Hobart Handler 125 EZ
Economical, capable and beginner-easy to use
Text, photos and video by Tom Hintz
Posted – 11-13-2010
Almost from the moment I loaded www.newmetalworker.com on to the Internet for the first time I began getting requests for reviews of welders for the hobbyist. For the most part the folks posing these questions were very realistic in their welding wants. They want to be able to fix little things around the house and maybe build a rack here and there. A little surprising was that none thought a hobbyist type welder would magically transform them into a professional welder. Virtually all of these folks just want to get into welding on a small scale. Several of those early emails mentioned the Hobart Handler 125 EZ so I got one.
Welding purists may scoff at 115-volt welders but they have their place, including in the home-based shops. While I was risking the wrath of the purists by reviewing a 115-volt wire welder, I got a RECONDITIONED one to boot! I had a friend who always bought reconditioned tools when possible. He figured whatever was going to go wrong with something already did and had been fixed. It is hard to argue with that kind of logic, especially since he never had an issue with the reconditioned tools be bought.
The Hobart Handler 125 EZ is a light duty welder that uses flux-cored wire only. That eliminates having to get a tank for shielding gas that most MIG welders require. This is no small savings as a mid-sized tank (#3) alone can cost $300 to buy. Because the Hobart Handler 125 EZ runs on 115-volt current it fits nearly any shop with code-compliant electrical service and wiring.
The Hobart Handler 125 EZ is 16-7/8”-long by 9-7/8”-wide and 12-1/8” tall with an overall weight of 50-lbs so you won’t have to add a room onto the shop to have this unit in it. The Hobart Handler 125 EZ comes with Hobart’s H-9A gun on an 8-ft-long cable. Hobart includes a few extra contact tips with the package. The ground clamp is on a 10-ft-long cable which lets you weld more and move the project and/or welder less.
The Hobart Handler 125 EZ comes out of the box ready to weld up to 18 gauge–3/16 in mild steel with 0.030 in (0.8 mm) self-shielding flux-cored wire. By changing to a 0.035-in contact tip you can also use 0.035 in (0.9 mm) flux cored wire. The wire and tips are easy to find anywhere Hobart welders are sold which covers lots of territory because of Hobart’s popularity. Despite the 115-volt input the Hobart Handler 125 EZ is capable of producing a maximum of 125 amps of welding power. To put that in perspective, I have a 220-volt MIG welder that is capable of much more power but I seldom set it to over 90-amps for projects around the house and shop.
The Hobart Handler 125 EZ comes with a sample, 4”-diameter spool of 0.030” flux cored wire but the machine can be easily modified with a hub kit to use the larger 8”-diameter bulk spools. The larger spools are more economical if you do that much welding.
In the Shop
The “EZ” part of the Hobart Handler 125 EZ name comes in large part from the front control panel. Rather than having separate controls for amperage and wire speed, Hobart combined them into one dial. You choose the thickness of the steel being welded and the Hobart Handler 125 EZ sets the right amperage and wire speed for you. Right now the purists may be kicking up a fuss again…. While it is true that an experienced welder can fine-tune a machine for different situations with individual amp and speed controls, those changes are usually small and often relate to special techniques. For someone that is relatively new to welding the Hobart Handler 125 EZ single control makes life easier and lets you focus on learning to make good welds. Even beyond the learning period, this simple setting scheme lets you do your welding work without trying to figure out the idiosyncrasies of individual amperage and wire speed controls.
Despite being a factory-reconditioned unit my Hobart Handler 125 EZ appears to have all new cables and the wire drive system has at least been gone through very well if not replaced entirely. The cabinet has a few scrapes but nothing that is even close to impacting how it works. If it were not for the plaque on the rear cover that shows that this Hobart Handler 125 EZ has been reconditioned you might not know it at all.
I tried welding several different thicknesses of mild steel and the settings made by the front dial seem to be right on the money. I am not a professional welder by any means but that makes the simplicity of operating the Hobart Handler 125 EZ even more impressive. Each of the selected settings would form a nice puddle quickly and when I kept my speed of travel right, the penetration seemed very good. Suffice it to say that I did not fear that a joint welded with the Hobart Handler 125 EZ would fail at the weld.
My 110-volt system in my shop (attached garage) is nothing special so I was a little concerned about it supporting a welder. Much to my surprise (and relief) the Hobart Handler 125 EZ performed fine. I plugged it into what I thought to be a circuit that had little if anything else on it but my shop is not exactly overrun with 110-volt circuits. Regardless the Hobart Handler 125 EZ created a stable arc that seemed very stable as long as I needed it. I seldom weld more than a few inches at a time but I suspect neither do most of us in the hobbyist, casual use crowd.
You do have to chip slag away from the finished weld and maybe wire brush it a bit but that is a small penalty for not having to maintain a gas bottle. The slag created by the Hobart flux-cored wire is not difficult to remove. I tried running over the welds with a wire brush in my angle grinder after chipping the major portions of the slag away and the surface was quickly ready for paint. Not bad at all for a 110-volt welder.
The Hobart Handler 125 EZ is a very capable entry-level (at least) welder that seems to be happy on normal 110-volt household circuits. The ease of use and lack of gas shielding requirements means that you can get into welding with a surprisingly small investment. My factory-reconditioned Hobart Handler 125 EZ cost $229.00 (11-9-2010) and you can buy new ones with a street price of $349.99. (11-12-2010) Understandably the factory-reconditioned Hobart Handler 125 EZ are not always easy to find because they go fast and I suspect that the supply going back for reconditioning is rather small because of the quality of this unit.
If you are looking to get into welding in your home-based shop, the Hobart Handler 125 EZ should be high on your must-see list. In both performance and value the Hobart Handler 125 EZ is going to be very hard to beat.
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