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Millermatic 190 Is the Ideal First Welder You Should Buy

Posted in How To: Tech Qa on January 3, 2018
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If you have been messing around with building and modifying 4x4s long enough, you have invariably reached a point when drilling and bolting, riveting, zip-tying, chemically bonding, or any other means of mechanical or booger-bonded fastening simply is not going to unite “A” with “B” in a sufficiently solid marriage. I have come up with some pretty ingenious ways of circumventing the need of a welder myself (some of which I wish I had documented due to their mechanical-engineer level of strength and complexity), but it usually takes four times as long, and in the end you’re left with something you knew you really should have welded up in the first place.

Now, admittedly I am no expert on the subject of welding, but I am surrounded by a few seasoned welders in the automotive trade that happen to burn metal together on a daily basis. Gus Johnson, owner of Lucky Gunner Garage, builds hot rods for a living, welds up frames from scratch, bends rollcages, and does everything in between. As one of my go-to sources for guidance on all things metalworking, Gus swears by the Miller Electric brand, so naturally, when I asked for his recommendation on a MIG welder that would do everything I needed, it was a blue-colored one. This sentiment was echoed by Editor Hazel, who—again, based on my needs—nudged me towards giving Miller’s versatile and highly user-friendly Millermatic 190 a try. So I did.

Outside of its near foolproof operation, the Millermatic 190 240-volt MIG welder is a handy, compact, lightweight (the case weighs only 35 pounds), and highly portable unit, which makes it pretty easy to weave it through a cramped or cluttered garage. I opted for the model that included the welding cart, and also took the opportunity to upgrade my low-buck welding helmet with a Miller Digital Elite helmet and add some protective gear via a Miller Indura jacket and MIG gloves. The gas-bottle regulator is included, and outside of a fresh bottle of gas, Miller gives you everything you need to get up and running.

A decade ago, when I had finally decided I needed a MIG welder, I picked up a haggard, hand-me-down 110-volt flux-core-wire unit that, while operational, struggled to lay down clean, single-pass welds on 3/16-inch mild steel, the stuff I found myself welding more often than not. Fast-forward to today. I knew I needed a welder that was: (A) easy to use for the nonprofessional working out of his home garage; (B) could grow with me from the beginner “booger-weld stage” all the way to seasoned fabricator; and (C) came in at under a grand in a ready-to-go form. The 240-volt Millermatic 190 seemed to check all boxes—all of which I’d wager are of importance to anyone in a similar situation with similar needs.

The 190 is Miller’s smallest 240-volt MIG in the Millermatic line and will weld from 24-gauge up to 5/16-inch mild steel on a single pass, with a 40 percent duty cycle at 140 amps. With Miller’s newer inverter technology, the company has crammed everything needed into a case that weighs only 35 pounds, making this unit highly portable. Smooth-Start technology makes for a clean, spatter-free start every time. Miller claims it is the “smoothest starting machine in its class,” and although we didn’t have a competing MIG on hand to verify this, we can attest that starting is pretty damn smooth. The angled drive assembly allows longer, 15-foot MIG gun cables (the unit ships with a 10-foot) to be used without wire-drive binding. The detent-adjustable quick-select drive roll system lets you quickly and easily align the proper guide groove for the diameter/type of wire you happen to be using. What’s more, if you need to weld aluminum, the auto-detect system on the Millermatic 190 allows you to install an optional Miller spool gun without the need to wire in an addition switch.

One of the most appreciated features of the Millermatic 190—one that carries benefits to both newbies and pros alike—is the Auto-Set control system, which takes the guesswork out of dialing in the right voltage and wire-speed parameters. Simply set your material thickness on one dial, the wire diameter on the other, and start burning in a bead. Between the Auto-Set feature and the Smooth-Start technology, the risk of an ugly weld has been lowered considerably.

Controlling everything is Miller’s Auto-Set control, which is a huge asset to those just getting their welding feet wet. Dialing in the right voltage and wire-speed parameters to produce a clean weld bead with good penetration can be tricky if you’re not familiar with the telltale signs of a good or bad weld. With the Auto-Set feature on the Millermatic 190, simply set the wire diameter on one knob, and using the provided material-thickness gauge to verify the thickness of the material you’re welding, set the corresponding voltage with the other knob and you’re off and running. To the seasoned veteran who wants 100 percent control over the settings, you’re also able to revert to full-manual mode and dial in your own parameters.

Those making the jump from an inexpensive flux-core welder might be concerned that switching over to a solid-wire, gas-shielded welder is cost-prohibitive, but it’s not. If you don’t have your own bottle, here locally the yearly bottle rental fee for a honkin’ big cylinder is around $50, with another $50 or so to get it filled with the 75/25 mix of argon and carbon dioxide gas for welding mild steel. If you’re not home-electrical savvy, you will also incur the expense of having a 240-volt power source wired in (if you don’t already have one) to power the Millermatic 190, but it’s a one-time cost and now you’ll be left with the capability of running other, future 240-volt equipment, like a TIG welder, plasma cutter, and so on.

In the end, I am pretty stoked to finally have real welding capabilities and the self-sufficient metalworking possibilities that come along with it. The Millermatic 190 has proven a super-easy machine to get used to, and the meager cash I am now spending on welding consumables (gas, wire, nozzle tips) is way less than I was spending on drill bits and Grade 8 hardware to previously cobble stuff together. What does fabrication freedom smell like? Burning metal!

On the inside of the case lid is a plaque containing a host of quick and easy setup guides and a detailed chart for setting your voltage/wire speed parameters manually. Auto-Set does not work with aluminum, so these parameters will get you close if not spot-on to the correct settings.
Miller includes one spool of 0.030-inch solid wire to get you rolling. Setting up the Millermatic 190 to run could not be easier. The angled drive system and calibrated tensioner provide smooth wire feeding, and the three-groove Quick-Select drive roll can be quickly indexed to the size/type of wire you’re using. Switching over to flux-cored wire (handy for welding outdoors, where wind can quickly dissipate your shielding gas) requires simply changing out the spool of wire, setting the drive roll to the flux-cored wire position, and unbolting and swapping the position of the two power wires to reverse the polarity. Easy, easy, easy.
Laying down clean, spatter-free welds on 3/16-inch steel used to be problematic with our old 110-volt flux-core-wire MIG welder—a problem we are happy to leave in the rearview with our new Millermatic 190. So long as we did our part behind the MIG gun, the Auto-Set controls seemed to be spot-on correct for producing clean welds with good penetration.
Gus Johnson of Lucky Gunner Garage particularly liked the Millermatic 190 for tubing work, thanks in part to the compact size of the MIG gun and the corresponding ability to work in tight spots. If you’re new to welding, Miller has a full library of excellent tutorial information on its website that will help get you on your way to laying down killer welds.


Miller Electric
Appleton, WI 54912

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