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Thread: Harbor freight Mig wire...stay away!

  1. #1

    Default Harbor freight Mig wire...stay away!

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ID:	9365I like to shop at Harbor Freight and they do have some excellent tools. Not everything is worth it though.

    Case in point: Mig wire.

    I was in the process of modifying a Harbor Freight 20 ton hydraulic press to 32 ton air over hydraulic operation. To allow for the extra 12 tons, I did have to add some reinforcement to the top and bottom of the press along with using a 1 inch thick plate with the supplied cast iron blocks for the table.

    In the process of reinforcing the press, I noticed that the Harbor freight mig wire was crap! I mean it would not give the results I am used to getting with either Lincoln or Miller / Hobart wire.

    I ended up grinding all the Harbor Freight wire welds off and starting over. Once I put the Hobart wire on, everything was beautiful.

    I did do a few tests with the HF wire and found that the arc was not nearly as smooth as the other manufacturers wire. For some reason, the HF wire's arc was erratic and the welds were porous. It seems that the batch of wire I got had some kind of contamination in or on it. It felt oily and dirty. The areas I was welding were paint free and clean. So I got some metal and tried and tried to get a good stable arc and a good weld. It was just not going to happen.

    BTW, I use a Hobart Handler 210 Mig welder using 75 /25 gas.

    I will say that Harbor Freight do have some excellent tools and other products. I got a great deal on the 20 ton hydraulic press which is an excellent product. But there are some things that should be avoided and mig wire, at least for me, is one of them.
    Powertig 250EX
    Powerplasma 50
    Hobart Handler 210 with spoolgun
    Cobra 2000 / Henrob O/A torch
    Drill press / metal brake / 36 ton air hydraulic press
    Franzinated modified Craftsman 33 compressor
    Lots of other metal working tools

  2. #2
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    Default Mig Wire

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve View Post
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ID:	9365I like to shop at Harbor Freight and they do have some excellent tools. Not everything is worth it though.

    Case in point: Mig wire.

    I was in the process of modifying a Harbor Freight 20 ton hydraulic press to 32 ton air over hydraulic operation. To allow for the extra 12 tons, I did have to add some reinforcement to the top and bottom of the press along with using a 1 inch thick plate with the supplied cast iron blocks for the table.

    In the process of reinforcing the press, I noticed that the Harbor freight mig wire was crap! I mean it would not give the results I am used to getting with either Lincoln or Miller / Hobart wire.

    I ended up grinding all the Harbor Freight wire welds off and starting over. Once I put the Hobart wire on, everything was beautiful.

    I did do a few tests with the HF wire and found that the arc was not nearly as smooth as the other manufacturers wire. For some reason, the HF wire's arc was erratic and the welds were porous. It seems that the batch of wire I got had some kind of contamination in or on it. It felt oily and dirty. The areas I was welding were paint free and clean. So I got some metal and tried and tried to get a good stable arc and a good weld. It was just not going to happen.

    BTW, I use a Hobart Handler 210 Mig welder using 75 /25 gas.

    I will say that Harbor Freight do have some excellent tools and other products. I got a great deal on the 20 ton hydraulic press which is an excellent product. But there are some things that should be avoided and mig wire, at least for me, is one of them.
    Been There / Done That,
    Get a Large type compressed cotton roll /like an over size tampon/ 3/4"-1" dia split it halve waythru and put it on your wire before the feed rolls

    Works as wire wiper
    Scotty


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  3. #3

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    Tampon for your wire..... lol

    You get what you pay for at HF. Some stuff is good but most is crap. (no I am not trying to be snobby, I have a lot of HF tools myself...)
    Everlast PowerTig 200DX
    Everlast Supercut 50P
    I need a MIG.... which one to buy:
    I-Mig 160, I-Mig 200, or a MTS 160

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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve View Post
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ID:	9365I like to shop at Harbor Freight and they do have some excellent tools. Not everything is worth it though.
    I don't know that I would ever use the term "Excellent" when talking about Harbor Freight, but "less junky" might be somewhat accurate. I notice that a lot of their tools and items are of similar quality to the "Made in China" items that Lowe's and Home Depot sell (for more money). I use 2 of the "wire wipers" on my dad's Miller after having trouble with the weld quality on one particular roll of name brand wire from the LWS. It too had some sort of light coating on the wire which was giving me "fits."

    I have to say that I am happy with the aluminum floor jack and jack stands that I have from HF. None of the casters from them have given me issues either, so I suppose you're right about them having some decent products. I still hate them and what they stand for, but it's not like there are that many places selling tools and supplies which say "Made in America" on them anyways. More of the "good China" versus "bad China" debate.

    I like your press modification! That should really come in handy and seems like a nice upgrade over the non-modified version. I've been thinking of how handy a (smaller) press would be. It always seems like I need to press something apart, or together.
    Andy
    New Everlast PowerTig 250EX that is begging for me to come up with a few welding projects so it can stretch it's legs. Did someone say aluminum???

    MISC. TOOLS:
    Atlas 618 lathe
    Milwaukee Porta Band with custom made stand
    Dewalt 4-1/2" angle grinder
    Dewalt 14" chop saw

    Strong Hand Nomad portable table
    Juki sewing machine I've had for years (yes I know sewing is for girls)

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    I cherry pick. Some things I'll buy and use, some I'll buy and modify, some things I won't even look at the price. Their MIG wire and flux core have been discussed on the forum before, if I recall, one or two folks said it was ok, everyone else called it absolute crap. I just turned down an offer of several spools of it. Rather pay $20 a pop for Hobart or Lincoln.
    Trip Bauer
    Former USN HT
    Everlast 200DX New Model
    Hobart Handler 125 MIG
    Van Norman #12
    Atlas 12" engine lathe
    '98 RoadKing - 84 Ironhead - 59 Ironhead

  6. #6

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    I've had trouble with hobart flux core. The diameter wasn't consistent and it had some sort of black grease on it. Plugged the contact tip often, 2 x2lb rolls and one 10lb roll .035... but that was 7 years ago and I haven't tried it since.
    2013 250EX : SSC Pedal : I-MIG 250P 20' Profax gun : Power Plasma 60 p80 torch : 3M Speedglas 9100XX : Evolution Rage 3 DB cold saw

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by youngnstudly View Post

    I like your press modification! That should really come in handy and seems like a nice upgrade over the non-modified version. I've been thinking of how handy a (smaller) press would be. It always seems like I need to press something apart, or together.
    Thanks. The air hydraulic jack really changed the personality of the press from being a pain in the butt to use to looking forward to the next project so I can use it! I've been squashing things for the past few hours just to see what it can do. It will flatten a penny pretty good and will break apart a bowling ball. Alkaline batteries squash to almost dime thickness. I even made some orange juice with it this morning. I took a stainless steel bowl and put a plate on the pressure pin and it squashed the daylights out of a few oranges. It was good! Going to build a can and oil filter squasher. That will make my run to the metal recycle folks easier.

    I bought this to bend some metal for an enclosed motorcycle I am going to build. Got a Swag Offroad press brake coming soon. I too also have things that needed to be either pressed together or apart and it never fails because usually I need it done when the local auto parts store is closed.

    I had an older press and it sure got its use. But the air hydraulic jack makes using this one a whole lot of fun.
    Powertig 250EX
    Powerplasma 50
    Hobart Handler 210 with spoolgun
    Cobra 2000 / Henrob O/A torch
    Drill press / metal brake / 36 ton air hydraulic press
    Franzinated modified Craftsman 33 compressor
    Lots of other metal working tools

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by zoama585 View Post
    I've had trouble with hobart flux core. The diameter wasn't consistent and it had some sort of black grease on it. Plugged the contact tip often, 2 x2lb rolls and one 10lb roll .035... but that was 7 years ago and I haven't tried it since.
    More than likely the HF wire's diameter is not consistent and causing some problems.

    I've never purchased HF mig wire, but I have checked the prices, and it's not any cheaper than the off brand sold at your lws.
    Lincoln Eagle Engine Drive
    Everlast MTS 250
    Everlast Power Tig 225lx
    HTP Mig 2400
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  9. #9
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    I would not purchase HF wire because HS charges more than my local welding store for better wire. Not everything is a good deal at HF and at that quality is typically sacrificed.
    Miller 252
    PowerTig 250 EXT
    Evolution Rage 2
    48X6 inch Belt Sander w/ 9 inch Disk Sander
    ...

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by DVA View Post
    I would not purchase HF wire because HS charges more than my local welding store for better wire. Not everything is a good deal at HF and at that quality is typically sacrificed.
    Their prices on a lot of items aren't a deal by any means! It's like the first "hit" was free, and now they're sticking it to us! Luckily I rarely shop there (or anywhere, for that matter...I'm poor!). I found that the 10lb. spool of flux core wire was $2 less at HF than my local Airgas wanted for their name brand version, and there was NO way in heck I was going to pay that for cheap wire! I was blown away when I saw the price too, since most of their prices (used to be) 30-70% lower than any other stores prices!
    Andy
    New Everlast PowerTig 250EX that is begging for me to come up with a few welding projects so it can stretch it's legs. Did someone say aluminum???

    MISC. TOOLS:
    Atlas 618 lathe
    Milwaukee Porta Band with custom made stand
    Dewalt 4-1/2" angle grinder
    Dewalt 14" chop saw

    Strong Hand Nomad portable table
    Juki sewing machine I've had for years (yes I know sewing is for girls)

  11. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by youngnstudly View Post
    Their prices on a lot of items aren't a deal by any means! It's like the first "hit" was free, and now they're sticking it to us! Luckily I rarely shop there (or anywhere, for that matter...I'm poor!). I found that the 10lb. spool of flux core wire was $2 less at HF than my local Airgas wanted for their name brand version, and there was NO way in heck I was going to pay that for cheap wire! I was blown away when I saw the price too, since most of their prices (used to be) 30-70% lower than any other stores prices!
    Agreed. I'd had it drilled into me that HF was the cheapest stuff around, but sometimes you find something that the quality isn't TOO bad. But when I went looking at stick welding electrode, it was actually cheaper (per pound, that is) at Home Depot. It ... like ... totally blew my mind, man!
    Everlast PowerArc 140ST

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    Quote Originally Posted by MuttonHawg View Post
    Agreed. I'd had it drilled into me that HF was the cheapest stuff around, but sometimes you find something that the quality isn't TOO bad. But when I went looking at stick welding electrode, it was actually cheaper (per pound, that is) at Home Depot. It ... like ... totally blew my mind, man!
    I was also shocked at HF stick price and at HD they have name brand sticks at lower prices.

    Last time I purchased a 44 lb spool of wire at my LWS it was 1.02 per lb because they were trying to get rid of some left over wire that was typically purchased by a bridge fabrication company. 44.88 + tax for 0.035 mig wire was an awesome deal.
    Miller 252
    PowerTig 250 EXT
    Evolution Rage 2
    48X6 inch Belt Sander w/ 9 inch Disk Sander
    ...

  13. #13

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    Good to know as I've always clipped those 30% coupons and thought about getting some wire. I've been amazed at how competitive my LWS is on most products even compared to Amazon. The price difference is negligible and if I can keep my money local than I like to. The only aggravating thing with my LWS is that most products aren't priced and it takes a trip to the counter and a few minutes for them to look up the price. Also seems that the price is negotiable as any time I've turned down a price I get the "If you buy it right now I can knock off ___ dollars." On a side note I also found that AT&T is negotiable on all their prices as well if you call customer service and try to cancel your service. I told them that their internet wasn't worth it to me at the price they offered and I instantly had my bill cut in half for two years with the option to keep that price after the two years. If you have AT&T give them a call!
    IMig 200

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kendall View Post
    On a side note I also found that AT&T is negotiable on all their prices as well if you call customer service and try to cancel your service. I told them that their internet wasn't worth it to me at the price they offered and I instantly had my bill cut in half for two years with the option to keep that price after the two years. If you have AT&T give them a call!
    Not to get too off track, I've done the same thing with all my bills. I've had to change jobs for health reasons and it was a big pay cut. I called all my utilities and services trying to find deals. Surprisingly a lot of them can offer relief if forced. Those that didn't, didn't get my service anymore. A big telecoms company up here, Bell, wouldn't budge so screw them. I went with another and have been way happier.

    The Canadian counterpart to HF is princessauto. They had the same stock as HF before but now have gotten better quality stuff. The price went up though and I find myself not frequenting them as often now. "Sometimes good enough is the best" as Jodi said. I don't get all this hating for HF or even walmart. They provide a service for a market like us poor folk. Without them my house and car would be in worse repair and my family would be without a lot of times. There's no shame in buying what you can afford and I don't like those that say there is. I'm no less a man for stepping in a place that sells "crap" cus I can do with this crap what you can do with your gold covered, diamond studded everything. Don't mean to offend anybody but this hating is ill-placed. Cheers.
    PowerArc 140ST
    Victor VPT-100FC

  15. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tanh View Post
    I don't get all this hating for HF or even walmart. They provide a service for a market like us poor folk. Without them my house and car would be in worse repair and my family would be without a lot of times. There's no shame in buying what you can afford and I don't like those that say there is. I'm no less a man for stepping in a place that sells "crap" cus I can do with this crap what you can do with your gold covered, diamond studded everything. Don't mean to offend anybody but this hating is ill-placed. Cheers.
    I don't hate Harbor Freight or WalMart at all. WalMart is where I buy my firearms and ammo. I also shop for food there. Some of the Harbor Freight products are actually quite good. I own a few Harbor Freight tools that have served me well. Their electric sheet metal sheers are awesome. I also have some of their higher end air tools that were a lot cheaper at Harbor Freight than at other outlets which also carried the same tools. It is the MIG WIRE that I have stated which is the problem.

    "Sometimes good enough is good enough" is often true. But in the case of mig wire, having to re-do a weld is not good enough. That takes time and effort plus wasting money on crappy welding wire that ended up going to scrap is just not acceptable. I've been sticking metal together for many years and I know how to mig weld and what a good weld looks like. The welds I was getting with the Harbor Freight wire was just poor. The arc was often erratic and lots of porous areas. I even soaked the wire in acetone to try to remove the oily film on the wire and it still was bad. So I've come to the conclusion that Harbor Freight wire is not rated correctly and has quality problems.

    I have to go now. I'm off to Harbor Freight...Yes....no kidding.....to pick up some die grinder stones and check out their sale they are having...which seems to be almost every day!
    Powertig 250EX
    Powerplasma 50
    Hobart Handler 210 with spoolgun
    Cobra 2000 / Henrob O/A torch
    Drill press / metal brake / 36 ton air hydraulic press
    Franzinated modified Craftsman 33 compressor
    Lots of other metal working tools

  16. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kendall View Post
    Good to know as I've always clipped those 30% coupons and thought about getting some wire. I've been amazed at how competitive my LWS is on most products even compared to Amazon. The price difference is negligible and if I can keep my money local than I like to. The only aggravating thing with my LWS is that most products aren't priced and it takes a trip to the counter and a few minutes for them to look up the price. Also seems that the price is negotiable as any time I've turned down a price I get the "If you buy it right now I can knock off ___ dollars." On a side note I also found that AT&T is negotiable on all their prices as well if you call customer service and try to cancel your service. I told them that their internet wasn't worth it to me at the price they offered and I instantly had my bill cut in half for two years with the option to keep that price after the two years. If you have AT&T give them a call!
    I always ask for a cash discount and tell them that I will shop only at their store if they do allow for the discount. So my LWS gets me very good prices at a discount. If the man behind the counter says no, ask for the manager. That is what I did and the manager said yes.

    I also buy my gasoline at stores that offer a cash discount. Credit cards are a big cost to retailers and I refuse to pay extra for someone else who wants to pay the banks for their cut in a private purchase.

    Always ask for a cash discount. The worse that they can say is no.
    Powertig 250EX
    Powerplasma 50
    Hobart Handler 210 with spoolgun
    Cobra 2000 / Henrob O/A torch
    Drill press / metal brake / 36 ton air hydraulic press
    Franzinated modified Craftsman 33 compressor
    Lots of other metal working tools

  17. #17

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    I try to differentiate between inexpensive and cheap. Some stuff is inexpensive - doesn't cost a lot, works OK, not as nice as 'premium' alternatives, but is a bargain for what you pay. Other stuff is cheap - doesn't work well, isn't durable, looks crappy, etc. Harbor Freight has plenty of inexpensive stuff, and definitely some cheap stuff also. Then again, so does Walmart, Target, Sears, the grocery store, car dealers - everywhere! I like inexpensive, I don't like cheap.

    There's a reason I bought an Everlast welder instead getting one at HF - it cost a bit more, but the additional function/reliability/quality I got outweighs the extra cost. And for a similar reason, I went with Everlast over a red or blue brand - the extra cost wasn't justified by what I'd be gaining. Like anything else - it's a balancing act between what you get and what you pay, and everybody has different things they're looking for. I do shop at HF and (sometimes) Walmart, but not necessarily for everything, so I hope I don't come across as a hater - not my intention

    Then there's the stuff that costs alot, but still sucks - I really try to avoid that scenario!
    Everlast PowerArc 140ST

  18. #18
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    That earlier post wasn't ment to point fingers or lay blame but just make a point. I know most of us here are sensible people with varying priorities. Nobody cut up anybody else up due to class or where they shop. It's just a point I was trying to make because of a trend I'm seeing recently.

    In the grand scheme of things, that mig wire is probably sh!t. You'll have no argument from me cus I have no experience with it. I will say that their stick rods are subpar compared to the lincolns I'm used to. Not worth the money as the price points are so close. Within a buck or two. And that's why I steer clear of them. It's another reason I question some other brands they carry, like Century or Longevity.
    PowerArc 140ST
    Victor VPT-100FC

  19. #19
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    The sad part to me is that it really doesn't matter whether or not you hate (or don't hate) companies like Walmart and HF, they're here to stay. With everything being outsourced nowadays, there simply isn't a choice between buying a high quality (USA or European, for example) version , and a low quality "China" version of the same item. What's on the shelf is what you have to choose from, and everyday that passes makes for slimmer "pickin's."

    My coworker bought a HF TIG welder in the late 80's that was made in Sweden, he used it for 20 years on a regular basis at home, and was able to keep it working until a main component failed. I bet you can't even find a Swedish girl working the register at HF, let alone a product there that is made in Sweden! Same with Walmart and the Pyrex bowl I bought 15 years ago that says "Made in the USA" right on the bottom. It's not that way at either of those stores now!

    I am happy that forums like this one bring together the common goal of building and repairing things ourselves! Lots of good ideas and input on here, in a calm environment. Mention China or the "E-word" on the Miller forum and prepare to duck and take cover!
    Andy
    New Everlast PowerTig 250EX that is begging for me to come up with a few welding projects so it can stretch it's legs. Did someone say aluminum???

    MISC. TOOLS:
    Atlas 618 lathe
    Milwaukee Porta Band with custom made stand
    Dewalt 4-1/2" angle grinder
    Dewalt 14" chop saw

    Strong Hand Nomad portable table
    Juki sewing machine I've had for years (yes I know sewing is for girls)

  20. #20

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    I cant believe you would even compare Everlast and HF.... That's like comparing a Honda to a Black Friday special bicycle at Big Lots.

    Quote Originally Posted by MuttonHawg View Post
    I try to differentiate between inexpensive and cheap. Some stuff is inexpensive - doesn't cost a lot, works OK, not as nice as 'premium' alternatives, but is a bargain for what you pay. Other stuff is cheap - doesn't work well, isn't durable, looks crappy, etc. Harbor Freight has plenty of inexpensive stuff, and definitely some cheap stuff also. Then again, so does Walmart, Target, Sears, the grocery store, car dealers - everywhere! I like inexpensive, I don't like cheap.

    There's a reason I bought an Everlast welder instead getting one at HF - it cost a bit more, but the additional function/reliability/quality I got outweighs the extra cost. And for a similar reason, I went with Everlast over a red or blue brand - the extra cost wasn't justified by what I'd be gaining. Like anything else - it's a balancing act between what you get and what you pay, and everybody has different things they're looking for. I do shop at HF and (sometimes) Walmart, but not necessarily for everything, so I hope I don't come across as a hater - not my intention

    Then there's the stuff that costs alot, but still sucks - I really try to avoid that scenario!
    Everlast PowerTig 200DX
    Everlast Supercut 50P
    I need a MIG.... which one to buy:
    I-Mig 160, I-Mig 200, or a MTS 160

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