of practice to make pretty welds. I would also think using gas for autobody work, you'd have to be very careful/good to not warp sheetmetal given the high heat. So, I've concluded that a MIG or TIG machine is calling my name for the Chevelle project.

    Here's where I need help. A long time friend of the family, a long time autobody autoshop teacher, told me w/o hesitation to buy a MM175. Period. Makes sense to me, but I've also done my fair share of reading here... and it sounds like the MM210 is the superior machine that is more than worth the additional cost (almost 2x the price). Sounds like the MM251 is also heaven, but I really think it's overkill (performance-wise and pocketbook-wise given my needs and skill level). So, then, I also have a buddy at work (another hobbiest) and my father pushing me towards the TIG process... since it allows for a cleaner/better weld.... and can weld more (or better) metals than MIG. While I can buy that line of thought, I'm worried about the learning curve of TIG. Bluntly, I work a lot of hours and I simply don't have hundreds of hours at this point in my life to sit down and practice TIG BEFORE even *starting* on my car project. As far as TIG, I'm looking at the Dynasty 200DX or Syncrowave 180SD.

    And now to complicate things even more, I WANT a plasma cutter! Not sure exactly what I can use it for on the car project, but I just know I want one! So I have thought of saving a few bucks by going MIG (MM175) and use those bucks towards a Spectrum 375 (over the 125c since they cost almost the same and I already have a good air compressor). Maybe even a MM210 and Spectrum 375. MM251 + Spectrum 375 is just to much dinero for me right now... .without having much welding experience to justify the $$$. If I go TIG, those machines are both signifactly more $$$ and kinda puts the plasma out of reach... at least for now.

    Anyways, I have a 100A service in the garage - Power input is no problemo. I really would like to do TIG (gut feeling, it's drawing me towards it), but I really have no idea what I'm getting myself into. I've also seen people here post that "once you go TIG, you'll never go back".. or something similiar. But then again, I'd hate to purchase the TIG machine and stall my car project indefintely. Also not sure how well TIG is suited for bodywork.?.? Another line of thought was to go small MIG and cutter now, and then plan on picking up a TIG machine down the road. Then again, I have no intentions of becoming a professional weldor.. and do I really need three machines?!?!

    Help. What do I do ole' wise ones?

  • #2
    Firstyou need a TRailblazer 302g,then a 2050 plasma cutter,then a miller 251 mig unit with a 30a spoolgun for aluminum.after you buy all these and they are paid for,call me as i will be moving next door to you.
    really a good mig unit in the 210 class and a 375 cutter will do you ok.sounds like you have a big project with the Chevelle. Good luck


    • #3
      I have the MM175 and love it. The only thing that you have stated that you would really need TIG for is for thin aluminum (intake manifolds, etc.)

      For the majority of frame work and body panel work, MIG is the way to go from a learning and speed standpoint.

      If you were going to do anything heavier than 1/4", then the 210/251 would be a good choice. In my case, I simply wanted it for my 280Z project car only and have no intention of welding anything bigger.

      The 20% difference in price above the 135 is more than justified by the greater capability on thicker metal.

      Save your money on the 210/251 and keep it toward a TIG for the thin aluminum.


      • #4
        what kind of aluminum work??

        the mm175 will work well for your restoration boddy pannels but if you intend to do aluminum with mig the mm210 is the way to go cuz the spoolgun will pop on without the controler (another $600) as for cromally role cages you will want that 3rd welder for a home hobby the mm175 and spec375 would be a great setup and add the TIG later when you have time for the lerning curve. the dynasty would be great ofcorce but it is a lot of $$$ if you have the power to run the syncro180 it will work for you as well although i'm not shoure how thick it will go in cromaly for the role cage. have to wait for the guru's on that 1.

        good luck

        thanks for the help
        hope i helped
        feel free to shoot me an e-mail direct i have time to chat. [email protected]
        summer is here, plant a tree. if you don't have space or time to plant one sponsor some one else to plant one for you. a tree is an investment in our planet, help it out.


        • #5
          Worry about the aluminum later, MIG on that type of work is poor anyway. A 175 is enough machine to do auto work and its cheap. If you are a top tool guy the ticket is the 210, especially if you have interest in other types of structural fabrication such as light trailers,, but for cars the 175 will work fine.


          • #6
            Alot of this comes down to the "level" of body work. If your your looking to do concourse resto work with no mud, then tig or even oxy/acet is the way to go. the weld is more maleable (sic), softer and can be worked by metalfinishing.

            In the real world mud is used extensively so mig is a very good chioce. I have all 3 options available to me..tig mig oxy and all my work looks the same it's all in the the craftsman. I want a plasma too



            • #7

              I've just gone through a similar phase as you of sorts. I've just setup my own business building and repairing plate aluminium boats so my wishlist has been quite a substantial one!! Hopefully I can shed a wee bit of light on your situation for you...

              I'd put my money on a feeling, that once you get started with a machine or tool you'll always be looking a little further for another machine or tool that may make "that" job a bit easier!

              I would start off by buying the best MIG you can afford. The performance that you will get out of Aluminium welding is debateable as it depends on the thickness of the material you are playing with. Welding anything less than about 3/8" Ally may have suspect weld integrity just due to the constraints of the standard MIG process. Pulsed MIG is a completely different story in this respect, but also hellishly expensive so don't worry about that! You never know what you may weld in the future and it is so frustrating if your machine can't quite do it!

              I would then look at a TIG, TIG welding is very compareable to oxy welding, so if you can oxy weld, then the odds are that you will pick up TIG very quickly. Just a matter of learning the settings etc. I would always look at an inverter styled welder after all the problems I have had with supply on the old solid state welders. They are infinetly better in my opinion, if nothing more for the fact that they are so portable! (also really easy to steal, definate downside!). The efficiency of these inverter machines has to be seen to be believed, my new inverter TIG has absolutely blown me away compared to the old Syncrowave 250 that I had!

              As for the plasma, yeah, I know how handy one would be in my workshop, but for the outlay I definately can't justify it at this point in time! My jigsaw and meat axe are doing the job for me, can be a little rough at times but hey! I would hold off on the plasma, particularly if you have alternate means of cutting what you want to cut despite the fact that it may be a bit slower and less neat!

              You can compare MIG and TIG if you want, but with both processes being really good at different things, It really is a horses for courses senario! I would far rather TIG a fuel tank up but give me a MIG anyday for welding up a hull! Just with your comment about the oxy welding and warping. Distortion is in direct proportion to the amount of heat input that is used to complete a weld. An oxy flame is actually a lot cooler than a MIG or TIG arc, therefore you have to run the weld at a much slower pace to give the material time to heat up so you can fuse it together. MIG being quite fast with a far higher deposition rate and hotter arc allows you to move many many times quicker over a weld, therefore putting less overall heat into the joint. I hope this makes sense!

              Sorry for the novel!
              "Its the way it spatters that matters!"


              • #8
                Seems like an easy decision to me

                I definitely agree with Andy249's line of thinking (if he said what I think he said). Go for the best mig machine you can afford. The step from the 175 class machines to the 210/251 class machines is an order of magnitude. GMAW is the easiest of all the electrical welding processes to learn. Personally, I would sub out the roll cage fab to a good TIG weldor. Some sanctioning bodies will not accept anything except TIG on chromoly. For everything else, MIG will do what you want done (although not as well as TIG on the really thin stuff). Everybody that doesn't have a plasma cutter wants one, myself included. Having said that, I am still saving my pennies for a Dynasty 200DX as my next investment. A decent O/A rig with the right tips will last a long time before shelling out the dough for a plasma cutter. Don't let people tell you that you can't make acceptable welds on aluminum with mig. It's just not true. Migging aluminum takes some practice and special precautions but it really can be done. TIG vs MIG? For the very highest quality welds, tig takes it hands down. But, it's sooooo dreadfully slow when you've gotten used to the speed and ease of mig production. In the end (as HAWK loves to say "long story short"), I wouldn't have a tig machine unless I already had a good mig machine.

                I also liked the other suggestion about the TB302G, etc.

                Let us know what you decide.

                Be cool,
                Be cool,

                FREEDOM ISN'T FREE
                SUPPORT OUR TROOPS


                • #9
                  Thank you everyone for the input. Very helpful. My vision is definitely clearing up a little, however I think I have a few more questions before I 'see the light':

                  1) I may be working under a false understanding, but isn't MIG typically used for all bodywork? I can't recall seeing anyone hanging a quarter panel w/ O/A (not that I have a lot of experience). Is there a reason for this? I guess what I'm reading from the comments is that because O/A and TIG are slower processes, it will inheirently heat up the surrounding metal around the weld moreso than MIG, potentially introducing more warping than MIG?.?. (Or do I have that backwards?) Is that a fair statement - just want to make sure I'm not misunderstandig this!

                  2) Is doing bodywork (quarterpanels and such) w/ TIG almost unheard of? I'm assuming it's entirely possible, just takes too long if your doing it as a business and trying to make money (time == money). I have heard a few stories of hobbiest trying to MIG thin metal to thicker metal (such as welding thin floor pans to the floor supports) and having problems w/ burning through the the floor pan instantly if touched by the MIG arc. I was thinking TIG would help in this area.

                  3) I guess this is my "bottom line" question. Let's say I go out today and buy the Dynasty 200DX. Let's assume I have above average smarts and patience, but no experience in welding. How many hours of practicing w/ the 200DX will I need to do, on average, to become proficient enough to do the work mentioned in my first post? Are we talking an hour, 10 hours, 100 hours? How does that compare to MIG?

                  Thanks again guys. Just trying to make sure I understand what I'm getting into before laying out the cash!


                  • #10
                    Go for it

                    I'm sure anyone who has done tig welding will tell you that the Heat Affected Zone (HAZ) will always be smaller (compared to GMAW) when using the GTAW process. It's not unusual, at all, for tig to be used in bodywork. It's also not unusual to see it being done with mig. It's pretty much "PP" (personal preference) as I see it. If you're concerned about distortion/warpage, tig is definitely the way to go. Significantly less heat input in that process. Or, you can stitch weld with mig to reduce your HAZ. Apparently not as much as with tig though. As far as how many hours to get comfortable with the GTAW process, I don't seriously believe anyone on this forum could give you an accurate assessment. No one here knows your skill/proficiency level, dedication/commitment level, aggrevation/frustration quotient, and a hundred other variables. I say, if you're dead set on learning GTAW, you will. Go for it. Just don't expect to be driving that Chevelle any time soon. Not trying to rain on your parade, just wouldn't want you to become enamoured of a particular process just because that's all you see on TV these days.

                    Weld on,
                    Be cool,

                    FREEDOM ISN'T FREE
                    SUPPORT OUR TROOPS


                    • #11
                      Excellent advice by the previous posters. If you've never picked up a torch, tig has a much higher learning curve than any other processes. It's not as easy as it looks on American Chopper or Hot Rod. With a mig you could easily be making some decent welds for non-critical fusion items in a short time. Hate to see you get frustrated after spending 3K for a Dynasty. There some good knowledge levels on this board, take their advice....
                      Wheat Stalker

                      Millermatic 210
                      Dynasty 200DX
                      Fisher CZ-5...CZ-3D..
                      Trek 5500
                      1966 Amphicar


                      • #12
                        This is gonna be long - sorry...

                        If you have O/A'd like you said, Tig is not THAT much different.

                        When I went to the local VoTech for two courses in welding, 2/3's of the 1st course was SAFETY - including ?)/A setup. The rest of the 1st course was O/A cutting.

                        The second course had everyone starting out stick welding. Those of us who had specific goals (ie: TIG or MIG) were allowed to branch off after we had mastered the basics of stick welding butt joints, T-joints, lap joints. Those that were taking the VoTech curriculum for certification stuck with stick and went on to different aspects of stick welding.

                        I brought this up because I firmly believe that the experience I had with stick helped a lot in knowing what to do wth MIG - much like your experience wih O/A would.

                        Your experience w/O-A would be of great help with TIG - you're already used to having both hand doing different things, and all you're adding is possibly the foot control.

                        Ask yourself one thing - does the speed that you do your projects with count? If you can take all the time in the world then TIG would be the way to go. If you were doing anything for money, then MIG is the hands down winner in production.

                        I realized before posting in my earlier post that some sanctioning orgs. specifiy TIG for chromemoly, but since you didn't specifically state what you were doing chromemoly for, I focused on MIG - because the majority of your work implicated that chassis/bodywork was your priority.

                        I myself would probably eventually like to have a cage put in my V-8 Z car project, but there is a lot more than just welding involved - I would want it fit VERY well, and I don't have the desire to to learn that aspect of it for just one project. I would rather pay someone to to do it both well and right - seeing as how safety is involved.

                        The type of body/frame work that I am doing on my '75 Z is floor pan, quarter panel, fender patches and subchassis connectors - not exactly rocket science, but you don't want cheesy work either - hence my taking courses.

                        I built a rotisserie for the car so that I wouldn't be overhead welding and to minimize the 'bending over factor' - I'm 50 and due to a motorcycle accident (Town car running a light) and a rear ender (3/4 ton truck pulling a 25' cabin cruiser) my back isn't the greatest (neither's my golf game - but my chiropractor loves me), I have stressed every joint to 200% of the load that will be put on it, and didn't have to re-weld any joints, so I think the courses took.

                        Since my plan all along was to make the rotisserie, the choice of TIG as the only welder was impractical - the time I spent alone in drilling all the holes for the bottle jacks I am using to jack the car up from the jack stands it will be on, as well as all the holes for adjusting width and 'drop' from the cross-bars was much longer than the welding/preparation process. As it was, I had well over 20 hours into the making of the rotisserie. To be honest - the 1st eight hours drilling holes was with a simple 8" drill press from HF that simply didn't cut it on the 3/16's and 1/4" square tubing I was drilling (2.5" and 2" respectively) - the motor didn't have enough oomph, and the throw wasn't long enough to go completely through both sides without stopping after drilling through one side, then raising the platform (and support stands on each side) to go through the other. I wised up quickly and borrowed a 13" RYOBI that was rated the same HP as my HF POS (good enough for wood and thin metal though), and what a difference! Stroke long enough to go through
                        both sizes of tubing with one stroke - no adjustments necessary, and the difference in torque was amazing - cut through like butter.

                        My point in digressing a little was in pointing out that it is up to youto figure out what your goals are and prioritizing them with your needs. To me - the minimum time to effective completion was a big factor - I'm goal oriented, and the sooner done (properly) the better I like it - let's face it - a ground up on a car is gonna take long enough no matter how fast you go - the quicker each step goes the better. Since aluminum wasn't in the vocabulary, TIG wasn't a requirement. If it was, then I would have had to decide what thickness I was gonna be welding. If less than 3/8's then TIG would have to be part of the equation.

                        From a practical standpoint I will stand by what I posted earlier - the 175 class MIG machine should be your first purchase, easy to learn, production speed is great as is learning curve and you haven't shown any need for thicker metal requiring a 210/251 class machine and it's aluminum capabilities. You'll be a lot happier at the speed you get your chassis/bodywork done with it. It will only be after you have the shell and chassis complete that you would have to worry about chromemoly cage (if in fact that is what you were intending - but even then, for something safety related I myself would have someone else do it - not only from a fit standpoint but from a design standpoint), and any engine/interior finishing that you would be using any aluminum thin enough for TIG - you can be saving your sheckles while you're building the chassis/body for the point that you would need the TIG.

                        Once you have the TIG, then you can STICK as well, and handle the thicker stuff if you have a need, as well as the thin aluminum.

                        Nothing you have stated leads me to believe that you need the aluminum capabilites associated with MIG (thicker stuff).

                        I would also agree with someone who posted earlier about the plasma cutter - if I were in a production environment, I'd say go for it (or if I had money to burn), but for a single project, you can get by with a sawzall, angle-grinder, nibbler or your O/A setup or combination thereof and put the money toward a 200DX for aluminum and heavier iron/steel stuff.

                        Be honest with yourself in what your goals are and where you actually need to spend your time and/or money to best effect.

                        I hope this has helped. I have included (I hope) a pic of my rotisserie - made with the thought that I may do a Challenger or Mustang resto later on...
                        Attached Files


                        • #13
                          plasma consumables $$$$$

                          another thing to add to your thought process is the $$$ for plasma consumables . a lil high in my thought although i could just be feeling that way cuz i just had to replace them

                          as for lerning TIG a yung fella here just got his first TIG with no welding experiance and between school, homework, and chores he has it down good enough for 1/4 pannels, and TIG will put the least worpage. if you want to TIG and dont mind the speed restraints then get that and lern it if you have acces to someone that can show you how the lerning curve reduces greatly. a class at a votec would be great.

                          in short if TIG is what you want then get it and lern it, you will never regret the skill
                          thanks for the help
                          hope i helped
                          feel free to shoot me an e-mail direct i have time to chat. [email protected]
                          summer is here, plant a tree. if you don't have space or time to plant one sponsor some one else to plant one for you. a tree is an investment in our planet, help it out.


                          • #14
                            Do what I did, when I started my project I bought a MM175 (which I love) I also bought a Hypertherm powermax 180 plasma cutter, and I just got a syncrowave 180 about 2 months ago. (which is awsome) Its nice to have all the tools you need to get the job done. Plus they are alot of fun to use..

                            - Michael

                            MM 175
                            Syncrowave 180 SD
                            Hypertherm Powermax 180


                            • #15
                              Hi Guys,

                              I think I've decided to take your advice (duh!) and go MIG for now. Either the MM175 or MM210 based on whatever deals I can find. Many posts on the boards comparing the two, so I think I'm all set there. Both will do the job, just a matter of $$$$.

                              One last question, I promise! There have many posts on the 175 DVI... although I cannot locate this new model on the Miller website, nor on Ebay (as some have claimed is available there). Is the DVI something I should be considering? I don't need 120v, but it seems Hawk liked the arc a little better than the 220v 175. I think someone lese mentioned November as being the offical launch date... should I wait?

                              I'm leaning towards the MM175 (DVI or not) simply because if/when I start getting into aluminum, I'll probably break down at that time and pickup a TIG anyways... but that's a good year or two down the road. So if you nix the benefit of the spoolgun readiness of the 210, the 175 is the better bang for the buck for me (i think!).

                              Thanks again for all the help.