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Welding isn’t the cheapest hobby to pick up and start fooling around with, and some of the high-end gear can cost you more than a shiny new 60” HD TV. But there are ways to get your weld on without crossing into budget-killing territory — the Chicago Electric 90A flux-core welder comes to mind.

Though this is by no one’s definition a welder’s dream, for the $120 entry price you can plug it into your standard 110 outlet and have yourself a metal-melting ball. The flux spatters more than a mig welder, but you could buy three of these for the price of one low-end mig welder, and that doesn’t count the gas you’d need for it either. The 10-percent duty cycle means you’re only hot for one minute out of ten — but what do you want for under $150?

With this slick unit you can get started welding and build up your skills, without having to run 220 or put a gas cylinder in your home — and it lets you spend some of your hard-earned dough on projects, not gear.

Street pricing starts around $120.

Chicago Electric 90A Flux-Core Welder [Harbor Freight]

 

57 Responses to Cheap-Ass Tools: Chicago Electric 90A Flux-Core Welder

  1. Chris Thompson says:

    To those who have welded, how bad is the spatter on a flux core welder? I’ll eventually need to be doing some sheet metal welding in an old car I’m repairing. I worry that the spatter is counterproductive for that.

    • Dan Waugh says:

      You’re going to have to sand and buff, anyway. Buy anti-spatter spray, as a deterrent. Kinda like Crisco. Spatter is from high wire speed. If you get one with separate heat control, turn the heat up just a bit to minimize it. Flux core usually has spatter because it’s 2 processes in one.

    • bob says:

      It’s not bad, all depends on how clean your surface is.

      • Cliff says:

        The spatter isn’t that bad. But, if you’re going to use it a lot, it’s going to be very annoying. I started welding with this unit on a small farm. It’s gotten me around. But, when I went to work in a welding shop and got to use “good equipment”, it was amazing. If you’ve got access to about 3x more money, I’d buy a quality gas MIG setup, like Hobart. BTW, if you go ahead and buy this unit, spend a little more and buy some Hobart wire. It took me a year to use up the wire that came with it, and when I put the Hobart wire on, I thought I had a different welder… lol.

  2. John says:

    Of course, HF also sells a cheap-o MIG welder, which I have. I mostly use it without gas though, so it is basically like the one here. I has worked surprisingly well for me, although I only use it occasionally. It spatters a bit, but nothing terrible, and it is pretty easy to clean/scrape away once cool.

  3. John M. says:

    I bought one of these when I needed a window well cover. It was cheaper to buy the welder, the metal, a welding mask, and some other tools than it was to buy a custom cover from one of the local companies and now I have a welder to boot. It does spatter a bunch, but I didn’t have a problem with the duty cycle.

  4. PeterP says:

    I actually just picked up a gas bottle for my welder today. I was using flux core, ran out of wire, and decided to just take the plunge.

    This is a conservative estimate, but welding with gas is about a billion times nicer than flux core. No spatter, and more importantly the weld isn’t surrounded in a giant cloud of smoke, so you can actually see what you are doing. Comparing the gas/flux welds on my project, it’s not even a competition.

    You can make good welds with flux core, don;t get me wrong. But it’s a whole lot nicer with the gas.

  5. tmib_seattle says:

    I got one of these as a gift years ago. I would not recommend it for a learning tool- you’d be MUCH better served by buying an Oxy/Acetylene rig and learning to gas weld first.

    This unit has trouble penetrating thick material, and spatters like hell. Even a really experienced welder is going to make ugly welds with this.

    But you know what? Your welds don’t always need to be pretty, and on many projects, spatter doesn’t matter a bit. This little welder is very handy and cheap, and sometimes that’s exactly what you need for a project. If you are building a project that just needs to hold together, you can make strong welds with this thing if you are careful. It’s also quick and easy since it runs off of 110v. I built the legs for a frame jig using one of these. Since it was just made from rusty angle iron, appearance wasn’t important; I used a flap-disc to clean the rust off where the welds would go and zapped it together with this. Held up just fine.

    Also, there have been times when I needed to weld something, and just couldn’t hold it in the right postion easily, so I’d throw a quick tack on it with this thing, then weld it solid with a different welder.

    Like most cheap tools, it has it’s limits, but there are uses where it can come in handy.

  6. Asbestos says:

    I have the Lincoln version of this. I should have popped the extra cash and got the MIG version. Flux core is cool, but MIG is cooler as with all HF junk, if you plan to use it regularly by something else (Lincoln,Miller,Hobart,ESAB, etc.)

  7. rick says:

    I ave this exact one. Its great for what i want… let me rephrase that, its darn cheap and welds. I would prefer a gas one, but lets face it, that wasnt int eh budget.

    If you are going to do a lot of welding, get a gas one, if it is for little jobs, here and there stuff… pick up this one. Works nice for me. I had to weld a plate back into t ametal exterior door. 4 tack welds and it saved me from buying a new door. the entire setup paid for its self there. now its all gravey! (today welded an ikea chair back together, great!) Oh and its 120v! 15A

    Rick

  8. toolgEEk says:

    I bought this same welder from Harbor Freight last year during their Thanksgiving Day sale. It was $88 and I had a 15% off coupon on top of that! Hard to beat that price to get back into welding. I hadn’t wire welded since high school (10+ yrs ago). I also didn’t want to spend a lot of money on a welder since I knew I wouldn’t be using it that much.

    This welder works great for me; just doing little stuff around the garage. I get less splatter, and better welds running Miller or Lincoln brand wire in the welder, as opposed to the cheap Harbor Freight wire that comes with the machine. I would recommend tossing the wire that comes with the machine and get some better quality stuff from the day you set the machine up.

  9. melvin says:

    I’ve got a Dexa 135 gasless so a little bigger but basically the same as this unit. The splatter is manageable and doesn’t really stick to anything, usually a quick pass with a wire brush cleans it up. I bought the gasless for welding outside where sometimes I’ve had a problem with shield gas being blown away. Also not having to find a 240V outlet for a quick ten minute job (and not having to transport a gas bottle) is nice.

    Like toolgEEk I’ve found there is a huge difference in wire quality. The first few rolls I bought with the welder were really tough to get a decent weld with. The next rolls I bought were from Lincoln and the ease of use and weld quality was like night and day in comparison. I changed over mid job and the difference was obvious. Looking at the job a couple days later you could tell which was welded with the no-name wire and which with the Lincoln wire.

    My only real gripe is it only takes the small spools of wire which are 50-100% more expensive and require more changes than the large spools.

  10. [...] Cheap-Ass Tools: Chicago Electric 90A Flux-Core Welder Welding isn’t the cheapest hobby to pick up and start fooling around with, and some of the high-end gear can cost you more than a shiny new 60” HD TV. But there are ways to get your weld on without crossing into budget-killing territory — the Chicago Electric 90A flux-core welder comes to mind. [...]

  11. tmib_seattle says:

    Melvin:

    Buy the big rolls of wire and spool them onto the small spindles. I picked up a huge spool at my local supply shop for dirt cheap since it had been opened. I just spool it out onto my small spindles every time they run out.

  12. ray says:

    you can buy a antiespatter spray to spray be fore you weld , we have gas on our welder at work , i do auto paint and body we still use the spray to and the nozzle dip to help keep the end clean , have fun

  13. RUMBLEINN says:

    I just got the HF Easy Mig 100 Flux Welder and started practicing on 1/4″ steel. I didn’t have any problems getting decent looking welds but I will admit that there was more spatter than I would have expected. I’m gonna use all of the comments that I read here and incorprate them into my practices to get better welds. Oh, and I only paid $88.00 brand new.

  14. Un hombre says:

    Used mine just a few times and the wire feed failed!

    • Rustyn says:

      I have never really welded with cheap equipment.I had a Lincoln Weld Pack 100 for over 8 years and used it often with no problems. We bought one of these machines and maybe used it two hours and the feed failed. I took it apart and found the circuit board fried.I would not trust the welds produced by this machine done by anyone less skilled than myself and I have been at it for over 30 years. Junk is Correct.

    • john says:

      where can you get a replacment wire feed unit

      • STEVE says:

        DID YOU EVER FIND OUT WHERE TO GET A REPLACEMENT WIRE FEED? I NEED ONE AS WELL AS SEVERAL OF THE TEETH ON ONE OF THE GEARS BROKE OFF.

        • Dan says:

          Just called HF on a replacement wire feed –
          was told it was obsoleted. Checked the Chicago electric website, could not find it in 105 pages of parts.

  15. dugndeep says:

    I bought one on ebay and paid 23 dollars for a brand new chicago electric 90 amp flux-cored welder,works great but the wire that came with it is not so great,I would recommend a better quality of wire,also there is a big difference in mig and flux-cored,mig is so much cleaner,no splatter and a lot less smoke so as to see to weld but you can’t beat the cost and simplicity of flux-core

  16. piedel says:

    but where can i buy the contact tips for the Chicago Electric 90 Amp Flux Wire Welder thank you

  17. Mark says:

    I love this welder. Price vs competition is no comparison. Yes it splatters but if used for the right purpose that will not be an issue. I installed a complete set of floorpans in an old Mustang. After the job was done, the floor was covered with Dynamat and carpet so who cares if there was splatter? Plus a quick pass over with a $12 HF grinder does the trick. HF tools have allowed me to actually work instead of just watch guys on TV

  18. Snookie says:

    Can you weld light aluminum with this HF welder? I have a light job on my ATV trailer that would be nice. HF has them on sale now for $109.00 until 1/4/10.

  19. Steve says:

    Didn’t even install the flux-cored wire that comes with the machine went straight to aluminum. It takes a lot of practice but it works, and for my application I’m not putting a lot of pressure on the weld so it works for me. Note thought that it has a ton of splatter on aluminum (haven’t tried steel yet so don’t know about that). Pushing instead of pulling helps against that, but hey on a pinch it works great.

    I’m now trying to decide whether to get the dual mig version or get a gas conversion kit from lincoln electric, and converting the 90amp for gas use on 110 outlet. I don’t have the facilities for 220. Hope this helps.

  20. I am so fascinated at how wonderful the information is on this website. I have saved this web site and I really intend on coming back to the site in the upcoming days. Keep up the fantastic work!

  21. Crazy Horse says:

    Crazy Horse Custom Motorized bicycle builder just got new valentine’s day gift from the wife! She purchased the Chicago electric 90amp flex-wire 115v welder. It was on sale for $109 at Harbor Freight Tools and the helmet was half-price, too. This welder is to be used for welding custom-made motorized bicycles. Will consider later upgrading this entry-level welder to gas if the need arises. I appreciate this article and all the information contained therein. Thanks guys! Check out some of my custom-made bicycles at photobucket – search for Crazyhorse krzndn. I’ll keep you all posted on how the welder works out for me.
    Peace,
    Crazy Horse

  22. Gale Hawkins says:

    250% Duty Cycle Increase for the 90 Amp Flux Wire Welder

    Well I had to get my hands on the new welder so I brought it in and pulled the cover off of it and showed the parts to the kids.

    What I noticed on the cover was it showed a 250% increase in Duty Cycle time over what is stated in this article.

    The manual shows these upgraded specs but if one blows up the screen shot on page 16 you see the label is for a 44567 model with the 10/18% duty cycles where as 98871 we have shows 25/45% duty cycles on the front of the welder case.

    With all the other factors being the same I am guessing the fan in our model is what bumped up the duty cycle by 250%. This welder I know has been out for at least 6 years from web photos and expect it has been out 10+ years. Some old post talks about adding a fan to double duty cycles so I think the cooling fan is the only change.

    For our use this should mean duty cycle has become a non issue. Now we just got to get the Lincoln wire loaded and burn some of it to see if it works.

  23. Mrod says:

    Gale,
    I have the Easy Mig 100 Flux Welder. I usually put a small fan blowing air into the vents of the welder to keep it cool. It also enables me to weld for a longer period of time. I also agree with Tmib about purchasing a bigger spool and respool your smaller spools when empty, it is cheaper.

  24. MostRusty says:

    Help! Just bought one of these used off Craigslist for $100. Turned it on and there is arc-ing between the machine and spool inside the case. The Wire gets red hot before it reaches the feed wheels. There is no rubber insulator between the metal case and the spool, should there be? I didn’t see one in the schematics available from HF. Anyone got something for me?

  25. Wolf says:

    I bought one of these about five years ago to do a unique school project, and learn how to weld. It’s a great little welder, though I had some slight problems with the wire feed but if kept nice and tight it works well. Totally agree about the cheap wire, Lincoln Electric wire is worlds better. I’ve put a few dozen pounds of wire through my welder, and fabbed my entire exhaust system and transmission mount on my car with it, and trust the welds. Unfortunately I’m forced to sell it to pay bills from being unemployed, and I’ll miss it, it was a steal for the price. The splatter is almost non-existant once you’re able to learn how to form and continue a good bead. Sloppy beads contribute to the splatter more than anything but wire type.

  26. Adrian Rivera says:

    hello, I have some questions about this welder machines.
    Can I use a welder machine MIG like a welder machine TIG?
    If it is possible, What are the attachments needed to use the welder machine with both techniques welding?

    We need this welder machine to manufacturing of hibrid car prototipos chasis with pipe aluminium, it will be used like domestic equipment
    How much does it cost with shipping to Mexico city?

  27. john Wehage says:

    I have a Chicago 90 amp flux welder and the wire will no longer feed how do I get a replacement feed drive wheel

  28. Mark says:

    My welder is acting “cold.” Everybody talks highly of it but I can barely get it to arc at all even on thin tin. I plugged it into the highest rated outlet and cannot get it to work. What do I need to get the amps up enough to weld lightweight metal.

  29. Jerry says:

    I bought this welder to weld patch panels on my car. I have never welded before and was frustrated that all I can get it to do is blow holes in the sheet metal. I have it set on MIN and wire feed is at 0. I have tried other feed speeds too. I had an experienced welder try it and he had the same troubles, saying it needs more adjustability on the output besides MAX and MIN. He is used to using gas and suggested I look for one of those types, saying this unit is impossible. He thought the spatter was way too much. So I say, what the heck is wrong? Everyone here seems to think it is good for welding to some degree, but I am ready to return it to HF. Would getting better wire from Lincoln Electric really make that much of a difference? Am I the only one who has had the blow through trouble?

    • Jeff says:

      Probably best to return it and get a 110v MIG gas rig for body work. This is a flux core machine and not well suited to body patch panels.
      If you must try again, don’t run the wire speed at 0. At 0 you’ve got nothing to fill the hole you are making. You may be able to lower the amps by plugging the welder into a 100′-150′ or so of extension cord.
      No matter your welder choice just be sure and tack tack tack and tack some more. A long bead will warp your panel.

  30. juan ayon says:

    I have a Chicago 90 amp flux welder and the wire will no longer, I open the feeder and found a broken gear, somebody knows how do I get a replacement feed drive wheel in Mexico City?

  31. keith says:

    You would be hard pressed to find a better welder for the money, just trash the wire that comes with it and pick up some Lincoln or miller

  32. Baratacus says:

    Jerry, this welder won’t work for auto body sheet metal. You can weld on the frame, or brackets, but the sheet metal is too thin for flux core. The smallest diameter flux core wire you can get is too large for thin sheet. You’ll just be burning holes. solid wire comes in smaller diameter, and can be used on thin sheet, but you need a shielding gas with solid wire.
    I’ve seen cheap sheet metal seam welders, but have never used one. I don’t know if that would be a good alternative or not. maybe someone can give some input on the seam welders for you.

  33. Jack says:

    I had a rusted through and cracked Rear cross Member on my 84 300D Mercedes.
    I have some experience ARC Welding and have an ARC Welder but that only burned holes.
    I bought the above mentioned Harbor freight Welder Flux Core Welder and used it to repair the rusted out and cracked rear Cross Member.
    However, I would rate my present ARC Welding Skills welding something flat on a table or the ground as poor but adequate. At overhead Welding I am extremely bad at.
    I did not have time to learn how to use the Flux Core Welder and was slightly worse welding Flat then I was with the ARC Welder and even worse doing the overhead Welding on the Car Rear Cross Member.
    That resulted in me doing a lot of grinding and re-welding. Eventually I was able to lay on enough Metal to fill up holes and Weld some 1/8” strengthening plats over some of the areas.
    So the job was a struggle for Me I am guessing that most of the problem was My lack of Skill.
    I have used the Welder for a few other small odd jobs and it is more convenient to carry out the Flux Core Welder than it is to drag out my ARC Welder (I have a 220 Volt Outlet).
    As far as splatter goes the Flux Core Welder produces less splatter than an ARC Welder does. It is just that with Flux Core welding the Splatter is more localized.
    With Flux Core welding for a short job I had no issues welding in a Short Sleeved Shirt. Doing that with an ARC Welder I would have likely burned by the Splatter and sort of Sunburned by the Arc of the Welder.
    The last job I did I was welding some 3/16” plate to a 1/8” plate. What I found is that the weld was not going to hold until the Metal got heated up; after it heated up the weld was ugly but held. The next time I try this sort of thing I am going to take My Propane Torch to the area and pre-heat it well.
    Back to the Welding Machine itself; cheap to buy, use and operate. I certainly could not have paid someone to Weld up my Cars Rear Cross Member for the cost of the Welder; and if someone did the Fix I would have no Welding Machine left overto Play with.
    I have used a lot of Harbor Freight stuff over 20 years. Some of it holds up and some does not. In the Long Run the what I have bought from Harbor Freight has paid for itself and saved me a lot of Money.

  34. jeff says:

    where can I get a replacement liner for the hf ce dual
    welder??

  35. Larry says:

    This little welder never fails to stir up lots of comments wherever I see it discussed online. Thing is, I guess I’m old school as they come. I “learned” to weld in Farm/Ag shop like 50 years ago. Wire feed back then was just not taught to high school students (I’m not sure if it even existed outside vehicle manufacturing and such). Anyway, I have this welder and also a little 100 amp buzz box stick welder I picked up at Amazon for 50 bucks. To me, the stick welder is a lot more usable for small home type projects. I messed around with the wirefeed unit a bit and found that I didn’t like the fact that I couldn’t controll the heat setting like I can with the stick welder. The stick welder is adjustable from like 30 to 100 amps. I can pretty much ‘dial in’ the perfect heat/penetration level I need with it. And for the really small delicate stuff? I got a killer deal on a used oxy/act rig. I have it tricked out with the Smith Little Torch. Gotta tell you about the ‘price’ of the gas welder: I quit smoking in 2006 and had “$600 value” worth of cigars left over. That’s what it cost! Traded even up! Some six year old cigars for a long wished-for welder! Who-Ha!

  36. bill says:

    I have a 44567 welder the little motor has a sleeve that slides around the motor and I found it smoking but working it looks like oil got in the motor or someone oil it I replaced the fuse and the motor turns but smokes do i turn the sleeve for any reason i hope this is not a stupid question hope someone knows Thxs Bill

  37. mick says:

    i found that once you get setup to weld,using your flux core welder,hit it with a little pam cooking spray,it will cut your spatter down by 80%,worked good for me,cheaper then the welding sprays-thanks

  38. Bobby Baker says:

    I have seen a few people asking but havent seen an answer yet. I have a 90 amp flux wire welder from chicago electric and have a messed up wire feed liner and need to know where i can get a replacement liner for it. Any help would be great my email is the1xtreme2004@yahoo.com. thanks.

  39. Bob says:

    I have the harbor freight 90amp flux core welder this works great if you use lincoln flux wire I use 0.30 in my welder and do sheet metal with very little spatter next to none at all, the wire you get from harbor freight is junk the new unit has a 20% duty cycle so you can weld 2min and 8 to 10 min to cool down not bad for a little cheap welder, the lincoln wire you can get at homedepot for around $12.00 have fun welding Bob.

  40. Bob says:

    This is Bob again you can get the liner from harbor freight but it comes with the gun and I think it is around $30.00 to $40.00 call harbor freight and get the phone number for parts.

  41. Matt says:

    I had this welder for about one month it is a ok welder if you don’t want to sped a lot of $$ it is not a good welder if you are going to do a lot of welding or if you need to do any light steel work the major downside is that the heat controls leave a lot to be desired and the ground clam is garbage if you do buy this welder for and only plan on welding a few times a month and you don’t need it for commercial use then it is an alright welder. I have recently purchased a Lincoln electric weld pak 100 and it was the best decision I made so over all the harbor fright welder is an ok welder better for the weekend warrior.

  42. Derrick says:

    How well would this welder work running off a Honda 2000 generator? I am considering this for some light ag welding (fence and equipment repairs, etc) and would like to be able to run it remotely from my pickup.

  43. Christopher Gallahan says:

    Hi, I got the 90amp flux wire welder and tge first time using it I was welding 18gu. And the chart said to use 1.5 speed abd put it on low. But it will spite ark. Or spot ark if thats how you say it. The only way I can use it is put run speed up to 3 or more and put it on max current. It is new. There is nothing getting old on ut. Can you tell me what im doing wrong or is something wrong with the welder

  44. jimmy says:

    looking to get a new handle for it cause mine got broke, any help would be great. I lost the paper work for this welder. Its a 98871 chicago electric from harbor frieght flux core welder. I think it very good. I have a lincoln mig with gas and its the best I think. but for quick jobs I like the flux core. any help would be great.

  45. rick says:

    i was useing this 90 amp flux welder and got dark so turned everything off next morning went to weld got everything ready started to weld push trigger nothing but a click no arc no wire feed what could have caused this to happen havent had any issue other then the normal splatter and short work time it was working fine before i turned it off dont understand what happened any ideas what to look at thanks

  46. [...] Cheap-Ass Tools: Chicago Electric 90A Flux-Core Welder … – Aug 29, 2008 · 56 Responses to Cheap-Ass Tools: Chicago Electric 90A Flux-Core Welder… [...]

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