Sunday, May 17, 2015

Tweco Fabricator 141i Review

Now that I've had my Tweco Fabricator 141i (W1003141) long enough to try to the stick, MIG and TIG modes of operation, I feel that I can write an objective review.  Keep in mind that I'm new to welding and this machine is my first and this review will be written from that perspective.

The factory packaging is attractive.  The welder is well protected and arrived completely undamaged.  It comes with the power supply, stick electrode holder, ground clamp, new Velocity MIG gun, 20A to 15A adapter plug, manual, manual on CD, 2 drive rolls, extra MIG tips, gas regulator, gas hose, carry strap, Tweco hat and 4 sticks of 3/32 E6013.  Most of the items seem to be of good build quality and the manual is detailed easy to read.  The CD contains pdf copies of the manual in multiple languages.

The power supply/drive unit is attractive, light and build quality seems to be really good.  The chart on the inside of the wire feed door is excellent.  They give you settings for MIG, TIG and stick.  One complaint is that the locking thumb screw for the MIG connection is partially behind the plastic case front.  This makes it difficult to access.  I should note that the Firepower MST 140i (1444-0870) seems to be identical to this unit except for the MIG gun connection.  Firepower appears to use a MIG gun that screws on from the front and wouldn't have this problem.  The other is that the tension knob flips forward ending up behind the front cover also.  This normally isn't a problem, but once it wedged itself there and was a real pain to get back in place.

The leads, ground clamp and electrode holder are of good quality.  The Fusion MIG gun uses a new tip that doesn't screw in.  It is held in place by the nozzle.  The factory nozzle fits perfectly and holds the tip firmly in place.  However, the flux core nozzles I ordered don't hold the tip in place when tight.  When I tried to tighten one of them enough to secure the tip, the plastic grip, that is threaded on, started twisting and stretching over the nozzle.

I'm concerned over the 8-pin connectors used on the MIG gun, TIG torch and foot pedal.  They're kind of cheap feeling plastic and have a loose feeling fit when attached to the power supply.  Only time will tell how well they hold up.  Maybe I'l have to do a long term follow up at some point.

When I purchased this welder, the optional TIG torch was listed as having a rotary amperage control on the Victor Technologies site and many suppliers web sites.  That is not the case.  It has a push button that is used to activate the lift TIG.  After I brought this to there attention, Victor corrected the information on their web site (you can read about my dealing with Victor customer support here).  However, some of the suppliers still advertise it incorrectly.  If you want remote amperage control you must purchase the optional foot pedal.  The TIG torch is a 17V style, the V meaning that it has a gas valve on the torch.  This is because the welder doesn't control the gas in the TIG mode, only in MIG mode.  This is an annoying issue for a new welder like me, just one more thing to worry about is a lot when learning.  One interesting thing I have found is that the gas valve seems to have a post flow in MIG mode.  I don't know if this is normal, because I don't have any units to compare it to.  But it does seem that if the valve already provides a post flow, it wouldn't have been hard for them to link it to the TIG function as well.

As a new welder, I find it easier to use than I had anticipated.  I started with the stick mode and the included 3/32 6013 electrodes.  I was impressed that I was able to strike an arc easily.  I have run several beads on scrap with both the included sticks and some Lincoln Electric 6013 that I picked up at Home Depot.  I'm not very good at stick welding yet, but the 6013 seems to run pretty good.  The manufacturer says that 6010 and 6011 won't run well with this machine.  I had some old 6011 given to me and I gave it a try anyway.  I couldn't get it to run.  It was very difficult to start an arc with it and when I did get it started I couldn't keep it going.  I'm not sure if that is the machine or my complete lack of experience.

When it comes to MIG mode, the door chart is very helpful.  It's suggested settings got me close enough to make a decent MIG weld on my first try.  After running three practice beads on some scrap square tube with 1/8" thick walls, I put two pieces end to end with a 1/16" gap.  I welded them together on only one side and let them cool.  I tested the strength by picking them up and slamming one end into the ground like I was swinging a hammer.  They broke apart after four hits, but it wasn't the weld that broke.  The metal around the weld tore.  That indicated to me that the weld was pretty good and I credit that completely to the welder and the door chart, because I had no idea what I was doing.

I also ran some flux core wire using the recommended settings in the door and it seemed a little hot when running a bead on a flat plate.  I used the same setting for a fillet weld and it was better, but still seemed a little too hot.

I tested the TIG mode both with and without the foot pedal.  I don't really have a clue how to use it properly yet, but I found the lift start very easy to use.  The amperage control with the foot pedal seems a little touchy at the lower end of the travel, but that could have been me because I was trying to use it while standing.  I didn't have a chair or stool at the shop yet when I tested the TIG mode.  I has plenty of power for my needs.  I accidentally put too much power to the 1/8" plate I was testing on and almost melted a hole through it.

Overall I am really happy with this welder.  Considering it costs the same as most other big name MIG welders, the fact that you get stick function out of the box and the ability to add a TIG torch and spool gun make this a great value.

After I have had time to learn to weld and have used this welder a lot more, I will do a long term follow up.  So keep a eye on my blog and my YouTube channel.

1 comment: