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"Built Dam Strong!"

11 October 2014

Initial review of my new Everlast PowerTig 200DX, along with some crappy photos of crappy welds.

Yesterday I picked up most of the rest of my welding stuff from Dave's place in Brooklyn. With the back seats folded down, the Fit really does live up to its name!

Not stuffed to the gills, but the back end was sagging significantly:
Eventually I'm gonna have to get some stiffer springs. This is pretty typical of a stock Honda.

Today after a lazy morning with pancakes and bacon, I got to unloading what I needed to get welding. I even remember to bring my shield home, too!

I got the welder hooked up to power and argon and connected the foot pedal, ground and torch. These are all the items that came in the "deluxe package" (well, not the gas of course, but the regulator fits normal bottles, not that weird metric stuff that came on my previous welder).

So, setup is  pretty easy. I am a huge fan of direct turny-button things. I am NOT a fan of the modern digital controls that most brands are moving towards. I really detest having to go through menus just to make simple changes. That actually goes for more than just welding machines. Phones, cameras, electronics of all sorts just SUCK when it comes to this kinda thing. Burying things in menus just makes no sense. Anyway, I don't have to deal with that with the simple and newly designed layout on this welder. I like the layout. I like the clear cover. I WOULD like the finger notch for the clear cover to be larger, though. With thick gloves on, you cannot open the cover easily. If I have gloves on, I don't want to take them off just to tweak the amps or flip switches.

I ground some 1/8" 1.5% Lanthanated (black) tungsten, as that is what I had for testing. The torch itself is actually decent! The cable is decently flexible, but it is not flexible enough to wrap around your forearm or hand like most welders to to support the weight of the cable without having to grip the torch itself hard (and thus shaking all over the place). The DINSE connector is actually very good. The fitment into the socket is excellent. The machining of the threads for the collet body and cap are excellent. Everything fit well together. The body is grippy. It comes supplied with a switch. I actually like switches for tacking. Bop the switch, and you have a tack. (As long as your fitment is good, that is.) The switch action is positive. It is placed well. It even came with a zip on cloth cover! I actually like the cloth cover more than the leather cover I have for my normal torch. The only gripe I have about the torch setup is that no one should ever be supplied with a a torch that is less than 25ft. long. this one is about 12. It is useable, but, it's not long enough for "real" work.

The "deluxe" pedal isn't. It is much more compact. It has a decent length to the cable, with a connector on each end making extending the cable easier, if necessary, and it might be, as the length is, again, decent, but not as long as I would like. I may still be getting used to it, but there seems to be an annoying "hitch" on the very "low" end, just before the contact switch clicks. This is REALLY annoying when trying to taper off. I think I might try the clunky pedal with this machine to see what happens. (If the impedances don't match up, it might have low end control issues.) The clunky pedal, while huge and not particularly smooth, did not have any weirdness like this "deluxe" pedal.

The ground clamp is also decent. It has a wide clamping range and enough (but not so much it is hard to open) tension in the spring. The contact points a decently thick copper. The connector between the contacts is, oddly (at least in my experience) a solid sheet of copper instead of your more typical flat braided copper ground strap. The DINSE connector fits very well and locks in solidly. The cable crimps are well done. Again, the cable length is not as long as I would like, but with the ground, it is typical to have it be shorter than the torch whip, anyway.

I haven't used the electrode holder yet, but it is a proper clamp type instead of those disgustingly annoying twist type. (I HATE THOSE!!!) For a stick welding whip, the lead is so short it is laughable. I wouldn't even bother trying to use it without getting a longer cable. If I am stick welding something, it is likely going to be in a horrible spot that I wouldn't want to lug my TIG box to or expose it to all the sparks and spatter from stick welding. I really would prefer to see 25ft. leads for everything. I consider that the bare minimum useable length.

The regulator is actually rather good. The machining is just plain excellent. All the markings are neat and very readable. Everything fits perfectly. It adjusts very easily. It seems to be very consistent at holding the set flow rate. Overall, this is a hugely improved accessory.

The NEMA 6-50 to standard 110V outlet adapter is a bit clunky, but, well, it kinda has to be. That being said, it is very well made with molded rubber ends and it fits securely together.

So, for the accessories that come with the deluxe package, they are all a DEFINITE step up from the base stuff. It is useable, even if the leads are short. I am impressed with the overall quality, fit and finish of them and feel that they represent a good value, but not a great value. I have my reservations about the foot pedal. This is the only disappointing part of the bunch. I will work with it more and see if I can get used to it, but I already have a US made pedal in my sights, though it will have to wait a bit as they are $160. If I am remembering correctly, the whole "deluxe package" is about that price if you are paying retain. Since I bought this welder while there was a special going on, I was upgraded to the "deluxe package" for free.

On to the welding! As a reminder, I am currently using this on a 20A 110V circuit. That is the primary reason I bought this box. I can just plug it in and go nearly anywhere! The box WORKS. VERY VERY well. The adjustments are easy and correct, meaning turning knobs does things in the expected manner, in the amount of the turning. Low amp start, even with the silly large 1/8" tungsten is good, and I expect it to be much better with a more reasonable tungsten size for the lower amperage. On of the best features of the newer models is that it has a "real" fitting for the gas hose instead of a barb fitting. This does a few things. First, it reduces stickout in the rear. I transport welding crap often, and having a fairly flush fitting in the rear instead of the barbed fitting that sticks out a good bit is actually a relief. This also makes for a simpler setup. You only need one tool (an adjustable crescent wrench) to set it up instead of a screwdriver and an adjustable wrench (or multiple wrenches for the regulator and gas hose fittings). Simpler is better!

I am simply way out of practice. Geez. It SUCKED welding today. The box itself functioned flawlessly. I was just plain awful for most of it. Here are some pics of the crap I was putting out:

 Note: The scrap isn't the cleanest . . . and I accidently welded the steel to the stainless bench topper . . . That's going to be annoying to get apart. ARG!

I noticed that when welding aluminum the fan pitch changes, especially when I am cranking on it to get a puddle started on cold aluminum. I suspect that it won't do that on 220V. HOWEVER, it did not effect the welding at all. That was rock steady!

Steel multipass:
 Ugly because I didn't clean it up much and I also have to relearn WTF I am doing. Geez. It's gonna take a lot of practice, but I am going to put the time in!

After finding a thicker piece of aluminum, I started to get some decent welds without burning through. I started running multipass welds to just work on my angles and timing and motion:

 I actually started to get some decent beads in.

As you can see in this last picture, I am having issues with cratering. I am attributing that to the hitch in the pedal. I have not had that issue before when I could taper off normally. I'd expect it on the thin piece, but not so much on the ends of a very large multipass weld. I am going to have to figure that one out. Maybe it really is just me!

Overall, the PowerTig 200DX is EXCELLENT. The Deluxe package is a decent value as you can actually use everything right out of the box to hook it up and get to making welds. That's a pretty important step up in quality and usability, especially if you are just starting out with a TIG welder. I'll report  in on the pedal, if it "breaks in" or if I just want to chuck it in the bin.

So, there you have it. So far one 110V, I can do 90% of the work I would ever do with a TIG welder. That's very impressive. Everything works and works well. A few minor gripes is all I can muster. The handle on top of the box feels a bit loose. The handle on my PowerTIG 250EX was not. The accessories had a fairly horrific oily rubbery smell at first. It subsided overa  few days, but holy crap! I wish the Chinese manufacturers would realize we don't want to smell how terrible things are right away. Other than that, it is excellent!

I'll have to modify the tool cart in order to fit it on the bottom shelf, as the handle makes it too tall to fit in the self space, but I was anticipating that and already have a plan. In the mean time, I am going to gather up all my TIG tools and put them in the cart which will be AWESOME to have all of them in one place. I'l be ordering steel soon for the cart and new work benches! YES! Lots to look forward to. Lots of welding to do. I'm on it!