This review may be a little controversial – it all depends on if a professional welder reads it…
I want to learn to weld, it’s on my “hope I never kick the bucket” list. You know skills I wish I had, but if I had them all I would be 176 years old simply due to the time it takes to learn everything. I also have the unfortunate experience of working somewhat close to a harbor freight store. Due to the cost I tend to buy a lot of consumables there – media for my bullet tumbler comes to mind. I tend to stay away from their durable goods though because I am concerned about quality, but something about a $100 welder just called my name.
I have the willpower to say no when something calls my name once, but this darn thing was persistent, it just kept calling. Finally after getting some overtime from working the last TN disaster I bought it. I bought it after looking at hundreds of reviews that says this thing is junk. BUT, all of these reviews were from professionals that use big name welders for commercial purposes. The lowest cost welder these guys were recommending cost thousands of dollars and with capabilities far beyond my scope of use.
Now, that’s not to say I don’t WANT some of these great welders, just that even if I had the cash to spend on one, my money would be better served buying tools I actually need.
As one review said “Anyone who does fabrication and builds for pay simply needs the ability to lay heavy bead, with long duty cycles. If you were a factory mechanic, and spun wrenches for a living, you wouldn’t use 99 cent store sockets for long term. A full-time logger doesn’t use $100 kmart chainsaws. For the homeowner trimming one tree once a year, it works. You don’t need a $700 Husqvarna ‘Rancher’ chainsaw with a 20+ inch bar for that kind of like duty. Not that it wouldn’t be nice to own….”
I need something simple, and cheap that lets me weld up to 3/8 inch thick steel. And this welder does that.
Out of the box the Harbor Freight Welder comes with one 2 lb roll of flux core wire, a combo brush/slag hammer, and a face shield. I bought some heavy welder gloves when I bought it, and picked up (but set down) a auto darkening helmet. Next time I go back to the store I am going to pick it back up, as not being able to see until the spark is stuck is a little scary for me.
It did take some minor assembly to get it ready, but it took less than 10 minutes and the hardest part was assembling the cheap welding face shield. The instructions were not that hard to follow especially considering they were written overseas.
I tried to weld two things one was a cheap china made charcoal grill that had a leg knocked off during our April storms (it stuck, but I melted through some sheet metal), the other was a set of crucible tongs I made. Once again it made a very ugly weld, but in fairness it was probably more my lack of skill than the limitations of the welder.
I can hit the target with a cheap pistol, but my group size is tighter with a better quality pistol, but when I started shooting I did not know enough to tell the difference.
I have read that with a better quality torch tip and flux core wire it improves its weld capabilities. But it will sputter a lot and cause lots of little balls of slag to be thrown all over your work.
Is it worth it? I say yes if you’re going to use it irregularly and can get it for less than $100. My mind may change after I gain some skills – especially after I make that battery powered stick welder and the alternator welder I have on the project list, but who knows.
Watch the video below to see what it does out of the box, but be warned I don’t know much (anything) about actually welding…
BTW – Constructive comments about how I’m doing it are much appreciated…