Back at our buddy’s shop, Radford Auto in Rigby, ID, we tried out our new welding equipment from The Eastwood Company; Eastwood MIG 175 welder, auto darken welding helmet, and a handy welding cart.
The welder comes with a gas...
The welder comes with a gas regulator and hose and an 8-foot gun cable.
The ability to fabricate is essential in building as much of your own car as possible. It will also save money and will add a great deal of satisfaction to a finished project. However, fabrication generally involves having knowledge of welding.
The Eastwood Company offers any number of MIG and TIG welders. While all of us would like to be proficient at TIG the fact is MIG is easier to learn, more affordable, and a spool of wire for your MIG will last a great deal longer than all those TIG rods you will need. We’ve also found a MIG works well on thicker metals, especially the thickness found on frames and the fabrication of brackets. MIG will require more effort when working on sheetmetal (here’s where TIG would be better).
It also comes with spool gun...
It also comes with spool gun with 9 feet of cable and an 8-foot ground clamp.
While this isn’t a welding class, a few basics should be understood before running out and purchasing your MIG or TIG welder as either is a sizable investment and each has a learning curve. However, the amount of work and satisfaction that each will achieve makes this one of the most rewarding aspects of car building. Overall, both MIG and TIG are gas shielded arc welding processes. The primary difference lies in the way the filler metal is added to produce the weld.
There are some basic differences: MIG is faster than TIG typically because TIG requires a great deal more skill than MIG. A MIG user can achieve very good results yet still a novice welder. It should be noted from a budget standpoint TIG rod typically is sold in 1-pound packages of 1/16x36-inch long rods up to 3/32-inch rods and sells for $10.99 to $19.99. On the other hand MIG wire is sold in spools, for our MIG 135 or 175 welders it uses a 4-inch (2 pounds) spool of either 0.030- or 0.023-inch wire that sells for $12.99. There are other consumables, such as tips, drive rollers, and so on, and these costs need be factored as well.
The MIG 175 only uses a 2-pound...
The MIG 175 only uses a 2-pound (4-inch) spool of wire.
For our purposes we looked at the MIG welders offered by The Eastwood Company. They offer two: the MIG 135 and MIG 175. The MIG 135 provides 25- to 135-amp welding range and is user-friendly in that it requires 120V household current, making this choice much more portable and affordable. It’s ideally suited for 20- and 18-gauge sheetmetal. The MIG 175 provides 30- to 175-amp welding range, however, it does require that you have your garage (or portable location) set up for 220 V, make sure the site has 220 V. The benefit is the MIG 175 can handle some heavy-duty work, such as mild and stainless steel, measuring 24-gauge to 5/16-inch metal, making it ideal for fabrication work on your frame (brackets, crossmembers, boxing plates). It will also handle aluminum from 14-gauge to 1/4 inch. (At the time of this writing there is a $200 difference between the two units. The MIG 135 is in the $300 range while the MIG 175 is in the $500 range.)
The MIG wire can be 0.030...
The MIG wire can be 0.030 or 0.023 in the 2-pound (4-inch spool); $12.99 per spool. Should you need a replacement drive roller for your unit it is PN 12012, $5.99. The wire will feed at about a rate of 4.9 ft/min.
Contact tips are consumable...
Contact tips are consumable so they can be readily ordered; tip size 0.025-inch (PN 12211, $5.99 for a pack of five) for 0.023-inch wire; and, tip size 0.030-inch (PN 12224, $5.99 for a pack of five) for 0.030-inch wire.
The gas regulators (Co2 and...
The gas regulators (Co2 and Argon) and hose are provided but you will need your own tank. Never use Teflon tape or sealing compound on the threads. The generic dual gauge combination (PN 12238) sells for $29.99 but should you have a MIG 175 (use PN 12012) or for the MIG 135 (PN 12011) for the gauge pack.
Given most hot rodders will be making brackets and working on frames we opted for the MIG 175, figuring if your house doesn’t have 220 V it’s something that can be easily corrected. (Hot rodders have friends and somewhere in the mix is a buddy who is an electrician and he can help get your garage squared away. It’s also more affordable to weld at 220 V than 120 V; this helps offset the garage conversion costs.)
Inside the door of the MIG...
Inside the door of the MIG 175 is a handy chart for suggested settings for welding. We did just that. We measured the steel, determined the correct wire size, and selected the setting. Using a combination of letters (represents volts) and numbers (represents wire speed) it was a snap to select and it worked flawlessly.
As an added bonus we opted for the MIG 175 (PN 12012) that came with a spool gun ($199) and to this combination we added a welding cart (PN 12236) and an auto darkening welding helmet (PN 13203) without the flame paintjob!). A highlight of the Eastwood MIG welders is its drive roll mechanism, which according to Eastwood “… is the heart of any MIG welder.” It’s designed to their specifications and delivers a wire feed without skipping or slipping on the wire. Again according to Eastwood, “The amperage and output voltage can be controlled precisely to get the proper penetration required. Wire speed can be infinitely adjusted to gain proper wire fill in the weld pool.”
The cart (PN 12236) we selected will house either the MIG 135, 175, or plasma cutter along with a single bottle, hoses, helmet, and other accessories. It does come unassembled so you will have to open your toolbox, grab some hand tools, and get after it. The cart weighs 30 pounds and measures approximately 28 inches tall by 29 inches long with a top shelf at 10-1/2x17-1/2 inches.
The Eastwood Company offers...
The Eastwood Company offers a number of auto-darkening welding helmets that range in price from $39.99 to $89.99. Generally speaking it’s the viewing area size and the speed at which the helmet lens goes from light to dark and the darkness density (i.e. No. 11 or No. 13) that determines the cost.
The last accessory we added was an auto darkening welding helmet. There are three models offered by Eastwood with the viewing area and darkening speed and darkness density as the primary differences between models. We opted for a helmet (PN 13203) but we had a special offer flame paintjob added. Our helmet can be adjusted for sensitivity, delay, and shade adjustment from No. 9 to No. 13 and has replaceable lens protectors, adjustable head band, and durable nylon constructed shell.
Welding is most definitely an acquired skill and an expensive purchase, requiring that you make the time commitment to learn and provide the budget to obtain the necessary equipment and accessories. However, next to painting, the ability to fabricate and weld will provide you with the most satisfaction during the build process. It will also save you a great deal of money and provide hours of quality garage time. Besides, once your buddies find out that you can weld, they will be over all the time in the hopes that they can further your skills by having you weld up their latest bracket!
The cart is ready to go with...
The cart is ready to go with a MIG 175, bottle, and storage space for other welding accessories.
Eastwood Tech Tip
Need a mini sanding block for small, tight areas? Try a popsicle stick with your sandpaper of choice.