Helium shortage heads up, and "cheap ways to get gas cylinders".
Per oldred's suggestion I'm posting a new thread instead of appending it to the acetylene shortage thread. "Local welding supplier" is traditionally abbreviated "LWS" so I use that here.
There is a helium shortage and it's expected to last at least a couple of years.
If you use helium for aluminum welding, don't waste it. Many users such as gift shops cannot get the stuff at all. I've bought helium cylinders, sold the contents to gift shops, then gotten the returned cylinders converted to argon and mixed gas.
Used helium cylinders, sometimes with contents, often go cheap on Craigslist, and since they have a CGA-580 valve can be converted or exchanged for mixed gas and argon. I've done three so far and keep an eye out since I'd rather spend at or less than a one year lease for a cylinder I can own. Once you own them, fills are cheap.
Used nitrogen cylinders also have a CGA-580 valve. I've scored a few of those and have been having them converted for mixed gas and argon too.
Also, keep an eye out for "blank neck ring" "owner size" cylinders and "orphan" brands your LWS will either exchange or convert and refill. They won't normally fill competitors cylinders because of industry lawsuits in recent years. If you are considering a used cylinder, photograph the NECK RING and any LABELS and stamped markings.
Hydro tests are cheap, but expired hydro dates (Google for pics of cylinder marking etc) can drive down the price when you are buying.
Cylinder lease payments add up, and once you accumulate a bunch of cylinders for cheap you can have your personal cylinders refilled (takes longer to process/ship than exchange) if you want to retain them to preserve "choice of LWS" in future. I also have owner-sized "branded" cylinders. Whatever I can exchange or refill cheap is fine with me.
With a little internet research and some patience you can end up with many cylinders, be they oxygen, acetylene, welding gases, or whatever. This can save the small welder or hobbyist big money over time, and cylinders are always resellable so there's nothing not to like. I have seven argon or mixed gas cylinders so far and five sets of OA cylinders for very little investment.
I'm not really a high-volume user, I'm just cheap and lazy and like having cylinders where I'll want them. I didn't know how easy it was to do this until I ran a welding toolroom and learned how to order gases and studied how welding suppliers work on the internet.
I'm posting this because it can help others afford welding gases they'd not otherwise buy by saving on cylinder purchases and leases.