Loader buckets, auger flighting, cattle gates, panels, hinges and latches. Then there are forage chopper teeth, tractor frames, hydraulic lines, stock trailers and game feeders. Those are a few of the projects to which Nebraska rancher Arlo Schurr has put his welders to use over the years.

These projects don't begin to touch the number of gadgets, tools and other equipment he's fabricated from scrap metal and other available parts, however. Like most ag folks, Schurr has made a fine art out of improvising and reincarnating metal.

Schurr runs a 4,200-acre Angus operation in Eustis, NE. He calves out 340 to 350 head a year, and crops 1,600 acres in corn, wheat, milo, soybeans and alfalfa. The property is also home to his game farm, Great Nebraska Hunting, which offers deer, turkey, pheasant and quail.

All those pursuits place some big demands on equipment. He says the addition of a 250-amp Millermatic wire welder from Miller Electric Mfg. Co. enables him to complete necessary repairs more efficiently, and dream up new ones that were impossible with his old stick welder.

“A wire welder is so much faster and easier, I can't imagine going back to stick welding,” Schurr says. “I hate chipping slag; with a wire welder all you have to do is adjust your settings and weld.

“I also don't run out of rod, and can weld much thinner material than with a stick welder,” he says.

Recently Schurr converted several old 55-gal. drums into game feeders using some old well rod from a livestock water system and some scrap sheet metal. He plans to put deer chow in one feeder and cracked grain for pheasants in two others.

He says buying three similar game feeders would easily cost him upwards of $400, and building them with his stick welder would have been difficult without burning through the barrel walls.

A more versatile process

Wire welding consists of MIG (metal inert gas) and flux-cored welding; both can be done with the same machine. The difference is MIG welding uses a solid wire with a shielding gas to protect the weld puddle from the air environment, while flux-cored uses a hollow wire filled with a flux compound that protects the weld from contamination. Without the gas or flux protection, porosity and weak welds result.

Flux-cored welding produces slag, similar to a stick welder, but you can weld in any wind condition. Winds above 10 mph will blow away the gas shielding in MIG welding.

Wire welding differs from stick welding in that it uses a spool of wire fed at a specified rate through a welding gun instead of a fixed-length electrode that requires frequent replacement. Instead of having to move your hands closer to the material as the electrode gets shorter, the gun remains at the same distance from the weld and the wire is continually fed through.

The low voltage and amperage capabilities of a wire welder also allow it to weld much thinner materials. A good 250-amp MIG welder can weld material as thin as 22-ga., yet weld ½-in. steel in a single pass.

Getting off the stick

Schurr's first exposure to wire welding came in high school and at Southeast Community College in Beatrice, NE, where he took extra night courses on welding. He was sold on its benefits right off, but convincing his father, who had relied on a stick welder his entire life, was another matter.

“Dad said our old stick welder worked fine and he was right. But after we got a wire welder, he realized how much faster it is, the better-looking welds you can get and the additional materials it can handle,” Schurr says.

Of course, one of the biggest obstacles to buying a wire welder is cost. A high-quality, farm-suitable wire welder can cost $1,800, or about $1,500 more than a typical “buzz box” stick welder found at a farm-supply store. Schurr says the added expense is soon recouped by anyone with frequent or difficult repair needs, however.

Schurr pairs his welder with .035-in. diameter ER70S-6 wire and C25 shielding gas. In his shop, the MIG function allows him to perform quicker and better welds than with his stick welder. If needed, he can bring the machine out into the field for an onsite repair using flux-cored welding.

For Schurr, his welder's combined capabilities transformed farm welding from simply performing repairs on an as-needed basis to an integral part of his overall operation. It allows him to make quick repairs when needed, but gives him the ability to imagine and create new equipment that improves the efficiency and productivity of the farm, he says.

Chris Roehl is product manager for Miller Electric Mfg. Co.

A Three-Way Comparison

Here's a brief comparison of three welding processes and their relative advantages and drawbacks.

Stick welding MIG (metal inert gas) welding Flux-cored welding
•Welding thin materials may be difficult or impossible. Even skilled welders would hesitate to stick-weld 18-ga., sheet metal.
•It's marginal for welding aluminum.
•You must clean the slag off the weld.
•It's a slower process than MIG.
•Stick welding is better suited for windy conditions and dirty or rusty metal than MIG.
•Easiest welding process to learn.
•Welds light-gauge material or thick plates.
•Welds all common metals — carbon steel, stainless steel and aluminum.
•High welding speeds can be obtained — up to four times faster than stick welding — reducing repair or construction time.
•Increased efficiency — 50 lbs. of MIG welding wire yields 49 lbs. of metal deposition; 50 lbs. of stick electrode rods yields about 30 lbs. of deposition.
•The same welder can also perform flux-cored welding.
•Less affected by drafts; better suited for outdoor work.
•Works as well as stick welding on rusty or dirty material.
•A continuous-wire feed minimizes starts and stops.
•Offers deep penetration for welding thick sections.
•The increased metal deposition (2-3 times that of stick welding) is beneficial for hard-facing.
•Flux-cored welding can eliminate the need for a shielding gas bottle, which increases portability.
•Slag chipping is required.

Arlo's Doings

Here's a sampling of some Arlo Schurr repair and fabrication projects:

  • Repaired cracks in loader buckets.
  • Replaced auger flighting.
  • Built cattle gates, panels, hinges and latches.
  • Repaired worn-out metal in combine.
  • Built handcart for moving hunted game.
  • Built up shafts after bearing damage.
  • Built a grain-bin ladder.
  • Built a trailer for hauling four-wheeler.
  • Reinforced a stock trailer.
  • Built up lift on disk.
  • Built up gear teeth on forage chopper.
  • Repaired automobile bodies.
  • Built skids for water tank.
  • Lined spout for filling silos.
  • Repaired hydraulic cylinders.
  • Built header for irrigation engine-repair exhaust systems.
  • Repair hydraulic lines.
  • Repair cracked tractor wheel rims.
  • Built frames for windbreaks.
  • Welded nuts on broken bolt studs to assist in removal.
  • Built hunting stands.