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Thread: You've got $2-3000 startup capital. What do you do?

  1. #1
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    You've got $2-3000 startup capital. What do you do?

    If you were me, what would you do?

    I am about to have $3000 at my disposal, and I may never have that much startup capital to outfit a basic fab shop for years to come. I want to make sure I spend this cash properly and somewhat soon since money that sits in corners tends to evaporate in my family. Welding machines, thankfully, cannot evaporate.

    I am a first-year welding student, and I have been excelling in my classes. An instructor told me today that I will likely be excellent at TIG because I have a steady hand/good instincts/etc.

    Here's a short list of the types of projects I see myself possibly getting into, based on markets that exist around me and experience I have:

    - Hand railings, shelving, wall art, kitchen racks, furniture, etc... interior decorative and functional pieces
    - Small custom hardware for leatherworkers' and clothing designers' use, like rings, buckles, etc.
    - Combo hand-wrought steel and fabrication (I already have access to a blacksmithing shop)
    - Quick on-site fixes for cars, bikes, farm equipment, broken stuff, etc.
    - Light, aerodynamic metal framing for tiny homes, trailers, etc.
    - Hand-cut lettering for signage (sheet and light plate)
    - Lighter-weight, artsy fartsy stuff in general. =)

    I need versatility. I definitely need MIG, and I would really prefer to have TIG too. I am getting good at stick, but I am unsure how useful it will be outside of heavier industrial settings. I almost certainly need some sort of torch, or even a cheapie plasma that I can use to basically draw on sheet metal. I do not know what kind of power I need. I can probably get shop space somewhere that has most kinds of electrical hookups because I have lots of friends and associates who do artistic fabrication and such; however, I'd prefer to be able to plug in most places. Like I said, I just got started. My experience in fabrication shops is limited to assistant-type roles to the welders, but not much actual welding.

    Given the above, in your professional opinions, what should I spend the money on?

    Thank you ever so much!

  2. #2
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    Re: You've got $2-3000 startup capital. What do you do?

    Given that long list of projects, I'd look at a nice used XMT 304. It would allow you to do mig, DC tig and stick, given the right accessories. You can always start out with the power source and say mig feeder, and add stick and tig gear later. Ball park with feeder used is about $1500-1800, so that still leaves you money for other things.
    .



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    Re: You've got $2-3000 startup capital. What do you do?

    Thanks! Is eBay the best place to find things used? Seems like shipping would get pretty out of hand.

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    Re: You've got $2-3000 startup capital. What do you do?

    Usually I check CL using Searchtempest.com if I'm looking for something. I may not find exactly what I want right away the distance from my house I'm willing to go, but usually I can locate something. Often I'll just type in "welder" as my search term and sort the list manually. That often locates a lot of poorly listed items that can be real deals if you know what you are looking at.
    .



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    Re: You've got $2-3000 startup capital. What do you do?

    It's a tough question. 3k can be spent real quick, heck 30k can be spent quick when it comes to metal working tools and welders.

    Check your local Craigslist for good used welders, that way you can actually go and see and try out the machine and no delivery cost. I know a lot of folks might not agree with me but, if your only doing small artsy stuff then maybe a good used 110v mig and a good used 220v tig/stick ac/dc machine might give you best bang for your buck. The little mig can do thick stuff but it's also a lot more portable of a machine. Everyone has 110v so if you need to do a small on site fix you could use it.

    Having the 220v tig/stick pretty much covers everything else, especially if you get ac/dc. Then you can do aluminum. If you only plan on doing steel then stick with dc and save a few greens. Sounds like you want to do tig more than other stuff so I'd invest more into a tig machine if that'll be your primary welder. Also, if you get a random heavy metal job or fix you can use stick to get good penetration.

    Don't forget about others tools like grinders, cutting tools, etc.

  6. #6
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    Re: You've got $2-3000 startup capital. What do you do?

    The most versatile method there is O/A...as it was explained to me.

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    Re: You've got $2-3000 startup capital. What do you do?

    If asking how its done I don't think you are going to do it.

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    Re: You've got $2-3000 startup capital. What do you do?

    Put your location in on the User Control Panel.

    Lots of good guys and gals here willing to help you out on your searches. Post in the a Buy/Sell section.

    There's a lot more outlay in the business than the machines. Open a business account now and stick the cash in it. Will help with evaporation issues because you'll be more conscious about writing a check than grabbing a few bills off a roll.

    A lot depends on the space and power you have. If space and power aren't an object, it's hard to beat an old Miller AB/P 330 (or Airco equivalent) and an old Millermatic 200. You'd be done on machines at around $1000-1500. Nothing you wouldn't be able to handle.

    An XMT is a great machine. You'll need add ons to mig or tig with it, and it's an inverter. Mines great and they are super durable, but there's always that worry of it giving up the ghost some day.

    As above, CL is the best bet. I've had very good luck on eBay sorting by distance nearest. If you can make contact with the seller, you can sometimes see the machine and offer cash with a sale outside of eBay. It's up to the seller if he/she wants to give eBay the 12% profit they bite you in the azz for.

    Ask questions here before you buy any machine.

    Good luck.
    Last edited by Drf255; 09-18-2014 at 05:02 AM.
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    Re: You've got $2-3000 startup capital. What do you do?

    keep saving.

    or

    pick one direction that is small in scope and grow/develop that niche in the evenings and weekends along side a full time job.

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    Re: You've got $2-3000 startup capital. What do you do?

    There's so many other considerations other than choosing a welder.

    While that's really a pittance in pretty much most businesses, you can do most things you listed with just a stick machine and hacksaw. I'd stay away from automotive work until you have a wider choice of options, insurance and experience. Even body shops that do that sort of thing every day have a thin margin and it's almost more trouble than it's worth. As most cars that need a welding repair in one place will need another in another down the road and you get stuck with being the last person who touched it. Anyone who wants custom fabrication will either want to see a ton of fancy fabrication equipment or expect you to do the work practically for free.

    A portaband and as mentioned above an old millermatic 200 will get you through to finishing a job or two. Something for mobile welding like a maxstar will help with installs. Some cheap clamps, a corded drill with cobalt and step drills along with a grinder, a file and simple layout tools will do most things and I know a guy who runs a gate and fencing business out of his barn with pretty much exactly that, except he uses cheap Lincoln wire feeds.

    There's so much other sundry expenses. Sometimes you can get small stuff as you go for individual jobs but it's easy to get in over your head or lose money because your working around the limitations of the equipment and burning time.

    Open a business account, take some night classes for small business and get a book or two. It's easy to start working and get jobs, think your getting ahead and at the end of the year discover you lost money due to bad accounting.

    One good way of getting experience and getting paid for it is working for someone else that's been in business a while. It's a lot more lucrative than learning on your own dime.

    Welding classes just teach you to weld, which is something you'll be doing a small fraction of operating a welding business.

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    Re: You've got $2-3000 startup capital. What do you do?

    Ok, you sound a lot like me. I got serious about welding about 18 months ago. Here is all I have to say. Buy an engine drive, and put it in your truck. Don't have a truck? Sell your car and buy a truck.

    I got my bobcat for $1400 on Craigslist and it paid for itself in 2 jobs. It can mig tig and stick. You will also get paid a lot more to weld on site.

    I too would love to do mainly tubing and lighter work but... It's tough to get paid for that stuff. I grew up around heavy equipment and am currently an excavator operator by day so I do a lot of heavy equipment repair work. It's not too glorious... But when a machine is broken "fix it tonight and send me a bill"

    I would say truck with a toolbox, basic tools, small set of torches and a decent used engine drive and you are on your way. You can achieve that with $3k if you are creative. That set up will pay for everything else you want.

    Also don't rush to incorporate, I'd fly by night for a little while and focus as much money as you can in more equipment. Work a day job and buy welding tools and equip with your welding money.

    I drive my rig daily. Even take the old lady to fancy dinners in it lol. You can do it!

    Here's a breakdown:
    Engine drive $1500
    Toolbox: $200
    7" & 4"grinders: $250
    Torches and tanks: $600
    Clamps and misc $350

    Before you know it you'll be able to do anything and make money anywhere. Then you can buy all the other machines and tools you want.

    Another thing. When you spot a good deal. Kill it. Go buy it. I keep a list of 4 or 5 things I want and cash set aside. When I see something pop up in a daily search I go get it that day lol.

    Sorry if I'm rambling, rushed writing this. Very exciting stuff tho! Good luck!!

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    You've got $2-3000 startup capital. What do you do?

    X2 on silverados advice, I actually did basically the same thing as he did got my bobcat and suitcase wire feeder for $2000, leased some tanks for my torches till I can get some of my own and hit the pavement looking for jobs big and small. I do it after/before my regular job and weekends. I also mostly do heavy equipment and farm stuff, but I'm not afraid to do some railings or fence work if I've got nothing going on. If I was you I'd narrow down what you want to go into and start focusing your needs on that.
    For your price range I'd be looking real hard at an imported inverter TIG machine dual voltage would be nice but not necessary if you have 220 outlets, as would AC so you can do aluminum that would cover basically do everything you think you want to do with that it won't be as fast as MIG but with limited funds buying two machines is often cost prohibitive.
    Last edited by Firemanmike69; 09-18-2014 at 08:25 PM.

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    Re: You've got $2-3000 startup capital. What do you do?

    Fireman mike makes a good point with the imports... Even though I try to buy as much American made as I can. Sometimes we gotta do what we gotta do.

    I have read a lot of good things about the everlast machines... And Jody from welding tips and tricks has used them in a bunch of his videos. You can get a pretty serious AC/DC tig machine for right around $1,000 from them.

    I still say engine drive... You'll have a tig machine in no time.

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    Re: You've got $2-3000 startup capital. What do you do?

    Go get a tax license for the state you live in. It allows you to actually do business. Then go to the bank and open up a business checking, it allows you to deposit checks made out to your business. Find a location to work and keep your tools secure. Buy a welder, a couple 4.5 inch grinders, saw, torch set. IMHO, stick with shop fabbed steel items, for this reason consider a good Mig, vs an all in one machine. Going into the field requires a contractors license, and a liability policy, and they are pricey, so wait until you have some business going first. Car guys usually want stack of dimes welds for free, so stay away until you are very good and have your pricing figured out. F-ups in fabbing aluminum get expensive to fix, so stick with steel until you have your ducks in a row.
    Good luck

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    Re: You've got $2-3000 startup capital. What do you do?

    I started working for a company to get some experience and every week when I got paid I would buy one tool ie a grinder, clamps, comsumables, hammers, welding blankets, and I would put money away, I also got a 0% Apr for a year credit card and that's how I got my second engine drive. Its a lot cheaper to learn with other peoples materials , time and tools and break out once you have a better understanding . $3000.00 will get u started but not !much more then that.
    Vantage 300 kubota ,miller 304 xmt ,lincoln ln 25 pro , ranger 305 G, plenty of other tools of the trade to make the sparks fly.

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    Re: You've got $2-3000 startup capital. What do you do?

    $2-3000 startup capital? I'd find a few willing working girls, buy them new outfits and rent a couple rooms.
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    Re: You've got $2-3000 startup capital. What do you do?

    Thanks for the non-douchey responses. I'm actually a small-bodied female with a young child who has very little interest in "working girls" (except that they be allowed to unionize), and who would probably be hard-pressed to do farm work alone, if we're talking realistically. I love the idea of going out in a field and tossing around backhoe parts like a beast, but alas, it is an unrealistic expectation for me. It's also pretty unrealistic that I'll be able to run off to a man camp travel gig in the Dakotas to make some money, unless I really want to come back and have a kid who doesn't remember me, and the full-time jobs where I live in WNC are scarce. The industrial sector is just pitiful in this area. But what isn't scarce here are rich homeowners (who loooove the "charm" of hand-wrought metal, and I'm a blacksmith too), new restaurants (that remodel their interiors every time they move in), performance troupes that use specialized equipment I know a lot about, and "heritage hipsters" who are trying their hand at farming without knowing much about it at all. I also have a few niche markets I plan to exploit through the web, but I won't tell my secrets about that one.

    I have access to the tools and whatnots of several fab shops, but especially one in particular, where I have also worked in the past but haven't since the work flow dried up and I started school. Nevertheless, I can almost certainly rent a booth for cheap in their enormous warehouse shop and continue to use some of their tools for my own projects, but most of their booth renters have their own welders and don't give other people access to them. Therefore, I'm not completely fullash*t when I say that this money might be best spent on actual welding machines. The idea of a truck is certainly one I had considered as well, but the payoff from that wouldn't be at all immediate and wouldn't help much with allowing me to start making things now. The idea of a tax ID and business account seems sensible, too. I may do that, but having those kinds of liquid assets in bank accounts could interfere with my access to some of the services I rely on while in school. I'd probably rather turn the money into things pretty quickly.

    So, since someone offered, I'll ask before making a purchase, maybe back in this thread? Not sure how that works around here. Thanks so much!

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    Re: You've got $2-3000 startup capital. What do you do?

    Quote Originally Posted by quillandanvil View Post
    Thanks for the non-douchey responses. I'm actually a small-bodied female with a young child who has very little interest in "working girls" (except that they be allowed to unionize), and who would probably be hard-pressed to do farm work alone, if we're talking realistically. I love the idea of going out in a field and tossing around backhoe parts like a beast, but alas, it is an unrealistic expectation for me. It's also pretty unrealistic that I'll be able to run off to a man camp travel gig in the Dakotas to make some money, unless I really want to come back and have a kid who doesn't remember me, and the full-time jobs where I live in WNC are scarce. The industrial sector is just pitiful in this area. But what isn't scarce here are rich homeowners (who loooove the "charm" of hand-wrought metal, and I'm a blacksmith too), new restaurants (that remodel their interiors every time they move in), performance troupes that use specialized equipment I know a lot about, and "heritage hipsters" who are trying their hand at farming without knowing much about it at all. I also have a few niche markets I plan to exploit through the web, but I won't tell my secrets about that one.

    I have access to the tools and whatnots of several fab shops, but especially one in particular, where I have also worked in the past but haven't since the work flow dried up and I started school. Nevertheless, I can almost certainly rent a booth for cheap in their enormous warehouse shop and continue to use some of their tools for my own projects, but most of their booth renters have their own welders and don't give other people access to them. Therefore, I'm not completely fullash*t when I say that this money might be best spent on actual welding machines. The idea of a truck is certainly one I had considered as well, but the payoff from that wouldn't be at all immediate and wouldn't help much with allowing me to start making things now. The idea of a tax ID and business account seems sensible, too. I may do that, but having those kinds of liquid assets in bank accounts could interfere with my access to some of the services I rely on while in school. I'd probably rather turn the money into things pretty quickly.

    So, since someone offered, I'll ask before making a purchase, maybe back in this thread? Not sure how that works around here. Thanks so much!
    In that case I'd be allover Craigslist or eBay for an inverter TIG machine that does AC/DC and lease an 80 or 125 cuft argon cylinder. Light on the budget and to actually move and carry and you can basically weld everything with it. Barter welding for the renters who have booths but no welders for use of their space/tools. Restaurants have lots of stainless in the kitchens that can be TIGed. You said you already do ornamental iron so that can get you I'm the door to do some ironwork for a new restaurant and "o by the way, I can fix that range hood in the kitchen too" you get more work and business owner gets to only deal with one contractor

  19. #19
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    Re: You've got $2-3000 startup capital. What do you do?

    Just don't buy anything before trying it out. There are to many guys on here that have been burnt buying off ebay, you can't tell if it works on your puter screen, might not be the same machine they show. Good luck with your future, you seem like you have a good head on your shoulders and will do fine. you need to decide if you are going to rent a booth, if you do, buy a plug in machine for now and make some money. If you will be mobile most of the time get a engine driven unit.

    Again best of luck....
    Measure with a micrometre, mark with chalk, cut with a torch.

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    Re: You've got $2-3000 startup capital. What do you do?

    Quote Originally Posted by quillandanvil View Post
    I'm actually a small-bodied female with a young child

    I love the idea of going out in a field and tossing around backhoe parts like a beast, but alas, it is an unrealistic expectation for me.

    The industrial sector is just pitiful in this area. But what isn't scarce here are rich homeowners (who loooove the "charm" of hand-wrought metal, and I'm a blacksmith too),

    new restaurants (that remodel their interiors every time they move in), performance troupes that use specialized equipment I know a lot about, and "heritage hipsters" who are trying their hand at farming without knowing much about it at all. I also have a few niche markets I plan to exploit through the web, but I won't tell my secrets about that one.

    !
    Now that you have defined your work scope, maybe a decent sized mig would be good to start with.

    Of course a drill press, drills, all that small stuff


    If the performance troupe equipment is some sort of trapeze thing I'd stay away from that.

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    Re: You've got $2-3000 startup capital. What do you do?

    Nobody mentioned your getting an Ironworker.

    If you are fabricating things, I would think it would be your best friend.
    I offer three choices: Good, Fast, & Cheap. You may pick two.

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    Re: You've got $2-3000 startup capital. What do you do?

    I have a xmt-304, has served me well for 10 years, ut like mentioned before, it is a inverter machine and can be expensive to repair. My motherboard failed with a few other electronic doo dads, and it cost $1200.00 and 2 weeks down time to repair.
    On your budget, i would search craigslist for a dedicated mig machine first. Lots of millermatic 200's out there, and they are good machines that can be had in the $500 to 800 range. For portability, the Hobart 210 is a great machine, runs on 110/220 power, can be carried around easily and has good umph.
    Recently purchased a hobart ironman 230 and could not be happier with it. Lots of old dialarc and idealarc machines out there for tig and stick, but not portable at all.
    Search craigslist for a horizontal bandsaw, lots of them out there. I do like a 14" dry cut saw, clean cuts, quick and portable.

    Old transformer machines run forever.
    New inverter machines are nice and small and pack a punch, but are loaded with electronics that can and will fail eventually. Start out slow, and figure out what you need for your type of work.

    Good luck.

  23. #23
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    Re: You've got $2-3000 startup capital. What do you do?

    I'd look for:

    1 horizontal bandsaw, either the HF kind or a 7x12 ($800 or less)

    2 used blue or red MIG, 220v, ($800-1000)

    3 used blue or red TIG, 220v, ($800-1400)

    Use the rest for welder consumables, grinder, hood, gloves, hammer, glasses.

    From there you could make everything on your list and start making money. Once you have the main welders and saw there aren't any huge investments that need to be made for many years.
    12v battery, jumper cables, and a 6013.
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    Re: You've got $2-3000 startup capital. What do you do?

    Liability insurance is going to eat up a large portion of your capital, take your 3k & multiply it by 5 and that will give you a basic set-up.
    REAL TRUCKS DON'T HAVE SPARK PLUGS

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    Re: You've got $2-3000 startup capital. What do you do?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jimmy_pop View Post
    keep saving.
    or
    pick one direction that is small in scope and grow/develop that niche in the evenings and weekends along side a full time job.
    +1.

    I'd start with an O/A setup. You can cut and weld most everything on your list. Learn to braze also. A lot of the ornamental work can be brazed quickly and it looks nice. As you find your direction the jobs will dictate and fund the equipment. Operate like your flat broke, build tools when you can. Save your cash for when the good deals come along. Always ask around when looking to buy equipment... sometimes a friend will have something stuffed in the corner that just needs a little fixing. Always try to have at least a grand on hand so you can buy tools and machines when the deals come along. Nothing worse than passing on a deal of a lifetime because your pockets are empty.

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