120v aluminum/cromo TIG welding on bike frames - possible?

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120v aluminum/cromo TIG welding on bike frames - possible?

Post by neptronix » Mar 11 2021 10:41am

I recently just got hip to the fact that 120v TIG machines exist.
I've wanted to dive into bike frame building for eons. I'm mixed on whether i want to use aluminum or chromoly, but regular steel is out of the question.

A well equipped garage with a 220v outlet is still out of reach for a few years.
I also don't know shit about welding and have a lot to learn.

So i'm wondering if you could even do TIG welding out of a 120v outlet; is there a unit out there which can reliably do it?
There are a lot of mixed reviews on these 120v capable units, but i don't know welding terminology well enough to sort the wheat from the chaff.
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Re: 120v aluminum/cromo TIG welding on bike frames - possible?

Post by marka-ee » Mar 11 2021 11:54am

Alu needs way more heat ( amps from 110 socket ) than steel. It's also a lot harder to master, for example with steel you can see it turn red when getting hot. Alu does not change color it just melts and falls away if you are not on top of it. Also for steel you can get away with a DC tig welder but Alu needs AC for cleaning which is usually a lot more expensive.

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Re: 120v aluminum/cromo TIG welding on bike frames - possible?

Post by neptronix » Mar 11 2021 12:00pm

Gracie.

I have a budget of $1500 for the welder. The question is do we have enough power out of the wall to accomplish what i want, or are these tig machines making false promises at that power level or stretching the limits of a 120v outlet way too far.

Too bad nobody sells a lipo powered TIG welder.. the problem would already be solved :mrgreen:
"Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive." - Dalai Lama

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Re: 120v aluminum/cromo TIG welding on bike frames - possible?

Post by Santacruz » Mar 11 2021 1:53pm

It should be possible to do what you want to do.
You will have less power from a 110v welder, but for chrome moly and thin wall ally you should have plenty of power.
Where you will lose, is if you want to weld 1/4" and above (Although this is still doable with preheating and beveling).

For ally you will need and ac/dc welder.
For thin wall for bike frames you will be working in the range of 55 to 90 amps and you will most likely have to weld a bit slower, but that's not a bad thing.
With your budget I would say go for the best ac/dc tig you can find (and preferable with pulse setting) and also factor in that you will need argon gas / regulator etc.

As for welding, what you are looking for is the weld pool forming, which you add your filler rod to and both ally and steel look similar through a welding helmet.
Also, remember, keep practicing. Weld quality will improve with constant practice and you will develop your own style.

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Re: 120v aluminum/cromo TIG welding on bike frames - possible?

Post by Chalo » Mar 11 2021 2:26pm

neptronix wrote:
Mar 11 2021 10:41am
So i'm wondering if you could even do TIG welding out of a 120v outlet; is there a unit out there which can reliably do it?
The pedicab manufacturer I work with uses two of these to do both chromoly and aluminum chassis welding:

https://www.millerwelds.com/files/owner ... 6q_mil.pdf

As far as I know, they have only ever been plugged into 120V.
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Re: 120v aluminum/cromo TIG welding on bike frames - possible?

Post by neptronix » Mar 11 2021 3:37pm

Looks like an exceptional machine from here.

I called up miller and they suggest the Diversion 180 ( TIG ) @ ~$2,300.
https://www.millerwelds.com/equipment/w ... der-m00337

The rep says welding 3mm thick aluminum tubing would be possible with this machine on 120v. On 240v we're looking at about 4.7mm.

I imagine that the maximum thickness of bicycle tubing is 3mm, and up to 4.7mm would mean i could get into aluminum motorcycle or tandem building once plugged into 240v. Is this correct?
"Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive." - Dalai Lama

My first major build: 1.6kW 8T MAC motor on a Trek 4500 MTB.
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Re: 120v aluminum/cromo TIG welding on bike frames - possible?

Post by E-HP » Mar 11 2021 3:53pm

Eons ago, my best friend's brother went to compete in the national welding championships in Florida. Don't know they still have that. He one first place in heliarc. I seem to recall that you may need a respirator depending on the metals you're welding, so you may want to see if you'll need one and if so, budget for it.

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Re: 120v aluminum/cromo TIG welding on bike frames - possible?

Post by neptronix » Mar 11 2021 4:04pm

Some good long term reviews on the everlasts.



https://www.everlastgenerators.com/prod ... rtig-185dv
The 185DV comes in at $824.00 and seems to have equivalent power and has a longer warranty.
Apparently can do the job on 120v also.

Since i'm a newb to this, i'd love feedback on what to chose.
"Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive." - Dalai Lama

My first major build: 1.6kW 8T MAC motor on a Trek 4500 MTB.
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Re: 120v aluminum/cromo TIG welding on bike frames - possible?

Post by neptronix » Mar 11 2021 4:05pm

E-HP wrote:
Mar 11 2021 3:53pm
I seem to recall that you may need a respirator depending on the metals you're welding, so you may want to see if you'll need one and if so, budget for it.
Oh yes ventilation is a must. Learned that the hard way from soldering with lead :lol:
"Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive." - Dalai Lama

My first major build: 1.6kW 8T MAC motor on a Trek 4500 MTB.
Monster MTB: Leafmotor 1500w @ 4kW on a Turner O2 full suspension.
The monster scooter: Heavy duty Cannondale semi recumbent - under construction.
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Re: 120v aluminum/cromo TIG welding on bike frames - possible?

Post by LewTwo » Mar 11 2021 5:35pm

Tried one of those 110V Tig welders several years ago. No joy was had.
Perhaps they have improved but I would not bet any more of my money on it.
The more I learn the more obvious the immensity of my ignorance becomes.
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Re: 120v aluminum/cromo TIG welding on bike frames - possible?

Post by markz » Mar 11 2021 9:07pm

TIG welding for the first time has a very steep learning curve, if you can its best to start off with arc welding because it then becomes easier to learn MIG and TIG processes.

120V vs 220V welders are limited on their max welding amperage, which in turn limits the thickness you can weld.

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Re: 120v aluminum/cromo TIG welding on bike frames - possible?

Post by neptronix » Mar 11 2021 9:44pm

TIG's the way to go with high grade aluminum. I know i'll frock up. But i would rather not buy two machines.
I'm already excellent at soldering and started my ebike builds with manual balanced lipo so i'm sure i can figure it out.

Both mentioned machines have the capacity to handle 3mm thick tubing in a single pass. more in a multiple pass.
LewTwo wrote:
Mar 11 2021 5:35pm
Tried one of those 110V Tig welders several years ago. No joy was had.
Did you try one of the mentioned models?
"Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive." - Dalai Lama

My first major build: 1.6kW 8T MAC motor on a Trek 4500 MTB.
Monster MTB: Leafmotor 1500w @ 4kW on a Turner O2 full suspension.
The monster scooter: Heavy duty Cannondale semi recumbent - under construction.
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Re: 120v aluminum/cromo TIG welding on bike frames - possible?

Post by fatty » Mar 11 2021 11:03pm

I'm pretty settled on this little 120V guy for home use: ESAB ET 141i AC/DC TIG Welder

Has anyone here used an ESAB?
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there is no difference between a mean well CC/CV power supply and a device sold as a charger. they operate in EXACTLY the same way
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Re: 120v aluminum/cromo TIG welding on bike frames - possible?

Post by fatty » Mar 11 2021 11:06pm

neptronix wrote:
Mar 11 2021 10:41am
I'm mixed on whether i want to use aluminum or chromoly, but regular steel is out of the question.
Having TIG'd thin-wall stainless and aluminum, I'd say they're both equally (and miserably) challenging. Chromoly would be a bit easier than stainless, but anytime you're TIG'ing thin-wall tube (which a chromoly tubeset will be), it's just so easy to blow through. I'd actually say aluminum might be easier since the tubeset will be thicker than chromoly.
Don't take advice from:
there is no difference between a mean well CC/CV power supply and a device sold as a charger. they operate in EXACTLY the same way
Testing has demonstrated that ordinary rim brakes thermally outperformed all but the best disc brakes...You'll always add weight and cost, while not equalling the capabilities of comparable rim brakes, if you use discs

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Re: 120v aluminum/cromo TIG welding on bike frames - possible?

Post by LewTwo » Mar 11 2021 11:30pm

neptronix wrote:
Mar 11 2021 9:44pm
Did you try one of the mentioned models?
too many years and too senile to recall ... it was a name brand.
I traded it for a oxy acetylene rig which was a lot more useful but of course not suited to aluminum.
The more I learn the more obvious the immensity of my ignorance becomes.
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Re: 120v aluminum/cromo TIG welding on bike frames - possible?

Post by Santacruz » Mar 12 2021 4:43am

I would say the Everlast shows the best options.
While the Miller you looked at is good, it does not have adjustment facilities and is more auto, which is not really that clever, as everybody will weld the same part with different styles and settings (to get almost the same results), I also could not see pulse settings on it.
You are better having a machine where you make all the settings, which will allow you to weld a bigger range of materials and thicknesses.
TIG welding is all about practice, simple as.
Learning other welding techniques like stick or MIG is not the same.
Having a pulse setting when you get used to using it, will virtually eliminate blowing holes in material, but the main setting to stop this is you and experience, hence constant practice.

Years ago it was called Heliarc, but that was because back then they used helium gas and not argon. It is exactly the same welding.
Now days with good inverter welders you can get very good welds from low power supplies, which would not work with transformer types.
For thicker materials, you can always pre heat before welding.

The 2 most important parts of TIG welding is, good fit / cleanliness of parts to be welded and lots of practice.

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Re: 120v aluminum/cromo TIG welding on bike frames - possible?

Post by neptronix » Mar 12 2021 11:37am

This is the sort of reply i needed, from someone with experience. Thank you.

The amount of manual controls on the everlast are dizzying, but ultimately i would prefer a steep learning curve over a machine that limits and annoys me due to imperfect automagic. The need for a pulse setting makes total sense.

Yes, it does sound like the use of IGBT's has increased efficiency to a point where the high power output needed could be possible from a 120v outlet.

So many 120v tig capable machines seem to exist and have higher promised capabilities than i need.

Is there a trend in overpromising and underdelivering in this industry? or should i take specs from respected manufacturers at their word in general?
"Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive." - Dalai Lama

My first major build: 1.6kW 8T MAC motor on a Trek 4500 MTB.
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Re: 120v aluminum/cromo TIG welding on bike frames - possible?

Post by Chalo » Mar 12 2021 2:02pm

Mild steel tubing in commercial bicycles ranges up to 2mm thick in some cases. Chromoly frame tubing typically tops out at 1.25mm. Head tubes can be up to about 2mm thick, and bottom bracket shells up to about 3mm thick. Dropouts typically are 4-6.3mm thick, but don't get welded to similar thicknesses.

The Miller welders I linked definitely have pulsing. I found them much easier to use (as a relatively unskilled welder) than the larger and older TIG welders I first encountered.

Here's an example of the kind of work I have mostly witnessed them being used for:
IMG_20150127_160803.jpg
IMG_20150127_160803.jpg (1.02 MiB) Viewed 355 times
These tubes are .035" to .065" wall chromoly, with .250" plate attachment points.
Last edited by Chalo on Mar 12 2021 4:48pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: 120v aluminum/cromo TIG welding on bike frames - possible?

Post by markz » Mar 12 2021 2:28pm

You can buy multi-process machines, means spending more money, spending more time on different processes. There are the very cheap sketchy "chinese" tig welders. https://www.youtube.com/results?search_ ... ig+welders

If you are going to go straight into TIG, might be a good idea to take a class and buy lots and lots of practice tubing.
It will save you a ton of money on metal and consumables. Only question is what welder to buy, go cheap or go mid range.

https://www.slcc.edu/satts/programs/wel ... ation.aspx
http://www.slcc.edu/satts/programs/welding.aspx
*Find out who the teacher is, maybe the teacher is willing to do teach you privately.
Meanwhile watch lots and lots of youtube videos.

https://weldingcareernow.com/welding-schools/utah

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Re: 120v aluminum/cromo TIG welding on bike frames - possible?

Post by LewTwo » Mar 12 2021 3:52pm

Chalo wrote:
Mar 12 2021 2:02pm
Mild steel tubing in commercial bicycles ranges up to 2mm thick is some cases. Chromoly frame tubing typically tops out at 1.25mm. Head tubes can be up to about 2mm thick, and bottom bracket shells up to about 3mm thick. Dropouts typically are 4-6.3mm thick, but don't get welded to similar thicknesses.
What about brazing ... I seem to remember a period when brazed steel frames were supposed to be top of the line. Of course that was in the previous century. I also note that they make bronze filler rods for use with TIG torches (TIG is after all a "torch" as opposed to stream of molten metal).
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Re: 120v aluminum/cromo TIG welding on bike frames - possible?

Post by neptronix » Mar 12 2021 4:05pm

LewTwo wrote:
Mar 12 2021 3:52pm
What about brazing ... I seem to remember a period when brazed steel frames were supposed to be top of the line. Of course that was in the previous century.
I'd personally like the most professional, precise, and durable result. This quest to build a frame may ultimately escalate up towards making 3 wheeled cars using the motorcycle loophole. Or perhaps modifying the frame of an existing car to improve it's aerodynamic properties.

Whatever i buy should be able to grow with me to some degree.

I've heard mixed things about brazing on any material. Probably cheap to get into though.
"Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive." - Dalai Lama

My first major build: 1.6kW 8T MAC motor on a Trek 4500 MTB.
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Re: 120v aluminum/cromo TIG welding on bike frames - possible?

Post by Chalo » Mar 12 2021 4:40pm

Brazing can deliver incredible results, and it disrupts steel less than welding does. The equipment to do it is less expensive up front than a TIG welder. Some dissimilar materials (e.g. steel to bronze) can be brazed, when they can't be welded. In times past, both aircraft and race car frames were often brazed, because that allowed greater strength and lower weight than welding.

Brazing takes longer than welding, both for material prep and the operation itself. Brazing consumables (fillers, gases, flux) are more expensive. Cleanup and joint finishing are more time consuming than welding. Aluminum can't be brazed satisfactorily for structural applications.

If you get a gas fluxer for fillet brazing (which is by far the best way to go), up front equipment costs can be comparable to getting set up with a TIG welder.

I prefer brazing to welding because I'm better at it. But if I did more frames, I'd step up my welding game because it's more expedient by far.
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Re: 120v aluminum/cromo TIG welding on bike frames - possible?

Post by neptronix » Mar 12 2021 5:19pm

Super informative. Thanks.
I wasn't aware that in some situations, brazing can be better.

In terms of other options, i'd like to gain experience in doing production work and so TIG is the only option that makes sense, as it can handle all the metals that matter.

My soldering experience ranges from installing playstation modchips to soldering 8 gauge power connectors to be ultra solid, so i think that while TIG welding has a steep learning curve, it will be very intuitive to me.

Certainly want more feedback on the everlasts if i can get it. Ready to pull the trigger on one. :)
"Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive." - Dalai Lama

My first major build: 1.6kW 8T MAC motor on a Trek 4500 MTB.
Monster MTB: Leafmotor 1500w @ 4kW on a Turner O2 full suspension.
The monster scooter: Heavy duty Cannondale semi recumbent - under construction.
Blue Dream: Maxaraya FS semi recumbent and high efficiency mid-drive - under construction.

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Re: 120v aluminum/cromo TIG welding on bike frames - possible?

Post by Santacruz » Mar 12 2021 5:49pm

I would not worry to much about all the settings you can make.
When starting out, most of them will be at a basic setting and by using a foot pedal, most of the settings won't be needed, as you will be controlling start / stop and amps by foot. (Sounds a complicated process, but easily becomes second nature).
After practice and as experience grows, you will know what you need to change. It really is a process you get with time and practice.

As for the machine, I personally think any known and named one should be okay. I look for a good guarantee, as local as possible and of course price and function. Looking at the Everlast, I see it has a 100% duty cycle at 80amps, so that is in the range where you could work non stop on thin wall tubing for frame building. That is a plus point for me.

As for brazing. You can braze with TIG and this is still used a lot for things like bracing tubes, or brackets to hold cables etc, so does have it's use.

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Re: 120v aluminum/cromo TIG welding on bike frames - possible?

Post by neptronix » Mar 12 2021 8:52pm

Good info, thank you.

I did come across some teaching videos from Everlast, so i'm thinking they're invested in their business and thus probably invested equally in their product.



I do hear the accessories that come with these models do suck and have to be replaced immediately, but the machine is said to be solid. So okay, tack on another $500.. and it's now half the cost of a miller, but we didn't do too bad. :)

Probably going to pick one up in the next month or two unless someone has feedback that steers my decision another direction.
"Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive." - Dalai Lama

My first major build: 1.6kW 8T MAC motor on a Trek 4500 MTB.
Monster MTB: Leafmotor 1500w @ 4kW on a Turner O2 full suspension.
The monster scooter: Heavy duty Cannondale semi recumbent - under construction.
Blue Dream: Maxaraya FS semi recumbent and high efficiency mid-drive - under construction.

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