If you’ve ever thought about learning how to weld but were scared off by stories about how difficult it is, I’m here to tell you that times have changed. The technology found in today’s welding machines makes it a lot simpler than one might expect, taking most of the guesswork out of the equation. I recently started on my second project truck and had yet to even pick up a welder. In the past, I always relied on someone else to do the welding for me, whether by beg, barter, or bribe. The deeper I got into my project, however, the more I wanted to do more and more of the work myself. So I began viewing some of the online welding videos, and almost every one of them made it look possible for an absolute beginner. I mulled it over for a few weeks and decided it was time to get a welding machine. I felt that the investment in learning to weld would benefit me in the long run. Also, in speaking with experienced welders, I learned that they all started out the same way and only through practice have they excelled at their craft.
I started doing research on the Internet, reading the online reviews, and I found a lot of great welding machines out there. But I kept coming back to Miller Electric’s Millermatic 211. I liked the fact that it has an automatic feature, called Auto-Set, that helps take some of the guesswork out of adjusting the settings, which I thought would be great for a beginner like me. In Auto-Set mode, you select the welding wire thickness and the thickness of the metal and the machine does the rest. The Millermatic 211 also has what the company calls the Multi-Voltage Plug, or MVP, that allows you to use either a standard household 120v plug or a 230v outlet for when you need to weld thicker material. Simply swap out the plug ends and you’re good to go. At 120v you can weld up to 3⁄16-inch metal, while 230v will handle up to 3⁄8-inch. This makes the unit versatile enough to handle every job a custom truck build throws at it; whether you’re repairing sheetmetal or welding up a chassis.
Another feature worth mentioning when it comes to comparing welding machines is duty cycle. Put simply, duty cycle is the number of minutes out of a 10-minute period where a welding machine can operate without overheating. For the Millermatic 211, the duty cycle is 150 amps for three minutes, or a 30 percent duty cycle in the 230v setting, and 90 amps at two minutes plugged into standard 120v. For those of us working at home, that’s more than enough to handle any light fabrication project.
I ordered the Millermatic 211 online and once it arrived I could not wait to get started. The instructions are simple and easy to read. Having no prior experience or welding knowledge, setting up the machine took about an hour and a half. For our first time out, we used 0.030-inch wire and a small 40cm tank of 75 percent argon and 25 percent CO2 mix. We found that this provided about 20 minutes of welding time, but was easy for us to transport. Thankfully, gas cylinders come in a large variety of sizes, so if you’re planning on welding often, there’s a gas bottle to suit your needs.
If you’ve been apprehensive about learning to weld, I can tell you that the Millermatic 211 will change your mind. This unit turned out impressive welds right out of the box and was very simple to use.
Follow along as we get our welder up and running.
1. Buying a Miller welder is as easy as driving down to your local welding supply store or you can do what we did, and order one on Miller’s website. A few days later and it’ll show up on your doorstep.
2. Once unpackaged, we laid out the essentials and read through the owner’s manual to get a grasp on what’s required to get it set up.
3. In addition to the welder, we also ordered a helmet and a set of welding gloves—the essentials, so to speak.
4. If you’ve ever used one of Miller’s 30FX Arc Stations, you probably realized how useful they are. They make clamping work pieces down and organizing your fab work easy and they’re portable as well so you can fold it up and stash it away. We picked up one of these locally after we found that prime welding space just did not exist in our garage.
5. The first step in getting up and running is to assemble the M-100 MIG gun in the welder. It slides in from the front…