Way Better Than Expected
(San Antonio Texas)
First of all, I'm no welder, but many of my projects require welding so I decided that the easiest method to learn quickly and give good results would be TIG welding... more on that later...
What I needed was something that could weld up to 1/4" thick steel reliably but most of my work is with thin sheet metal with the occasional thicker stuff from time to time.
After doing a lot of research on what's out there and what stuff costs, I finally decided to take the risk and get one of those 3 in 1 units that can Tig, stick, and have a plasma cutter built in.
As mentioned before, I'm not a welder and most my welding experience was with buzz boxes, I have a small Campbell Hausfeld buzz box that I avoid like the plague since it won't work unless I use 3/32" 7014 or 6013 rods, then it still sticks more than it welds... I got to try my dad's Lincoln buzz box that was the better ac/dc machine and was able to do a lot better, but still had issues starting the arc with my lack of experience. I was also able to try out a Lincoln Weldpack flux core welder at an auto shop I worked at about 20 years ago, I did like that welder but it still took tons of practice before I could get it to do what I wanted it to do.
Now fast forward to about a month ago when I finally decided to get a decent welder to do these projects I got going.. I ended up getting one of those CT 520 units that are all over ebay for about $500... The unit got here in about a week and I quickly set it up to try out... my argon bottle wasn't here yet so it was just stick and plasma cutting I could do for now... My first impression with the stick welder was simply WOW!!! I never could get a good bead and now I'm welding like a pro!! Went out and bought a few more pounds of different electrodes to see what this thing could really do and I'm totally impressed with it, anything from thin sheet metal all the way to some 5/8" thick bar stock was welding up easily, and best of all, the welds looked nice for a change...
I just had to try the plasma cutter out so I found some 5/8" thick scrap and gave it a go... This thing cut thru it like a hot knife thru butter, and much cleaner than an acy/oxy setup could ever do... Nice!!
So then my argon bottle was finally delivered and I set up my Tig torch for the first time, sharpened up some 1/16" tungstens and gave it a try... I think the first thing I grabbed out of my scrap bin was some small steel vacuum lines which were about 3/8" tubing with about .030" wall thickness, set the amperage to 25 amps and started to weld... I was very impressed that I was able to do it without blowing a hole thru the thin metal and with no experience... I'm really liking this thing now!!
But to give it a fair run thru it's paces, I dug up some 1/4" thick scrap and gave it a run, cranked the amps up to about 150 or so and it welded it up just fine, of course now I know 150 amps was a little too low for 1/4" thick steel but the weld came out nice and strong. I've also cranked it all the way up to 200 amps to see how the welds would look and it did a lot better.
So far I've gone thru an 80 cf bottle of argon teaching my self how to use this thing and I got nothing bad to say about it except that I really need to get a pedal for it since the switch on the torch makes it more tricky to weld while trying to operate the switch and hold the right arc gap etc...
For my opinion on these Chinese made Tig welders, they are way better than I expected and everything functions perfectly. I'd definitely recommend one to anyone who's looking to buy a new setup, the price can't be beat, there are plenty U.S. sellers who have them and their consumables in stock, so shipping is fast, and these things do work very well.
Things I must point out are that I had zero experience Tig welding before buying this and very little welding experience with other type welders as well. For the hobbyist or someone who doesn't weld on a daily basis can get good results with only a few hours of practice using these machines. The Tig arc starts are dead simple, just hit the switch and you got an arc... the plasma is just as easy, hit the swtich and you're cutting... and for the stick welding, even a beginner can start the arc with very little practice, and also get good results.