Many metal benders in the Clara City, MN, area believe that Philly Mittag is to a welder what Michael Jordan is to a basketball. So when we wanted an expert's opinion of some new welding products, we turned to Mittag, chief welder with Tebben Enterprises, a manufacturer of farm machinery.

It takes a lot to impress a fellow who spends eight hours a day drawing a fiery bead across quarter-inch steel. Indeed, that was Mittag's first criterion for a good welder, saying, "If you can't weld quarter-inch steel, it ain't much of a welder."

Mittag also likes product features that promote a welder's personal safety. And finally, with those criteria satisfied, he'll settle for some comfort. So, with the help of a true professional, we chose the hottest new welding products for the farm.

Two from Century

"Lightweight, powerful and portable" describes the new patent-pending cordless Century 131 portable wire feed welder that weighs only 45 lbs. and can fit under a combine head or other machinery you sometimes need to crawl under to repair.

"Throw this little unit in the front seat of your pickup cab and take it anywhere you need to go to make on-the-spot repairs," says Steve Hawkins, product manager for Century.

This 130-amp. welder can weld anything from quarter-inch steel to 18-ga. material and can operate on fully rechargeable batteries for up to 5 ft. of welding. A 120v recharge is included. The rugged drive system accommodates 0.030-in. flux-cored welding wire and has wire speed control for tuning of weld, adjustable welding heat depending on the job and adjustable battery charge level.

The unit has a built-in carrying handle, a built-in cord storage to protect the ground clamp, a welding gun and cable. Packaged in a heavy-duty thermoplastic casing, the unit measures 9 in. long by 181/2 in. wide and 16 in. high.

"The 131 is truly portable," Hawkins says. "You won't need those big oxygen and acetylene tanks. Everything is self-enclosed. It doesn't matter how you use it either. Lay it on its side, on its back, whatever. Makes no difference. Farmers really love this unit out in the field. Use it to make quick repairs, then plug it in to recharge it at night," he explains. Century also has introduced a 120v, 40- to 120-amp. benchtop welder capable of welding 18 ga. to 3/16 in. "That's pretty close to Philly's standards, I'd guess," says Hawkins.

The Century 80 handles household and general steel repair and all types of building projects requiring welding with speed and ease of use. It uses flux-core welding wire with no shielding gas necessary and operates on standard 120v household current with no special wiring or receptacle needed.

"This is a tactical-type welder that any farmer can use right on the repair shed workbench," Hawkins says. "Twin heat selectors let you quickly choose the setting needed. The 80's wire feeder design delivers welding wire precisely and allows it to be changed in seconds," he adds.

For more information, contact Century Mfg. Co., Dept. FIN, 9231 Penn Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN 55431, 800/328-2921 or circle 224.

Link-Arc welding system

>From Canada comes the Link-Arc Underhood DC mobile arc welding system. Steve Hopkins, of Hopkins Equipment, explains, "This high-powered and compact unit mounts under the hood of almost any kind of vehicle and provides three essential functions: It is a powerful, professional DC arc welder; a 110v, 2,300W DC power source to operate drills, grinders, saws and emergency equipment; and a rapid battery charger and booster for any size vehicle battery."

Units come with 160-, 175-, 190-, 210- and 240-amp. systems. Any type of welding electrodes can be used with the Link-Arc, and the welding quality meets or exceeds American Welding Society and aircraft certification standards, Hopkins says. A very compact MIG option and TIG welding packages are also available.

The entire system weighs only 25 lbs. and can be installed in any 12v negative-ground vehicle. When welding with the system, the user can be as far as 1,000 ft. from the vehicle with very minimal line-loss.

Hopkins adds, "Why lug around a big, heavy and cumbersome welder that takes up all the valuable load space in the box when you can have a unit that will fully perform to your satisfaction for under half the price and a tenth of the weight?"

For more information, contact Hopkins Equipment, Dept. FIN, 4002 McPhail Ave., Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada S4S 1E8, 306/586-4144 or circle 225.

Mobi-Weld

Another under-the-hood mobile welder is the Mobi-Weld that provides help anywhere you can drive your pickup. This 11-lb. unit also uses a specially developed alternator to produce welding output and battery-charging power.

Scott Stolper, president of Mobile Welding & Power of San Diego, CA, says, "This unit is designed with the off-road enthusiast, farmer, handyman and utility industry in mind. Mounted under the hood of any vehicle, it takes the place of the normal generator and welding machine with a minimum of space and consists of a complete kit with simplified wiring installation diagrams."

Mobi-Weld is a DC welder, a 3,000W, 110v DC generator and a battery boost charger all powered by a Bosch alternator. "Unlike other units on the market that use antiquated capacitor technology, we use transformers that last indefinitely," Stolper says. "This power box and printed circuit board act as the brain of the system by controlling LED indicator lights. They can automatically shut down the unit in case of a malfunction and ensure that all components are performing properly. We use all solid-state technology and no moving parts."

The power box can be mounted in the engine compartment, under a seat or in the truck bed utility cabinet. Using heavier gauge wire and cables, the unit can be mounted anywhere on the vehicle.

For more information, contact Mobile Welding & Power, Dept. FIN, 805 Niantic Ct., San Diego, CA 92109, 800/991-9353 or circle 226.

Air purifier

Two unhealthy conditions that affect welders, regardless of the amount of time they're drawing a bead, are heat fatigue and "metal fume syndrome," a short-term, flulike condition that includes headaches, muscle pain, chills and weakness, according to Bill Blake, spokesman for Hornell Speedglas, which introduces a new powered air-purifying respirator for welders.

The Speedglas Fresh-Air II system blows a cooling supply of filtered air over the welder's face, creating a positive atmosphere within the helmet's face seal that keeps out harmful particles, dust and fumes. "And, we're working on the next generation that will reduce exposure to the gases produced when welding," says Blake.

Exclusive to the unit is a U-shaped battery that is integral to the powered respirator unit, eliminating the burden of a separate battery. The 8-hr. battery can be quickly removed for recharging, or it can be recharged while installed in the powered respirator unit.

The entire belt-mounted Fresh-Air II system is ergonomically designed: The weight is carefully distributed with the heavy components close to the welder and the lightest components farthest away. According to the company, both the weight and size of the system are smaller than those of any other comparable system on the market. Included are a lightweight Speedglas welding helmet with auto-darkening welding lens, face seal, head cover, the powered respirator, battery and charger, breathing tube with quick coupler and an adjustable, padded mounting belt. "And, we make the belts big," notes Blake.

The units come with a choice of auto-darkening lenses: dark shade 10, 11 or 12, or a variable-shade model with five user-selected shades from 9 through 13.

For more information, contact Hornell Speedglas Inc., Dept. FIN, 2374 Edison Blvd., Twinsburg, OH 44087, 800/628-9218 or circle 227.

Ergo helmet

"What can you say about a welding helmet?" jokes Patrick Beczenas, spokesman for Thermadyne, maker of the Firepower XP-5 welding helmet. "How about comfort, style, durability and value? Welders work in this kind of environment all day long; they need some comfort and safety, too," he says.

The Firepower XP-5 has a lightweight design with headgear that is adjustable to 39 different positions for greater comfort. The helmet features a natural contour and includes an extended throat for extra protection from sparks, slag and fumes. Thermoplastic materials help it withstand heat up to 350 degrees.

The conventional XP-5 series is available in a 2-x4-in. fixed front, 2-x4-in. lift front or 4-x5-in. fixed front design. The auto-darkening helmet features an auto-off switch after 28 min. of activity to conserve battery power. It also features a switching speed of 1/25,000 sec.

For more information, contact Firepower Customer Service, Thermadyne Co., Dept. FIN, 2800 Airport Rd., Denton, TX 76202, 800/858-4232 or circle 228.