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Thread: Best aluminum MIG machine

  1. #1
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    Best aluminum MIG machine

    I posted over in the introductions section, but figured a little background info wouldn't hurt here. I am 16, and a junior in high school. Besides my passion for metalworking, I am an avid angler, and also enjoy boats in general, thus, most of my work is on boats, in one form or another. I can MIG steel very well. I am also very skilled when it comes to all forms of working aluminum except welding (cutting, bending, riveting, threading) and have done numerous riveted aluminum boat projects. But, I enjoy welding more, and wish to build a boat that will be better built by welding (at least now, I wish to build those full time eventually, but that is a story for a different time).

    Anyway, I am looking to purchase my own MIG machine, to dedicate to aluminum. For a long time now, the goal was to purchase a spool gun for the MIG we currently have (230v, 130 amp, 30 percent duty cycle, Lincoln), at least for now. Currently, I weld aluminum with it, but swapping out the shielding gas, drive rollers, and liner is getting to be a royal pain in the tail (not to mention the aluminum wire doesn't feed for crap). Being that this machine needs to be used for steel on a regular basis, the only logical solution was to get another machine for aluminum, as opposed to a spool gun for this one, and, a slightly nicer machine at that.

    The requirements:
    -Spool gun is a must. My budget will likely not allow for a push/pull wire feed setup.
    -Most welding will be between 1/8 and 3/16.
    -A few parts in the 3/8 or better range, but on the scale of boats I will be building, there aren't many of these welds needed, so beveling, and multiple passes with backchipping in between is not an issue.

    Also, I am self employed, working out of my dads home shop, doing various work on smaller aluminum boats and outboards, plus any steel welding job I can find. I would love to be able to weld .090 aluminum (90 degree welds, no butt welds), to make certain add ons that are quite common on these smaller aluminum boats (add in livewells and hatches for jon boats, consoles for larger jon boats, trolling motor pedal trays etc). The "stack of dimes" is not necessary, but a somewhat visually appealing weld is nice.
    Is that something I could expect from a MIG with spoolgun, or should I look into a TIG for stuff like that?

    My budget for this machine is around 1000 - 1200 dollars. If that is not realistic, I can wait a little longer, and save a bit more, but really don't want to put much more towards this machine, unless it is MIG/TIG combo. I prefer to buy used, to get more bang for my buck. What machine should I look around for, that meets all these requirements. Lincoln or Miller only. Leaning towards Lincoln, a) as I am already familiar with them, and b) consumables are readily available at the local big box stores, thus can be gotten on short notice, if I get in a bind. But, I have no problem going to Miller, if that will suite me better.

    Thanks in advance.
    Who is John Galt?

  2. #2
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    Re: Best aluminum MIG machine

    Save up some more money. You're short by a couple grand at least.
    MM350P/Python/Q300
    MM175/Q300
    DialarcHF

    HTP MIG200
    PowCon300SM

    Hypertherm380
    ThermalArc185
    Purox oa
    F350CrewCab4x4
    LoadNGo utilitybed
    Bobcat250
    XMT304/Optima/Spoolmatic
    Suitcase12RC/Q300
    Suitcase8RC/Q400
    Passport/Q300

    Smith op

  3. #3
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    Re: Best aluminum MIG machine

    the miller 30A spool gun is the best out there
    get a welder that will run that
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  4. #4
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    Re: Best aluminum MIG machine

    I have a 180 and a spool gun..by the time I bought a tank of argon I was past your budget.1/8" is just about all my 180 can handle.

  5. #5
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    Re: Best aluminum MIG machine

    If you are very lucky, and find someone who is in need of money you can pick up a Lincoln 255c for about $500. I did, and I saw another one a few weeks after I got mine (no gun or anything, but you dont need it yet). You can swipe a magnum spool gun for about $750. Thats in your general range, but it will take some time and good luck. It is all possible if you shop the used market well and don't jump on anything because you get too impatient.

    A 255c is 300amp machine (not sure what the spool gun is limited too, I don't have one yet), you should be able to stick that aluminum together no problem
    If you cannot convince them, confuse them.
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  6. #6
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    Re: Best aluminum MIG machine

    Here's an excellent boat forum, with plenty of info on every aspect of boat fabrication including welders:

    http://www.boatdesign.net/forums/

  7. #7
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    Re: Best aluminum MIG machine

    I'd save up a couple more bucks and shoot for a good used tig welder. TA 185, Dynasty 200, Econotig by Miller, Synchrowave 200 by miller. Maybe you can find an Invertec 205 by Lincoln, or a Precision tig 185 or 200. All these are good machines, and no issues to speak of.

    A mig machine that has so few controls like a Miller 180, Lincoln 180, etc. Will do the job, but you will suffer plenty of frustration, and at best, the welds will work but likely will never be really apperance grade.
    And then, after so much work...... you have it in your hand, and you look over to your side...... and the runner has run off. Leaving you holding the prize, wondering when the runner will return.

  8. #8
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    Re: Best aluminum MIG machine

    If you want a good alu MIG with spool gun for that price range, look at the Hobart HH210 and spool gun combo. I ran it side by side with a MM210 and spooler for a couple of years and the HH210 did a better job on most everything but the 3/8. I ran both the shrot and long gun in all my tests with this unit and both performed perfectly. This unit is not a cheesy homeowner unit. I threw most everything I could at it when doing the field tests for Hobart and it stood up and took it all. Besides being a great alu unit, it runs a pretty mean steel set as well.
    QamuIs Heg qaq law' lorvIs yInqaq puS



  9. #9
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    Re: Best aluminum MIG machine

    Quote Originally Posted by farmall View Post
    Here's an excellent boat forum, with plenty of info on every aspect of boat fabrication including welders:

    http://www.boatdesign.net/forums/
    Been on there awhile. Great site. Most of the help I got in deciding on what hull to go with came from there.

    I'd save up a couple more bucks and shoot for a good used tig welder. TA 185, Dynasty 200, Econotig by Miller, Synchrowave 200 by miller. Maybe you can find an Invertec 205 by Lincoln, or a Precision tig 185 or 200. All these are good machines, and no issues to speak of.
    While a TIG would be excellent for the smaller stuff I tinker with to sell, it would be very limiting when it comes to the boatbuilding side. The size and quantity of welds on the boat leads me to believe that for most hull and deck welds MIG is ideal, leaving TIG for small accessories (rails and the likes).
    Who is John Galt?

  10. #10
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    Re: Best aluminum MIG machine

    Hey bassboy1,
    You have a lot of wind, pi$$,& vinegar as all youngsters do....your interest in getting good & better is a positive step. If you truly want the best, do as DesertRider33 suggested & save a bit more, & get what he has listed as the 1st unit on his signature..... The Miller 350P. This unit will make aluminum a pleasure, & with the features it is equipped, it can make MIG look identical to TIG. If you want to be the best.... get the best.....IMHO.

    Denny
    Complete Welding/Machine/Fab. Shop
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    Finally retired

    *Moderator*

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  11. #11
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    Re: Best aluminum MIG machine

    I think I would consider selling the welder you got and going with something like a Miller 251 or 252 with a 30A spoolgun. Alum in the spoolgun, steel in the welder, two bottles and regulators. Just grab your gun and go.
    My name's not Jim....

  12. #12
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    Re: Best aluminum MIG machine

    Greetings, bassboy1,

    Being just a hobby welder, myself, I can't offer you any advice on which machine will satisfy your requirements. However, I would like to take a few moments to laud your communication skills. Rarely, do we read anything on these boards even close to your output, especially by someone so young. You are a fine example of what can be achieved in our educational system... I'll bet your teachers and parents are proud of your accomplishments. I'm sure you don't need me to tell you how lucky you are to have already found a niche that you enjoy, and I'll bet you can look forward to a very rewarding future.
    Regards,
    Weldordie

  13. #13
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    Re: Best aluminum MIG machine

    Quote Originally Posted by Weldordie View Post
    However, I would like to take a few moments to laud your communication skills. Rarely, do we read anything on these boards even close to your output, especially by someone so young. You are a fine example of what can be achieved in our educational system... I'll bet your teachers and parents are proud of your accomplishments. I'm sure you don't need me to tell you how lucky you are to have already found a niche that you enjoy, and I'll bet you can look forward to a very rewarding future.
    Regards,
    Weldordie
    Well said, it's nice to read a compliment to the youngsters instead of belittling them
    Fire!, Fire! Oh wait, that's my torch...

    Lincoln PT-225 TIG
    Lincoln 175 MIG

  14. #14
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    Re: Best aluminum MIG machine

    Quote Originally Posted by bassboy1 View Post
    Been on there awhile. Great site. Most of the help I got in deciding on what hull to go with came from there.



    While a TIG would be excellent for the smaller stuff I tinker with to sell, it would be very limiting when it comes to the boatbuilding side. The size and quantity of welds on the boat leads me to believe that for most hull and deck welds MIG is ideal, leaving TIG for small accessories (rails and the likes).
    Yes, I agree with you, the sheer volume of welds on a boat hull will necessitate a mig welder. With that in mind, a 210 series would be the smallest machine I would recommend. I have a 175 Miller, and it is not my favorite machine by far. I liked the Lincoln mig welders much better. Never run a bigger Hobart, so I can not judge them fairly. The Miller 210 is much better than the 175/ 180. More adjustable, and better arc start quality. So, with that in mind, that is where I would head; a 210 or bigger miggy.
    And then, after so much work...... you have it in your hand, and you look over to your side...... and the runner has run off. Leaving you holding the prize, wondering when the runner will return.

  15. #15
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    Re: Best aluminum MIG machine

    Thanks a bunch guys.

    Looks like the 251 is the winner. I would love the 350P, but I really can't justify the cost, when the 251 will do everything I need it to do. The pulsed MIG, and push/pull gun really look sweet, but just about all I need done can be done efficiently with the spool gun.

    I am now officially on the lookout for a used 251, and 30A spoolgun.

    Thanks again!
    Who is John Galt?

  16. #16
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    Re: Best aluminum MIG machine

    I would get the 252 instead instead of the 251. You can connect a push-pull gun to the 252 later on as a direct-connect. The 251 doesn't have that capability without buying the seperate push-pull controller, which you won't find used and is rather expensive new, if it is still available, which it may not be.
    MM350P/Python/Q300
    MM175/Q300
    DialarcHF

    HTP MIG200
    PowCon300SM

    Hypertherm380
    ThermalArc185
    Purox oa
    F350CrewCab4x4
    LoadNGo utilitybed
    Bobcat250
    XMT304/Optima/Spoolmatic
    Suitcase12RC/Q300
    Suitcase8RC/Q400
    Passport/Q300

    Smith op

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