From a Sip TopMig 150 to... Budget £700

  1. Turtle Member

    I've been on the forum a here a while, benefiting a lot from the tutorials, the advice and the general nice attitude.

    Started a car restoration project some years back using a Sip TopMig 150 on loan from a friend.

    I did some tweaking on the welder - new steel liner, swan neck etc - and generally it worked well. I struggled somewhat on bodywork thickness metal for consistency, but with thicker materials it was fine. This was using CO2 for shield gas.

    Here is a pic from a while back of the shell on the tilter I built:

    After a break away from the project I'm returning to it. I can still borrow the Sip TopMig 150, however I've saved while having the break so I think something better is in order.

    So I have a ballpark budget of £700 for the welder. There is some flex in that figure, but I'm also a Yorkshireman so if the whole budget isn't needed all the better.

    My requirements are:
    Friendly performance on thin bodywork.
    Max capability of 4mm or so - not likely to use anything more.
    Single phase, 13amp socket, though could have a 16a socket fitted.
    Gas bottle storage (or trolley in the budget)
    Max footprint close to the Sip (I'm limited on space).
    (Approx 850mm long, 440mm wide, 550mm high).

    At the moment I've been considering a few that Weldequipe has for sale:
    Parweld XTM171C
    Portamig 185
    SWP Mig 211

    The Portamig 185 looks like the prime candidate at present. Nice low end performance, decent wire feed, build quality etc. Just a fit size wise.

    Not sure how much the SWP would offer over the Portamig. The Parweld should be a step above the Sip, but perhaps a much smaller step.

    However, I'm now wondering if it is worth stretching the budget past the Portamig.

    I should mention as well I plan to change to "Argoshield light" type shielding gas - I won't be continuing with CO2.


  2. Wozzaaah

    Wozzaaah The wizard of woz Staff Member

    Wiltshire, UK
    Hi Brian, welcome to the last! :waving:
    Your post is a little unusual as it's not of the 'I want a brand new welder, mask etc for under £100 delivered' :laughing:
    The Portamig will most likely be the most recommended one simply as so many of us own them and are very pleased with them and also the support is exceptional should you ever need it.
    However, there is a have to wait for them to be built. It normally takes 2-3 weeks but in some cases can take a little longer.
    Regarding stretching your budget further, I really see no need for you to so save your pennies. ;)
    You'll be fine running it on a 13A supply up to about 150A but you will most likely blow the fuse if you push it towards it's limit.

    Nice tilter too, need to get my backside in gear and knock one up for my mini which I've now had for more than a year but barely touched. :ashamed:

    What's your shell by the way?
  3. BChild

    BChild SIP - enough with the mods!!!!

    Steve (Weldequip) constantly nagged me that my SIP would perform much better on argoshield light - he wasn't wrong either - especially on the lowest settings however for turn on set up and ease of use I've been so chuffed with my Portamig 185 and I've tackled stuff I wouldn't have previously considered.

    As Wozza said it (the portamig) has a lot of fans on here and justifiably so in my recent experience and whilst I haven't tried the others on your list if Steve sells them then they are probably fine if you want a quick delivery - I was prepared to wait the extra time for the Portamig because I figured the knowledge base on them in this forum would come in usefull if I struggled
  4. WindWalker Member

    I would say save the pennies too; a portamig would be my choice also. A 185 would be enough but with the budget available I may be tempted to go for the 215.

    The lower power at minimum is the key for car panel work. I don’t think any of the others go as low as the portamig (20 amps I think) so that is why my money would go there.

    Out of interest, I did discover my sip 150dp has a minimum of 35 amps. I had always assumed it to be 30 amps :whistle: This makes thin panel work a nightmare, doable but not nice. Maybe the topmig is the same?

    As said, speak to Steve at Weldequip for some good honest advice then post pics to make us non (yet) owners envious :D
  5. Turtle Member

    Thanks everyone for the comments. Always helpful to have other people with experience to check the thinking process.

    The shell is a 1990 Honda Civic VT. To be more precise it's Robbie Head's only Group A Honda Civic. I beleive it's the last surviving original shell. Honda ran a little rally program in the early 90's - winning group N2. The group A project didn't get too many runs out - had a lot of retirements with rod ends breaking in the front suspension. I've got my work cut out for me to save it - at some point expanding foam was squirted into a lot of the cavities to stiffen the shell. That made it look solid, but it was actually rusting from the inside. So I've awkward things the the front door pillars to replace and the water drain in the scuttle. Thankfully it has a very good weld in roll cage that has kept everything where it should be.

    The tilter was a fun project - took about 3 months from first drawings to fully functional. The pivot is offset so the shell can spin in the single garage and also miss the door when that opens. I added the counter balances (there is one each end) to make life easier with the offset pivot - works a treat as it is easy to adjust the counter weight.

    I wasn't sure whether the little bit extra for the 215 would be worthwhile. The 185 has the same 12 voltage steps over a narrower current range so slightly finer adjustment - but since both have 12 steps when most hobby welders have 6 at best it should still be fine. I think a chat with Weldequip might be best on that one.

    I'm not sure what the minimum on the TopMig is. I could beleive 35amps. One mistake I think I made when learing was trying on thinner material too much. I found with thicker material you've a much larger window to adjust the torch position, angle and speed to have a good arc. With practice initial torch positioning improved as did control. However it was a tightrope between burning holes and not getting penetration.

    The shielding gas change has been an easy decision to make. The regulator I was using wasn't the best which didn't help either - it was inconsistent in flow and that is going by sound. I didn't have a flow gauge. I plan to get one now - something else where I think beginners skimp thinking it's not worth the few quid. It was only when I was getting better that I noticed how big a difference in weld temperature and easy the flow rate made with CO2... much nicer with suitable gas flow. In fact the only downside gas wise is price - I'm near Selby and the options I've found are BOC 12 miles away in Goole or a couple of other options over 20 miles away in Doncaster/York. So I need to see what kind of rental deal I can get.

  6. Turtle Member

    Just a quick followup. I asked Weldequip (Steve) about the differences between the 185 and the 215 Portamigs. I'll quote his reply here:
    "Main difference between the 185 & 215 - apart from the obvious extra top end power & duty cycle - is that the 215 has slightly better quality internal components; namely an industrial style Contactor unit, instead of the 185's circuit board mounted Relay. This is the part that does all the work everytime you press the torch trigger. For the extra 50 quid the 215 would be my choice."

    That made the decision simple - a Portamig 215 is on order.