So what set me off
(Highland, Michigan, Good Old USA)
This is Ike, great article - the YUGO was a good comparison.
When I bought the unit, from Longevity on eBay, not long after they shipped me the unit, they stopped selling the units on eBay.
The first thing that happened, when I opened the crate, was that I noticed that I was missing the gas valve and the foot pedal for the unit. I went to eBay and checked what I had bought and immediately, not sure what struck me to do this, printed the eBay add into a PDF.
I tried to get hold of Longevity "support" multiple times, indicating that they did not ship all of the components. I filed a complaint with PayPal. Finally Longevity contacted me back and tried to tell me that they were only offering the valve and foot pedal as a separate item. "They changed the add on eBay!" I showed them the PDF and even had eBay pull the history - sure enough they owed me the components. After waiting three weeks, the extra components showed up. Guess what, the foot pedal connector did not fit the adapter on my welder, the rheostat was broken - but the gas valve fit and worked.
By the time I had gone back and forth on the missing component thing, this was when Longevity pulled from eBay - vanished. Not too much later though they had the audacity to contact me, as a loyal customer??, and told me that they were now on the web and could get the same quality components from them directly online.
So did the unit work?
The first function I tried was the plasma cutting capability. This function would not even stike an arc unless you scraped the tip along metal then it would start sputtering. Once I got it sputtering I noticed that the cutting flame was doing a kind of swizzling action. The cuts were horrible - the cut path was about a 1/16th" wide, bad penetration.
The TiG, without the foot pedal I tried stainless and aluminum. Stainless left behind a lot of slag like I was using MiG with a flux core wire? Aluminum, burn throughs, massive globule build ups, way too much of a head ache to even bother with. I actually brought my torch down to a local welding supply, Smith Welding in Wixom Michigan, and they fiddled with things a bit. They found that the collet and electrode were metric, which most resellers of components will not carry, but the collet could be changed out to a standard size, which I did. Still got crappy welds but at least I had a chance to do some face time with a local person and get some tips. The "lady" at the counter recommended that I take a college course on TiG Welding...
I never even tried the stick welder after all my headaches - I already had a decent one from Sears that I had been using for years.
The good thing in all of this is that I took a nine month TiG Welding certification course, at a local college (Schoolcraft) and that class opened my eyes to a lot of things. One was that the equipment that you use, especially in TiG Welding, needs to be the "right tool for the right job". The second thing is that you need to be in touch with folks that can help you out - not on the internet but direct hands on - face-to-face. If you are a seasoned welder maybe you can buy things like a TiG Welder on the internet but I'd DEFINITELY NOT recommend a newbie doing this.
As for something Made in China... I've been told that even "American" units at least have Chinese components.
Regardless, from my "local" reseller, I now have a great little Hypertherm Plasma Cutter (LOVE IT!!!). I also bought a Miller Diversion TiG Welder (LOVE IT!!!) Smith Welding Supply, now AirGas (LOVE THEM!!!) Having a place I can walk into, graze through shelves of stuff, feel something in my hand, talk with the folks behind the counter about any issues I am encounter, maybe just talk about "stuff" - ahhh, the American Experience.
Ok, I am brain dead now so I think I'll stop typing.