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Miller model 88 vs 61-m vs Thunderbolt AC 225V. How do they compare for home use?

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  • Miller model 88 vs 61-m vs Thunderbolt AC 225V. How do they compare for home use?

    Hey all,

    I've been looking for a reliable transformer-style welder for home use. Most of my welding will be 1/16" to 1/4" steel.

    So far, I have located three Miller AC-only welders in my price range. One is a circa 1980 Thunderbolt AC 225V. It's in great shape, with good leads, for $70. I have also found an older Model 61-m (seller is asking $200) and a model 88 with long leads (seller is asking $225). I know that both the 61-m and 88 are higher amp, more industrial-style machines. In my case, would I notice a difference in weld quality and/or durability between these machines?

  • #2
    Originally posted by Arc Traveler View Post
    Hey all,

    I've been looking for a reliable transformer-style welder for home use. Most of my welding will be 1/16" to 1/4" steel.

    So far, I have located three Miller AC-only welders in my price range. One is a circa 1980 Thunderbolt AC 225V. It's in great shape, with good leads, for $70. I have also found an older Model 61-m (seller is asking $200) and a model 88 with long leads (seller is asking $225). I know that both the 61-m and 88 are higher amp, more industrial-style machines. In my case, would I notice a difference in weld quality and/or durability between these machines?
    $135 to $155 worth of difference is what I notice. Plus the weight. Size. Duty cycle and input wiring accommodations. Probably weld a little different. As far as durability goes, well...if they made it this far, chances are they will keep buzzing along. As far as value goes, those long leads are worth something? Increased duty cycle means more arc on time if that matters? While you don't mention your welding abilities, $70 bucks sounds right affordable?

    Comment


    • #3
      I'm with Noel--the Thunderbolt is far more than adequate for what you want to do, and it's way less $. Why spend more? They are all "rocks" from a reliability viewpoint. Open it up, clean out the mud dauber and mouse nests, lubricate the current adjustment mechanism, and start welding.

      Comment


      • #4
        I vote NO on all 3. Keep looking. They made AC/DC thunderbolts.
        Find an AC/DC model and your life will be MUCH better.
        DC stick is a much easier and smoother process generally speaking, and there is always the AC mode if you so choose.
        I haven't forced myself to weld AC stick in I don't remember how long.

        Just sayin' Simply my personal opinion.

        www.facebook.com/outbackaluminumwelding
        Miller Dynasty 700...OH YEA BABY!!
        MM 350P...PULSE SPRAYIN' MONSTER
        Miller Dynasty 280 with AC independent expansion card
        Miller Dynasty 200 DX "Blue Lightning"

        Miller Bobcat 225 NT (what I began my present Biz with!)
        Miller 30-A Spoolgun
        Miller WC-115-A
        Miller Spectrum 300
        Miller 225 Thunderbolt (my first machine bought new 1980)
        Miller Digital Elite Titanium 9400

        Comment


        • #5
          The only time you’d really need AC stick welding is if you were welding into a corner and arc blow was beating the living day lights out of you.

          I’m in the camp with FK. You can get a DC rectifier for that AC thunderbolt, but you’ll probably pay more for it than finding an AC/DC thunderbolt. I have an old AC only TB with the external rectifier with it that I should probably sell since I never use it, but it was my first machine, it’s not in my way and I don’t really need the money.

          For the price range you’re talking about, there is no reason you can’t find one if you’re patient. The most common machine on the planet is the old Lincoln “tombstone”, and you can get those AC/DC. There are probably more of that machine running around than every other machine combined.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Aeronca41 View Post
            I'm with Noel--the Thunderbolt is far more than adequate for what you want to do, and it's way less $. Why spend more? They are all "rocks" from a reliability viewpoint. Open it up, clean out the mud dauber and mouse nests, lubricate the current adjustment mechanism, and start welding.
            Who was the guy that wrote that? My coffee was still perkin' and I completely missed the AC-only part of this post, and it was right there in front of my face. When I think "Thunderbolt", I think AC/DC because mine and any others I've ever used were AC/DC. In fact, I have never seen an AC-only Thunderbolt in real life, but have seen pictures. When I first read FK's post, I couldn't understand why it started off the way it did--I need to be more alert before talking!

            I waited more than a year after I started looking to buy my first welder because all I could find that I could afford were AC-only and didn't want one. Finally found a Montogmery-Wards-branded Century AC/DC that served me very well. Arc traveler, I apologize for potentially leading you astray. Thankfully others were alert! Can't believe I was that out of it.

            I have to say that I grew up learning to weld with an old Hobart 1950's-era 250-amp engine drive, which was smooth as silk, and the first time I welded with an AC machine I was NOT impressed. Probably about 12 years old.

            Comment


            • #7
              Seems the point that was missed was buddy gave the options and the options were low priced, cheap and affordable AC, AC, or AC.

              I may stand alone as I have many times before in opinion, but there is nothing wrong with AC that a steady hand and proper rod selection won't accomplish. E6011, E6012,E6013,E6014, E7018 AC.
              I'm sure you can do some SS and those nasty Aluminum rods if you have to, all with AC.

              Admitedly, DC will provide a easier time in striking and maintaining the arc. It will provided a slightly steadier and smoother current flow. But it isn't the only option for sticking metal together.
              I'm surprised you guys didn't say buy into GMAW/FCAW in the up sell push to DC?

              Comment


              • #8
                You are correct, Noel, and I think we all have to agree a LOT of stuff has been welded together with AC, and it's probably still holding up quite well. I just remember being amazed how much nicer DC was when I first tried AC as a kid. And I never bought an AC-only welder.

                This discussion brings a question to my mind to which some of you guys probably know the immediate answer. Was the first bare-rod arc welding AC or DC? As the technology progressed, where/when did things move, maybe even back and forth, between AC and DC? I remember reading about ship building in WWII and the issues with arc blow as the ships became magnetized; I think they used a good deal of AC welding to combat that. Just wondering if any old-timers have any knowledge that got passed down from their mentors on that topic? Google is great, but personal knowledge and history is better.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Airknocker your question requires a couple volumes to answer.

                  Ignoring accidental welds by electric, and staying with the industry trying to invent itself beyond carbon arc applied steel (akin to O/A welding) the bare rod era was very short lived in the 1920s. Have yourself some fun, knoch the coating off the rod of your choice and give it a try.
                  The bare era was DC, originally by battery bank once they got the current regulation figured out. Next came DC motor generator sets pioneered by Lincoln, GE and Westinghouse in the US. The Brits claimed to be out in front with hull welding, circa 1925, and Lloyds certified the first electric welded hull around 26 for insurability.

                  On this side of the pond Lincoln was working hand in glove with Pfaudler (tank builder), Budd (wheels and rail cars) and Dolomite (Quarry operator and barge builder) to prove electric welding. Lincoln was pushing Fleetweld and probably had top men welding around the clock both testing and trying to improve Fleetweld. Better rods had to be invented to make AC transformer machines viable beyond carbon arc torches.

                  John Catternach at Dolomite developed the overgrown Hosfelt bender to bend 24 and 36" C channel to shape for barge hulls, and Dolomite began building barges in house to ship limestone to steel mills via NY Barge Canal.
                  John Hwnry Odenbach patented the bender.
                  During the Depression Caternach took the process all the way to building ship hulls 300 feet long in an inverted position so Fleetweld was more efficient. That process too is Patented by Odenbach.

                  Odenbach, Budd and Pfaudler all knew each other and worked together during the Depression with Lincoln on rod development. Budd developed a process called Shot Welding to weld SS skins to steel frames for passenger cars, and Odenbach used that process to line the hull of Dolomite 4, with SS to carry liquid Lye to facilitate the Rayon industry coming into play so Nylon could be used for parachutes.

                  AC welding couldn't and didn't come into play until rods for AC were developed. Then AC came on fast because the machines were cheap to build.

                  I'd tend to disagree with your thinking on magnetized hull plates. The biggest problem Kaiser manufactured was caused by Kaiser trying to avoid licensing fees. Kaiser's Liberty ships busted up because of poor welding and crap steel. Odenbach's 72 tankers and uncounted barges maintained hull integrity, and many remained in service for another 40 years. The last Odenbach welded barge & crane was retired by Weeks Marine in 2005.


                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Noel View Post
                    I'm surprised you guys didn't say buy into GMAW/FCAW in the up sell push to DC?
                    I liked welding with 7018AC years ago. I welded a backhoe boom together that broke at my buddies wrecking yard back in '82 and it was fine. I looked at my same weld not long ago and i don't think i could have made it look any better 37 years later. And dual shield has replaced stick in the last 4 shops i have worked in. You couldn't even find a stick machine or rod...Bob
                    Bob Wright

                    Spool Gun conversion. How To Do It. Below.
                    http://www.millerwelds.com/resources...php?albumid=48

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Aeronca41 View Post
                      You are correct, Noel, and I think we all have to agree a LOT of stuff has been welded together with AC, and it's probably still holding up quite well. I just remember being amazed how much nicer DC was when I first tried AC as a kid. And I never bought an AC-only welder.

                      This discussion brings a question to my mind to which some of you guys probably know the immediate answer. Was the first bare-rod arc welding AC or DC? As the technology progressed, where/when did things move, maybe even back and forth, between AC and DC? I remember reading about ship building in WWII and the issues with arc blow as the ships became magnetized; I think they used a good deal of AC welding to combat that. Just wondering if any old-timers have any knowledge that got passed down from their mentors on that topic? Google is great, but personal knowledge and history is better.
                      https://www.millerwelds.com/resource...ory-of-welding

                      When a conversation came up about what came first the chicken or the egg, I was reminded the question that was more important was who had the idea to fry, poach or boil them?

                      Sticking metal together was never the problem. My understanding reading old books in my collection of welding information suggests AC was possibly the first attempts with Bare or washed electrodes. But that's an opinion not a been there can say with certainty as my book collection doesn't go back before 1930.
                      The advancements of Carbon arc and melt stuff, to adding a rod melting between them kind of thing.

                      However, Direct Current held an advantage in terms of consistency in current flow to melt those bare washed rods and readily used for that reason mentioned in my 1935 edition of Welding Procedures.
                      Advancements in metallurgy however was the game changer. They figured out it wasn't the chicken or the resulting egg, it was the on and off, hot and cold that was the problem amongst other things. DC helped somewhat but wasn't the end all to the problems of welds breaking and cracking apart.

                      I'd be surprised if someone from that time period is still breathing? That's 100 years ago?

                      As far as AC or DC SMAW goes, there was a time when equipment wasn't so easily purchased or cheaply manufactured that everyone could afford it.
                      We seem to forget that. We also see an individual with greater advantage touting the latest and greatest yet no better a welder for having it. Not saying you guys, I'm just saying, Buddy would be wise to justify his need for the extravagance of DC in my opinion.

                      My first welder was a Miller AC Thunder Bolt 225. I built a lot of thing with that welder. Jack stands, trailers, gates, racking to mention a few of the items. My only reason to buy the Millermatic 200 or what ever it is that I bought second hand to own and haven't used in 10 years was I got tired of sweeping slag, breathing smoke, and cleaning weld splatter. That avoidance did come with a price tag of more money. Bottle of gas, refills, contact tips.




                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I’m pretty sure the big heavy block we had on the farm was AC only. But back then all I knew was that is was a welding machine with a whole bunch of sockets on the front. That wasn’t ancient history and I never even heard of a wire feed welder until I was in the army.

                        Of course, a couple years ago, there is a guy I work with that bought a cheap-o mig and couldn’t make a good weld to save his life. He is the group know-it-all, and he claimed his failure to make a good weld was because his mig was an AC only mig welder. Now I know him well enough that my only response to him was, “hmm.”

                        But I still think this guy should hold out for an AC/DC stick machine.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Franz,
                          Thank you! That is the kind of history and detail that I find fascinating. Seems for every technological advance there are one or two or three people who get the idea, and others develop it. No personal experience with (or even original thoughts on ) AC to prevent arc blow in ship building, just something I read somewhere long ago and remembered today. I'll have to try the bare rod thing. Sounds "interesting".

                          Noel,
                          Thanks--interesting stuff. Thanks for looking in the old books. The only reference book on welding I have that is of any age at all is the Linde OA handbook from the late 30s or early 40s. One of my treasures. Appreciate the info you found. I will have to do some more research.

                          It was long enough ago that I'm sure you're right--none of those guys are left. I was just hoping to find someone who remembers some of them, but maybe even that is stretching life expectancy of us humans a bit. Franz seems to have at least known of some of them.

                          Ryan,
                          I love it! AC Mig; what will they think of next?

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            When I do a presentation I always begin by telling the audience I hope at least 1 of them recalls the time when it required minimally 5 women to connect a phone call from where I'm standing to the phone on an office desk downtown. Then I look up and ask Big Ed to watch my back.
                            It's a vastly different world than it was in 1931 when Odenback hauled a derelict steam hull from Lake Erie to the shop he leased from the Barge Canal near Pittsford with his steam tugs coming in from the Lakes for Winter layup & repair. In the following 2 years, men who worked the quarry in the warm season learned the crafts of welding and shipbuilding. Mechanics from the quarry installed and set up the secret drive system conveyors, 12 ton battery, elegant crew compartment vacuum system & snorkel, all sworn to secrecy and all more than willing to dummy up, after all they had 12 month jobs in the Great Depression.

                            I should probably mention 80% of those men could neither read or write, and a lot of their math was chalked on deck with soapstone.
                            Every rivet and flange was cut out and hull plates were lined up and welded with Fleetweld and Lincoln rotarys. In 34 Dolomite 1 left the improvised drydock a new ship diesel electric powered, and headed out into the lake to borrow sand yo be hauled back to Rochester and delivered downtown to become concrete. She carried a crew of 5 unlike the complement of 14 she previously needed, and would slip ice rather than require men on deck to chop it.

                            It was a brilliant idea, and it was a complete flop. After 2 runs she came back to Pittsford to loose the sand suckers and become a bulk carrier hauling Bonded wheat South from Canada and coal or oil North.
                            Dolomite 1 plodded from port to port for 2 years before she became the superstar of the Lakers.

                            It would be my luck a couple decades later to know and learn from many of her builders. Big Ed became a second father who chewed my azz when necessary and I became his second son, the one who was allowed to touch his Atlas Lathe only he touched. That's another story though.

                            Next year is the 100th anniversary of Dolomite Products Corp. Big celebration planned.
                            The planners, 3 & 4 generations downline have no idea what Grampa made money doing. They even hired a professional fat woman and had her write her impression of what she thinks happened. They was afraid I'd tell the truth.
                            I will.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Airknocker MIG was the inevitable next step from SubArc and playing in the sandbox. I well remember dreaming of MIG as I napped behind the helmet between rod changes. I even talked my way into a SubArc shop in the dark of night to watch wire unwind from the barrels and cook under the flowing sand. Horizontal only killed the dream for me.

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