Welder Recommendation

Discussion in 'Metal Boat Building' started by AFK888888, May 17, 2021.

  1. AFK888888
    Joined: May 2021
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    AFK888888 Junior Member

    Good Evening All,

    New member to the forum, and looking for some quick and easy advice (I hope).

    I am a novice welder, I can lay beads with some skill using MIG, stick, and Oxy-Acetylene. Looking at using this skill in building myself a small aluminum boat. Can anyone recommend what type of welder I should consider in purchasing to do this? I hope this doesn't start a "red is better than blue" war, but if there is a specific model/set up, please let me know and I will take it under advisement.
     
  2. jehardiman
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    jehardiman Senior Member

    You really need to answer the question of how much welding you are going to do over the life of the equipment ... feet or miles... and of what type of material ...Steel, Al, SS, Ti .... and what thickness and quality. Retired from a shipyard where I participated in the design, and oversaw the fabrication of many large welded structures of all materials, I will say that new construction has very, very different requirements and economies than refit and repair. We literally had hundreds of different machines and processes for different reasons. I would say start with a industrial quality MIG machine with the capability for all the wires and gasses.
     
  3. comfisherman
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    comfisherman Senior Member

    Define "small" boat. Likely will want to go at minimum with a miller 215 and a spoolmate 150. It's the smallest gun that runs 5356 to my knowledge. I keep one and a 80 tank aboard for repairs on the grounds. If the boat is going to be much over 18-20 feet I'd be shooting for a 255 with a push pull gun. Last year a neighbor bought one with an air cooled push pull for a bit nort of 5k, at time of writing it looks like 55-5700 is what you'll be for a 255 and aircooled alumapro. The 215 duty cycle is easier to hit but it's super convenient and can utilize 120v, also looking at 21-2200 for the combo.


    We welded with 1 lbs spools and spool guns for decades, push pull and puls mig are pretty bomber. When my 304 kills its next board its getting replaced with a 255 and aluma pro, I'm over changing spools out all the time.

    With that said, we did insane boat projects with a bobcat wife feed controller and an old spoolmate.
     
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  4. AFK888888
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    AFK888888 Junior Member

    Ideally, we are talking miles here. I can only imagine all the other things I’d like to build using a welder.
     
  5. AFK888888
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    AFK888888 Junior Member

    I’m thinking less than 18feet. I am constrained by my workspace and also capability to tow. I’m still researching what I would like to build, but looking for a simple center console. Is MIG welding with either of these machines and a spool gun adequate for getting a good weld with aluminum?
     
  6. Barry
    Joined: Mar 2002
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    Barry Senior Member

    Our go to machine was the Miller 252 Millermatic using a Spoolamatic 30A one pound gun.
    I am not sure if Miller offered the 255 Pulsed Mig at the time. The pulsed feature allows for a bit better bead control.

    While the Spoolamatic is a little bulky it appears that the push-pull guns have quite a long length from the tip to where the cables/hoses can bend which MAY limit access. Evidently the push pulls are quite a bit more expensive.
    The 252 allowed us to keep a steel spool on the machine and we had CO2 for steel and an Argon Mix for aluminum on the cart. I believe that when you hook up an aluminum push pull, you could use one or the other, but not make the change
    easily.

    We also purchased for the 30A a flexible nozzle that you could weld at any angle up to 90 degrees to the direction of the spool gun making it possible to access very tight quarters.

    Welding down to 1/8 inch material is relative easy with the 252 though we used a bit of .100" sheet, but you had to be relatively capable for this thickness of sheet

    Welding wire, 4043 and 5356

    Ensure that you buy a longer ground cable as compared to the one that usually comes with the basic kit
     
    Last edited: May 17, 2021
  7. AFK888888
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    AFK888888 Junior Member

    Do you think a lincoln 205MP, Miller multimatic 215 or 220, with spool guns would be adequate?
     
  8. Barry
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    Barry Senior Member

    no experience with them and I did not see the duty cycle on the machines.
     
  9. jehardiman
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    jehardiman Senior Member

    As Berry alluded to, if you are going to be welding that much, it is all about duty cycle for equipment longevity....and leads can never be too long.
     
  10. baeckmo
    Joined: Jun 2009
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    baeckmo Hydrodynamics

    Personally, I think the spool guns are too bulky, and just when you have squeezed yourself into the right position for that final, tricky weld down in the forepeak, you're out of wire. Over forty years ago I bought an already used Miller cp200 with a 4m standard Binzel gun and push feed pack. It is very basic, no fancy spaceelectronics, but it has high/zero impedance choice which is useful in alu-welding different thicknesses. Although we have more advanced equipment around today, this darling is still the one I grab first, she has never let me down, and we are talking many many miles of alu welding. That is quality, well worth the money.

    Normally maximum 3m push pack is recommended for 1.2 mm alu, but if you are a bit careful how you let the hose fall, the 4m will work just fine. You will get around into every corner of a boat with that setup. If you need more reach, the feed unit can be separately moved around, just add cable length between FU and the base unit. As Barry and JHM indicated, look at the duty cycle. With the material thicknesses you will use for your 18-20' projects this is a minimum requirement.

    For heavier jobs I use an Oerlikon 350 A with 10m push/pull package, but for the daily bread-and-butter jobs, buy a used basic pro-machine in good condition instead of a new amateur rig with fancy gadgets.
     
  11. comfisherman
    Joined: Apr 2009
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    comfisherman Senior Member

    Pulse mig is nice, definitely a major plus for heat managment. And a solid strike against the 255, upside is the multiprocess welders seem to hold up a bit better to the janky power we seem to find in remote boatyards. And boatyard power trumps listening to a bobcat run all day.

    Until about ten years ago the spoolmatic 30a driven however you please was the go to. If the budget allows push pull guns are a game changer, my 30a accounts for 3 new bottoms on 20ton plus aluminum boats, as well as a few skifs built. With that said its currently hung on the wall gathering dust as its just backup if the alumapro goes down.

    The 215 machines do alright and can push 5356, they have a duty cycle you will hit if running long beads and its more reliant on carful heat management.

    Its been a heck of a lot more reliable than my 200.... a machine I loved but hated me. My 215 sits in a tote aboard the boat with a tig setup, flux core mild, flux stainless, and a spoolmate 150. I've fixed a lot of stuff with it, and welded some booms with it. Man o man doing multipass heavy aluminum it was easy to hit the duty cycle.

    In general fabrication its not really an issue as you spend more time prepping and clamping than cutting bead. With most modern aluminum boats, panels come out pre cut from the router and its lots of welding really fast. Easy to find the downside of the smaller welders, however they are much cheaper and if time is more hobby than profit, its definitely doable.

    Poster above beat me to a point worth making. I've never met a builder who went push pull after spool gun and decided to go back.... Its like comparing 1970s car ride quality to 2010's car ride quality.
     

  12. Barry
    Joined: Mar 2002
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    Barry Senior Member

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