I want to join the big boys--let's talk about WELDERS

Discussion in 'Painting, Welding, Bending and Gas Tanks' started by Chris Crew, Aug 6, 2009.

  1. Chris Crew

    Chris Crew Member

    Ok, I'm hooked. I want to be able to put together an old style motorbike frame like some of you talented lads have done.

    How's this" " But really, honey, I do a lot more around than just build bikes if I had some welding gear."

    What does it take to make up a custom frame or modify a stock one? Will the home shop wire feed welder do?

    Is gas welding any better?

    Do I need a 220v 60 amp circuit in my shop to use a buzz box from the Home Despot?

    What do I need to know so that I don't A, shock the snot out of myself, B, burn my shop down, C, destroy a bunch of tubing because I got it too hot.

  2. Chris Crew

    Chris Crew Member

    DOH--got excited and forgot to search first

    I see answers to many of my questions have already been posted

  3. arceeguy

    arceeguy Active Member

    That's OK, nobody here is going to razz you and tell you to "use the search button".

    In any case, for bike frames and general repair, a 90-100 Amp MIG welder is easy to use and affordable. I don't recommend a gasless setup, always pay more and get the bottle set up. You can always use flux cored wire if you want, but once you use gas and see the clean welds with NO slag, you'll be hooked!

    If you've got the 220 hookup in your workshop, get a 220V welder (a small 220V MIG is typically 120-180A output). You can always turn down the heat if you need to.

    Miller, Hobart and Lincoln make some excellent light duty equipment. If cost is a major concern, the Harbor Freight type imported welders do an acceptable job too.
  4. cheeseman

    cheeseman New Member

    I would advise against welding thin Chromoly 4130 bicycle tubing because of its thickness it is better brazed than welded because the rapid heating of the tubing during welding weakens the tube so the weld will look fine but the tube will be weakened in the area around the weld.

    If your talking about Chromoly tubing a bit thicker then you can MIG it but just keep in mind the preferred process is TIG because of the low heat affected zone. However TIG machines cost at least $1,000 which isn't practical for a hobbyist. MIG welding Chromoly can be as strong as TIGing it if you set up the weld correctly. Chromoly is commonly used in vehicles from dune buggies to ultralight aircraft because its a strong but ductile metal.

    Oh, and for the love of god don't get a gassless only machine. You'll regret it. They're terrible to learn on because of the smoke that is produced by the flux. You cant see what your doing with the smoke in the way. It'll take you less time to learn with a gassless machine.

    I don't recommend you get a harbor freight welder because of all of the horror stories I've heard about the welders breaking on the second time they were used. If you cant afford a hobart or miller get a clarke. I own the 180amp version and it works great. They are made in Italy.

    Id recommend you read up on the different types of welders and their limits before you make a decision on what one you want to buy.
  5. mlcorson

    mlcorson Member

    My suggestion would be don't buy anything until you know everything. You should, in my opinion, start with a decent gas rig. It easy to learn and the fundamentals learned will be useful in whatever technology you ultimately embrace. There is no single approach that would necessarily work in every situation. Stick is great, its cheap and fast. MIG has more moving parts, seemingly easy to use, but a good looking MIG weld is not always a strong weld. TIG welding is harder to learn and a lot like gas welding, but it helps to master gas welding principles first. TIGs are expensive as well. Gas brazing can be, surprisingly sometimes stronger than welding. Bottom line suggestion. Get a gas welder and learn to weld and braze with it. Be careful buying used, you'll need to make sure all the tips and accessories are with the kit. Tips and handles are typically not interchangeable, unless it some well known brand.
  6. bmc_az

    bmc_az New Member


    Contrary to popular belief you can get decent welds with a scratch TIG setup and AC inverter welder. HF and others offer setups in the $200 to $600 range.
    And you still can use it as a stick welder for bigger jobs

    Seems the folks that are used to big TIG's have a problem getting used to scratch. I learned scratch first then moved to full TIG and I have stick welded since I was a kid so it was easy for me.

  7. Turtle Tedd

    Turtle Tedd Member

    Yes you can buy a basic AC DC stick welder..Buzz Box..for cheep..Buy a small 150 amp air cooled tig torch a cheep flowmeter (gauge) and rent a bottle of argon and be good to go on steel bike frames..An AC inverter is necessary to do aluminium but not steel..scratch start works fine....stay away from aluminium welding until you have mastered steel ....Steel frame is the way to go for motorized bikes anyway...arceeguy's info on a mig welder is your other option but I would save up for a Lincoln or Miller machine and definitely do not buy a Harbour Freight machine of any kind...take a welding course the people that teach them are usually old welders and you can pick their brains as you practice with their equipment....everybodys a welder
  8. dudeimarobot

    dudeimarobot Member

    I am currently taking an Intro to Welding class at a local community college.... I love it! $250 for 5 hrs, twice a week for 3 months. In the intro class the instructor lead us through a demo on each process.... Stick, MIG, TIG, OXY Fuel and Plasma cutting. Then we watched some exciting saftey videos. Since then we've been on our own to do whatever we find the most interesting. Ive taken a liking to TIG. Ive gotten good at thicker steel.. 1/4, 1/8th". I am about 95% done with a gas tank for my MB. Its been a fun project. But Ill make another thread for that...

    So, I bought a little tiny 'wire feed arc welder' at a yard sale for 20 bucks. Turns out it works, but you can only use flux cored wire, no gas for shielding. Which is kind of ok b/c its very easy to operate. But it is very messy. There is a lot of slag that needs to be cleaned off thr welds and the duty cycle is only 10%... which means you can Weld for one solid minute, then the machine needs to sit for 10 to calm down... I guess you can say Ive been spoiled by TIG. It is almost silent, very very clean, 100x 'controlable' and makes sturdy welds. THe TIG machines at school are the size of a washing machine and water cooled. Im not too familar with the scratch tig machines... Bu they sound rather simple...

    Re-read this post and realized its kind of random...

    So, take some classes! Or find a buddy who knows the trade and will teach you. A MIG machine will be the most useful and home friendly. Spend a few extra bucks and get a name brand model. One from a Welding company, not tool supply store. If you go MIG, get one that has a gas connection. It will help produce much cleaner welds.

    Hope this helps. Ive fallen in love with the trade...
  9. AussieJester

    AussieJester Member

    I picked up a no name brand gasless mig off Ebay for 175 bucks have built 4 frames with it PLUS a **** load of other jobs it hasnt missed a beat. I also bought a tube bender from ebay for around same price, along with a rule, bevel sqaure and an angle grinder there aint alot you can't fabricate. I would recommend at least 120amp model i have 130amp has 4 wore feed settings and 4 heat settings i have welded 6mm plate with excellent penertration MORE than enough for any bicycle tubing. I would suggest using 0.9mm wire also NOT .8 (if your going gasless) i find it welds bette with less spatter.

    Heaps of vids on the net to teach you welding, most of it is getting the settings right
    then all you do is push the puddle ;-)

    Best of luck

    EDIT: to above poster...unless you have HUGE dollars to blow dont get to attached to TIG talking thousand plus for a half decent light setup, unless you want to go for "no name' brand inverter welders which i have heard aren't much chop ;-S Would love a TIG myself but with the price of machine, rods, gas bottle hire and the amount of work i would actually use it for :: shakes head :: the gasless mig and a bottle of anti spatter spray works fine...
    Last edited: Aug 26, 2009
  10. Turtle Tedd

    Turtle Tedd Member

    A scratch start TIG machine is nothing more than your coventional stick welder..pawn shop deals..little red lincolns about the size of a small office or dorm room refridge..a couple hundred dollars...used ones are fine ..you can not hurt these things..then all you need is abottle of argon a flowmeter and a 150 amp Tig tourch....you can go MIG on bikes ....But the flux core wire without gas is worthless..take it for what its worth now or find out the hard way later....you need a gas set up for Mig welding-period.....
  11. AussieJester

    AussieJester Member

    Having worlked as a welder in the construction industry for several years i have to say Bull****... plane and simple....If your wishing to do thin metals like car panels i wouldnt recommend gasless but for thicker metals they are fine IMO

    Yes Gas welds cleaner and neater but myself and many others that use gasless for custom frame construction haven't had issues with it. If you can afford gas setup go for it opens up a heap more metal choices for you to weld...but if you only want to do the odd job or frame throughout the year from steel gasless is more than satisfactory. As far as a cheap TIG never seen one worth buying for under a grand second hand.

  12. Turtle Tedd

    Turtle Tedd Member

    aussie....do your thing mate..My experiance in the welding trade spans 35 years......but what do I know.....
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2009
  13. AussieJester

    AussieJester Member

    Obviously not much if you cant weld gasless mig well :-S

    I have welded everuthing from car panels to working on building and oil rig construction, there isn't alot i havent welded either pal. Check my worklog you will soon see how well a gasless mig works for frame construction. No its not THE BEST and i never said it was but it works very good, advising hobbisist that will rarely use the gear in a year to buy gas and tig setups is absurd IMO...But hey...if you tried for 35 years and havent concquered gasless best go with gas setup right, how you go with ARC is this also worthless? :p :p :p
  14. dudeimarobot

    dudeimarobot Member

    Agreed... Garage work, MIG all day... But TIG is just sooo nice. Im going to start looking into the scratch start tig machines. Seems like that would be fine for general steel use. And yeah, Im spoiled. Ive been learning on a watercooled syncrowave 250.
  15. Turtle Tedd

    Turtle Tedd Member

    aussi..your E-TRIKE CRUISER is a beautiful piece of work..but keep your eye on those welds
  16. AussieJester

    AussieJester Member

    Thanks Ted appreciate that bud :) Have you built any custom frames yourself or planning to in future? Be cool to see some neat tig work on custom frame...oh how i once took all the machines i used for granted :: sigh :: OH i know what i wanted to ask you also Ted, seeing you been around for many years have you heard any good about the inverter welding gear? I have used a small inverter gasless doing a small job at a mates factory other than that no, the mig went brilliant and it wasnt much larger than a bloody show box :-| Granted it was 2mm steel being welded but it was beautful little machine to use. I see these inverter TIG/ARC/Plasma cutter setups for 800 bucks, I ws tempted but asked afew people they didnt have alot of good to say BUT then they also hadnt used one. Regardless of brand, are the inverters welders a goer? My main concern is the electronics side of the machine i have heard they are frightfully expensive to be repaired when something dhits itself with the electrics?

  17. Turtle Tedd

    Turtle Tedd Member

    aussie yea I would like to build an e trike like yours..I know nothing about electric bike motors...you are right on the money about the electronics on those new inverter machines..expensive repair? probably no repair I think..over engineering of stuff that works is no good..like that little vioce in the new cars that says shut the door or buckle your seat belt..BS....like all that carp people hang on their guns..battery powered lasers and sights..BS....had one of the first generation machines..35pounds..nice..real smooth operation ,nice welds..but it had about a 10minute duty cycle,blew the breakers(fuses) constantly and carped out after a short time..I threw it into the garbage can...and it was a Miller.
    fattirejack likes this.
  18. bubbatgs

    bubbatgs Member

    I don't mean to be rude but... I think you should hire out for the welding; your life may be what hangs in the balance when welding is involved. Think safty first! Dress for the crash not the ride!
  19. Turtle Tedd

    Turtle Tedd Member

    bubbatags..have you ever looked at the welds on the chinese bicycles that are sold here..you canot find a decent strong frame except from some of the guys on these morotbike forums...Schwinn Raligh ..every bike made in China...I looked at about 15 steel frame bikes before I found one with marginaly decent welds.....I live in Florida ..I wear shorts sneekers a tank top and sometimes a helmet when I ride my MB.
  20. Barbie's hubbie

    Barbie's hubbie New Member

    :cool:As a retired welder I can tell you it takes practice, lots and lots of practice in what ever mode of equipment you choose to aquire. I have owned my own oxy/acet. rig (including bottles) for 38 yrs. now and I'm still learning. Penetration is the key to a strong weld. Your welds may look as beautiful as a fractory TIG job but without penetration they will give on you, probably at the worst possible time and place! But if you're serious, welding skills can save you tons over taking your work to a professional. Steve
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2009