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  1. #1
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    TIG Welding Machine

    Currently "matriculating" in a beginner welding class and also recently participated in a TIG workshop sponsored by the Experimental Aircraft Association (highly recommend for newbs). I'm curious what welding machines you builders out there (from hobbyists to the seasoned pros- Walt, Mr. Strong, et al) are using. Lincoln, Miller, inverter technology, torch#, 110/220v, amp range, pros/cons, etc?....will appreciate any and all feedback...

  2. #2
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    miller maxstar 200 Inverter. I can run it with any input source voltage, but I am currently (pun intended) using 110. It is super portable, air cooled torch. I have used a miller syncrowave 250 lots and like the power and water cooled torch. Water cooled torches are more flexible than air cooled in my experience, thought not requred for welding bike frames.

  3. #3
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    the maxstar 200 is a great welder but you can not weld aluminum with it. you would have to go with the miller dynasty which is a maxstar with the ability to run a/c. if you will only be welding steel or ti the maxstar will do.

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    Whatever is fine.

    I have a Maxstar 200 that I did about 150ish frames with before getting a Dynasty because of all the bells and whistles and ability to weld aluminum.

    The Maxstar is awesome if you don't care about aluminum or welding huge thick stuff. It's just as capable as most more expensive machines and SUPER portable. I do odd jobs all the time that require on-site TIG - easy money. Plug her into the hairdryer outlet and go to town.

    I've used some Lincoln machines too, and they seemed perfectly fine. I think pretty much anything you buy from the big 2 is going to be more than capable of bike work. The question is whether or not you'll need to do other projects down the road, really.

    If you haunt craigslist, you can find older transformer driven machines for cheap. But they need lots of room and power and often only do lift-start, which IMO would suck for doing bike work, though it's probably not impossible.

    -Walt
    Waltworks Custom Bicycles
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  5. #5
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    I have a Maxstar 150 sth. It has pulse (although limited to four fixed settings) and high frequency start, which is nice for thin wall tubing. I also have a small shop where space is limited and a transformer based machine would have taken up considerable amount of usable space, the Maxstar is tiny and around 13lbs.

    Just a note about the really old transformer machines, especially the buzz box/stick welders that were converted to TIG...they start by "scratch starting", which is just like striking a match on the work surface and contaminates the tungsten. "Lift Arc" start is a feature that comes with some of the newer Miller machines like the Maxstar 150 stl, where you just touch the work surface causing the machine to short creating a low current/heat arc, then you just lift the arc and begin to weld.

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    I've recently upgraded to a dynasty 200dx. Im new to bike work (but not to welding) and its the cats meow. The high speed pulser & HF AC make thin stuff and aluminum almost too easy. I had a miller econotig for ages. It worked very well EXCEPT for thin matl. Its low end current setting just isn't low enough (20A?) for really thin stuff. My dad has a transformer synchrowave that will go pretty low. So, for bike frames pay attention to the lowest current it can do. I agree w/ Walt, almost anything from the big 2 or 3 will be fine.

    kampgnar also hit the nail on the head w/ the difference between scratch-start (undesireable) and lift-start (works fine). The dynastys lift start mode doesn't run any welding current/gas until it detects the circuit opens (I suspect its the same w/ the maxstar). This works really well at very low currents since it starts the arc when the air gap is still tiny. I'll admit 99% of the time I use HF start but don't be afraid of a true lift-start.

    Almost all small machines come w/ a #17 air cooled torch. Will work fine for bikes.

  7. #7
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    Check out the Lincoln Precision Tig 275 with advanced control panel, it does it all.
    And if you ever weld monocoques, you'll love the pulse.
    RTW.

  8. #8
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    The 200DX is a great machine !!!

    Quote Originally Posted by smdubovsky
    I've recently upgraded to a dynasty 200dx. Im new to bike work (but not to welding) and its the cats meow. The high speed pulser & HF AC make thin stuff and aluminum almost too easy. I had a miller econotig for ages. It worked very well EXCEPT for thin matl. Its low end current setting just isn't low enough (20A?) for really thin stuff. My dad has a transformer synchrowave that will go pretty low. So, for bike frames pay attention to the lowest current it can do. I agree w/ Walt, almost anything from the big 2 or 3 will be fine.

    kampgnar also hit the nail on the head w/ the difference between scratch-start (undesireable) and lift-start (works fine). The dynastys lift start mode doesn't run any welding current/gas until it detects the circuit opens (I suspect its the same w/ the maxstar). This works really well at very low currents since it starts the arc when the air gap is still tiny. I'll admit 99% of the time I use HF start but don't be afraid of a true lift-start.

    Almost all small machines come w/ a #17 air cooled torch. Will work fine for bikes.
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    How about the Maxstar 150 STL- No Pulse Feature?

    Thanks for all the feedback!
    I'm gravitating towards the Miller Maxstar 150 STL (portability, affordability, 110 input, 5-150amp range, etc.).

    http://www.millerwelds.com/products/...xstar_150_stl/

    Feedback please? Sufficient for thin walled tubing? Any deficiencies?

  10. #10
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    It'll work.

    A lot of people like the pulse feature, though I personally just use my foot.

    FWIW, if you're looking to do this on the cheap, forget TIG. TIG is a big waste of money unless you're going to built LOTS of frames. And you'll need O/A tanks and a torch at some point anyway, so if I were you, I'd start there and do a couple fillet bikes first.

    -Walt

    Quote Originally Posted by smithga29
    Thanks for all the feedback!
    I'm gravitating towards the Miller Maxstar 150 STL (portability, affordability, 110 input, 5-150amp range, etc.).

    http://www.millerwelds.com/products/...xstar_150_stl/

    Feedback please? Sufficient for thin walled tubing? Any deficiencies?
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  11. #11
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    Best one I ever used was a Cebora, italian I think, there is nothing you cant adjust on those. ESAB should be very nice also.
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  12. #12
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    O/a

    thanks Walt...right, O/A setup is a given...as well as a fillet bike initially...TIG is a desired skill to acquire, not only for bikes...but I'm interested in a machine with bike tube suitability...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Walt
    A lot of people like the pulse feature, though I personally just use my foot.
    Im new to pulsing but you really can't do it w/ your foot. From what I understand, those who set the pps ~1-2 aren't exploiting the technology. Talk to a real welder and they'll recommend 20+pps (indirectly I know a guy who welds on 'porous stainless' - think of it as whipped cream made out of metal and you can imagine how hard it is to weld.) Machines doing thin matl are using 100+pps. The best explanation I have heard that really makes sense is that it increases the 'liquidity' of the puddle. W/ the pulser cranked up, you can get a wide&deep puddle that flows like you're adding a ton of heat but w/o actually doing so and melting though. You can still manually goose the pedal slowly in addition to the pulsing for the stack of dimes effect if you want.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by smithga29
    Thanks for all the feedback!
    I'm gravitating towards the Miller Maxstar 150 STL (portability, affordability, 110 input, 5-150amp range, etc.).

    http://www.millerwelds.com/products/...xstar_150_stl/

    Feedback please? Sufficient for thin walled tubing? Any deficiencies?

    The stl is a basic inverter TIG box. No pulse, and no HF start...only lift arc. It may look attractive at a couple hundred less than the sth, but you'd be better off with the additional features if you find you prefer them. Much better to invest more up front and put the money into the right machine (or better) for the job, than to try and upgrade something that your invested in and doesn't fit the bill.

    I haven't run across any problems, just make sure you pick up the foot pedal control as they don't include it with any of the packages and the rotary finger control is awkward and really only for out of position work.

    Weldingweb.com, and the Millerwelds forum has a lot of information about the Maxstar series.

  15. #15
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    Interesting.

    I know some "real welders" and they've never said anything like that. In my experience, pulsers are most popular for welding aluminum. I don't hear much about using them with steel.

    Then again, "real welders" seldom do anything thinner than about 1/8", so who knows.

    Miller says "Built-in pulser reduces heat input; adds arc stability". I'll have to play around with that - I do remember trying something around 80 hertz back in the day and not liking how it worked much. But who knows? Worth checking out.

    Best info I found is here:http://www.rittercnc.com/welding/Pla...ser-11043-.htm

    -Walt

    Quote Originally Posted by smdubovsky
    Im new to pulsing but you really can't do it w/ your foot. From what I understand, those who set the pps ~1-2 aren't exploiting the technology. Talk to a real welder and they'll recommend 20+pps (indirectly I know a guy who welds on 'porous stainless' - think of it as whipped cream made out of metal and you can imagine how hard it is to weld.) Machines doing thin matl are using 100+pps. The best explanation I have heard that really makes sense is that it increases the 'liquidity' of the puddle. W/ the pulser cranked up, you can get a wide&deep puddle that flows like you're adding a ton of heat but w/o actually doing so and melting though. You can still manually goose the pedal slowly in addition to the pulsing for the stack of dimes effect if you want.
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  16. #16
    what, no trials?
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    I was in the same spot the OP is a year ago. I bought the stl and bought a aftermarket pedal. I wish I'd gone ahead and bought the sth (reread kampgnars post). The no hf start is something I can see being a problem down the road. Overall it works prefect for my work related repairs. I still haven't built a frame with it. The next frame is gonna be tigged, I'm tired of all the mess and clean up with fillet.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by BeatAFool
    The next frame is gonna be tigged, I'm tired of all the mess and clean up with fillet.
    Not a lot of people do, but it is possible if you become proficient enough at fillet to just soak off the flux and powder/paint it. I believe Curtlo does this. Steve's would look just great without any post cleanup.

    I have seen plenty of people lay down a pretty heinous TIG weld and roll with it. Seems like everyone wants a fillet braze to be really smooth though. I say, lay it down, ask your powder coater to go thick on the joints and roll.

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  18. #18
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    most thin metal is greatly benefited by welding with a pulse feature. here is some info on it from millers website along with alink. they have a lot of good articles on their site for new welders and experienced welders as well.
    http://www.millerwelds.com/education.../story113.html

    Pulsed TIG welding minimizes heat input through the “on and off pulsing action” of the arc (see Fig. 1). Note that while pulsing creates an audible difference between “regular” TIG, pulsing rates of even 30 PPS won’t be visible to the eye (for example, the lights in your house go on and off 60 times per second because of the 60 Hz AC wall power, yet you perceive the bulb as a constant source of light).



    Fig. 1 The operator sets four variables when programming a pulsed TIG output: peak amperage, background amperage, pulses per second (PPS) and peak time.
    PPS is simply how many times the machine will complete one pulsing cycle in a time span of one second. This feature enhances weld cosmetics and reduces heat input, thus reducing warping. Increasing the number of pulses per second produces:
    * A smoother the ripple effect in the weld bead
    * Narrows the weld bead
    * More “cooling effect”

    Reducing the number of pulses per second widens the weld bead. Slower pulsing also helps agitate the puddle and release any porosity or gas trapped in the weld (this is very helpful when welding aluminum with AC pulsed TIG). Some beginning TIG welders use a slow pulsing rate (perhaps .25 to 1 PPS) to help them develop a rhythm for adding filler metal. When beginners weld aluminum, an AC pulsed TIG rate of about 4 to 8 PPS may enhance cosmetics too. However, an experienced TIG welder may set a much higher PPS rate. It is not uncommon for them to weld aluminum at 4 to 130 PPS and stainless steel at 100 to 500 PPS (rates higher than 500 PPS are generally automated).

    The peak time (“PEAK t” on the Dynasty control panel) is simply the percentage of time during one pulsing cycle the power source spends at the peak amperage (main amperage). With peak time of 60 percent and a rate of 1 PPS, the Dynasty will spend 6/10ths of a second at peak amperage and 4/10ths of a second at the background amperage. Increasing the peak time percentage adds more heat to the part, while decreasing peak time percentage reduces heat. A good place to start for peak time is 50 to 60 percent.

    The background amperage (“BKGND A” on the Dynasty control panel) will be a percentage of the main amperage set on the machine. Thus, a machine set for an output of 200 amps and a background amperage of 50 percent produces a background amperage output of 100 amps during the background side of the pulse. This feature helps keep heat out of the part. Lowering the background amp percentage reduces the average heat input, while increasing the background amp percentage raises the overall amperage. When adjusting this feature, operators will especially notice how it affects weld puddle fluidity during the background portion of the cycle. Overall, operators want to shrink the puddle to about half its normal size while still keeping the puddle fluid. When welding stainless and carbon steels, start by setting the background amperage at 20 to 30 percent of peak amperage; on aluminum alloys, set the background to 35 to 50 percent of peak.

    Note that experimenting with PPS, Peak and Background Amperage is the only way to determine the parameters that work best for your specific application. For best results, only adjust one variable at a time. As noted earlier, those using pulse TIG welding in an industrial setting will benefit most from inverter technology. Where a conventional TIG machine is limited by the 60 Hz primary power, an inverter essential creates its own internal operating frequency, which is typically 20,000 to 60,000 Hz. This speed translates into significantly greater arc control, arc focus and arc stability—all things professional TIG welders demand!

  19. #19
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    A few experiments

    So I had some welding to do this morning, and I spent about 30 minutes messing with pulser settings. I tried from about 30 to 200 hertz or so.

    As far as I can tell, the pulser makes absolutely no difference (at least for me) in terms of heat input (in fact, if anything, there's a slightly larger HAZ than without), puddle behavior, or bead size. It does make a ton of noise and make it impossible to hear my music!

    I tried deliberately overheating some scrap to blow holes and didn't notice any difference there either, regardless of pulser settings.

    Maybe this is a feature aimed at folks who don't do much work with thin stuff? Or mostly for aluminum? I just don't see that it does anything, so unless I can find evidence otherwise, I'll stick with my old-fashioned foot-only amperage control.

    -Walt

    Quote Originally Posted by qbert2000
    most thin metal is greatly benefited by welding with a pulse feature. here is some info on it from millers website along with alink. they have a lot of good articles on their site for new welders and experienced welders as well.
    http://www.millerwelds.com/education.../story113.html

    Pulsed TIG welding minimizes heat input through the “on and off pulsing action” of the arc (see Fig. 1). Note that while pulsing creates an audible difference between “regular” TIG, pulsing rates of even 30 PPS won’t be visible to the eye (for example, the lights in your house go on and off 60 times per second because of the 60 Hz AC wall power, yet you perceive the bulb as a constant source of light).



    Fig. 1 The operator sets four variables when programming a pulsed TIG output: peak amperage, background amperage, pulses per second (PPS) and peak time.
    PPS is simply how many times the machine will complete one pulsing cycle in a time span of one second. This feature enhances weld cosmetics and reduces heat input, thus reducing warping. Increasing the number of pulses per second produces:
    * A smoother the ripple effect in the weld bead
    * Narrows the weld bead
    * More “cooling effect”

    Reducing the number of pulses per second widens the weld bead. Slower pulsing also helps agitate the puddle and release any porosity or gas trapped in the weld (this is very helpful when welding aluminum with AC pulsed TIG). Some beginning TIG welders use a slow pulsing rate (perhaps .25 to 1 PPS) to help them develop a rhythm for adding filler metal. When beginners weld aluminum, an AC pulsed TIG rate of about 4 to 8 PPS may enhance cosmetics too. However, an experienced TIG welder may set a much higher PPS rate. It is not uncommon for them to weld aluminum at 4 to 130 PPS and stainless steel at 100 to 500 PPS (rates higher than 500 PPS are generally automated).

    The peak time (“PEAK t” on the Dynasty control panel) is simply the percentage of time during one pulsing cycle the power source spends at the peak amperage (main amperage). With peak time of 60 percent and a rate of 1 PPS, the Dynasty will spend 6/10ths of a second at peak amperage and 4/10ths of a second at the background amperage. Increasing the peak time percentage adds more heat to the part, while decreasing peak time percentage reduces heat. A good place to start for peak time is 50 to 60 percent.

    The background amperage (“BKGND A” on the Dynasty control panel) will be a percentage of the main amperage set on the machine. Thus, a machine set for an output of 200 amps and a background amperage of 50 percent produces a background amperage output of 100 amps during the background side of the pulse. This feature helps keep heat out of the part. Lowering the background amp percentage reduces the average heat input, while increasing the background amp percentage raises the overall amperage. When adjusting this feature, operators will especially notice how it affects weld puddle fluidity during the background portion of the cycle. Overall, operators want to shrink the puddle to about half its normal size while still keeping the puddle fluid. When welding stainless and carbon steels, start by setting the background amperage at 20 to 30 percent of peak amperage; on aluminum alloys, set the background to 35 to 50 percent of peak.

    Note that experimenting with PPS, Peak and Background Amperage is the only way to determine the parameters that work best for your specific application. For best results, only adjust one variable at a time. As noted earlier, those using pulse TIG welding in an industrial setting will benefit most from inverter technology. Where a conventional TIG machine is limited by the 60 Hz primary power, an inverter essential creates its own internal operating frequency, which is typically 20,000 to 60,000 Hz. This speed translates into significantly greater arc control, arc focus and arc stability—all things professional TIG welders demand!
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  20. #20
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    the pulser does help with thin stock but mostly used on sheet goods. i weld .065 ss tubing at work and do not use the pulse feature for that. i have used the pulse when i was making some thin gauge panels and i noticed a difference. the main thing is you set up the initial amperage high with a drop on the background amperage. if you search welding stainless with pulse on google you'll see a lot of different articles that have welder settings in them. when i was welding the panels up i used 30 amps main and 18 amps as my background with the pps at 175. it helped me but i can't say for everyone. there are fabrication shops that swear by it for sheet metal work, i don't know about tube welding shops swearing by it though. it is nice to have as an optio though.

  21. #21
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    I thought pulsing was used for stainless and aluminum to break the oxide layer, maybe its not the same thing/pulses ?
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  22. #22
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    from millers website

    True pulsing

    All advanced TIG inverters incorporate pulsed welding capabilities. Pulsed TIG welding is extremely beneficial when welding thin gauge steel and stainless steel. It allows the operator to tailor the amount of heat to the application, decreasing distortion and heat input. Pulsing can also help teach beginning TIG welders because it provides a rhythm for adding the filler rod (i.e., add the filler rod during peak amperage pulse).

    For critical applications, discerning operators want precise heat (amperage) control to best prevent burn-through, warping or discoloration.

    Welders with true pulsing controls, such as the Dynasty 300 DX, let the operator carefully tailor the pulsed wave form by setting: background amp range, pulse frequency (pulses per second) and peak time adjustment (duration of peak amperage). This gives the operator much more leeway when fine tuning the arc. A series of switch pads lets the operator precisely set parameter values

    Pulsed TIG Beats the Heat
    Whenever excess heat, loss of mechanical properties and warping are an issue, consider a pulsed welding process for the solution. With pulsed TIG, the arc pulses between a high peak and low background current (see chart). The peak current provides good penetration, but the background current allows the weld puddle to cool slightly, preventing warping, embrittlement and carbide precipitation.


    This close-up shows the weld bead and its relatively small heat affected zone on .304 stainless steel pipe. A small heat affected zone helps to avoid warping and ensures precision fit and performance.


    Higher pulsing (generally above 100 pulses per second) increase puddle agitation, which in turn produces a better grain molecular structure within the weld. High speed pulsing also constricts and focuses the arc. This increases arc stability, penetration and travel speeds, and it produces a smaller heat-affected zone.


    The long, smooth shape of CNC billet aluminum end cap looks good and restricts noise levels for racing events. Various colors are available for all Big Gun exhaust systems.

    High speed pulsed TIG requires using a TIG inverter, such as Miller’s Dynasty® series. Conventional TIG technology limits pulsing to a relatively narrow range of .25 to 10.0 pulses per second (PPS), where inverter technology enables pulsed at up to 5,000 PPS.

    Suggesting Starting Variables
    Pulsed TIG welding requires setting four variables: peak amperage, background amperage, peak time and pulse rate. Determining good values for setting peak amperage works much the same as setting maximum amperage values for regular DC TIG: use 1 amp for every .001 in. of thickness.

    The peak time is simply the percentage of time during one pulsing cycle the power source spends at the peak amperage (main amperage). With peak time of 80 percent and a rate of 1 pulse per second (PPS), the inverter will spend 8/10ths of a second at peak amperage and 2/10ths of a second at the background amperage. Increasing the peak time percentage adds more heat to the part, while decreasing peak time percentage reduces heat. As general rule of thumb, begin experimenting at 50 to 60 percent peak time.

    The background amperage will be a percentage of the main amperage set on the machine. Thus, a machine set for an output of 150 amps and background amperage of 30 percent produces a background amperage output of 45 amps. Lowering the background amp percentage reduces the average heat input, while increasing the background amp percentage raises the overall amperage.

    Especially notice how background current adjustments affect weld puddle fluidity. As a rule, use enough background current to shrink the puddle to about half its normal size while still keeping the puddle fluid. When welding stainless and carbon steels, start by setting the background amperage at 20 to 30 percent of peak amperage.

    PPS is simply how many times the machine will complete one pulsing cycle in a time span of one second. Increasing the number of pulses per second produces a smoother the ripple effect in the weld bead, narrows the weld bead and adds more “cooling affect.” Reducing the number of pulses per second widens the weld bead. Slower pulsing also helps agitate the puddle and release any porosity or gas trapped in the weld (this is very helpful when welding aluminum with AC pulsed TIG).

    Some beginning TIG welders use a slow pulsing rate (perhaps .5 to 1 PPS) to help them develop a rhythm for adding filler metal. For welding carbon or stainless steel, use a rate of 100 to 500 PPS. Start at 100 and work upward. Note that rates higher than 500 PPS are generally automated.

    Depending on the part being welded, the cost of just a few scrapped parts or warranty claims could more than outweigh the cost of upgrading to a new inverter with advanced pulsed TIG capabilities. Also, consider that pulsed TIG makes it easier for welding operators to achieve betters results, so they’ll enjoy welding more.

  23. #23
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    We use Miller Dynasty 300 / 350 DX's , weld tons and tons of aluminum and stainless steel. The lightest material that I have welded is .010, about the thickness of a razor blade. We weld .018 and .020 regulary on aircraft parts and fabricated parts here in the shop. This machine is the perfect match for us. As for controls, I prefer the foot pedal on the real thin stuff, But I really like the benefits and speed of the thumb controler for production. I have messed around with the pulser, but prefer the manual use of my right foot...So Walt - 1/8" thickness or more is a welder ( stick welder maybe, or "pro mig welder)...but anything lighter is an artist....Its amazing how many folks claim to be "professional" welders, and when they apply to my shop ( 100% GTAW ) btw, they can either stick or mig weld only..amazing. Go to the oil field and burn your 6010's downhill pal.

    Buy something that will get the job done, something that you can GROW into..dont sell yourself short with a cheap machine, you'll spend more in the long run if you go about it this way

  24. #24
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    Keep Going...

    I truly appreciate all the feedback...and the level at which it's been conducted...very helpful...

  25. #25
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    FWIW, buy the miller they have outstanding customer support(tech, setup,troubleshooting,etc..) I don't know about the other brands but miller tech was willing the walk me through diagnosing a failed circuit board on my engine drive(the only problem I have ever had with any of my machines and that machine was 15yrs old) and have helped me with numerous other tech questions. i currently own 4 miller machines 2mig and 2 tig, the inverter tigs are awesome light and efficient. check ebay for dynasty and maxstar they often come up for great prices and lots of then are hardly used. the 200 series are true industrial units capable of 1000s of arc hrs and built for abuse, if they don't have a problem early in their life they are not likely to.I picked up a maxstar 200dx w/ 40 arc hrs on it for 1000 bucks!
    As for the pulsing I too am undecided I talked to miller tech yesterday and the only thing I can add is high hz 100-300 tends to let the puddle freeze a little quicker and in my opinion does reduce heat input, but because the puddle freezes quicker it is more difficult to get the stacked dime effect than lower hz. seems to me that lower hz is just mimicking pumping the petal. I would like to see more discussion on pulsing as there doesn't seem to be much info on it , also what settings others are using.

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