I generally really like Harbor Freight products – and I have a lot of them. I’ve got some of the largest of their tools – the 2hp mill-drill and their 9×20 metal lathe, some of their smaller tools including the 170A mig welder and 9″ angle grinder as well as a bunch of their hand tools. Pretty much all hands down wins in terms of bang for the buck.
So when I decided that I was going to fabricate a wood fired pizza oven from stainless steel I figured I would pick up the very reasonably priced HF “Chicago Electric” spot welder.
Spot welding was my first introduction to welding when in grade 7 metal shop classes at Shaftsbury High School in Winnipeg where we built wind chimes and the galvanized steel top section was joined by spot welding. It was a real shop, and a real shop class, with a real shop teacher – who my father and I bumped into from time to time when we were out hunting upland game. As a pretty good student (not just in shop class) I got a bit more latitude in the class which was great.
Anyway, my memory of using that spot welder was that it was a pretty useful piece of kit, which influenced my decision to go that route for joining the segments for the pizza oven.
Of all of the HF tools that I have, the spotwelder comes the closest to failing to deliver to my expectations, and that’s probably because I set my expectations too high.
The unit handles joining 0.0200 stainless steel pieces just great, it can’t handle 0.0400 pieces. The other issue is that the points deform rather quickly and there is only one more set included with the welder. Replacements are available for the miller welders but those are pretty expensive – as in $30 at my local welding shop. If you have a lathe you can machine your own but it is a major hit that Harbor Freight doesn’t have replacements on the rack.
I guess my feelings towards the spot welder are colored by the fact that when I couldn’t weld the parts for the pizza oven I decided to try my hand at OA welding the stainless… which I had initially discounted as too hard (doooh stupid move that?). I discovered that my Henrob torch was totally suited to welding stainless – with really no more difficulty than welding carbon steel.
So, with light materials and for a couple of quick welds it’s a good bet. I really liked it for the English muffin rings I put together.
I also think it’s a good option for teaching kids basic metal working – which is basically what it was being used for when I was first introduced to it.
So, take home message… it’s limited in capacity so it’s probably the last welder I’d get but it looks just as solid when you acknowledge its limitations as the other HF kit I’ve grown to love.