Pro Guide: Portable Shop Setups

Pro Guide: Portable Shop Setups

In a previous month, we covered portability while welding out in the field. However, there are many of you that weld in a workshop or your garage. This doesn’t mean portability isn’t important to you as well! In fact, moving easily around your shop can increase efficiency, reduce frustration and decrease the chances of an accident happening to you or your equipment.

Traditionally, portability has been thought of as a give-and-take characteristic: The more portable a machine is, the less power it has. While this is somewhat true, in reality, any machine can be made more portable without any loss to performance. In this article, we’ll look at a range of portability scenarios, and what you can do in each to make your life a whole lot easier.

Most Portable Situations

Using a portable machine can go beyond making your life easier. It also has some great benefits for efficiency and cost-savings. Stick welding can be a perfect example of this.

Stick rods are manufactured by trapping shielding gases inside an electrode. When you weld, the gases are released and protect your pool. Because of this, you don’t have to worry about cylinders at all. Stick welding requires just your machine, your rods and your leads; As portable as welding can get. Take, for example, the Miller Maxstar 161 S. This machine weighs only 13 pounds. It’s literally got a shoulder strap so you can have your hands free while you carry it around. For a limited time, the Maxstar 161 S also has a $300 rebate!

While stick welding is generally considered the most portable process, it might not be the ideal method for you. If you’re looking for a portable process that’s closer to MIG welding, flux core is a great option. Flux-cored welding is very similar to MIG welding, but uses special wire that contains shielding gas. This means you don’t have to worry about external gas cylinders at all.

Many MIG machines will also do flux core. For instance, the Lincoln Power MIG 211i can easily handle both processes. Having a dual GMAW/FCAW machine for your shop can be a great benefit. This is because flux core, while not requiring gas cylinders, does have some limitations. For instance, it requires wire with a larger diameter. Since the shielding gas has to be fused with the wire, flux core consumables can also be more expensive over time than MIG. Having a dual machine gives you the power of portability when you need it, but also allows you to MIG weld.

Mid-Level Portability Situations

As welding manufacturers have shifted from transformer to inverter technology, it has allowed welding machines to get smaller and lighter. For instance, the Millermatic 211 weighs only 38 pounds. It has 3 handles, making it easy to maneuver around. In fact, one time we said, “the Millermatic 211 is like carrying around a small duffle bag,” at which point one of you wisecracks said, “Yeah? If you strap the gas cylinders to your back.”

We guess that's one way to have a portable setup, though we definitely wouldn't recommend it.

This is actually a great point when it comes to the portability of MIG and TIG. Even with a lightweight machine, you do have the gas cylinders. While most cylinders aren’t incredibly heavy, they can be cumbersome and you need to be careful when moving them around. However, there are plenty of great options for making a MIG or TIG setup more portable.

One solution is to use longer hoses from your welding machine to your gas cylinders. This way, you can essentially leave your cylinders stationary while you move around with your machine. It’s an excellent option for a small workshop or garage since the hoses don’t have to be so long that they create gas flow issues or become a trip hazard.

Another option is longer leads. This is often used with welder/generators since these machines are quite large. However, super-long leads are generally not the ideal solution for small welding machines. This is because it can be difficult to fine-tune your parameters and get the right settings if you’re located a distance away from the machine’s controls. For this very reason, many of the new welder/generators have remote control panels.

Finally, you can also use a cart. This allows you to store your welder and your gas cylinders on a mobile rig that you can easily wheel around. You can fabricate your own welding cart, but often it is cheaper and easier to buy a cart specifically designed for your machine. With Welding Supplies from IOC, we have a huge selection of carts for any setup, all at the best prices.

Challenging Portable Situations

Some equipment was simply not designed with mobility as a major priority. However, even your largest machines can be made more mobile with the right steps.

For instance, while plasma cutters aren’t generally large pieces of equipment, they usually require an external compressed air machine that can make them difficult to move around. If you’re only planning on doing light plasma cutting but need a highly portable solution, you should check out the Hypertherm Powermax30 AIR. This plasma cutter has a built-in air compressor and weighs just 30 pounds.

If you need a plasma cutter that requires an external compressor, there are still options for increased mobility. Most machines can use a long torch that allows you a large range of motion. In fact, the base Powermax45 XP comes with a 20-foot torch package.

For industrial welding machines, a cart is often required if you want any mobility. This is usually the safest way to transport these types of machines around as well, as they can be pretty heavy and fairly unwieldy. If one fell on you, the cost to both your health and the machine could be quite painful. Again, often manufacturers will build specific carts for these machines to ensure they fit correctly. Make sure you check out Welding Supplies from IOC for their huge selection of carts and great prices.

No matter what your equipment needs, there are some great solutions to make your workshop or garage setup more portable. To see Welding Supplies from IOC’s full range of top products from the best brands, check out our online store here.