So, I finally decided to buy a TIG welder after many years of waiting and searching craigslist, hoping to find a used machine for a reasonable price. Unfortunately, most transformer-based (old) used machines are enormous and extremely heavy, and they are more difficult to use than modern inverter-based machines. Finding a used inverter machine is possible, but the price for a used 200A AC inverter TIG welder made by an American company is at least $2-3,000. That is much more than I am wiling to spend on a hobby. So, the alternative is to buy a cheap imported machine off of eBay. I also decided to split the cost of the machine with a friend, making it a very affordable to get started with TIG welding. I know that some poor soul in China is probably making $1/day just so that I can have a welder, but I really can't justify an extra couple thousand bucks on the American machine without knowing intimate details about how the American and Chinese companies are run. Anyway, enough politics. On to welding!
I bought the 200A pulse TIG machine with the plasma cutter feature. This is advertised on eBay by a number of different sellers. I bought mine from Everlast, who is located very close to me in San Mateo, CA. I drove up there, paid by credit card in person, and brought the machine home.
The machine was packed well, and came complete with all accessories (including an argon regulator) except tungsten electrodes and collets.
I also bought a 40 cu-ft Argon bottle from a local welding supply store, which I exhausted very quickly. I was supposed to get 2 hours of pedal-down welding time out of that bottle, and I might have, but it sure seemed to disappear fast. I upraded to an 80 cu-ft bottle, which is the largest size that I can easily lift.
The Chinese argon regulator scared me a little bit since it is going to be holding back over 2000 psi of gas, and could be a hazard if not built and tested properly. To my surprise, it actually seems to be built exceptionally well. It has a good heft to it, and regulates the gas flow very easily and accurately. It has not given me any problems at all, and I am not worried about it.
The torch itself is a pretty standard air-cooled model. It came with a selection of gas cups, and short and long back caps.
After a few hours of practice, these are my best aluminum welds (6061 sheet with 4043 filler), open corner weld. The top photo is 1/8" sheet, the bottom is 1/32"
In later posts, I will talk about specific machine settings. Overall, I am very happy with this machine, and would recommend it to other people looking to get started with TIG welding.
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