by Josh Rodgers
This is one subject I find myself qualified to write about not because I am an expert welder. I am not. But, I have recently had to go through the ordeal of having to make the decision for a pretty major investment in regards to my buses.
OXYGEN - ACETYLENE WELDERS:
Commonly referred to as "Oxy-Acetylene" welding is simply a mixture of two gases to produce a high temperature flame to melt metals together. This type of setup is primarily used for cutting torches and "bailing wire" welding to farm machinery and is not recommended for Autobody type work except as a last resort. Prices vary, but the gas tanks make up the biggest expense for this welder.
(2) Does not require electricity
(3) Initial Cost For Setup is "RELATIVELY" low at $100-$300
(1) Two Bulky Gas Tanks
(2) Tanks Need Refilled
(3) Warps Thinner Metals Easy (due to great surface area of heating)
(4) Difficult to use
The "MIG" welder is the most commonly used welder due mostly to its ease of use. It bonds two pieces of metal together thru the use of basically arching two different polarities of electricity together via your grounded project and a trigger fed "gun" of wire.
A true MIG welder adds an Argon gas attachment which "supposedly" reduces "impurities" in your weld and seem to just make a lot cleaner looking weld by shielding the weld pool from contamination by oxygen. Some "MIG" welders that are called "Gasless" simply invert the electrical polarity on the weld and use special wire called "flux core" which provides a similar effect as Argon. These are also referred to as "Wire Welders".
I chose a "combination" MIG welder which lets you either weld "gasless" with "flux core" wire (for out in the boonies), or you can switch the polarity of the cables and run Argon and standard MIG wire to it for a professional, clean looking weld. Mine is manufactured by a company called "Clarke". I am sure the manufacturer inferior to "Lincoln" products, but I liked the flexability the "Clarke" brand provided. Also important, a well established local company carries all the attachments and supplies for the "Clarke" brand where supplies for the "Lincoln" were limited and much more costly.
Additionally, MIG welders come in different amperages. I have used a 60 amp wire welder and found its use very limited to very thin, light metals only. The largest (and most common) MIG welders that I have been able to find are around 100 amp and are sufficient for even larger projects. They say 100 amp is good up to 1/2 inch steel but I would rate them more around a 1/4 inch steel which is still very respectable for their size.
(2) Supplies Are Inexpensive
(3) Little Warpage To Project
(4) Very Easy to Use
(5) Operate on 110 voltage (normal house electricity in the US)
(1) Must have Electricity to Operate
(2) Initial Cost is About $300-$400
(3) Limited to Thin and Light Metal Work (under 3/8")
Arc Welders are similar to a MIG Welder in that they fuse two surfaces of metal together by taking two opposite polarities of electricity and binding them with a metal. Arc Welding is also called "Stick Welding" because you use a "flux" coated rod or "stick" that a lead is attached to and "Archs" when a lead of opposing polarity is applied to the surface the rods end will meet with. Arch welders are most commonly 22O volt which really cuts down on versatility.
(2) Supplies Are Inexpensive
(3) Initial Cost Varies $100 (110volt units) to $1000's for commercial units
(4) Good for Larger Projects (thick metal)
(1) Must have 220 Volt (Electric Clothes Dryer or Stove) Electricity to Operate
(2) Difficult to use on Smaller Projects
(3) Medium to Hard to Use
(4) Medium Warpage/Burn Through To Project