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Henry III 01-10-13 10:51 PM

Steel TIG framebuilders ?'s
I'm currently looking for a machine and trying to decide what bells and whistles I want to the budget I'm working with. Mainly I want pulse and hf start in a machine and don't see doing any aluminum so AC isn't needed so it drops my prices dramatically. I have a Dynasty 200dx in my booth at work but that's a little out of my budget(nothing above $1000).

Just wondering what TIG framebuilders have in their shops what options they use on a daily basis when welding?

I'm quite a bit leary on the no name chinese units but then again it makes you wonder what companies like Giant, Specialized, Trek, etc... use to weld their frames overseas?

Any decent lesser known machines worthy of noting?


fietsbob 01-11-13 02:02 AM

TIG as a process with A hand fed filler wire.., not machines.. China is used because you can hire the hands for less..
Merida and Giant is one of the multi brand contract manufacturing companies making multiple brands , for various importers.

ftwelder 01-11-13 03:30 AM

A lot depends on available electrical supply, skills and the space you have and your plans for the future. I have tons of power and room so I would buy an old Miller or lincoln. They go cheap these days and are extremely reliable.

For small spaces and low power, I would buy a small inverter from Thermal Dynamics (I think they are thermal arc now). The cheap import machines last for a while and function. If you buy a quality used machine, you will be able to sell it for what you paid (or more). Not so with a no-name brand.

Hi freq start is nice but the lift start is pretty important also. I have a built-in pulse control as well as aftermarket units. Pulse isn't awesome without a background adjustment option.

I use pre and post purge and that is about it for bikes.

Production manufacturers use all different types of systems depending on when the facility was built.

Henry III 01-11-13 11:05 AM


Originally Posted by fietsbob (Post 15144268)
TIG as a process with A hand fed filler wire.., not machines.. China is used because you can hire the hands for less..
Merida and Giant is one of the multi brand contract manufacturing companies making multiple brands , for various importers.

I apologize...I'm looking to build a bicycle frame using the GTAW process and interested in what additional features builders use on a daily basis. Do most steel builders use pulse or just careful pedal control. Is HF needed without contaminating the tungsten or are you able to get away with using lift arc? Or are these consider basic necessities when choosing a machine and to play the game you have to pay?

I TIG weld for a living but mainly do sheet metal stainless the majority of the time and don't ever touch thin wall tubing. I took Doug Fattic's class two years ago but just built a lugged frame. Honestly I enjoy welding more then brazing so I decided to use that knowledge I gained from the class and what I do for a living and try building a frame or two.

So fietsbob I don't know why the snarky comment I wasn't spitting out some "I want to build a sweet lugged frame so please tell me how to weld one together" type question. I took my framebuilding class, went to college for welding and metal fab, TIG weld for living so I'm not totally wet behind the ears. Hung out with Mike DeSalvo quite a bit since I've been here but just recently decided to bite the bullet and build another frame or two. He lives and has his shop just about ten minutes from my house so it's pretty handy. I told him about my interest in taking the TIG welding class at UBI but he told me since I TIG for a living I should save myself some money as I won't need it. Coming from Mike's mouth who still teaches occassionally at the school not to mention winning best TIG welded frame twice I NAHBS it's a bit relieving. So the search for a machine to melt some tubes together is in order.

I would use the machines at work, but since we only have one shift at work close down immeditely at the end of the day. So that kind of rules out that option. Plus having a machine at home would be nice also.

The questions about Giant, Trek... that was just curiosity about what type of machines they use to kick out a bajillion frames a year. Do they have rows of Miller units or just stick with something homegrown and use Chinese built machine? It was nothing political about companies outsourcing to China because it's cheaper or blah blah blah. Go get a OMMP card and chill out.

unterhausen 01-11-13 11:39 AM

When Cannondale sold all their stuff at auction, they had a ton of Miller machines. You can find pictures from the auction on flickr, I'm sure.

Listen to Frank the welder, you aren't going to get any better advice than this.

triathloner 01-11-13 01:09 PM

I have a Miller diversion 165 tig that I have been trying to learn to weld with. I have been just mitering some old tubes from discarded road bikes to fit together and am not seeing a lot of progress with. I have no delusions to build bikes for hire, but would like to build my own because I enjoy playing with metal. I seem to burn through easily at times, but can make nicer welds with lower settings as long as I quit after 1/2 inch or so otherwise I heat it up too much and burn through. Should I keep trying, or is it just going to be tough to learn it with the diversion without pulse control, etc.? I do have the foot control for mine which is easier than thumb control for me. Thanks. Al.

calstar 01-11-13 02:52 PM

Is a water cooled tig better for bike frame builds than air, or does it not really matter(given equal skills by the operator)?

thanks, Brian

Henry III 01-11-13 05:05 PM

We basically run watercoolers on all of our machines but while at school we just ran aircooled and there was a noticeable difference. I think it also depends on how you hold your torch also. We don't even have actual watercoolers but just a hose from a waterline to the Dinse watercooler fitting and then the return line just runs straight into the drain. Apparently their water bill must not be an issue for it to just run for ten hours straight on five machines. lol. Mind you it's compareable to a light trickle and not turned on full blast. Probably cheaper to pay a water bill with five slightly leaky faucets to paying for five watercoolers and the electricity to run them.

There was a difference I noticed though as I hold my torch like a pencil on the top portion of the torch instead of grabbing onto the handle section of the torch. I think though with the amount of amperage your putting into building a frame tubing that a watercooler wouldn't be needed. That's just my .02 coming from a production TIG welder. I think pulse would be something that would be wanted to give nice consistant looking beads and keep from the temps down on thinner gauge tubing. I keep my pulser turned on 90% of the day with what I'm welding.

MassiveD 01-12-13 12:37 AM

You have hinted at your uses, but one big divider in my mind is whether you just want to make a few frames as you say, or whether you want to make frames to a professional aesthetic standard. I also feel, but don't have the chops to prove, that there is a possible level beyond pro, which is awesome combined with extreme cleanliness in welding. The level above that is to produce TIG art, and I have seen a few examples of that, and have a few ideas, though as I say, not there yet, by a long shot. So three levels; pro structure; pro clean; and pro art. To get to pro art, you have to have a very sophisticated welder, and in my mind it has to be an upper level Dynasty type processor, and I know other people who say that. At that level one is essentially painting with the arc, and more pallet is more options. Though, I have seen pro art, done with a transformer machine, he just said he could have taken it further if he had a Dynasty; and it just takes someone to make it happen with whatever...

Number 2 is the Aluminum thing. I went down that road once, and for me it was a bad choice. Aluminum is so useful that not being able to weld it was a mistake in my mind. Affected resale, I would not do it again.

With TIG, the number one name is miller. When I bought my first one I bought a Maxstar 150, which is. I bought the package that did not have HF, and Pulse. I was told the pulse was useless, and the HF was inferior to Lift arc which is true in an it came along second way, but not otherwise. Normally I go big, but on this occasion I saved a few bucks, and the result is I ended selling it and moving on.

Since my first buy there has been a huge improvement in the quality of the Chinese product. They make IPhones, they can make welders. When I bought about 10 years ago, the chinese inverters were not adequate for basic TIG, they were all scratch start machines. You are a pro welder, but most people can't even get to structural with that kind of machine. However, today, there are welders, that are nipping at the dynasties for a lot less money. I was set on a Dynasty, but there is one problem with them in the amateur shop. I need a machine that is guaranteed for life. I will take one with a realistic chance of lasting a lifetime. What I was hearing was that if you have a payback within the warranty, Dynasty is a good product. But here are 4 points:

1) Every time I visit my supplier, not even a welding store, an industrial supplier, there were several Dynasties/Max waiting for repair.

2) They have a reputation for things going wrong, and when they do they need major component replacement, it is a laptop, not a PC. I am not saying these inverters fail more often I am saying they fail, at some noticeable rate, and that they are expensive to fix if off warranty. My maxstar was fine.

3) I don't use a welder enough for several years of coverage to represent payback

4) There is at least one prominent claimed case in Canada, where I live, of Miller stonewalling a warranty claim on a Dynasty. They could have had a point, but the bottom line is the incident undermined my confidence the machine would even last me out the warranty period. I was confident it was unlikely there would be a problem, but not confident it would be dealt with. And beyond warranty...

None of this makes me feel Miller is bad, it just illustrates that amateur issues are different. One thing about my Miller was I did resell it and got about 66%, so my carry cost as an amateur was favourable.

What did I end up buying, in part because the guy who does their quality control is only an hour from my home:

These videos got my interest, and I looked into these machines. They have some pros and cons, the tipping point for me was that their quality guy is their Canadian dealer. He is in China all the time, and he is local around here. This meant the Canadian product had a better rep than the US, at the time. I really wouldn't recommend this route, I have not had enough time with the torch to tell you anything. I kinda ran out of money to make the upgrades I wanted to make, so I have not fully tested it. Stuff around here takes so long. All I am saying is they have upped their game, and sometime the economics of a small shop are different. For a lot of guys they are different on affordability, but I look at it differently. More like a business, but as an amateur, and the numbers are different for me.

MassiveD 01-12-13 12:55 AM

On water cooled, this is an area I am looking into. My thinking is that:

1) As far as torch overheating, in an amateur shop, welding steel is concerned, air cooled is fine.

2) Water cooled torches are nicer to use.

3) I am not a big welder, but I frequently do stuff where I either stick, or TIG heavier materials, like the base for my Anvil fixture, or some fixtures I am working on for my grinder that are 1/4" cold rolled. In some case these large jobs get hot. And at least at my level of skill there are some excess heat issues. Basically one can handle these by not pushing the job. But I have done two big jobs, where it really was slow.

4) The internet is full of water cooling kludges. The torches are not much more expensive, the cost is in the coolers. The simplest Kludge is the garden hose, just run an open system using city water, in fair weather. This is great for bikes since we are not running all that much. There are also some great options for building your own unit.

5) When I bought my Everlast they had italian water cooling units for a few hundred bucks, so I bought one. As I go through life, there turn out to be all kinds of things that need water cooling, lasers, CNC routers, anodizing, etc... So it could be used for stuff other than welding.

6) Some water cooled torches can be run at low amps without water, so you can in some cases buy the water torch then get by for now until warm weather, or you buy or make one.

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