Pros: 115V, versatile, portable, durable, reliable, comes with everything but the tank itself.
Cons: Very tricky to weld aluminum with this machine and not recommended for that.
I bought this machine (Hobart Handler 140) more than a year ago and have put it through its paces. At the time that I bought it, everyplace had it for around $500 and Ace had a free shipping deal for $465 so I grabbed it. Another $120 for a new full R40 Argon tank and I was MIG welding. It comes with the regulator, switch and hose so you only need the tank. Of course you can use flux core without the tank.
This is a fully functional MIG welder that runs on 115V (20 amps) current. It is well made and I haven't had any problems with durability or malfunctions, it is quite reliable in that respect. It is quite portable and I like the safety switch which is only live when you're actually welding. I also called support once (about the liner) and they were prompt and helpful. It does have one tiny annoyance that the door latch is made of plastic and doesn't usually latch properly, but since the door hangs down when closed anyway, it really doesn't matter.
I've welded various thicknesses of mild steel, Stainless and Aluminum with it and, for the most part, it has performed as advertised. I've also used both the 1lb roles and the 10lb rolls. One tiny problem, the spring is a bit too long on the small rolls and you have to put the lock nut for them on backwards in order to get low enough friction if you're using aluminum wire.
The machine does indeed weld 3/16" steel in one pass if you go very slow and have a smooth technique. If you are looking for something to weld heavy steel often, get a stick welder for half the money, or move to a 220 machine that will run heavier wire. With respect to heavy steel, I wanted this machine just for occasional smaller welds and it delivers there. On light sheet, it is like a glue gun for metal and fully in its element. It comes with Miller type tips but I actually prefer the shorter, flat nosed, Lincoln tips (which fit perfectly) for steel.
I've also welded a lot of stainless in the 12-18 ga range with it and it has been great at that as well.
Welding aluminum with this machine, as with every MIG except a spool gun in this power range, is a tedious process. On thinner material, you need to be very fast and very smooth. On thicker material, it can be really good IF you have good karma, think happy thoughts and have everything right - see below. If you're buying it primarily to weld aluminum though - this is not the appropriate class of machine for you. Depending on what you want to do, look for a 220 machine with intelligent speed control, or a TIG, or even a henrob torch or Al "brazing" rods. No matter how good you are, it is a pain and you'll end up with at least a few bird's nests per project with this machine.
How to weld heavier aluminum with this machine.
1. use a .045 tip. The machine only takes .030 aluminum wire and they recommend a .035 tip for aluminum but it isn't big enough. You really need to move to the .045 tip for aluminum or you aren't going to weld more than a couple of minutes before you start a bird's nest factory. Tips are only about a buck a piece.
2. Keep the gun hose very straight, especially on the machine end. This is tedious and difficult sometimes but it makes a big difference.
3. Use 5 series wire (e.g. 5356 - app. $5/lb. from several online sources like weldingsupply) instead of the 4043
that you see at home depot or harbor freight. Especially at the highest amperage, the 4043 is virtually unuseable in this machine (at least without a lot of headaches), even with the nylon liner. One annoying thing is that the 5356 is harder to feed near the end of the role and will be more prone to kinking. The 5356 does seem to require a slight bit more heat so you need to always push the weld and go slow on thicker material - ideally with the material flat. This machine rates at 5-10 amps more than the other machines on the market (140 vs. 130-135). It doesn't sound like much of an advantage but I read elsewhere that you can't get penetration with the 5356 in 115V machines and that just isn't true with this machine. I have a 450 gal 1/8" aluminum hot tub to prove it.
4. Use a nylon liner if you plan to weld a lot of aluminum. They are $17-$25, mine is from Miller. Also make sure that it is perfectly cut and aligned to the drive wheel.
5. Make sure that the aluminum is very clean.
In general, it is a good machine with good support and versatility. In its niche, it is a very good choice in relation to the other brands. I don't give it all the stars really only because they should be a bit more up front in their advertising that while it does weld aluminum, the machine (like others in its class) really isn't a great choice for that.
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