Welder for building Aluminum hardtop and accessories?

Discussion in 'Metal Boat Building' started by parnine, Mar 5, 2007.

  1. parnine
    Joined: Mar 2007
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    Location: arnold, md

    parnine New Member

    Hello all.

    I"m new to the forum and also somewhat new to welding. I'm going to build some accessories for my boat and a custom Aluminum hardtop.

    Will the Miller Sycrowave 200 TIG welder suffice for my needs? I'm not planning production welding but would like something that is decent and will meet my needs. Also want to be able to stick weld steel (like finally fix my trailer) which most seem to be able to do. I generally try to buy good tools so also want to apply that philosophy.

    Would I need to get say the Miller 250DX (almost 2x cost)?

    Is $1836 (includes shipping) a good price for the Miller 200 Sycrowave? Any good suppliers you would recommend.

    Thanks much.

    Look forward to participating in this forum and sharing my expieriences.
     
  2. kmorin
    Joined: Apr 2005
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    Location: Alaska

    kmorin Senior Member

    MIG vs TIG?

    parnine,

    Do you already TIG weld? If so, then a TIG torch is handy for smaller aluminum bracket and padeye type of work than MIG.

    On the other hand, for sheet metal work- say seams that are longer than a few feet; TIG requires more practice, patience and planning by far than MIG.

    The reasons are weld contraction distortion, weld consistency, and time to understand both.

    To be of any real help about your question you'd need to give some metal thickness details. Will you be working in pieces thicker than 3/8"? Lower output power supplies might require the part to be preheated if there were larger 'blocks' of metal like towing padeyes, trailer anchor or tie-down points, or other thickened pieces of alloy.

    I don't live in the old country so the cost of the power supply isn't something I can remark about.

    Cheers,
    kmorin
     
  3. Johtaja
    Joined: Sep 2005
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    Location: fi

    Johtaja Junior Member

    If you Tig weld and can do so on aluminium, chasing the droplet on a Tig is a lot cheaper at 2,5 k than a good Alu MIG 10 K. The little experience we here in Finland have on Miller welders, they cheap and tend to get recalled or just warranty stuff a lot.

    Any descent AC/DC TIG will do the job but don’t expect to weld any Alu on a DC TIG it just doesn’t work, price for a descent TIG AC/DC 2500 to 4500 Dollars or Euros depending on amps, water cooling ad 1-2 K.

    Welding Alu on Tig is a, you learn it or don’t, its not like welding ss or black steel but sure makes a nice seam if the work peace can take the heat. Personally I’m all for Fronous Alu edition water cooled push pulls and use them 99,9999999 % of the time, still have a 400 Amp water cooled Tig for some difficult patch and spread jobs.
     
  4. alan white
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    alan white Senior Member

    I'm going to suggest something. These guys have some good advice, IF you intend to continue welding a lot of other finicky jobs. You might be wealthy too, so money isn't an object.
    Otherwise, realize the design, cutting, fitting and aligning are basic carpentry, and those aspects of the job account for the majority of the work.
    I used to own a small TIG, a Miller Econotig. While I'm no great welder (and TIG welding is an ART), I did a lot of simple stainless jobs. When I had a lot invested in the materials and labor setting up, however, I hired a moonlighting welder to come to my shop and I paid him a mere $20.00 an hour to make lovely stitch-like welds on my lovely parts. He brought only helmet and gloves. I provided the rest.
    The results were fantastic. I had complete control over the job, and I picked his brain and watched him work, learning some basics which he was all too happy to share. Later I'd mess around with some lesser jobs, counting myself lucky that my amateur welding wasn't showing up on my boat.
    I usually tack-welded all the jobs my hired welder finished. I was far better than he was at setup and alignment. Most welding time you'll pay for is just such preparation, in fact. It's amazing how fast the job goes when all an experienced welder has to do is make run after run. He can stay focused better not having to constantly clamp and tack.
    If you've never welded, and don't intend to weld more than occasionally, a MIG is the way to go. It is easy to produce nice results with a MIG. You can weld up a trailer for a 2000 lb boat with a Lincoln 135-T (about $400.00).... just, and do stainless, aluminum, and mild steel. But welding aluminum with a MIG is a real challenge if looks matter. Take a look at commercial awning frames, which are commonly MIG welded. You'll see what I mean.
    I hope this helps. I'm coming from an amateur's direction here, like you. I'm a woodworker, not a welder. Welders, like carpenters, have unique but usually entirely different abilities. A great welder might be a terrible designer or setup man. A great carpenter won't generally have the (?) it takes to make gorgeous welds.

    Alan
    Obviously, buying a real pro TIG
     
  5. Rusty Bucket
    Joined: Feb 2007
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    Location: florida

    Rusty Bucket Junior Member

    Hi Alan, My experience with welding leads me to believe that 250 amps is about the threshold for a versatile mig welding setup. The tig welder will end up sitting over in the corner gathering dust while you wear the mig out. I always felt that the guy doing the tig had the worst job in the shipyard, over in the corner behind a curtain by yourself doing production work. I bought one of the little lightweight miller spool guns, nothing but trouble. Rusty
     
  6. alan white
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    alan white Senior Member

    That all depends on the scale of the work you're anticipating doing, Rusty. I've had very good service out of the smaller welders I've used (Miller, Lincoln) because I don't weld often. You mention a shipyard, but I am addressing someone who probably has a two car garage. A setup like you are suggesting, a medium-sized mig, will cost upwards of $2500.00.
    I don't believe it makes sense to tool up like that for a single job when you've never welded before (which may or may not apply here, but sounds like it).
    Especially to weld aluminum. Better to tack it together in stages and have a welder tig it, as I said, and it could be mig-tacked with a 130A, 120 volt machine, which is a great first welder for other jobs, such as fabricating stainless fittings, repairing a tailpipe, or building a small trailer (mine carried 2 tons).

    A.
     
  7. Rusty Bucket
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    Rusty Bucket Junior Member

    Hi Alan, I probably don't pay enough attention to the questions. For welding mild steel the little 175 amp mig welders will do most jobs just fine. I've got aluminum on the brain. I've got a 250 amp hobart [old miller design] and I've got it set up so that I can flip a switch and a two way valve and go from an aluminum spool gun and argon to a standard mig whip and co2. Both bottles on same cart, total cost new about 2700.oo not counting bottles. rusty
     
  8. kmorin
    Joined: Apr 2005
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    kmorin Senior Member

    Time welding versus prep time

    parnine,
    alan white makes a great point- cutting, fitting and preparation is about 10:1 - fitting time compared to welding time. So one of the most important decisions would be to consider how much metal joining you'll be doing?

    If you will make a half dozen brackets and one hard top then buying expensive, long lasting, welding equipment designed for a 20 year work life of 70hr weeks won't look as effective as doing the 10 hours labor to get the parts ready and hiring the welds done.

    On the other hand, you may be investing in the machines to attain the personal satisfaction of acquiring a new set of skills? If that's the case; (?) then I'd recommend you buy a (good quality) Miller TIG power supply and a (good quality) Lincoln MIG and if you'll be working in aluminum using MIG- get an MK Python push-pull wire feeder gun.

    These are both expensive choices compared to what is needed 'to get the job done' but the Miller Dynasty 300DX and the Lincoln 350MP wPython (water cooled) are as good as these two tool classes get. Of course these are intended for full time welding trades use and are not 'justified' by a few brackets or one hardtop.

    Using these tools there is nothing you can't build- welding wise.

    Miller acquired Hobart, some years ago, and offer the better TIG power supplies featuring extensive arc controls and likewise Lincoln's MIG controls are superior to the Millers'.

    Even if you scale the power supplies down a bit, the more reliable TIG is 'blue' and the better MIG is 'red'.

    I've found that welding machines are like outboards and I've only regretted buying the smaller horsepower motors.

    Cheers,
    kmorin
     
  9. openboater
    Joined: Mar 2007
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    openboater Junior Member

    I owned a Syncrowave 180 for a few years and loved it. Does very nice Al.
    the 200 looks even nicer. I switched to a Miller Dynasty 200DX for the bells and whistles, and the fact I can pick it up. Anything you are doing on a canopy can be handled by the Syncro-200.

    Beauty of tig is you can weld in your bedroom slippers while listening to music. It;s just so quiet and peaceful.

    brwelder.com is a great online source. I just ordered my spoolmate from there. and they are out of MD, so you could stop in.

    Denny
     
  10. Rusty Bucket
    Joined: Feb 2007
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    Rusty Bucket Junior Member

    good advice

    I think Alans' advice is the best I've heard in a long time. His analogy using a carpenter to fabricate the parts and a production welder to weld them out is exactly how they do it in a shipyard, except in a shipyard they call the carpenter a shipfitter and he [or she] works with a partner called a combination man. Later on the 2nd or 3rd shift the production welders come in and weld everything out. I think somebody just getting started would benifit from a trade school welding course down at the local junior college before they go out and buy a tig machine. regards, rusty
     
  11. Eagle Boats
    Joined: Nov 2003
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    Eagle Boats Senior Member

    Check out the Miller website, www.millerwelds.com. They have a forum section and there are many knowledgeable people there that love to respond to these type of questions. I myself would love to get a Syncrowave 200 to do some stainless welding, as well as welding up 4130 tubing to build an airplane fuselage. Their dynasty looks real nice, but too many dollars for me.
     
  12. Rusty Bucket
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    Location: florida

    Rusty Bucket Junior Member

    miller welder

    The sales manager down a Valley Gases tried to sell me a new last year sinc 200 for 1400.oo today, Anybody want their ph. # rusty
     
  13. parnine
    Joined: Mar 2007
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    Location: arnold, md

    parnine New Member

    All,

    Thanks much for the information.

    I'm going to build a custom hardtop for a power catamaran boat. Materials will consist of various sizes of alumunimum tubing with max size of 2" OD sched 40 pipe (most will be less in diameter and thickness) and solid plates of no more than 1/4" thick. Welds will be 'round' (two pipes at a 90, 60, or 45 degrees say) or welding horizontal plate to pipe (no longer than 12" in length) and only a few of these.

    Major reason "I want to do it" is so it will be "perfect" and the satisfiation of learning a new trade and doing it myself, etc.. I tend to be a perfectionist and my boat is my hobby.

    I like the idea of doing all the design, cutting, fiting, etc. and having it all tack welded together. But, it seems that if I do this I'd be creating some 'very tricky' finish welds for someone that may not be able to get the stick at the proper angle/posistion to weld nicely. I would think I would need to build it in phases if I take this approach. I may be able to build it in pieces, and not worry about having a 'finished' tack welded structure, I'll have to think about that approach. I agree that the desing and fitting are alot of the work, I've tried to find a local shop that would 'work with me' but no luck and I do not have other projects to give them to help build a relationship. Prices folks want for my top are outrageous and most of the welders I seem to find come from the 'redneck school of welding' and do not want to work with someone that has drawings or plans, but rather just build the "top like you see I've built before for other boats"

    I'm not rich, but would have good use of a welder (have borrowed in the past, but only welded steel (stick) for repairs. Plus even with 50% depreciation (which I would think with the care I'd give the unit and amount of use) after a year or two I could sell it so if I pay $2,000 today, get to use it for my projects, sell it in 2 years for $1,000, I've only lost a little more than $1,000. Cheaper than I could rent it for several months for.

    Rusty Bucket - I'll take the phone number. You can PM me or post.

    Open Boater - thanks I'll check them out.

    From my other research it seems the Miller Sync 200 will handle 2" OD sched 40 and less pipe and 1/4" aluminum plate with no problems. Would you all agree?

    thanks again for the feedback.
     
  14. alan white
    Joined: Mar 2007
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    alan white Senior Member

    Welders really hold value. You would do better than just recouping half!
    I've done the same, buying and later selling, usually for two thirds after a couple of years. I was careful to keep the units shiny (not laying tolls on top, etc.). It pays.
    Sounds like you know exactly what you're doing. Good luck with the experience. I'm sure it will turn out great.

    Alan
     

  15. openboater
    Joined: Mar 2007
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    Location: central NYS

    openboater Junior Member

    I'm sure you'll enjoy yourself.

    Find an industry / shop that uses a lot of AL and buy a bunch of scrap for practice. And remember the secret to good AL welds is CLEAN,CLEAN,CLEAN

    SS brush, acetone, etc.

    Carbide tooth plywood blade and power plane and router tips make smooth cuts.

    Enjoy. (not to induce project creep, but I love my Dynasty200 dx. but I loved my syncro180 too)

    Denny
     
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