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  1. #1
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    Default Thermal Arc 181i

    I was all set to buy myself an early X-Mas present, and the salesman at the local shop talked me out of it because of lack of history with this new model, and poor performance with the plasma cutters.

    Does anyone here have one? It will be home use duty, MIG and smaller SMAW 7018. No hard facing, but will build up a badly rusted bucket or two with lo-hy

  2. #2
    Platinum Member Reyer Farms's Avatar
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    Default

    I have never used their welders. I would be afraid of it if the guy selling them is talking you out of it. They should be excited about their products. Did he have an objective reason for another product?a great person to talk to is the welder mechanic at the shop, they know how everything holds up. If they do not have a mechanic to service the machines I would be looking at Lincoln 225 ac cracker boxes. They all break down, but this machine is just power and a fan. Good luck.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Thermal Arc 181i

    Quote Originally Posted by Rock knocker View Post
    I was all set to buy myself an early X-Mas present, and the salesman at the local shop talked me out of it because of lack of history with this new model, and poor performance with the plasma cutters.

    Does anyone here have one? It will be home use duty, MIG and smaller SMAW 7018. No hard facing, but will build up a badly rusted bucket or two with lo-hy
    I think the Thermal Arc 181i have been out for more than a year so I'm a bit surprised if the salesman says there isn't any history with it. One thing I have read is that the Thermal Arc doesn't have a gas solenoid for TIG (the gas control is at the torch which can be a pain). If you aren't using TIG, that won't affect you.

    I kinda like these small triple threat welders. I've been thinking about a MIG welder and just started looking at the Everlast 160/200S units. These particular units have adjustments for the MIG and Stick to make the arc stiff and driving or soft and buttery which really appeals to me.

    If I read anything about the 181i as I research, I'll update this thread. Happy hunting!

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Thermal Arc 181i

    I bought one 6 months ago give or take a bit. Paid CAN$949 for it and got a mail in for a tig torch, also has a 3 year guarantee, 1 year replacement remainder repair. (I'm a welder byt trade btw). We actually bought one for work as well to run off our portable machine (Miller Trailblaser) if we ever got in the situation where we needed a small wire feed or a tig machine.

    At home so far I've built a couple of small utility trailers and repaired my mower deck using the wirefeed with .030 hard wire and tri-mix gas and it works great. Would I buy it to build a ship, no it's not made for that type of heavy industrial use but for home use or temporary industrial use it's a good working machine. You can tell it's not meant for industrial use by the appearance/design of the drive system, it's just not ....meaty like a dedicated larger, more expensive machine.

    Used the stick a bit, it'll burn a 5/32 7018 no problem, saying that the leads are quite light so I wouldn't like to burn a lot of them one afetr the other

    I used the tig at work the other day for a few small s/s railings from 1.5 x .065 tubing and it would run a nice bead, all kinds of heat, if I rememeber right I was at 50A or somewhere in that area. The 2T and 4T switch on the torch is handy as you can set the downslope duration to get rid of the crater. The touch start worked without a problem. The consumables for the torch are standard thread/size as the ones from our 200A Miller water cooled torch fit so buying odd parts is not a problem. The torch has an odd flexible fitting on the end where the lead goes in, it's quite confortable to use, there's no stiff cable trying to bend your wrist the wrong way. I actuallyliked it better than the Miller one truth be known.
    Not sure how familiar you are with tig but this is a DC only machine so no aluminum tig is possable.
    Saying that, they do sell an aluminum spoolgun that doesn't work half bad, not heavy duty by any stretch and it's not going to take any abuse but if it's only you using it and looking after it it'll probably last awhile.
    I got hold of an old Miller pedal, the correct plugs/pins and made a plug to work with the 181i so I'd have pedal control if needed.

    Would I recommend it, yes without a doubt........Mike

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Thermal Arc 181i

    Nice review!

    I know Victor sometimes give away a helmet with their products but getting the tig torch for free is a good deal. I read that the torch as optional just before hitting the sack last night. Probably not a big concern(?) for the OP but I'd want the torch. Does the unit have a gas solenoid or is the control on the handle? I only read one thread (on miller site?) that mentioned the gas control so I'm not sure if is still true.

    I'm new to MIGs. Theoretically, I understand what is happening but no practical experience. What makes the drive system not-so-beefy? I'm no professional welder but always nice to know what to look for.

    I think the factory that makes this model also makes some units for other companies. The similarities are too great. Knowing you've used all three processes makes me feel a lot better at looking these "triple threat" machines.

    Cheers and thanks for the review!

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Thermal Arc 181i

    Does the unit have a gas solenoid or is the control on the handle?
    No, I neglected to mention that, it's a small valve on the torch. It easy to turn with one finger but it's also easy to forget to either turn on before striking the arc (makes a sloppy mess of the weld and tungsten) or turn it of (makes a sloppy mess of the pocketbook).

    \What makes the drive system not-so-beefy?
    Size of both the drive rolls and drive motor as well as the mount system. Saying that, at least it's metal (die cast i presume) not plastic like the small Lincolns. Hard to describe but you can tell from the sound the motors working, not straining by any means but...working.

    I think the factory that makes this model also makes some units for other companies.
    Thermal ARC Thermal Arc« - Home - Arc Welding Equipment Technology Leader is a relatively big company, been around for awhile, especially after being bought out by Victor.

    On another note, as much as I hate to say it, the tag says.....Made in China. If it wasn't backed by TA I wouldn't consider it, all our local distributors sell TA gear so there'd be no prob getting warranty, at least I hope not. Our local supplier who also does repairs on all brands, was telling me the other day that usually when the electronic end of an inverter machine dies of any brand, it's not worth repairing.

    Go figure, three years ago work bought two Miller 350P's, beautiful working machines. So far one has had boards replaced 3 times I think it was, at around $1500 a pop(under warranty) . The other died two months or so ago out of warranty, $6K for repairs for a machine we paid $7k for, go figure, it's now a boat anchor. So no matter what the brand, blue, red or purple there's lemons....Mike

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Thermal Arc 181i

    Quote Originally Posted by mrmikey View Post
    No, I neglected to mention that, it's a small valve on the torch. It easy to turn with one finger but it's also easy to forget to either turn on before striking the arc (makes a sloppy mess of the weld and tungsten) or turn it of (makes a sloppy mess of the pocketbook).
    LOL. Nicely put.

    Quote Originally Posted by mrmikey View Post
    Size of both the drive rolls and drive motor as well as the mount system. Saying that, at least it's metal (die cast i presume) not plastic like the small Lincolns. Hard to describe but you can tell from the sound the motors working, not straining by any means but...working.
    Perfect explanation, thanks. I get the picture.

    Quote Originally Posted by mrmikey View Post
    Thermal ARC Thermal Arc´Ż« - Home - Arc Welding Equipment Technology Leader is a relatively big company, been around for awhile, especially after being bought out by Victor.

    On another note, as much as I hate to say it, the tag says.....Made in China. If it wasn't backed by TA I wouldn't consider it, all our local distributors sell TA gear so there'd be no prob getting warranty, at least I hope not. Our local supplier who also does repairs on all brands, was telling me the other day that usually when the electronic end of an inverter machine dies of any brand, it's not worth repairing.

    Go figure, three years ago work bought two Miller 350P's, beautiful working machines. So far one has had boards replaced 3 times I think it was, at around $1500 a pop(under warranty) . The other died two months or so ago out of warranty, $6K for repairs for a machine we paid $7k for, go figure, it's now a boat anchor. So no matter what the brand, blue, red or purple there's lemons....Mike
    My current AC/DC stick/TIG welder is green (Everlast) and I'm looking at one of their "triple threat" welders. I don't mind it having the "Made in China" tag. I'm a hobbyist (enthusiast hopeful) so there isn't too much chance I can pay for these toys through any revenue generated through them.

    You are bang on about the lemons. I sure hope I don't have to cash in on my warranty but I do feel better that I've got that backing me up. All of these really cool features come with more product complexity.

    Cheers and many thanks for your input! You've been very helpful.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Thermal Arc 181i

    Oh, forgot to note that the ones I have been looking at have all been 220v. I'd love to see one of these to support 110v for the times I'm working with thinner materials. 110v is readily available and would make these sub-30lb welders that much more portable.

    OP Rock Knocker, I've only read a few reviews about the 181i but they have been more or less positive.

  9. #9
    Advertiser Mark @ Everlast's Avatar
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    Default Re: Thermal Arc 181i

    They use the same drive roll system that we do. It's sturdy and better made than some "other" brands I have seen. The units are sound and good. No issues as I have used them myself, and IF you look at the new Miller MTS unit they JUST brought out, you will not find "made in America" on it. It says "Assembled in America" only. Big difference. TA is well known and trusted. I suspect your salesman was trying to push to get his quota to win a trip or get some extra fun money from the competition as the reason why he turned you cold to the product.

    As for poor performance with plasma cutters? He was joking right? TA has good units. They are fine and cut well.
    Mark Lugo
    Everlast Welders
    http://www.everlastgenerators.com/

    Need a welder? Give me a call at (877) 755-9353 ext 204!

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Thermal Arc 181i

    .....love to see one of these to support 110v for the times I'm working with thinner materials..
    TA's 211i is dual voltage, Thermal Arc , before someone says anything,no I don't work for them .

    You don't need to have a 110V machine to weld thinner materials, I've welded 20 ga with the 350p (which is 575 3ph) at work using .035 hard wire. Mind you I wouldn't want to do it all the time with the larger wire, if I had any amont to do I'd go down to .023 but i'd still use the bigger machine.

    IMHO, I'd sooner go with a single voltage machine, for no particular reason other than just because.

    You mentioned weight, 58lbs for the 211i, 33 for the 181i so it is quite a bit heavier.....Mike

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