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Old 12-11-09, 12:13 PM   #1
macwild
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Welding and Art - Wire or Arc welder?

My wife is thinking of adding welding to her art repertoire and I was going to get her a welding setup for Christmas.

Which do you think would be a better option:
Wire welder or an Arc welder?

The wire welders I've been looking at are a little smaller and typically run off 110 while the arc welder is larger and needs a 220, which we have.

Since we live on a farm we may actually use it for repairs to the fence and other jobs. As far as art, the metal wont be that big but I can see her taking my truck apart and turning it into some kind of kinetic mobile!

It seems that the arc welder will do more, but does she really need that big?
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Old 12-11-09, 12:27 PM   #2
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My 2cents:

Arc welding is all about power. It is not for fine work that I'd do in art. It works great for repairing farm equipment though

"wire", I assume you mean MIG, either gas or gas-less, is much finer. With a 110v setup, it won't do too much power - you'd have a hard time welding 1/2" cast iron for example.

TIG "wire" is even finer. IMHO the best thing for doing delicate work. But they can make some good power too. And are quite expensive.

MIG, with gas, and TIG aren't very portable. Arc welding is fairly portable if you can get power to it.

Gas welding (oxy) IMHO is the most flexable and most portable, no power needed. It's also the slowest. But as an added selling point, you can use most of the set up to build bike frames
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Old 12-11-09, 12:37 PM   #3
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my 2cents:

Arc welding is all about power. It is not for fine work that i'd do in art. It works great for repairing farm equipment though

"wire", i assume you mean mig, either gas or gas-less, is much finer. With a 110v setup, it won't do too much power - you'd have a hard time welding 1/2" cast iron for example.


tig "wire" is even finer. Imho the best thing for doing delicate work. But they can make some good power too. And are quite expensive.

mig, with gas, and tig aren't very portable. Arc welding is fairly portable if you can get power to it.

Gas welding (oxy) imho is the most flexable and most portable, no power needed. It's also the slowest. But as an added selling point, you can use most of the set up to build bike frames




And IMO takes a good bit more skill/practice/coordination to use than all the others.
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Old 12-11-09, 12:53 PM   #4
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My pops is an artist, he uses a mig welder for sculptures- I think mostly because for him its an easier overall set-up, workflowwise.
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Old 12-11-09, 01:29 PM   #5
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You have to take into consideration how heavy of metal she will be working with. If she will be working with metal that is 1/4" thick or under, go with a mig or simple flux core wire feed.
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Old 12-11-09, 01:47 PM   #6
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Scorpio nailed it. TIG is sweet, but to my knowledge much more difficult and pricey (never actually tried it). Arc is a 'rough and tough' type thing. MIG is a piece of cake and will do what you need it to. May take all of, oh, 10 minutes until you figure out how to run a really nice bead. I wouldn't say it's terribly hard to move around, unless you have an enormous gas cylinder, but then you can just practice your welding by building cart for it. I dont like torch. I vote MIG hands down, unless your welding 1/2 in plate.. and lots of it.
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Old 12-11-09, 02:15 PM   #7
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Unless she's doing 1/2 inch plate, and has experience with welding, I'd avoid TIG because it's much harder to do, especially if you can't be seated.
Aluminum and Ti are a bit cheaper with TIG but I doubt you'll be welding Ti and Aluminum is easier to learn with a MIG spool gun.
Anyone with a 4th grade brain or better can learn MIG.
Gas for the MIG makes things way easier.
Stick is rough, and not well suited to thin stiff.
Remember not to weld galvanized steel.
Auto darkening helmets rock, especially for TIG, but they still do in general.
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Old 12-11-09, 02:31 PM   #8
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Wow thanks for all the info. This changes my search a little. I'll admit I know NOTHING about welding and I didn't realize that MIG welding required gas!
I'll take a look at the shops in town and see what they have.
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Old 12-11-09, 02:34 PM   #9
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For farm equipment, MIG, no question. Although, I don't know that I'd want a 110 volt unit to work on farm equipment. Probably better to get the 220.

For art, I can't say what I'd suggest, because I have little to no idea what you mean.

For the cheapest route possible with the most versatility, an Arc welder and an oxy acetaline set might work nicely. But it would definitely be more of a chore to use the stuff.

One thing I can't stress enough is to avoid harbor freight and similar crap. It's better to spend the money and get the reliability from a reputable company.
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Old 12-11-09, 02:36 PM   #10
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Oh, and one other thing, if there are any community colleges near you that offer welding classes, TAKE ONE! It is much too serious of a subject to try to guess your way through. Nearly every process involved with welding can kill or injure you.
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Old 12-11-09, 03:23 PM   #11
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.... I didn't realize that MIG welding required gas! ....
MIG doesn't "require" gas, but it makes it a lot cleaner with less splatter. You can use a flux core wire if you don't mind the mess. I used to have a small Miller MIG and all I ever used with it was flux core.
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Old 12-11-09, 04:12 PM   #12
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If you can afford it, get a 220v MIG setup. You can always dial it down in power for finer work. However, it's very difficult (read impossible) to get more power out of a 110v setup when you need it for heavy work. Plus the bigger unit can do spot welding on sheet with a pulse/stitch setting that the smaller units don't have.

The smaller units also have plastic feed wheels inside that wear out fairly quickly. The bigger units are built for longer/harder work shifts.

You rent the gas bottles from the welding supply place. DO NOT buy the bottles from harbor freight and expect to be able to fill them or exchange them for filled bottles - no one accepts them because they are not certified.

You'll also need some welding spatter spray (forget what it's called) to keep the spatter from sticking to the nozzle. +1 to auto-darkening helmets.
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Old 12-11-09, 04:35 PM   #13
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I've never had an issue with the spatter spray. I used it once, then never again in the last 4 years. As for welders, I agree to avoid Harbor Freight. Miller and Lincoln both have nice options, as do a couple other companies like Hobart. The Red vs Blue (Lincoln vs Miller) welding debate is similar to Shimano/Campy. Nobody is right and all the products are pretty good.

As stated above, gas isn't mandatory, but it sure makes things easier. Also, some gloves, wire brushes, and perhaps an angle grinder with a flap disk are the welding equivalent of bibs, jerseys, and a water bottle.

One more thing, you or your wife will eventually get a piece of molten steel over your helmet and in to your hair (it's really hot). A bandanna solves this problem. In general try not to wear easily flammable/melt able clothes when welding.
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Old 12-11-09, 06:39 PM   #14
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MIG doesn't "require" gas, but it makes it a lot cleaner with less splatter. You can use a flux core wire if you don't mind the mess. I used to have a small Miller MIG and all I ever used with it was flux core.
MIG, by definition (Metal Inert Gas), requires gas.

That said, any MIG welder should be able run flux-cored wire without gas. That process is called Flux-Cored Arc Welding (FCAW).
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Old 12-11-09, 06:41 PM   #15
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One more thing, you or your wife will eventually get a piece of molten steel over your helmet and in to your hair (it's really hot). A bandanna solves this problem. In general try not to wear easily flammable/melt able clothes when welding.
I have a funny grey spot in my hair from this. It's pretty weird. I knew when I burned my scalp, but I just brushed it out and didn't think anything of it. A couple week later my girlfriend told me I was going grey. The spot hasn't changed in the two years since.
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Old 12-11-09, 06:58 PM   #16
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MIG welding is much easier to learn, and produces a nicer weld for beginners. Also, Arc / Stick welding tends to produce more spatter that needs to be cleaned up. For crafts, I'd vote for MIG.
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Old 12-11-09, 07:43 PM   #17
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The learning curve for MIG(wire feed) is pretty fast for a motivated learner.
Stick(arc) welding takes longer to acquire proficiency but is better
suited for field repairs in less than optimal conditions.

(I use MIG and TIG for the sculptures I make, TIG for material 1/8 inch or less,
MIG for anything thicker)(Also I am prejudiced against stick, that was the process
I was using to weld a hitch frame into a dumptruck when spatter lit my hair on fire,
inspiring the transition from shoulder-length to buzzcut)

Last edited by mikewille; 12-11-09 at 07:49 PM.
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Old 12-11-09, 08:37 PM   #18
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MIG, by definition (Metal Inert Gas), requires gas.

That said, any MIG welder should be able run flux-cored wire without gas. That process is called Flux-Cored Arc Welding (FCAW).
Exactly. Thanks for clarifying my statement. I just realized that I should have said "wire feed welder" instead of "MIG". I was going to make another post to correct my last post, but you beat me too it.
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Old 12-12-09, 03:57 AM   #19
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What kind of artwork? What size & materials?

For any kind of quality welding on decent metals, you'd want either TIG or MIG. It's the inert gas that keeps out the O2 and creates a much stronger, cleaner weld without contamination and splatter. Artists will appreciate the cleaner welds with minimal clean-up work. You're better off spending your time creating rather than cleaning.

MIG is quick to learn and gives good results, much better than anything that can be achieved with oxy/acetylene or stick/arc-welding. For the ultimate in control and weld-quality, you're looking at TIG. But it takes longer to learn that than MIG and initially, the benefits won't be obvious. You can get a decent MIG kit for $500-1000. For TIG, you're looking at $1500-2000.
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Old 12-13-09, 12:41 PM   #20
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Again thanks for the great info.

She has signed up for an art welding class at the local community college. Since I teach there, I may swing by that department ans see what they'll be using for the class.

I've already pick up a pair of welding gloves for her and a self darkening helmet.

The art she'll be making will be out of mainly scrap metal we have lying about the farm. I don't think any of it is galvanized or bigger than 1/2". As for repairs, it would mostly be spot welding on the fence.

Can you cut with a MIG welder?
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Old 12-13-09, 02:03 PM   #21
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A sort of half-assed severing effect can be achieved with a mig welder, but it's so
rough, messy and uncontrollable as to be definitely not worth the effort to attempt.
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Old 12-13-09, 07:51 PM   #22
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Adding to that, you can't really properly cut with a TIG welder either. It'll look like a plasma cutter turned on uber high, will take a ton of energy, and won't work particularly well in general.
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