Thinking about getting into welding? Flux-core welding is a great welding process that is not difficult to learn and is inexpensive to get started with. Harbor Freight’s Titanium Easy Flux 125 is a great welder for beginners like me.
As for choosing welding process to start with, it was between stick welding or flux core. I decided to start with an inexpensive flux core welder then later get a beefier stick welder.
After much research, I decide to start my welding adventure with the Titanium Easy Flux125 welder from Harbor Freight. This little welder packs a lot of punch for it small size and affordable price.
The specs for this welder are:
- It is priced at $199.99, but it’s often on sale with a coupon for $179.99.
- It is powered by 120V AC and you’ll need a 20 A circuit to operate the welder at max output.
- It uses inverter technology for a smooth DC output with a stable arc.
- The output amperage range is from 30 to 125 amps.
- It’s duty cycle is 30% @ 90 amps.
- The open circuit voltage is 21.6 volts.
- The wire feed speed range is from 60 to 200 inches per minute.
- It can feed both .03 and .035 inch flux-core wire.
- It can weld mild steel from 18 gauge to 3/16″ thick.
- It handles standard 4″ 2 lb wire spools.
- And finally, it weighs in at 15 pounds, which is very light for the amount of power this thing has and makes it very portable.
Setting Up the Welder
Wire spools are loaded from the top on this unit. It comes with a 1-pound spool of E71T-GS .03″ flux-core wire. Keep your thumb or finger on the end of that wire while putting it on the spindle because it is eager to escape that spool! Put the spool plate on followed by the spring, then the knob and tighten the knob just enough to provide resistance to keep the spool from unwinding once the wire is fed into the feed system.
Carefully feed the wire into the wire inlet liner then hold on to it and loosen the feed tensioner then swing it up so you can open the idler arm. By the way, the feed roller lives under this little hatch. It comes from the factory set for .03″ wire but you can switch it to .035″ wire just by flipping it upside down. Push the wire past the feed roller into the feed tube on the other side, making sure the wire is in the groove of the feed roller. Then close the idler arm, flip the feed tensioner back down and tighten just a little bit. You’ll adjust this in a moment.
Turn the welder on, then remove the nozzle and the contact tip from the flux gun. Make sure the flux gun cable has no tight bends in it. Press and hold the cold feed switch. You should see the wire start to feed into the flux gun cable. If not, tighten the feed tension knob a little more until it starts feeding the wire. Release the cold feed button when you have about 2 inches sticking out of the gun. Screw the contact tip and nozzle back on the gun.
Test for proper feed tension by holding the flux gun 2 to 3 inches from a block of wood and pull the trigger. If the wire starts to bend after it hits the wood, your tension is right. If not, give the tensioner knob another half turn and try again until it does bend.
Cut the wire off about 3/8″ to half an inch from the contact tip.
Personal Protection Equipment
There are plenty of ways to get injured while welding, ranging from serious burns to permanent eye damage and lung damage if you don’t have good ventilation. So first and foremost, you need to have proper personal protection gear when welding including:
- Welding helmet (I recommend an inexpensive auto-darkening helmet to start with)
- Safety glasses
- Welding gloves
- Welding jacket
- Welding cap or baseball cap worn backwards
- Steel toed boots is a good idea too!
Some of the accessories you’ll need as a new welder include:
- Scraps of mild steel of varying thickness to practice on.
- A couple of C-clamps for holding your work pieces to the welding table.
- A wire bush and a chip hammer are essential for removing slag and cleaning welds. I chose a combo one.
- Something that makes visible marks metal, like a Markal Silver-Streak pen, which seems to be a favorite among metal fabricators.
- MIG pliers or a pair of needle nose pliers with cutters will do for cutting and tugging on the flux wire.
- A set of metal gauges for quickly determining the thickness of the metal you are working with.
- Nozzle gel to prolong the life of contact tips.
- A drill or rotary grinder with a wire wheel to clean mill scale off of metal and to clean and polish up your welds. And finally, a rotary grinder with a metal cut off wheel is nice to have to cut metal with.
- As an option, you might consider some anti-spatter spray to help prevent the flux-core spatter from sticking to your work.
My First Welds
I clamp my first piece to the table, then put the ground clamp on the edge of the table.
I turn on the welder, making sure the flux gun is not in contact with table.
To get the welder set for 10 gauge steel, I refer to the chart on the inside of the welder top. Since 10 gauge steel is a little thicker than 1/8″, I choose to start off with the voltage at F.5 and a wire speed of six.
Oh, and of course ventilation is important, so I open a window and turn the shop vent fan on.
I set my auto-darken welding helmet to 10, based on the chart in the manual. I also dip the contact tip in the nozzle gel then clip the wire back to about a half inch.
So finally, the moment of truth. I position the tip about a half inch above the metal and leaning back about 15 degrees. As the saying goes, if there’s slag, you drag, which is true for flux-core and stick welding. So I pull the flux gun toward me, allowing the flux to protect the hot metal.
My first weld is not as awful as I thought it would be.
So I prep another piece and run some more practice beads. First, four more stringers, then alternating between stringers and weaves on another piece.
Again, not too bad. Maybe I can get the hang of this.
Next, I try a lap weld. The first attempt is really awful, so I flip the piece over and try again. Much better! There’s hope for me yet!
It looks like this Titanium Flux125 welder from Harbor Freight is a great, inexpensive investment for beginner welders. It packs a lot of punch in a small 15 pound package.
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