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Hey all,

Quick question, what is the best type of welding rig for general bladesmithing? Tacking billets together once I have the means to forge weld, welding rebar to your steel to hang onto it while forging, etc.

 

I'm seeing some wire feeds for a few hundred bucks, will that be sufficient? I understand that's the easiest type to use as well.

 

Thanks! 

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1 hour ago, R. Alex Dorris said:

what is the best type of welding rig for general bladesmithing

The one you know how to use and can afford.

 

I recently got a TIG set-up because I no longer want to be adding metal to my billets when I prep/stack them.  But I used a stick welder for 6-7 years before that.

 

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Mig is a hot glue gun for metal but theres a lerning curve and a few things that can go wrong with the machine

 

Stick strongest of the welds for the most part lerning curve less to go wrong with the machine

 

Tig cleanest and most versital (ac/dc type) bigger learning curve as it can do more so more to know and plenty to go wrong between machine and settings 

 

Each one will weld the big question is what do you want to do with it when its not tacking up billets 

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Another thing to look at is do you want to deal with air cylinders or not. Stick and flux core MIG would allow you to not worry about gas. 

 

Like BillyO said TIG is best for welding up billets for forge welding as it doesnt need to add filler metal like the others do. Downside is it has a very high learning curve and some extra consumables that are a bit pricier to make mistakes with.

 

For just welding on handles any of them work with stick and MIG being the easiest and most efficient IMO.

 

If you could only get one machine and you have the electrical capacity for it I would recommend personally to get a TIG machine that can also do stick. It will allow you the best of both with stick for handles and TIG for billets. If you want to go cheaper and easier with less of a learning curve then go with a MIG you'll just have to deal with grinding out your welds on billets.

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I would go with a stick welder and spend the money on a nice welding helmet, I once had a cheap mig welder and it was really annoying to use and the consumables are not cheap. My stick welder costs almost nothing to operate and makes ugly but strong welds.

 

If you have the money to spend, a high end mig welder is really nice and easy to use.

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16 hours ago, Sean Blum said:

If you could only get one machine and you have the electrical capacity for it I would recommend personally to get a TIG machine that can also do stick.

I recently purchased the Amico CTS160 for $400 for the unit.  Runs off both 120V and 220V, got some decent reviews & is a stick/TIG/plasma cutter combo unit.  The only drawback I see so far is that It is DC only, so not for welding aluminum.

Edited by billyO
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@billyOI need to replace the entire gun and WIP assembly on my MIG welder.  For an extra $125 I could just get the unit you have.  Have you been happy with it to this point?

Edited by Alex Middleton
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Good afternoon, Alex.  I've only used it less than a  dozen times, so FWIW, no complaints so far.  I've run a few beads of different sticks I have on hand to get a feel for the amperage settings, and have used the TIG function, mostly playing and tacking up billets.  I have yet to use the plasma cutter because there is a significant amount of wood dust in the shop currently that needs to be taken care of first.

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We own 3 welders. 4 if you count the spot welder and 5 if you count the O/A torch. The flux cored wire welder is 110 only and I mostly use it for working outside. The solid core with CO2 is the primary welder and we use it for 95% of what we need a welder for. It is a 220V setup. The TIG is a PITA to use IMNSHO. i suppose if I used it more often, I wouldn't be fiddling with the dials so much and burning cups and electrodes so often.

 

I use the wire feed to tack up my billets. Now, my initial billets are around 20 layer stacks and around 3 inches tall and 6 inches long and 1-1/2 inches wide. The only heavy weld I do is on the ends. The sides get a very light weld and I don't go more than 1/4 of the way across the billet in the center only. I turn the heat down so there is very little penetration. It's more of a surface weld that typically breaks off in the first welding press.

 

If all you see yourself using a welder for is tacking up billets, and putting handles on them, get a simple stick or wire feed with flux cored wire. 

BTW-I will never use rebar for a handle again. It can be very funky to weld and it needs a lot of bead to hold well. I use 1/2" square mild steel rod.

Welds really easily and is very strong.

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Joshua mentioned an O/A welder or oxygen acetylene but didn't elaborate.  One of these can be very versatile in the metal shop and could be used to weld stacks of material without adding filler or used with filler rod as cheap and readily available as an old coat hanger or with the alloy of your choice.  Need to silver solder or braze something?  It will handle it.  A set also usually comes with a cutting torch which is also very handy.  I have mine set up with an additional propane bottle for the oxygen/propane rosebud heating torch so if I need to make a quick localized heat I can.  Very useful if you are twisting a piece of stock so that heat can be maintained or even concentrated for twist variations.  You can also make a quick hot box with some soft fire brick and direct the the flame of the rosebud through a hole and use it as a small forge.  I can't imagine not having one even though I do have all the others.

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3 hours ago, Joshua States said:

 

BTW-I will never use rebar for a handle again. It can be very funky to weld and it needs a lot of bead to hold well. I use 1/2" square mild steel rod.

Welds really easily and is very strong.

Its chinese rebar, I think scrap metal melted without any quality control.

 

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18 hours ago, billyO said:

Good afternoon, Alex.  I've only used it less than a  dozen times, so FWIW, no complaints so far.  I've run a few beads of different sticks I have on hand to get a feel for the amperage settings, and have used the TIG function, mostly playing and tacking up billets.  I have yet to use the plasma cutter because there is a significant amount of wood dust in the shop currently that needs to be taken care of first.

i find an angle grinder does a better job of removing saw dust than the plasma your mileage may vary

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