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  1. #1
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    Best low cost welder

    I am thinking about trying to build my own frame. I welded years ago with but not for years. I want to look for a low cost welder and need advice on what to look for. Thanks for any help.

  2. #2
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    Look for a good used TIG with foot pedal. Often you can find someone selling a DC only TIG like the Miller MaxStar line. If you are working with steel you don't need an AC/DC machine and as such you can save a little money. I got a used Miller MaxStar 150 STH, this is the least expensive Miller machine and works well.
    Mark Farnsworth, Raleigh, NC
    http://farnsworthbikes.com

  3. #3
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    Welder

    As of right now I think I'd only be interested in a steel frame. I have a lot to think about before I would try doing a frame project. So DC for steel?

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    Depends on what your definition is for "low cost".

    I bought the Miller Diversion 180 a couple years ago and have been very happy with it for steel welding. Its an AC/DC machine so it can weld aluminum as well. Comes with a foot pedal and thumb-troll torch. I added a gas lens and it welds a lot better than my skill allows!

    Diversion

    I occasionally see them for sale in the local classifieds for ~$1500, I got mine new for about $1800.

    I also considered the Hobart Tig, which is the same machine as the Diversion, but different accessories and paint...and lower cost.

    Jeremy

  5. #5
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    If you're short on cash..

    ...just fillet braze. A set of O/A tanks/regulators/torch can be had for pretty darn cheap. TIG is a very expensive way to join tubes, and unless you are planning to build lots of bikes, it often doesn't make a lot of sense financially.

    -Walt
    Waltworks Custom Bicycles
    Park City, UT USA
    www.waltworks.com
    waltworks.blogspot.com

  6. #6
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    welder

    I'm not sure when I might try to build a frame but it is a hobby only. I checked prices of used tig welders on my local CL and they are more than I'd spend just to try out my hand at a frame. For the money I should just get a custom made frame. I don't have a need for spending a lot for something I won't use. I'm lucky to work with a lot of people who are part time mechanics so I might be able to get some help from them. The O\A tanks might be the way to go but I've haven't used them.I'll keep looking at ways to do this.

  7. #7
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    What's it cost to get a frame painted after its built?

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by midamore View Post
    What's it cost to get a frame painted after its built?
    From 40 to 500+ dollars....Sorry, not being a turd, the range is really that much. 150 is a good estimate for a powder job, 250+ for a wet one.
    All the best,

    Dave Bohm
    Bohemian Bicycles
    http://www.bohemianbicycles.com
    &
    http://www.framebuildingschool.com

  9. #9
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    Thanks. I didn't realize there was such a range. I'll check out your website

  10. #10
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    Rustoleum is a good option for a 1st frame - cheap, easy to touch up, easy to remove and reapply if you do some mods to the frame. No need to spend a bunch on $ on a 1st frame.
    Too many bikes, not enough time.

  11. #11
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    Look for a used Miller Syncrowave. That machine is the workhorse of the tig welding world. They are easy to find, last forever and are dead built reliable. I wouldn't even waste time looking into a inverter machine like the dynasty/maxstar range.

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    fillet brazing isn't for everyone, but i will say that for those with minimal tools a little O/A rig is one of the best tools you can own. it has SO many uses. you can weld steel, aluminum, braze, cut, bend, heat stuck bolts, etc.

    for a tig I would start watching craigslist tool section in your area and use tig in the search function. a friend of mine scored a near new Thermal Arc inverter machine ready to weld with a pedal, regulator and all for $500. the little inverter machines are a good way to go for a first tig because they are small, ease of storage/portable, usually capable of running off of 110v, etc.
    I have also seen some good deals on older large tigs. lots of power and capability but heavy, physically large, and probably well used.
    another thing thats very important when buying used is if the welder comes with a lot of the attachments such as pedal, torch, assortment of torch pieces, regulator, and other stuff. that stuff can nickel and dime the hell out of you.
    Last edited by sonic reducer; 11-06-2011 at 09:48 PM.

  13. #13
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    Thanks

    Thanks to everyone for answering the thread. Glad to get more answers. I need to start looking at what would be good for me.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Walt View Post
    ...just fillet braze. A set of O/A tanks/regulators/torch can be had for pretty darn cheap. TIG is a very expensive way to join tubes, and unless you are planning to build lots of bikes, it often doesn't make a lot of sense financially.

    -Walt
    This....

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by customfab View Post
    Look for a used Miller Syncrowave. That machine is the workhorse of the tig welding world. They are easy to find, last forever and are dead built reliable. I wouldn't even waste time looking into a inverter machine like the dynasty/maxstar range.
    You know, I've been using a Dynasty (borrowed and the guy is moving and taking it with him in a couple of weeks) for the past couple of years and love the machine.

    This got me looking around though and I'm wondering if a Syncrowave wouldn't be a better machine for me. Comparing a new Dynasty 200DX and a new Syncrowave 250DX, I'd be out just about the same amount of cash.

    One of the big benefits of the (current) Syncrowave is that there is some new on demand cooling majig on the cooler so the welder isn't making all kinds of racket unless the torch is hot. Both machines seem to have an on demand fan for the machine itself, but the on demand cooler for the Syncrowave sounds great to me. That's my biggest complaint with the Dynasty is just how loud the cooler is on it. I'm not sure if the pre/post flow is user configurable on the Dynasty either, but I know it is for the Syncrowave, so it's got that going for it too. Finally, the Dynasty would only do half of the thickness (not a problem for frame building but I may build something else) that the Syncrowave will do, all for the same cost again. That's sounding hard to beat. Of course, it's a physically larger unit but the shop footprint doesn't look all that much bigger than the Dynasty on the cart from what I can tell in the pictures.

    From the pictures, it appears that the cooler plugs into a 110VAC port on the back of the Syncrowave, so no need to plug two power cords into the wall. Is that correct? Granted, it would be a 220 instead of 110 machine but I have plenty of 220 in my shop so that's not a problem. Having one less power cord to deal with sure would be nice though.

    I suppose it isn't portable like the inverter machines, but that isn't a deal breaker for me either. I mean really, am I going to gather it all up and go weld at someone else's place? I don't think so really.

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    Syncowave has 50A and duty cycle advantage. Post flow is configurable on the dynasty. Pre is not (I just tap the pedal once before starting out of habit.) If you're not using the high speed pulsing, AC, or really thin matarials on the dynasty there shouldn't be much weld difference. You can weld any thickness w/ multiple passes. Not sure how they compute 25% more amps is 100% thicker material(?) - maybe stick mode? FWIW, the syncro takes a HEAVY ac service. Look at the running/welding amps between the two. The dynasty is pfc and the syncro isn't. In welding shops the energy savings alone can pay for a new dynasty (but obviously we aren't at that level.)

    Interesting the syncro does on demand cooling now. Would be pretty easy to parallel a time-delay-off relay on the gas solenoid to get the same thing on any machine. Hmmmm, thats a good project idea...

    FOR ME, the AC on the dynasty is so superior its a no brainer. I've played w/ the HF pulsing on DC but don't have it mastered yet but everything I read says its the way to go. My dad has an older syncro 350 and it wont do thin stuff even remotely as well as the dynasty 200 will (but not really an apples to apples comparison either.) We've done a side-by-side comparison of them.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by jay_ntwr View Post
    You know, I've been using a Dynasty (borrowed and the guy is moving and taking it with him in a couple of weeks) for the past couple of years and love the machine.

    This got me looking around though and I'm wondering if a Syncrowave wouldn't be a better machine for me. Comparing a new Dynasty 200DX and a new Syncrowave 250DX, I'd be out just about the same amount of cash.

    One of the big benefits of the (current) Syncrowave is that there is some new on demand cooling majig on the cooler so the welder isn't making all kinds of racket unless the torch is hot. Both machines seem to have an on demand fan for the machine itself, but the on demand cooler for the Syncrowave sounds great to me. That's my biggest complaint with the Dynasty is just how loud the cooler is on it. I'm not sure if the pre/post flow is user configurable on the Dynasty either, but I know it is for the Syncrowave, so it's got that going for it too. Finally, the Dynasty would only do half of the thickness (not a problem for frame building but I may build something else) that the Syncrowave will do, all for the same cost again. That's sounding hard to beat. Of course, it's a physically larger unit but the shop footprint doesn't look all that much bigger than the Dynasty on the cart from what I can tell in the pictures.

    From the pictures, it appears that the cooler plugs into a 110VAC port on the back of the Syncrowave, so no need to plug two power cords into the wall. Is that correct? Granted, it would be a 220 instead of 110 machine but I have plenty of 220 in my shop so that's not a problem. Having one less power cord to deal with sure would be nice though.

    I suppose it isn't portable like the inverter machines, but that isn't a deal breaker for me either. I mean really, am I going to gather it all up and go weld at someone else's place? I don't think so really.
    I've been using one of those new torch cool on demand syncro's at a PT fab gig I picked up. At first I was kind of wigged out by it. But once I realized it was supposed to do that I thought it was kind of nice. (except the air compressor was next to the welder so it's all kind of moot)

    I have a Dynasty 200 and although it's a great machine I would never have bought it if I hadn't gotten a solid deal on it. And yes the pre and post flow is settable on the deluxe version, along with a lot of other bells and whistles I don't even know about. Even in my cramped garage that is only a frame building shop for about 10 weeks a year I could find space for a syncro. I really don't think the small size of the Dynasty is that big of a deal. And I sure as hell don't think they weld DC any better than a syncro, if anything they are slightly worse.

    The best DC welder I've used is the Lincoln precision tig 185. Best low amp arc stability and arc starting of any machine I've ever used. It's a pretty compact unit as well. Add a home grown cooler and it's a very capable machine for way more than bicycle frames. Plus they go for about ~$2k at your local weld supply store, which isn't chump change but it's better than a maxstar DC only machine any day.

    My thoughts having burned through a few tons of filler, take them for what you will.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by customfab View Post

    The best DC welder I've used is the Lincoln precision tig 185. Best low amp arc stability and arc starting of any machine I've ever used. It's a pretty compact unit as well. Add a home grown cooler and it's a very capable machine for way more than bicycle frames. Plus they go for about ~$2k at your local weld supply store, which isn't chump change but it's better than a maxstar DC only machine any day.
    I have only ever used one machine - a precision Tig 225, so it is good to hear your thoughts on it. I have spent countless hours practicing with it and it works great - not sure what the difference would be if I had a different welder, but for a newbie I am getting pretty decent consistent DC welds. I picked up the machine with everything included (except a cooler) for $1200 off craigslist in pretty much brand new condition (I could not tell it had ever been used) and the lincolns seem to pop up on a pretty consistent basis.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by customfab View Post
    I've been using one of those new torch cool on demand syncro's at a PT fab gig I picked up. At first I was kind of wigged out by it. But once I realized it was supposed to do that I thought it was kind of nice.
    How quiet is it compared to the Dynasty? I know that the Dynasty when not running is nearly silent. During welding, of course the fan kicks on and it gets loud with the aircooled torch. The cooling unit on it sounds like it's broken though--that's one loud cooler for such a small welder. Is that sort of the same thing with the Syncrowave and cool on demand unit? Or, to ask what I'm really interested in I suppose.... If the cooler cycles off, how loud is the welder if I'm just tacking up a frame? BTW, I'm putting my compressor outside this time. It's on my list to do in the new shop as soon as I do all the airlines.

    I'm still leaning toward that I think. One of the main reasons is that they never seem to lose value. I'm finding a ton of them on Craigslist (that are way old) and they're all $3-4k on the used market. That's not bad when you consider that they would have cost that new but now the things are $5k today. I figure drop $5k today and I've got a welder for life. And if during that life I don't need it at some point, it's $5k I can get back when they cost $8k.

    I'm in this for the long haul and I'm just probably going to get a shiny new machine... Now this Lincoln is looking pretty sweet for half the price too....

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by jay_ntwr View Post
    How quiet is it compared to the Dynasty? I know that the Dynasty when not running is nearly silent. During welding, of course the fan kicks on and it gets loud with the aircooled torch. The cooling unit on it sounds like it's broken though--that's one loud cooler for such a small welder. Is that sort of the same thing with the Syncrowave and cool on demand unit? Or, to ask what I'm really interested in I suppose.... If the cooler cycles off, how loud is the welder if I'm just tacking up a frame? BTW, I'm putting my compressor outside this time. It's on my list to do in the new shop as soon as I do all the airlines.

    Turn the radio up and get your ass to work!

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    Quote Originally Posted by customfab View Post
    Turn the radio up and get your ass to work!
    That's exactly why I'm concerned actually.... The tunes get drowned out by that stupid cooler and it makes me nuts. I just turn the cooler off and hope that I remember to turn it back on before I strike an arc. I like hearing the music between arcs and don't want to fiddle with turning things on and off.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by jay_ntwr View Post
    That's exactly why I'm concerned actually.... The tunes get drowned out by that stupid cooler and it makes me nuts. I just turn the cooler off and hope that I remember to turn it back on before I strike an arc. I like hearing the music between arcs and don't want to fiddle with turning things on and off.
    I run a home brewed fan less cooler on the dynasty. Having a 5 gallon cooler has been more than sufficient in cooling the 200 amps I have on tap. Even when doing multi passes on heavy steel the cooling capacity hasn't fallen short of the duty cycle on the power source. My plan B was to use a junk yard radiator as a resivor. Something out of a full sized truck would have netted more water capacity and a massive improvement in cooling capacity over the 6 gallon plastic bucket I use now.

    Or you could turn your radio up a little

  23. #23
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    When I'm looking a welder, what thickness of steel should I be thinking about building. To start out I might try a heavy steel and then if I really want to keep going it might be a lighter steel frame. Also thinking about Alu.

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    Quote Originally Posted by cottonball View Post
    When I'm looking a welder, what thickness of steel should I be thinking about building. To start out I might try a heavy steel and then if I really want to keep going it might be a lighter steel frame. Also thinking about Alu.
    I would get a welder that can go down to .020 if possible.

  25. #25
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    Is a Mig ok?

    A friend at work bought a small mig welder and really likes it. Is mig welding a good start for steel frames? Please remember that this is a project and only as a hobbie.

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