About two years ago my aged, entry-level Craftsman MIG welder, finally up and died on me. Of course, as Murphy would have it, it happened right in the middle of a project I was working on and it was late afternoon on a Sunday – no welding supply shops would be open. Thus, my options were limited.
Begrudgingly, I jumped in the truck and headed to the local Home Depot to find a replacement. My budget was tight, but I needed a welder that would crank out more than 120 amps DC, which lead me to take a hard look at the Lincoln Weld-Pak 3200 HD MIG welder. The 3200 HD is somewhere between an entry-level MIG and a professional MIG, but at the top end of MIG welders in the 120 volt category.
It was the last one on the shelf and shone in its bright, red glory, calling to me like a lonely puppy. “I must have it”, I told myself, worrying that another would-be hobbyist welder might walk by and distract me by yelling “Look! It’s Elvis”, and then snatch my only hopes to finish my weekend project.
With my prize in my shopping cart, along with large spools of .023” and .030” solid steel welding wire, I paraded proudly towards the checkout stand where I shelled over about $650 of my hard-earned money. “This thing had better last” I quietly muttered to myself.
So here we are, two years later… I’ve worked on over one hundred projects ranging from thin metal body work, to welding 3/8” thick cold rolled steel, and have effectively run 5 large 12” spools of wire through it. A little about the Lincoln Electric Weld-Pak 3200 HD MIG welder first, before we get into the review…
About the Lincoln Weld-Pak 3200 HD
Lincoln Electric’s Weld-Pak™ 3200 HD handles a huge spectrum of flux-cored or MIG welding jobs — from auto-body repairs to custom fabrication. The Weld-Pak 3200 HD is an incredibly versatile MIG welder, without a huge price tag. The Weld-Pak 3200 HD comes ready to weld mild steel with self-shielded flux-cored wire right out of the box, or you can switch it over to mild steel, aluminum, stainless steel and more. Rounding out the package is a welding handshield, instructional video, undercarriage with small tank holder, two spools of wire and some extra consumables. A convenient mild steel procedure chart inside the wire access door guides you to all the appropriate welder settings for the job at hand. If you are welding anything other than flux-core wire, you will need to source a gas tank for it.
|Lincoln Electric’s Weld-Pak™ 3200 HD Overview
• 25-135 amps CV DC output
• Welds up to 5/16 in. steel using flux-cored wire.
• Comes complete with everything needed to weld mild steel with self-shielded flux-cored wire.
• Just add a cylinder of shielding gas to MIG weld mild steel with gas-shielded solid wire. The Weld-Pak 3200 HD package includes solid mild steel MIG wire, gas-shielded nozzle, adjustable gas regulator, gas hose and built-in gas solenoid valve.
• Plugs into 120V, 20 amp outlet.
• Gun trigger safety feature keeps welding wire electrically “cold” until trigger is pressed.
• Compact, portable, lightweight and easy to use.
• For welding .023-.035″ mild steel and stainless steel solid MIG (gas-shielded) wire (stainless steel wire sold separately). Also for .035″ mild steel flux-cored (gasless) wire. Install K664-2 Aluminum Welding Kit to expand the Weld-Pak 3200 HD’s welding capabilities to include .035″ aluminum solid MIG wire.
• Welding procedure chart for mild steel is conveniently located inside the wire feed section door.
• Fan-cooled for long life expectancy.
• Three year warranty on parts and labor. (90 days warranty on gun and cable).
Weight:47 lbs. (21.4 kgs. )
Dimensions (in) H x W x D : 12 x 9.75 x 16.5
Dimensions (mm) H x W x D : 305 x 248 x 419
• Magnum® 100L welding gun and 10 ft. cable assembly with .025″ contact tip installed
• 10 ft. work cable and work clamp
• Factory installed gas solenoid valve for MIG welding
• Adjustable gas regulator and hose kit for Argon and Argon-mixed gases (gas regulator requires an adapter – sold separately – for use with CO2 cylinders)
• 2 lb. spool .025″ SuperArc™ L-56 mild steel MIG wire
• 1 lb. spool .035″ Innershield® NR-211-MP flux-cored wire
• Spare .025″ contact tips – quantity of 3
• .035″ contact tips – quantity 3
• Welding handshield with #10 filter plate and clear glass cover plate
• Instructional video
• Adjustable wire spool spindle accepts 4 in. or 8 in. diameter spools
• Undercarriage that accommodates Weld-Pak 3200 HD and single gas cylinder (gas cylinder and shielding gas sold separately)
We laid both a vertical weld and a horizontal weld onto some 3/8″ cold rolled steel plate (well beyond the welder’s specified capabilities) with the welder set on “D” voltage / 5.0 wirefeed speed, and then sectioned the metal to inspect the welds.
The welder produced far better results with a push / vertical weld, using an “Inverted V” syle weld pattern. As you can see, even with 3/8″ thick CRS, the Lincoln Weld-Pak 3200 HD 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.
You should know that I’m not a professional welder, nor do I carry any certificates (although, while in the military I did get certified to use a MIG welder, but it only required that I showed “proficient capabilities to safely and adequately use a MIG welder for non-critical welds”). However, I have been welding for just over 20 years now and have learned a few tricks here and there and I am quite competent. And, knock on wood, I have never had a weld fail on me, even those that have been used for suspension and steering systems, which get abused REALLY hard.
For those critics out there who will say “Your welds look like hammered dog crap”, or “My 92 year old, blind, one-armed, peg-legged, 4-fingered, Grandmother with Parkinsons disease can weld better than you!,” I say “bring it!”. Bring on the criticisms. If they’re constructive, I (and our readers) may learn something too.
Anyhow, for the last two years this particular Lincoln Weld-Pak 3200 HD has been put in service about 2-3 times per week (5-10 times more than that of your average hobbyist). This little welder has been used to build more than a few roll cages, it has been asked to work on dozens of thin sheet metal projects such as body panels, it has been tasked to build gates and fences, make bumpers, build skid plates, fabricate brackets, attach 4-link suspension systems, weld up hydraulic steering system that turn 40” tires, and more. This Lincoln Weld-Pak 3200 HD has welded everything from 24 gauge sheet metal to 3/8” thick cold-rolled steel (CRS), so I think I’ve put this welder through its paces.
While the welder states that it can effectively weld 5/16” steel using flux core wire, I have achieved decent weld penetration on 3/8” thick steel (see cut-away photo on right) using .030 solid steer wire too – not a deep enough weld for critical items, but certainly a solid weld for light to moderate stress-bearing loads.
For the most part, and with only a few exceptions, I only run Lincoln’s premium copper coated MIG wire (SuperArc® L-56) through it and have found that it performs better than various other brands, producing cleaner welds – it’s also conveniently available at Home Depot. I have run about 25-30% of a 12” spool of .035” flux core wire through it, but I’m far too lazy to sit around and chip slag away from a weld. I do get what appears to be deeper penetration and a hotter weld with the flux-core wire, but again… who wants to chip away slag? Isn’t that why technology has progressed from stick welders to MIG in the first place? Yeah, I know there’s a place for welds that yield slag layers, but not in my shop.
The Lincoln Weld-Pak 3200 HD is designed to be a hand-carry, portable welder. It comes with an undercarriage unit that screws to the base of the welder and is designed to hold a knee-high gas bottle. Umm… yeah, the welder itself weighs nearly 50 pounds and adding a 20 pound bottle makes this thing a real beast, so the metal undercarriage was quickly chopped into pieces and used patch a door panel. Accordingly, I quickly purchased a waist-high, rolling welding cart and shelled out the dineros for a waist-high gas bottle too. I know, it’s a sin to buy a welding cart for a new welder, and that any respectable welder will weld and fabricate their own welding cart.
This brings us to gas; I rely solely upon 75/25 gas (75% argon, 25% CO2) for all of my MIG welding. I find it to be very universal and shields the welds nicely.
So, How Well Does It Weld?
In general, the Lincoln Electric’s Weld-Pak™ 3200 HD lays down some really sweet weld beads on a variety of metals. It likes to eat a lot of wire, and I have found that the welding chart on the inside door is too conservative. I typically add .5 to the wire feed dial as compared to the charts recommendations, which changes the sound of the weld from a spattering, coughing sound to a nice, steady buzzing sound that produces the cleanest, hottest welds. For example; the weld chart on the inside door states that if I’m welding .075” steel with .030” solid steel welding wire, I should set my voltage to maximum (setting D) and set my feed speed to 4.5. At 4.5 there’s just too much spatter and chatter going on, but 5.0 seems to work perfectly.
Here is a vertical weld we made on 3/8″ thick cold rolled steel plate, using the “Inverted V” / push style method of welding. Solid heat transfer and far better penetration than expected for a 120V welder.
Here is a horizontal weld we made on 3/8″ thick cold rolled steel plate, using the “Cursive e’s” / push style method of welding.
Here is the heat penetration attained from the welds shown to the left. As you can see, even though the welder is only rated for 5/16″ steel using flux-core wire, we achieved good heat penetration too.
I have also found that plugging into a 20 amp circuit, is FAR better than plugging into a 15 amp circuit. Even when I plug the welder into a 20 foot heavy duty extension cord on a 20 amp circuit, it produces better welds, than when I plug into a standard 15 amp circuit directly into the wall – especially when the power setting is on “D” (max).
Duty Cycle… simply put, I’ve never hit duty cycle on this welder, nor has the circuit breaker popped on it. I’ve worked on projects that required hours upon hours of welding and have laid a dozen or so consecutive 8-10” beads on ¼” thick steel and never popped a fuse or hit the duty cycle limits. This little welder just keeps laying beads without complaint.
Welding horizontally, vertically or even upside down is achievable on a variety of thicknesses, but ¼” is really what this welder is setup to weld perfectly on. As with all MIG welders, the push-style welding produces the best welds for this welder as it creates a hotter weld than the pull-style (it is a 110 volt welder after all). When welding vertically, I’ve found that an inverted “V” 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 cursive “e’s” seems to work slightly better than the traditional side to side motion, and it produces some very nice weld beads too.
So What Don’t We Like?
Four pre-set voltage output setting – We would much rather have a rheostat with an infinite adjustment. In some cases I find that the metal I am welding is either too thick or too thin for a particular setting which requires that I pull the gun back from the arc to reduce the heat. It’s the only option for this welder, and not something a novice can achieve quickly.
The 10 foot long grounding wire and gun cables are just a bit too short. However, I don’t think I’ve ever used a welder with long enough cables either. In this case, 5 extra feet of cable on the grounding clamp and the gun would be perfect.
Welding the thin stuff isn’t easy with this welder and requires some advanced tricks, such as adjusting the arc temperature by pulling back the gun – as previously mentioned. Again, a rheostat-style adjustable voltage control may help here, but I can’t be certain. Need to weld 24 gauge steel? You’ll be relegated to hundreds of beautiful tack welds instead, or learning to control the heat of the arc by pulling back on the torch to lay a bead. Even the latter doesn’t work too well for this experienced welder.
Given these issues, I think they are acceptable trade-offs for a low-priced, mid-level welder and are typically non-events for higher-end welders.
Videos Showing the Lincoln Weld-Pak 3200 HD