DIY mig welder

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If you have a serious intention of purchasing a DIY mig welder to use at home, please read this email question & the answer that I give.
It turns a DIY mig welder that has no first idea about small mig welding machines into an educated person that knows exactly what he is looking for before he starts!
like they say on the telly:
if no-one tells you these things - how will you ever find out?

received 17-09-2007 5-45pm
EnquirerName: Gary xxxxxxn

phone: 07879xxxxxx
repeat-email: gary.xxxxxxn@xxxx.xxxx.ac.uk
town: Newcastle upon Tyne


My son is doing engineering at Edinburgh University & I would like to buy him a DIY MIG welder for his 21st birthday.
But I would like to pay an expert to (i) advise us on the machine to buy so that he can do simple repairs to his van, do simple constructions (ii) give him some tutorials to get him going.
Again I am happy to pay for these tutorials.
The idea is then to get him to sign up for a course.
Can you do the above at all?

thanks - excellent web site by the way.



I often wish I was able to click a button & just send an autoresponder pre-formatted answer to the questions from my website enquirers.

However, every question is different & the ‘askers’ of the questions have real questions that needs real answers.

So, in short, yes. 

But firstly, would you consider the mig welder in question to be an investment towards your son’
s future, or an expensive ornament for the shed? 

The reason I ask this, is because mig welding machines are not cheap, and the accessories and shielding gas hardware that go with them,
very quickly represents a significant amount of money. 

If your son was to have a serious interest in learning to weld, and had a vehicle that was in need of repair that he would benefit from, then I would say OK.

Most engineering students that I have came across over the years have an avid interest in welding of all kinds, and enthusiastically grasp the practical and technical requirements to be able to accomplish welding tasks.

But that said,
I would hate to see you throw money at a lost cause.

I am not trying to change your ideas here,
but please ascertain that your son has a reasonable sort of interest in learning mig welding before you purchase something that he will not use.

have mentioned ‘simple repairs’ and ‘simple constructions’.

mig welding machines come in two variety’s, the cheap and nasty ones (that even I can’t get to perform a satisfactory weld), and the slightly more expensive ones that actually do work.

For example
if you take a look here at machine mart, you will find a very good range of mig welders for most common mig welding applications.

On the
DIY mig welders page,
there is only one model that is actually worth the money, and I am sure you will quickly spot it.

Unfortunately I cannot really comment one way or the other,
due to legal action taken against me last year, when I criticised a leading manufacturer of DIY mig welders for selling machines that completely failed to function properly or as would be expected.

for consumers, they have now changed a lot of the website wording on mig welder product descriptions!

So, to make your life a little easier,
here are some quick pointers on what you should be looking for:

  1. Select any welding machine that is capable of taking the shielding gas supply from industrial size shielding gas bottles. (all machines are easy to adapt)
  2. The higher the ‘duty cycle’ the better.
  3. A 240volt x 13amp input supply machine can be plugged in and used immediately at home ( a 16A input supply requires a heavy duty electrical supply and specialized sockets).
  4. The replaceable (consumable) copper contact tips within the mig welding torch must be readily available (a learner can expect to bin one tip per hour minimum, unless he has taken welding instruction from me!)
  5. Forced air cooling is essential, (fan assisted or sometimes called turbo).

Please do not be tempted to purchase
a DIY mig welding machine that runs on ‘no gas’
welding wire
, or is supplied to be used with ‘self shielding’ welding wire. (it will end in tears!)

My primary concern
for yourself and your son is that once the mig welding machine is put into use, the cost of running it will soon be fully appreciated.

I do not mean that it is an expensive pastime,
but it can be
if you are using the disposable pressurized shielding gas canisters as supplied with your new mig welding machine!

These are only pressurized gas
canisters and not high pressure compressed or liquefied, as are the industrial shielding gas bottles.

The cost of running a mig welder
using this kind of disposable canister shielding gas supply is absolutely horrendous.

During the mig welding ‘learning curve’ (or crash course),
a lot of time is spent messing about and practicing, even this alone will cost upwards of £50- worth of these canisters.

The only alternative
available, is to take your shielding gas supply from any of the UK’s industrial gas suppliers.

Such as:
boc or ‘air products’ or similar.

A  ‘size Y cylinder’ universal shielding gas is probably the best option for the home user and will save you a serious amount of money. Just check out the cubic metres of gas content between this size of bottle and the cubic metres of gas content in a tiny disposable canister, then work out the costs, and you will rapidly draw the same conclusion as myself and many other welders!

The above point alone
is the main off-putting factor that all people learning to mig weld come across quickly, but they don’t realize this until they have bought everything then find that they cannot keep up with the horrific expense of small disposable gas canisters.

I would rather you knew all the facts
before you make any investment.

A different way of painting this picture
is that the actual welding time from a small portable gas canister can be measured in minutes (honestly), whereas the actual welding time from an industrial size Y bottle is measured in days (if not weeks)!

The downside of industrial gases
is that you cannot own the actual bottle.

The bottle is rented from a
gas supplier on a contract basis (1 month upwards) and the bottle is simply returned
when empty and exchanged for a full one. You can collect the gas yourself or ask for a (chargeable) delivery.

The refill costs
are actually very reasonable, but they look expensive compared to a tiny disposable canister.

Simply telephone the industrial gas suppliers for further details as they are always very helpful.

Another small but important point with industrial gas suppliers,
not only do they charge you for your gas refill at point of bottle exchange, but they also charge what they call a ‘transaction charge’, and it is applied at each transaction.

So don
t be surprised to find that the refill cost for say an Argoshield (trade name) ‘size W’ bottle, that is currently around £37-96, actually costs you £48-50, and of course thats +vat @ 17.5%! (but this is a full size bottle & double the size you would probably want or need).

If you get
into TIG welding, a ‘size Y’ (commonly known as a ‘half size of a big bottle’) pure argon refill is currently £45-45 + small charges +vat.

& now for probably your biggest concern, the tutorials.

I have been constructing these for quite a while now & they still aren’t ready yet!

The constraints of running a fulltime welding company and trying to ‘keep the family happy’ are not easy, in all honesty, and I admit to having fallen behind with my schedule as advertised on my website.

But all is not lost,
as I am now devoting 40 hours per week to the production of welding tutorials and nothing else.

A ‘start from scratch’ mig welding tutorial is first on the re-release ‘hit list’ as I am asked for this almost every single day of the week,
however, it now looks like mid October before the first run is ready from the printers.

I have completely abandoned
the downloadable pdf’s and digital versions of my ‘learn welding manuals’, as I discovered that they were on sale at eBay just two weeks after I released them.

They were being duplicated and resold by others
, fortunately ‘the devaluers’ have now been stopped.

So, printed hard copy & posted next day from point of order, anywhere in the world, is now being utilised.

I also discovered that the ‘bonuses’ (sales incentives) that I offered with the welding tutorials have a very high ‘interest value’ to welders, & these are being expanded upon & re-developed to offer an un-paralleled value-for-money ‘learn welding’ product currently available in the world today.

I have also just finished installing & integrating the Google checkout payment system on my website & it is currently being formatted & trialled as I speak, but as with a website that I built myself, I had not originally intended for this, so major changes are being made right at the moment!

So Garry, you will probably appreciate that I am making my website my main priority at the moment & lots are happening ‘behind the scenes’.

I have also just invested in a dedicated server & new pc systems to support my website & infra-structures & moving into a new office space at a local customer of mine.

Unfortunately, my current web host (xx) cannot provide the reliability (always continuous problems) or back-office support required, so a web host change is also programmed for just before product launch next month.

I know this is not quite the answer that you expected from a welder, but it’s the truth.

I hope you are a bit more ‘informed’ now, & I assure you that no matter what your welding (or relative) question, I will supply whatever it takes to satisfy your request.

Just as a side note Garry, colleges etc offer various welding courses for beginners, the most popular being night-classes & they normally begin in September, so enrolment needs to be right now.

But, the courses are not quite the value that you may expect, as they are diluted with non-essential elements of welding related instruction that is not a lot of use to someone wanting to learn say; just DIY mig welding, so always scrutinise the course contents closely.

Another drawback is that the colleges provide top spec mig welding machines that bear almost no practical alliance to DIY machines & the courses are structured to teach mig welding basics using relatively thick steel plate material of around the 4mm thick capacity, whereas car bodywork is only 0.7mm thick!

Thicker section steel is very easy to weld, but the thin stuff is an entirely different kettle of fish, hence the high turnover of near new DIY welding machines in the small ads.
This is primarily due to purchasers of new machines being very disappointed at the performance of their DIY mig welder (in reality, because they haven’t been taught how to correctly use it) & the cost of the disposable shielding gas canisters.

My Picasa web albums detail interesting stuff for the learner mig welder, & the album that details the repairs to an old Landrover was purely a favour for a good customer of mine.

I uploaded up the extensive photolog & detailed process captions out of boredom one night in march, & I have received hundreds of emails thanking me for this ever since!

You can find it here & forward the url if required.


These are all available on-line right now & completely free of charge.

I’ve got major amounts of welding work like this to display & something like 7600 images from the past five years alone, so the Picasa albums will be added to continuously.

My first attempt at converting some of these images into video using special software, is also now available at the same public url
http://picasaweb.google.co.uk/markthewelder & since uploading yesterday & 6pm tonight, I’ve got 18 emails asking for more.

The quality is superb on my pc but not as well as expected on-line, due to the flash file decompression, so always just click on the video picture to make it display (not view slideshow – that’s only for the photo’s) view the videos using ‘view original size’ at the video control window!

What you can see for
‘stick welding practice’ is just a start, mig welding is my mainstay actually & I have big plans for 10 times better in DIY MIG welding instruction, so watch my website closely, as everything seems to be coming together at the same time here!

My ‘learn DIY MIG welding’ (back to basics, now volume 4) tutorial manual, complete with a mountain of free extras, has taken an amount of time & investment that you probably wouldn’t believe, but I can guarantee that it is world class, complete with a brand new off-the-shelf DIY sample MIG welding machine as a demonstrator & all the ins & outs that a DIY welder could possibly imagine or wish for.

Anyway Garry, I will finish here as my wife is moaning about the time spent typing, as usual, so thanks for the question & apologies for the long reply!

my desk is manned every evening                      


                                       Mark Cowen.


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