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Flux Core Wire Welder


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Does anyone have any experience with small, flux wire welders, such as the 90 amp Chicago Electric one from Harbor Freight? It runs on 120 volts and draws 20 amps. The product description says that it welds mild steel up to 5/16 inch. I think it might be handy for small repairs or projects, but if it is junk then I won't bother.



San Francisco

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My Dad has one that I borrow occationally. It does "OK" for 1/4" plate or smaller, but not much else. Last time I used it, I was welding some brackets onto the frame of a buddy's small 4x8 utility trailer. I've also used to make some exhaust hanger brackets. The welds are good, but they look like crap. You just can't get enough penetration with it, and the flux core doesn't do a very good job of keeping the welds clean. I always end up with extra splatter and lots of clean up.


Bottom line.....I wouldn't spend my money on one. Its just too limited on what it can do. The worst part is, you don't know what it can't do until you have already made a mess. When that happens, it is very frustrating. I would save my cash for one of the small Lincoln or Hobart units that can run with a gas bottle. You can usually find them online factory refurbished for decent prices. I think your money would be better spent there.

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Morning Peter


You kind of get what you pay for in those low end flux core welders.


In my estimation (and I have been welding for over 40 years & certified for over 30) cheap 120 volt welders are OK for very light (repair) duty usage but leave a lot on the table when it comes to thicker metal or stable arc.


Cheap 120 volt welders (at least the ones I have used over the years) are very critical to supply voltage/amperage so that severely limits the distance from a solid power supply. You can't just plug one in to the end of standard 16 gauge 100' extension cord & expect it to work properly. Same with plugging into the end of a standard 15 amp 14 gauge household circuit & trying to weld 1/4" plate.


I'm not familiar with the Chicago Electric 120v welder but Chicago Electric sells low end stuff so it sure won't be a Snap-On or Miller.


Flux core wire welding is real close in appearance to arc welding as it uses the wire's internal flux to shield the welding puddle instead of a shielding gas used in unconventional Mig welding. That means you get a fair amount of weld spatter & probably some chipping to remove excess flux.


To me a flux core wire weld is more of a farm repair weld than a precision production weld. It does have it's advantages & that is unlike conventional Mig welding a flux core works good outside in windy conditions as the wind can't blow the shielding gas away.


I presume you are not a welder? My guess is if you were you wouldn't be here asking about a Chicago Electric.

If that is the case then buying a cheaper flux core welding machine might not be such a bad idea. Even the cheap ones will stick clean steel together so it might be a good learning experience.


Just keep in mind if your intent is to learn to weld then a quality welding machine can remove a lot of the frustration you will more than likely get with a cheap welder.

A good rule of thumb is-- a good EXPERIENCED welder can weld with about any machine but a new or inexperienced welder needs all the help they can get without the machine adding to their problems.


last thought-- If you buy a cheap flux core welder also buy a cheap right angle grinder & some disks as you will probably need it.


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Hi peter. Cannot really add much to those the others said as I am a very poorly skilled welder.

My grandfather by contrast was almost an artist, owned a number of high end welders and I picked up something of his knowledge over the years.


As DR said, flux core welders are good for repairs around the farm, when you just cannot bring stuff to the shed and were it doesn't matter how bad welds look.


For small repairs around the farm my grandfather used a small portable, generator compatible MMA welder. Cannot remember the brand but it was some German name. As he was really skilled with it, repairs always looked good, and surely much better than those done using a flux core welder.


For proper stuff he had an outstanding Oerlikon industrial grade MMA machine in his shop. When he died I had no place to store it otherwise I would have taken it, even if I was barely able to operate it. Large MMA welders have now been replaced by TIG and MIG/MAG machines so it would be a bit dated. Still a superb piece of equipment.


Regardless of the type of welder you chose always remember one thing: each extra dollar you spend today is not money spent but an investment. You buy an Oerlikon Citoarc today and, unless you weld every day each week, you won't have to buy another welder again.

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I use a 120 volt welder almost every day. The purpose of the flux core wire ( I don't use it often ) in these units is mostly that it eliminates the need to purchase an extra tank/regulator to run the Argon/CO2 mix used when solid wire welding.


While I have not used the Chicago unit I will tell you it probably isn't going to be much of a welder. The arc will not be smooth and steady and the torch/feed system might leave a bit to be desired. None of the 120 welders will really weld 5/16" material in my opinion. I went the route of cheaper units many years back. I currently use a Lincoln 3200HD and couldn't be happier with it. BUT, I weld thin gauge metal and rarely more than an inch of weld at a time.


Look for a name brand 120 volt welder and save up for it. If you want to cut down how much you spend up front, go ahead and go with the flux core wire setup. It welds fine, just figure on a bit more cleanup. You can always upgrade to the solid wire/gas combination later. We all have to start somewhere!

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You'd be surprised with what you can build with a little 120v flux core welder. My buddy built the M715 in the background and the barstool racer with one in his garage. He would beat the crap outta the M715.....now, he's built a rock buggy, but I think he's finally upgraded the welder.



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Without getting into a bashing fest about harbor freight and chicago electric, let say this in one sentence.


Chicago electric = made in a cheapest possible way to work a while, usable for occasional use, parts may or may not be available.


a 120 Volt 125 amp welders are not bad as long as you understand its limitation and what thickness of metal it will weld. 1/8 inch max. or a little thicker with multipass.

but don't get fooled by the 125 amp or 90 amp it will be very low duty-cycle at max amp. meaning weld for 10 second rest/cool for 60 seconds.


120Volt + Chicago electric 90 amp welder low duty cycle and low power to penetrate or melt metal.


120Volt 90amp FLux core will weld 1/8inch or less.


It will do thin walled tubing thin plates or angle iron.


As Dirtrider said a good welder will know how to use it. a beginner will make swisscheese looking things with it.


flux core use = use outside windy locations - self shielding, does better with dirty or slightly rusty metal, has a bit better/ deeper penetration then solid core, will produce spatter.

Flux core on a low amp welder is better then solid core with shielding gas due to better penetration.


proper welding technique must be used or will get crud or slag incursion an porous weld.


Problem with low amp units coupled with inexperienced welder is cold fusion/ no fusion cold weld ( call it what you want ) meaning there will be a bead on the top of the metal but it wont be fused or barely fused to the metal.


Do your self a favor and look for a used hobart, miller or lincoln if you want to stay with 120V operation.

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Thanks for all the input. Based on the consensus of opinion, I'll hold off on a small, flux welder purchase. This also means I don't need to buy a welding mask, a two-pound spool of flux wire, and an angle grinder.


'04 R1150RA, '73 R75/5, Kawasaki, Suzuki

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