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TIG unit question

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  • TIG unit question

    Hey all,

    Curious - what's the 'cheapest' TIG you've used and felt was "OK" for the $? I know - you get what you pay for - this is more of a survey as I'm just curious what would get a non-recorded endorsement through even some ventriloquism by anyone here.....

    me: I'm planning on gearing up to use my thunderbolt as a scratch start TIG as I simply can't even process the thoughts of buying a dedicated machine at this point - esp. when for Christmas I got an early present of unemployment! lol (not really that funny but...)

    anyway - just curious - and taking a break between job applications to troll!


  • #2
    Bummer on the unemployment. Hope it is short lived.

    If you are bent on scratch start, I would not mess with your thunderbolt. Buy a cheap Harbor Freight expendable rig on the cheap. At least you will end up with the torch and some fittings.

    Good Luck


    • #3
      I have not run them at all, but the Thermal arc 186ac/dc tig machine looks nice. It is a low cost way to get pulse, hf start, foot pedal or fingertip amptrol and pretty good adjustment. That might be the route I go while I save up for a dynasty.


      • #4
        I ran a Synrowave 180SD some time ago and it was OK.


        • #5
          Cheapest set up would be an old Lincoln or Miller complete machine such as a Sync 250/300 or Lincoln Idealarc 300. If you are not in a hurry you can find deals. We sold an old Lincoln complete with cooler & everything else for $700 awhile ago. Keep in mind these machines are big, heavy & power hungry.

          For a little more $ you can p/u a used sync 180, Lincoln 175 or 185 square wave tig in the $1000 range. Why don't you learn to use what you got to it's potential first.


          • #6
   too. curious - when you mention messing with the thunderbolt...can you explain - i obviously do not fully understand what the adaptation is. I was under the impression it was a matter of clamping the ground to the torch and hooking up an argon tank via hose connection (to put it super simply - and probably incorrect) - is it a permanent or more complex hookup?


            • #7
              Mic - yep, sound advice. I have plenty to master with what I have at the time - with focus on TIG the past couple months and the proverbial arc flash going off for me last night in technique with execution - the hamster started a sprint on the wheel in my head and I just start investigating and chatting it up. At this point I have the means to satisfy the urge to fire it up between my two machines.....time to sit back and focus on the relevant (job) - but then again we all need daydreams, right?!


              • #8
                T-bolt scratch start. Air cooled torch with a gas valve & power block to neg on machine, pos to work/grnd clamp, argon to power block. Turn on machine (dc) & gas, scratch material to start arc. The problem is you will contaminate the tungsten unless you use a pc. of copper etc. to scratch it on then move the arc to where you want to weld. The other problem is you have no way to adjust the amps other than at the machine so you need it set almost near perfect for your weld. It can be done but not worth it in my opinion. Many times you need more amps at the start of your weld & then ease off near the end especially if you finish at the edge of a plate.


                • #9
                  I think it would be well worth it to run the thunderbolt. You can learn all of the basics without shelling out several hundred dollars on a machine that is not meant to generate income while you are unemployed. Heat input can be controlled reasonably well by your travel speed and as for tungsten contamination you'll be dippin that sucker in the puddle plenty while you are learning anyway. When I was learning on a thunderbolt I liked to get a whole box of tungsten and break em in half (I use wp9 w/ med back cap) and sharpen both ends to minimize the number of times I needed to regrind.

                  Also, you may wind up working somewhere where a foot pedal is not practical and a hand amp control is a major pain in the ass so you may need to lift start even with a fancy tig machine. It is another skill to add to the list of things that you can do and if you can make high quality scratch start welds without amp control that is something that will set you apart. Not to mention when you start using a tig welder with a pedal you'll be in tig weldin heaven!!

                  Remember: it's the weldor not the welder!!

                  Btw, this is my first post


                  • #10
                    John ,

                    When I started, I had an old Lincoln SA-200 gas drive DC welder.
                    Wanted to tig so I got an Airco HP-16 air-cooled tig torch and the associated stuff.
                    Scratch started and learned by practice.

                    Recently had to repair a large overhead rail for sliding doors at a boat club.
                    There are two 250 lb doors which slide on a overhead rail which had several joints which were not supported and caused the doors to catch.

                    Since the club did not have 240 volts available, I used an el cheapo 120 volt Harbor Freight 80 amp DC inverter borrowed from a friend. Brought over the tig stuff, 336 cu ft (T) argon tank and tigged the gaps in the mono-rail with .060" stainless wire.

                    200 lbs of stuff and 20 minutes set-up for a 5 minute job but the welds were smoother than stick with no grinding which is why I went this way. I scratch started on a block of graphite then moved the arc to the rail.
                    Luckily the rail was only .090" thick.

                    Your Thunderbolt will work just fine as a starting unit for DC tigging. Alum is another issue.
                    Plus you will have enough amps to do some serious work.

                    Once you get some practice this way, I believe you transition to a foot control machine with no problem.

                    Today I have a Dynasty 350 but still use the same Airco H16 torch which is over 30 years old.

                    Good luck.

                    PS - If you want a piece of graphite block, PM me and I will send it to you as I got a big piece free thru a member on the forum. It works great and the tungsten doesn't stick when scratch starting.


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by elvis View Post
                      I have not run them at all, but the Thermal arc 186ac/dc tig machine looks nice. It is a low cost way to get pulse, hf start, foot pedal or fingertip amptrol and pretty good adjustment. That might be the route I go while I save up for a dynasty.
                      If the 186 is as good as the 185 was you will rethink going to a Dynasty 200.

                      Now upgrading to a 280 or 350 is another question.


                      • #12
                        MMW, It sounds like you have never actually did scratch start tig.

                        I used to use my portable arc welder all the time to do scratch start tig.

                        All you need is a air cooled tig torch, I would then take the welding lead that holds the welding rod and that Know becomes the ground, you then hook the ground cable to the tig torch along with your bottle of argon and you then manually turn the argon on at the torch and go back to the machine to set your heat untill you get it where you need it.

                        I have welded alot of restaurant stainless and steel with the tig torch, Yes your tungsten will get a little contamination on it after a few starts so you have to resharpen once in a while. Its a poor mans tig that will work fine for most steel jobs ( Never used a copper plate either, I just arced off the clean material that I was welding.

                        The only thing I dont know is how smooth of an arc your Thunder bolt has and make sure the machine is on DC.
                        I always used a red band tungsten which is 2% Thoriated. You should be able to pick up a torch for about $ 200.00 to $ 300.00 along with a argon hose and then you will need 100% argon tank and regulator.

                        This set up is not for doing aluminum however. Good Luck Portable Welder.


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