My first welding job was joining some mild steel pieces. I turned the machine on, used the process knob to select "DC TIG," selected 100 amps with the other knob, and I was ready to go in seconds. The default settings worked perfectly, and I was laying down clean, controlled weld beads with no need to fool around with any other adjustments. I tried the machine on stainless and chrome-moly, and the default settings worked great with those, too. To weld aluminum, I switched the process knob to "AC," and again, the default settings gave me great results.

You may wonder why they even offer more adjustability if the machine works so well "out of the box." Well, there are certain situations where advanced controls are beneficial. Let's look at the "pulse" settings first. When the welder is in pulse mode, it automatically cycles between a high (peak) amperage, and a low (background) amperage. You set the peak with the parameter knob, and the background is automatically adjusted to 50 percent of the peak amperage.

Pulsing can be set from 0 to 50 pulses per second. The chief advantage is that you can make a good, full-penetration weld while lowering the total heat put into the metal, and this can result in less burn-through and distortion. If you do much work with sheetmetal, these benefits can be dramatic. Another place where pulsing is helpful is when welding close to an edge. It's very tricky to keep an edge from melting away when the puddle gets close, but pulsing keeps the total heat down, making it easier to approach edges without melting through.

One lovely characteristic of TIG welding is the "dime-on-dime" pattern in the weld bead when everything is done properly. Some people like to accentuate this pattern by choosing a very low pulse rate, perhaps one or two per second. Then the pulsing can be used like a metronome, so you add filler on the "hot" portion of the pulse, and advance the puddle on the cooler portion. With some practice, this can lead to beautiful results.

Another adjustment is the "balance" of the AC waveform. This controls the Electrode Negative (EN) portion of the arc, leaving the "balance" Electrode Positive (EP). The oxide removal, often referred to as the cleaning action of the arc, is crucial for aluminum welding, and only occurs in the EP portion of the cycle. In the EN portion of the cycle, most of the heat is concentrated in the work piece, which is key to maintaining tungsten geometry and improving weld quality. The Syncrowave 210 allows adjustments between 60 and 80 percent EN. It is sometimes beneficial to fine-tune the EN-EP balance for particular jobs. A great way to see the difference between these settings is to run two beads on an aluminum plate, one at 60 percent balance and one at 80 percent. You'll see the "frosted" area next to the weld bead (the area cleaned by the arc) will be noticeably wider in the 60 percent setting, while the penetration will be greater in the 80 percent setting. The accompanying photo shows this clearly.

You can also dial-in the diameter of your tungsten electrode to optimize arc starts, and manually set the duration of argon post-flow. There is an "auto" setting for post-flow, governed by the weld parameters you're using, and this worked so well I never saw a need to change it.

The default setting is for high-frequency arc initiation, so the arc can be started without touching the electrode to the base metal, but there is also a "lift-arc" mode, which can be beneficial in situations where high-frequency circuitry could cause interference with sensitive electronic devices. This utilizes a reduced sensing voltage rather than the "scratch-start" mode used by some other manufacturers, making electrode contamination virtually irrelevant.

While the Syncrowave 210 will be used as a TIG welder by most users, it is excellent for stick welding, too. When the process control is in the DC Stick position, you can adjust the "DIG" settings (controlling low-voltage properties) from 0 to 100 percent, and there are Pro-Set values for the common 6010 and 7018 electrodes. One advantage of arc welding is that no shielding gas is necessary, and the machine is much easier to transport if you don't need to haul a gas cylinder, too.

There is a slot on the front panel where you can plug in optional SD memory cards available from Miller, to add more capabilities through software upgrades. One of these cards allows you to increase the speed of pulsing up to 150 pulses per second, and another card allows you to adjust the AC frequency between 60 and 150 Hz. While these upgrades are not necessary for most hobby car builders, the enhanced capabilities extend the range of adjustability to rival industrial machines costing much more.

If you're in the market for a moderately priced TIG welder that's easy to use, has lots of adjustability, and is easily upgradable, take a look at the new Miller Syncrowave 210.

9. The pulse can be set slow to help you add filler rod in a rhythmic manner, leaving the dime-on-dime signature of a beautiful TIG weld.

10. The Syncrowave 210 is an excellent machine for arc welding, too, with lots of adjustability for different types of electrodes and various joint configurations.

11. You can easily adjust AC Balance. The top bead was made at 60 percent Electrode Positive, giving better cleaning, and the lower bead is at 80 percent, which reduces the oxide removal.

12. Looking at the back side of the same part, you can see the deeper penetration on the bottom, attained with the balance set to 80 percent EN.

13. This machine has enough power to weld aluminum or steel up to 1/4-inch thickness. Castings can often be welded without pre-heating.

14. There's lots of storage inside the hinged cover, making it easy to organize your cables.

15. The machine comes with comprehensive setup instructions. This handy chart is right inside the hinged cover, providing clear instructions for common welding setups.

16. This chart gives detailed instructions on how to navigate the menus that control the advanced features.

17. Many Miller accessories can be used with the Syncrowave 210. Their cordless foot pedal is a perfect fit.

Miller Electric
1635 W. Spencer Street
WI  54912
Covell Creative Metalworking