Light duty flux core wire welder

JWFilips

Well-Known Member
#1
Hi Folks,
Just out of curiosity can anyone tell me what one can do with one of those Harbor Freight fluxcore wire welders?
I see they have a 125 amp for $99 . Not going to get one but would like to know what could be done with it. I know it can't replace regular welds
 

Ian

Well-Known Member
#2
You can dirt-dobber light-gauge tubing together with it. The only way I've seen them work well is to add a shielding gas setup to it and run solid wire. Pretty much a waste of money IMO. Much better option is buy a cheap wire-feed and bottle, a cheap crackerbox 220 arc welder, or get an oxy-acetylene torch/bottles/regulators and learn how to gas weld.

Here's what I'd get: https://www.farmandfleet.com/produc...6N6g7kG57n84ui4rIQgj35Qg1ibXarA4aAq2kEALw_wcB
 
Last edited:

Ian

Well-Known Member
#4
A lot of this country was built with the old Lincoln "Tombstone" AC stick welders. I have one of the ancient ones from the era when they were still copper-wound, it's my go-to for shop and ranch welding. I have a TiG machine with DC arc option that's super nice and can weld just about any kind of metal, but even in stick mode it's not for running heavy rods or long duty-cycles. The MiG machine gets the nod for light/medium stuff on clean, mild steel; but speed, appearance, ability to weld very thin metal, and lack of flux residue are the only real advantages. With a stick welder, you can do so much more in general by simply changing electrode composition/size, and it can deal with dirty/rusty/oily metal so much better than any other welding method. Sometimes for a light steel job I just grab the gas axe, a box of 20-mule-team borax, and a fistfull of steel coathangers.
 

fiver

Well-Known Member
#5
they are great for light stuff.
patching in replacement door and fender panels on cars is about their wheel house.

if you wanted to put old school cut and bend fender flairs on your 68 Camaro that would be just about perfect.
 
#7
I am not a welder - I make a living with electricity, and hanging onto a wire with sparks coming out the end of it is somewhat counter-intuitive to me.

That said, my wife bought me a little HF welder a few years ago so I could make her a pots-n-pan rack for her kitchen. I've fixed exhaust hangers, anchored a new shock stud (grade 8 bolt) onto an axle mount, made hinges for a blanket chest, a wood stove rake, stuck various parts together to make a chicken-tractor and executed numerous other small application solutions too small to bother a real welder (the tradesman, not the machine) with.

One thing that I can say is that it's a handy tool for anyone who's not really a welder, but the ONLY way it will not result in utter frustration (for a neophyte, at least) is to chuck the wire that came with it into the scrap pile and buy a spool of good wire. I won't be welding bolt-handles on or doing water-tight pipe joints, but I wouldn't be doing that even if I had a real welder. It's bailed me out of a number of times on small projects. My welding time v. my grinding time has finally gotten down to a ratio of about 1:10.:)

I still haven't built the pots-n-pan rack because I figured out the steel would cost me more than buying one of the racks from Odd Lots or some other purveyor of fine goods.
 
#8
One of my welding mentors was this old black man..... important because he lived and worked through the 60's,70's,80's,90's and into the 2000's. .....

He worked for a huge company that was a foundry making all sorts of big arse castings.

His idea of a "trim" hammer was an 8# sledge..... think big,stoopid high $$ stuff and you got a toe in the door. His job eventually fell into on site repair/warranty/no question asked/buck stops here.

We became dang good friends. He said,of a "tombstone"..... "you can throw one out the shop door,let it sit in a puddle for a year or two... come back,pull it out.... halfway clean it off,plug the dang thing in and start running beads"!

Gotcha.... I tend to be a torch guy(OA) but,gotta love an endorsement like that.It hit home with me.
 

KeithB

Resident Half Fast Machinist
#9
I had a Lincoln 225 ("tombstone") for many years, rugged and reliable. Burned a lot of 7018 and 6011/6012/6013 rod. When I stepped up to a MIG and later a TIG/stick welder I looked at several brands and in every category the Lincoln product seemed to be built better/heavier for the same price as the others or was less money for the same features. That was 8-10 years ago, don't know what the market is like now.

My only beef with HF anything is getting spare parts. I buy a lot of stuff there, but when I buy power tools I know I'm taking the risk of not being able to get spare parts in the future. Normally the tools are cheap enough I consider them disposable, no problem with treating a $25 drill or air tool like that but have a hard time thinking about welders that way.
 

Ian

Well-Known Member
#10
My 225 welder literally sat in a grass field for around 10 years. The rubber was completely gone off the leads, just bare, corroded wire. I pulled the case off, unfroze the cooling fan, chased the bugs, dirt, and grass out, wired in some new leads, put a new power cord on it, and fired it up. It's worked like a champ ever since.

Ever hear "Miller for drinkin', Lincoln for weldin'"? I got some of each and prefer Lincoln, even Chinesium Lincoln.
 
#11
I had a 110v Hobart about the size of that hf unit. It had gas though, worked fine.

Started on a stick machine just like Ian mentioned. Worked great.

Now using a miller 250x, a ready welder2, & brazing techniques, they work great.

Hope to get a tig setup at some point.

Ain't really met a welding machine I didn't find workable. Ability to get it done trumps the machine.
 

KeithB

Resident Half Fast Machinist
#12
I agree, but a uncoordinated fumble klutz like me needs all the help I can get when it comes to manually controlled machines. I used to have a Hobart 160A wire welder. Nice machine but the wire drive system was pretty light duty and I would get surging and other problems. I used clean wire and a clip-on cleaning pad, replaced liners regularly, and it still wouldn't feed very smoothly a lot of the time. My new Lincoln is a much beefier unit and I swear the wire feed could pull a truck out of a ditch. The Miller of the same capacity and price had much lighter built wire feed unit that was harder to feed wire through to boot.

Sorry, none of this is helpful to someone looking at a low cost welder for light duty use. I think FIver hit it about right, the new light weight wire welders are probably great for doing sheet metal work and other automotive type tasks, fixing a few garden tools. Also agree that getting quality wire is good idea, I know it makes a difference in solid core wire and stick welding.
 

gman

Well-Known Member
#13
My stick machine is a Lincoln SA 200 Pipeliner. My first mug was a Lincoln 180 that I purchased at Lowe’s. It was a good machine and I did a few bigger jobs with it. I now have a Hobart Ironman and absolutely love it. If I was looking for a smaller mig I would definitely look at the Lincoln’s that Lowe’s sells. I have used the Lincoln 130 mig some and that would make a nice mig for hobby projects or sheet metal jobs. I tried flux core wire but even so it helps with gas. I just use solid wire now. Dirty rusty metal that can’t be cleaned gets the stick.
 

Ian

Well-Known Member
#14
I was going to mention the SA-200, arguably the best engine-driven welder on the planet. If you ever need parts for it, check out BWParts in Arizona, nothing is obsolete for those dinosaurs, there's still way too many of them still in use.
 
#15
I don't really care for mig but..... had to do a rail one time,outside,had to mig it. Bought the nicest Lincoln 180 they had at the pro welding shop we use. The job paid for about 75% of it in one day's welding. I got a bottle for it and rarely use it..... 90% of our welding is Tig or OA. The 180 mig is nice though.
 

Bret4207

Well-Known Member
#16
I have my dads 1940/50's "Birdsell" on my repair cart ( a 2 wheeled wagon with a 25Kw PTO alternator, welder and pancake air compressor) I put together some years back. The idea was that instead of trying to drag a dead machine/implement to the garage and moving a ton of stuff to try to get room to fix it, I'd just hitch up the cart to a tractor and fix it in the field. Since building it 8-10 years ago I haven't had anything break in the field that needs welding!!! Figures. But that ancient welder will run a nice bead for an AC machine and it never fails to get running with the fan turning if I plug it in. I also have my FIL's late 50's/early 60's Marquette with the "stick the spud in the hole" adjustments. Reliable old machine, but not the Lincoln Ideal Arc I want. I'd like AC/DC but the little I've used DC makes me think I can get along with AC pretty good.

I have 2 MIGs, a Cebora and a Miller. Both were acquired in a trade and both needed work. I haven't run the Miller yet IIRC, but with clean metal and good wire the Cebora makes me look pretty competent. I tried flux core but solid and gas makes a lot better looking weld. I'm still learning to weld with the MIG, it's quite a lot different than arc or oxy welding. After my time in the body shop back in the 80's I can pretty much braze air to water, but my oxy welding ain't so hot. I can actually forge weld better than I can do fine oxy welding, and I have the bolt handles to prove I'm not very good at oxy welding!

If you go to any of the "shop floor" type forums or welding forums there is usually quite a bit of chatter on the little 110v machines. From what I've read a lot of the successful guys with those have a fair amount of experience to start with. They have their place, but flux core seems to be a hit or miss proposition for a lot of people. You'll never get that "line of dimes on their side" MIG look with flux cored. OTOH, I saw a guy weld in frame repair sections on a Jeep and it came out pretty darn good for what it was.

HF, a lot of people HATE HF, but a lot of people have a crap load more cash on hand than some of us. I've bought a lot of stuff there and some of it is pretty darn good. Some of it, like their so called "tap and die sets" are little better than thread chasing tools for nuts and bolts made from cheddar cheese, but their hydraulic 3 jaw puller is a life saver. Don't discount them outright. There are some good values for those with a limited bank account at HF.
 

RBHarter

Well-Known Member
#17
I bought a Campbell Hausfield from HF long ago my skills lack something , maybe due to running enough bead to get the feel of it back just in time to put it all away for 5 yr ....... I never had any kick with it . When it was pretty new I welded up to 3/16 angle for some small tool jig jobs and did a ton of body work with it . At the other end I welded up a lot of thin wall box tubing with a Lincoln stick welder . I can't remember what I had a welder out for last .........
 

Ian

Well-Known Member
#18
DC welding allows use of a wider range of rods for specialty positions and tasks. DC - square wave is pretty dang nice, boils impurities out of the puddle like you wouldn't believe.
 

Bret4207

Well-Known Member
#20
DC welding allows use of a wider range of rods for specialty positions and tasks. DC - square wave is pretty dang nice, boils impurities out of the puddle like you wouldn't believe.
The only DC I've done was in a labor for implement trade with a neighbor who has every tool ever known to mankind. IIRC I was helping him do a chop and build on a dump trailer project made from a dead tandem dump truck. Hi belief was I'd get better penetration with the DC setting and rod than with AC and AC rod. Material was maybe 1-1.25" stock, horizontal and vertical runs. Outside of the DC being easier to strike and arc with and a somewhat different "sizzle" sound I didn't see a any difference. Maybe it was penetrating deeper, but I'd veed all the sections anyway, so I don't kow how much of an issue it was. Likely it was a better weld as he said, but I wasn't the guy to be able to judge it.