Home Depot welder for repairing fencing?

remodelboyDecember 11, 2004

My neighbor wrought iron fencing came down months ago. I think that the brackets rusted through. I'm a pretty handy guy and I've been wanting to buy an inexpensive welder, but what do you guys think? Would an inexpensive welder like the ones they sell at HD work for this fencing? I also want to weld up some 1/2" or 5/8" square tubing to form a reinforcement for a quartz countertop (Caesarstone or Zodiac).

Do you have any suggestions for a beginner?

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My recommendation would be to enroll in a beginner welding class at your local community college. While lots of practice is important in welding, knowing some basics to start off with, and having a shop with proper equipment and supplies, will probably save you a lot of time and trouble.

You didn't say what kind of welder you were looking at. An AC stick welder would probably handle what you want to do with the fence brackets. It would help to know how thick the fencing and the brackets are. As well as the thickness of the square tubing (wall thickness).

That said, you have a variety of welding choices from places like HD: Stick AC, Stick DC, Flux Core, MIG, Oxy-fuel. Each has its pros and cons and the best choice for will depend on your work and preferences. Any one of these could probably do the job you have in mind. I found MIG and Flux Core to be the easiest to master. Stick can be easy too with the right kind of rod. Some rods I found difficult - such as with the very thin flux coating. The rods with thick coating were easier, because they kept a better distance from the metal without sticking.

I see a lot of inexpensive flux-core welders at HD and Harbor Freight. Once you get the hang of the "buzz" needed to get a good weld bead, flux-core can be pretty good all around, but with cheaper stuff you'll be more limited in the wire size and adjustments. Of all of these, I prefer MIG, but MIG requires additional investment in the welder and also in the gas bottle(s).

I also recommend taking a course for safety reasons. You don't want to develop vision problems, get burns, shocks, or have respiratory problems from learning welding safety the hard way. You'll also want to protect family, pets, and neighbors from dangers.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2004 at 4:06AM
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Thanks Spambdamn, that's good advice.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2004 at 4:35AM
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Buying a cheap welder is like buying a cheap drill...
You wont get much from it...
It might turn you off from welding..

    Bookmark   December 12, 2004 at 4:16PM
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Um, don't look now, but "cheap drills" have gotten pretty good, as have inexpensive drill bits.

Anyway, by taking a course in welding, one may learn what to look for in equipment, and also know what is possible with good equipment and proper technique.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2004 at 11:23PM
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Ok - what makes a welder a good value? I have experience stick welding, but have been thinking of buying a "cheap" Harbor Freight wire welder - 230V, 30-120A, 15% duty cycle at full power, 023 to 035 wire size, gas or flux core. I don't mind the low duty cycle, so it looks like a good deal for $200 - any thoughts?

    Bookmark   December 14, 2004 at 10:34AM
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I think the main issue is, what do you do if it breaks down?

With a name brand like Lincoln or Miller, there's a network of support dealers to provide parts and service.

With Harbor Freight, good luck.

That said, I haven't compared, say, a similar Lincoln unit with the Harbor Freight unit you mention. There may be other considerations. For example, the HB unit may not have available different types of wire feeds to handle soft aluminum wire most effectively. The Lincoln may be subject to fewer jams and offer more gun options.

But if all you want the HB unit for is occasional hobby use, it may be fine. What model number is it?

    Bookmark   December 14, 2004 at 1:27PM
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The one I was looking at this morning is 6271-4VGA

I would use it for maintenance, hobby, light construction.
Thanks for your opinions.

    Bookmark   December 14, 2004 at 2:43PM
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Not only what to do if it breaks down, 15% duty cycle isn't much. If you run just a short bead on 3/16 steel, and use .030 or .035, you've got just a very short time to run an inch or two, and then wait for things to cool for another inch or two. No reason you couldn't find a good name brand, used one for not too much more money. Listen to Spam and pass on the chinky stuff from H B.


    Bookmark   December 14, 2004 at 2:48PM
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If that is what your budget allows, it would get you started, keeping in mind the good advice above and not expecting too much. For iron fencing, the materials are usually fairly light weight so wire feed would probably be more suitable on that stuff. You have to make it clean of paint, rust, dirt etc. to have much success in welding tho, it ain't like a good stick welder that will burn thru that (and frequently burn thru lightweight metal too, if you are not experienced and careful). Have you thought of looking at any used welders, sometime you can find more for your money that way, if you don't require virginal tools. Just my thoughts, for what it might be worth.
Bill P.

    Bookmark   December 14, 2004 at 10:22PM
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Well, I took a look at that Model 151. I even downloaded the product manual - the link is below.

For the money it doesn't look too bad. You'd probably be spending $400 to $800 for a 220 volt Lincoln MIG/Flux. And I would prefer the 220 volt HF wire welder over a 110 volt HF wire welder.

I notice from the specs that the maxium steel thickness this unit can handle is about 1/8". And that at 1/2 power it has about a 60% duty cycle. Not too bad.

Heck, I might even get one someday.

Here is a link that might be useful: HF Model 151 MIG welder manual

    Bookmark   December 15, 2004 at 2:20AM
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If you want a decent MIG welder for not too much money, look at the Clarke brand. They are an import, made in Italy, but the quality is there and parts are easy to find. A very good buy for the money. 130 amps, gas or gasless and a duty cycle up to 30 % for less than 275 bucks.


Here is a link that might be useful: Clarke welders

    Bookmark   December 15, 2004 at 10:21AM
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Thanks for the advice everyone. The Clarke welders look like a good compromise - a little more money than HF but with spares and a place to go for parts. Not a direct matchup as the Clarke 130Amp runs off 120V, but they have a 180A unit that is also a good buy. And a 5Amp angle grinder for $18!

    Bookmark   December 15, 2004 at 11:19AM
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That Clarke 220v 180 amp unit looks pretty good to me too.

Interesting at the big jump in price to the next unit.

The 180 amp unit is $337.50. The 270 amp unit is a whopping $1299.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2004 at 1:51AM
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What is a good field remedy for getting your welder (maybe the Clarke 180) 50 to 75 feet away from someone's main panel (using my example of my neighbor's backyard fence). Do you carry around the appropriate 25A breaker and borrow a space on their panel? Will 10GA SJ cable handle this and can you get it from Home Depot? Do you need to secure the cable to the panel so that it is not just hanging off of the breaker?

    Bookmark   December 16, 2004 at 1:16PM
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If you were to use the Clarke 180 welder, this would require a two pole breaker to supply this 220 volt load. A 25 amp breaker or circuit is a non-standard size and 25 amps is only the minimum recommended size needed to operate this welder. You would need to connect this to at least a 30 amp circuit, and even a 50 amp circuit would be fine. If you have an accessable 30 amp dryer receptacle that you could plug into, that may be your simplest solution for connection. If not, you could add a receptacle just off of your service panel or where ever it would be convenient. Just buy a 30 amp plug for the end of your extension cable and a matching receptacle for your welder to plug into and you'll be OK. You'll need a length of 10-3 cord to do this. SJ type is fine.

I'm assuming from your post that your thoughts were to just connect directly to a breaker in the panel. It could be done just as a temporary measure, but since you are asking for detailed information, I really wouldn't recommend that for personal safety reasons that you do that, if you are not an experienced electrician.


    Bookmark   December 17, 2004 at 9:39AM
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Thanks Goose,

I understand your recommendations for using the dryer outlet or installing a receptal at the panel of your own house, but what do you guys do if you have to weld offsite? Say you were going to weld something at a friends house (who didn't have an electric dryer outlet (uses gas), what would you do to temporarily power your welder? I'm pretty handy with electrical work (wired a 5000 sf house), but I'm curious what you guys do when you are somewhere that doesn't have the 30 amp 240v hookup?

I would think that you would probably make up a box with a 30a 240v outlet and a 10/3 with ground run of SJ that you would connect to the double pole breaker, the ground buss and the neutral buss. Does anyone go to the trouble of temporarily clamping the SJ to theedge of the panel or do you just make sure that the cable is out of the way? Would you just use a 30a 240v female connector on the end to avoid having to ground the metal box?

    Bookmark   December 17, 2004 at 11:49AM
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Well, yeah, that is a normal operation for situations like this, connecting directly to a breaker/ground/neutral. It may not look like the safest way to do this, but it is done on construction sites every day. Since panel covers are removed to do this, We always cut a piece of cardboard to fit over the panel to provide protection for anyone coming near the panel and mark it as "DANGER--HOT". In your case, connecting the cable and loosely replacing the panel cover for protection should be OK. Any cables coming out of the panel would need to be tied to the panel can so it couldn't be accidentally ripped out. If you understand all the hazards of working in a panel, and take any safety precautions, you shouldn't have a problem.


    Bookmark   December 17, 2004 at 12:10PM
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This was the trade secret I was looking for. I'm in the middle of a project right now, but down the line, if I have some time, I want to get that Clarke 180 and fix my neighbors' fence. Two nice ladies - mother and daughter, asked me about a year ago if I knew anyone that welds. The guy that used to do all of my wrought iron stuff moved, so I didn't have anyone for them. I just noticed that there is a section of fencing in their yard that is still just sitting on the ground.

If I get to that project, I'll post to this thread to let you guys know how things turned out. Now if you don't hear from me, you'll always wonder if I got fried trying to borrow some electricity!

Thanks again!!!

    Bookmark   December 17, 2004 at 12:23PM
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I Have been looking at that Clarke 180 mig welder, anybody had any experience with it, I want a mig for home repairs and for welding auto exhaust pipes together, what do you think? Thanks

    Bookmark   April 28, 2005 at 11:26PM
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