There’s an old adage… “A man is only as good as his tools”. And brother, ain’t that the truth. In my nearly 40 years on this earth, I’ve used good tools and I’ve used crap tools. Generally speaking, I try to stay away from the $5 bargain bin tools as they either fail me after a use or two, or even worse, they damage whatever I’m working on. A quality tool will often last a lifetime if taken care of.
This brings us to our review of Miller’s latest line of MIG welders, the Millermatic® 211 Auto-Set™ w/MVP™. Often enough, if I’m not behind the computer writing articles, I can be found in the shop testing products and doing a whole lot of welding. In fact, just this year alone I’ve gone through five 8” large spools of welding wire, which is quite a bit for a ‘hobbyist’ welder. This is our long-term test of Miller’s newest ‘prosumer’ line of welders designed for heavy hobby use or light commercial use and we’ve been using this welder on various projects for 5 months now. At the end of this article, you’ll find our verdict as to whether or not this welder fits the bill for a ‘quality tool’.
Millermatic 211 Auto-Set Welder Features
The biggest innovation that we find on the Millermatic 211 is their new Auto-Set feature which, in short, takes the guess work out of voltage and wire speed settings. Just like most other welders, there are two dials on the front of this MIG – a wire speed dial (this Millermatic has infinite settings) and the voltage dial (also with infinite settings). To use the Auto-Set feature, you simply select the wire diameter that you are welding with on the wire speed dial, either .030” or .035”, and then select the thickness of the material you are welding. The welder then figures out the appropriate wire speed and voltage for you. A blue light shows that Auto-Set is activated.
As mentioned above, the Millermatic 211 MIG welder has an infinite voltage setting to give you the flexibility to manually set and fine tune the machine’s power output. Likewise, you can infinitely control the speed of the wire as well. Both are very handy features when you’re burning in a critical weld. Cheaper welders often have preset voltage settings.
Also on the list of great features is Miller’s multi-voltage plug (MVP), which has become one of our favorite’s for many of Miller’s products. The MVP plug allows you to swap out the plug end for either 120 volt or 230 volt power receptacles without the use of any tools or changing any welder settings – just swap out the plug end and you’re off to the races. It is most useful when a 230V power source isn’t available, or if you need to weld on the go.
In addition, there are a few other features of the Millermatic 211 Auto-Set MIG welder that we find useful. On the back of the welder you will find a large, heavy-duty on/off switch that can be easily operated even with gloves on. Also, the welding gun has an easy-pull trigger and the nozzle (a.k.a. gas cup) slides on and off easily enough but holds securely during welding, whereas Tweco guns generally have screw-on style nozzles that are difficult to use with gloves on and can cross thread.
Here are a few other features:
Additional Millermatic 211 Features:
• The Millermatic® 211 welds thickest material in its class – from 24 gauge steel to 3/8” thick mild steel in a single pass on 230 volt
• It is spool gun ready right out of the box. Plug in the new Spoolmate™ 100 Series spool gun allows you to weld from 18 ga – 3/8 in aluminum
• Miller’s Smooth-Start™ feature provides a spatter-free, smooth arc start
• A cast aluminum drive wheel has dual-grooves and a quick-change drive roller, along with a spring-loaded tension arm that has an easy-to-use adjustable tension knob
• The “Tip Saver” short circuit protection™ is a great feature that shuts down the welder’s output when tip is shorted to the work. This extends the contact tip life and protects internal components from damage. Trigger reset permits quick reset at gun rather than at the machine
• Thermal overload protection shuts down unit and activates over temperature light if airflow is blocked or duty cycle is exceeded which automatically resets itself
• 230 V, 25 A, 60 Hz, 1-Phase
• 120 V, 20 A, 60 Hz, 1-Phase
• 150 A at 23.5 VDC, 30% duty cycle (230V)
• 90 A at 20 VDC, 20% duty cycle (120V)
Welding Amperage Range:
• 30 – 210 Amps
• 60 – 460 IPM (1.5 – 11.7 m/min)
• 74lb (33.6 kg)
What’s in the box:
• Millermatic® 211 welder
• 6 ft power cord and MVP™ plugs
• 10 ft M-100 MIG gun and clamp
• Smith® Argon and AR/CO2 mix regulator/flow gauge with hose
• Spool of Hobart® .030 in (0.8 mm) solid wire
• 2 contact tips for .030” and .035” wire
• Dual groove quick-change drive roll for .024” or .030/.035” wire
• Set-up and operation CD
• Material thickness gauge (#229 895)
We laid both a vertical weld and a horizontal weld onto some 3/8″ cold rolled steel plate with the welder set on Auto-Set and 3/8″ thick material, and then sectioned the metal to inspect the welds.
The welder produced better results with a push / vertical weld, using an “Inverted V” syle weld pattern. As you can see the Miller 211 MIG welder cut into the metal nicely and bonded the two metals.
NOTE: The darkened areas have been added / Photoshoped to show you the weld areas. This was only visible with the the highest resolution photo measuring nearly 5,000 pixles wide.
As I’ve mentioned in other welder tests and reviews, I’m not a professional welder, although I have been paid to do custom welding in the past, so maybe by definition I am. Either way you look at it, I have over 20 years of welding experience so I would classify myself as a very competent welder, especially with MIG and ARC welding. I have never had a weld fail on me (knocking on wood), even those that have been used for roll cages, suspensions, steering systems, etc. that take an obscene amount of abuse. For our tests, we plugged our welder into a dedicated 230 Volt power source and used a 75/25 (CO2 / Argon) welding gas mix.
With my qualifications out of the way, we get on to the first test of the Millermatic 211 MIG welder. I started by doing what every good welder should do – build their own welding cart. While some people may prefer to purchase a welding cart, the mark of a true welding craftsman is building your own – a rite of passage if you will. This first project would test the Millermatic’s ability to weld thin steel ranging from 22 gauge (quite thin) up to .090” wall round tubing.
Thin metal welding
Welding the thin stuff took a bit of practice to get to know the new welder. While “skinning” our welding cart, I grafted 22 gauge sheet steel onto .090” wall round tubing. I also joined two pieces of 22 gauge steel at 90 degree corners too. I started by setting the welder’s Auto-Set to 22 gauge steel but I found it to be too hot and would blow through the thin steel too quickly. I then set the thickness on the welder to ½ way between 24 gauge and 22 gauge steel which improved the weld. Make no mistake, this is a hot welder and welding with thin materials will take some getting used to, but after a bit of practice can be done competently.
Medium thickness metal welding
Welding .090” wall round tubing was far easier with this welder, but again, the welder seems to run a bit hot to lay down a lengthy weld. I found myself turning the material thickness dial down to get the welder just right. After a few short test passes, I was off to the races laying in weld after weld, all while getting good fill material and great heat penetration.
Misc. metal welding
While building my welding cart, there were several different types of metal that needed to be welded – solid stock, 18 gauge steel plate, casters that needed to be welded to the frame and more. Using the supplied metal thickness gauge from Miller, I often had to back down the welder’s material thickness on the dial just a bit. Never a problem, just something to remember.
|Welding 22 Guage Steel to .090″ wall round tubing with the Millermatic 211 MIG Welder
Test 2 – Penetration and Heat
My next test focuses on welding thicker steel, up to 3/8th thick, to check both penetration of the weld and the heat across the material as well. I chocked up a few pieces of this mild steel in a T pattern and ran both vertical and horizontal welds. I started with a horizontal-pull weld to see how well it ate into the metal and then followed up with a vertical, inverted-V, push weld too. These two comparative welds would show the weakest / coldest weld versus the hottest / strongest weld. I do know that MIG welds should use a push style of welding, but again, we wanted to test penetration in the worst scenario vs. the best scenario.
Horizontal Pull Weld
In this test I used a “Cursive S” style of welding, but in a pull fashion. This weld produced the least amount of metal penetration (obviously), but was certainly strong and deep enough for most structural needs. As you can see from the picture to the right the horizontal pull method penetrated just about 1/8th of an inch. A horizontal, push, “Cursive S” style weld pattern will nearly double the penetration, taking it to about ¼ inch depth.
Vertical Push Weld
Our next weld tested the Millermatic’s ability to penetrate the mild steel as deeply as possible by using a vertical, upward-motion push weld. I used an inverted-V style of welding which pushes the molten puddle from lower left, to upper middle, then down to bottom right (repeated over and over again). This method of welding isn’t the most attractive looking weld, but allows for the deepest penetration into the working material. As you can see from the photo to the right, the vertical push method penetrated nearly ½ way through the mild steel, creating an incredibly strong weld joint.
|Welding 1/4″ to 3/8″ steel stock with the Millermatic 211 MIG Welder
So, How Well Does It Weld?
Overall, the Millermatic 211 Auto-Set MIG welder lays down very hot, deeply penetrating weld beads. This is immediately obvious by the look of the weld bead where, when cool, it looks more fluid and less like a stack of dimes (which is evident on a colder / less powerful MIG welder). Miller’s Smooth-Start technology allows you to start the arc with less popping and spattering. The welder runs hot and smooth and has great penetration even with thick steel.
As with most welders, we found that plugging into a dedicated circuit (20 amp for 120 V, or single 230V) improves the overall weld quality. I did test the welder in 120V mode while plugged into a 15 amp circuit and the welder performed well, but not as good when plugged into a 120V, 20 amp circuit. I found that the inverted “V”, push welding style produces the most fill-out, the most heat penetration, and the deepest cuts into the metal but as suspected the crown of the weld gets a bit tall. With horizontal welding, a series of pushed, cursive “e’s” seem to work slightly better than the traditional side to side motion, and it produces some very nice weld beads too.
Because the welder creates a very hot weld puddle, you need to move a bit more quickly than as compared to less powerful MIG welders, but we got the hang of it in a matter of seconds.
So What Don’t We Like?
There’s not a whole lot to dislike about the new Millermatic 211, but there are a few tweaks we’d like to see.
- First, the grounding clamp cable should be about 5 feet longer and made of thicker material. It tends to get warm to the touch after welding for a few minutes
- Second, I’d like to see a serrated grounding clamp (much like Miller’s plasma cutters) with a stronger spring in it. We found that we have to prep the metal more thoroughly with this style of clamp.
- Third, when consulting the welding chart inside the door, we have to consistently back down the material thickness gauge by about ½ way between the actual material thickness and the next size down (e.g. when welding 22 gauge steel, we needed to set the dial ½ way between 22 gauge and 24 gauge).
Video Review of the Millermatic 211 MIG Welder with Auto-Set