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I Forge Iron

shopping for a welder

Don A

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I have been smiting iron for the better part of three years now, so I am beginning to think the condition might be permanent. So far, when it comes to tools, I have been a minimalist; by necessity and not by choice. My tools have been very basic: anvil, hammer, tongs

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I have a Lincoln 225 AC and it is an easy machine to learn on. It helps to have someone to tutor you. They say the AC/DC is better but is also more money. Glenn can elaborate on that. I have one of those autodarkening helmets from Harbor Freight and it works fine. I could not get the hang of the old style helmets; I kept missing the mark on start up. I also have a ProCor FluxCore welder and I use it a lot when tacking up small parts. They say you should not use this welder to make multiple pass welds. For the money, I think most people would say the AC225 is a good unit to start with. :D

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I learned to weld with an O/A torch followed by a stick machine. The first one I bought was a Lincoln 225AC and I still have it. They are just dandy for all around work and you won't be disappointed. I built several pole barns with that little machine running on a gas generator. DC lets you run lower currents so small rods run better on thin stuff like purlins.

MIG's are easier to learn and will make outstanding welds. However, I have never heard of anyone who likes fluxcored wire so hard wire and shielding gas are the way to go and welding in drafty areas may not be entirely satisfactory. I don't know what type shop you have so this may or may not be an issue. A MIG is better than a stick machine on sheet metal (in fact, that is what they were originally designed for).

TIG produces high quality welds in any weldable metal but takes the most practice to learn. It is very versatile but slow in production compared to MIG.

I learned with an old style helmet so that is all I use - large view screen with gold shield - I can see everything when I'm working. I do not like the auto darkening hoods but several folks who learned in the past few years told me that they thought it was easier than flipping a hood up and down. You probably should try both and decide for yourself.

A night-time vocational welding course at the community college is absolutely the best money you can spend right now. Do it before you buy a machine. You'll get exposure to all types of processes and will probably be able to complete some of your projects in class.

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I used to have the AC 225 and there is certainly nothing wrong with them. I'd rather have one than a small MIG welder, mainly cause you get better penetration. I've seen more bad welds from small MIG welders in the hands of folks that don't have any or a lot of welding experience.

Having said that, there are a lot more useful rods that only run on DC, 7018 as an example.

Some folks like Miller's version of the AC 225 or AC/DC 225 better, cause the amperage is infinitely adjustable. I think Miller calls theirs the Thunderbolt.

I would say this however, stick (no pun intended) with a Lincoln or a Miller.

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You can buy 7018 AC rod, in 3/32 or 1/8 at most any welding store. buy a name brand rod, Hobart, Lincoln, etc. I would recommend starting out stick welding with 7018, as it will let you know if you have a bad angle, weave, heat, etc.

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I don't know the answer to this, so it's not a trick question, but I've heard that the characteristics of the AC 7018 aren't the same as those of the DC 7018. I think the person that told me this was mainly talking about the ease of running a bead. Do you have any knowledge or experience with this?

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I always felt 7018 had such a fluid slag that it was harder to see the weld puddle but it does leave a fine bead and of course, they need to be kept where moisture doesn't ruin them. I like 6010 and 6011 for about 95% of what I do and 7014 for the rest. I used to install boilers and we ran 6011 for the root and 7018 for the cover pass (after grinding) - 3/32 rod for the root and 1/8 for cover - both on DC.

I have often heard 6013 recommended for beginners but I always seemed to get a few slag inclusions and quit using it. 7018 would be much better than 6013 and 7014 is more forgiving on slag problems, especially in horizontal - but 7018 is better out of position.

I'm not sure but I think 7018AC has more iron powder that 7018DC. AC tolerates higher current so they make the rod to take advantage of it.

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I used a Lincoln 150 AC portable welder for a long time, it was difficult getting a good out of position weld out of it, but the controls went from 90 to 115 amps, with no fine tune. I would add an extra 50 foot lead cord into the system sometimes, banking on a voltage drop to get the heat range closer. I recently bought a new Miller Bobcat 225 portable rig, and have been trying to use up all my extra AC rod on farm and equipment repairs, etc. I can fine tune the miller and run AC rod quite well in all positions. Some folks like to start off welding with 6013 or 6011, but you can get away with lots of bad habits that are hard to unlearn.
Yes, DC rod seems to run better. If you have trouble with the arc wandering to one side, re-arrange the ground cable, seems to help sometimes. I keep my rod in a big ammo can with a O-ring lid, don't have much trouble with it.

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Pardon me if I get a little off topic for a moment.

From Lincoln Welding web site on Storing welding rod and exposure limits.

SMAW electrodes with low hydrogen coatings, such as E7018 and E8018-C3, must be kept very dry since hydrogen induced cracking can easily occur. Purchase these electrodes in hermetically sealed containers, which provide excellent protection against moisture pickup.

*Do not open the hermetically sealed containers until the electrode is needed for use.

*When the cans are opened, electrodes that will not be immediately used should be placed in a cabinet at 250 degrees to 300 degrees (120

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The Lincoln Ac-225 compact stick welder has a broad welding amperage range of 40-225 amps. It produces an extremely smooth AC arc for welding a wide variety of materials including carbon, low alloy, and stainless steels as well as cast iron. Metals 16 gauge and heavier can be easily arc welded with the AC-225. Applications include: repair and maintenance welding, fabricating or modifying equipment, building tools or fixtures, build-up welding on worn parts or dies, and hardfacing new or worn parts for longer service life. Also for cutting and piercing holes in steel.
Information Source: http://www.lincolnelectric.com

Lincoln has produced a bunch of the AC-225 welders, produced them for many years, and continues to produce them. By the time you out grow the welder, it will have paid for itself, and most likely paid for the new welder also.

A Lincoln 250 amp AC/DC welder came available and I grabbed it. It seems to want to work from 1/8 inch thickness to what ever I have ask it to do. I am sure it is a better machine than I am a welder.

I purchased a 110v mig welder to work on my truck. It did not take long to figure out it was a thin-tin welder only and did not work well as it approached the 1/8 inch thickness.

A Lincoln AC-225 became available, and was in very rough shape, but I got it anyway. With little money invested, I tore it apart, chasing out wasp nests and an old snake skin, and cleaned the inside. I purchased new welding leads from the welding supplier and plugged it in. Whitesmith mentioned that he had a birthday in a couple of months before the first rod was consumed. At least I got one rod burned for the price I paid. :lol:

Talk to the welding supplier and ask which welders last longer and which require more repairs. Ask the welder that is using the machine, the old welders, and get their opinions. Ask the welding supplier is he has any used machines that are still servicable. Many times he will take them in on trade for new ones being sold.

Miller, and Hobart make good welders also. Look at all that are available on the market, NEW AND USED, and make the choice that is best for you.

Till then, what is wrong with forge welding, using rivets, bolts, or other ways of fastening things together? And do not overlook Ox/Ac welding. It has fallen out of fashion with Mig, Tig, Arc, and other methods available, but is still a very servicable welding method.

Learning Curve: Whitesmith burned up 10 pound or more of old junk rod playing with his "new" Lincoln AC-225. He then spent 4 hours with a Nuc Welder. I learned as much as he did by watching them. When he came back home, I suggested that he burn the remainder of the junk rod, but no, that was junk and did not work right. He poped open a new package of rod to practice with. He reasoned that if he was going to learn he should learn the right way, and with a rod that worked properly. I will have to have a talk with his teacher, and real soon, about his attitude. :wink:

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Don A:

My personal recommendation for your first welder as a blacksmith is the O/A torch. Welding with it is a little harder to learn, but once you get it, you will really understand the welding process. It is actually easier for me to weld thin stuff with a torch than with the 225AC. Once you get up around 1/2" thick, welding with a torch is downright painful, though.

But the advantage of the torch is that is a much more flexible blacksmithing tool than the arc welders. With the torch, making tenons, collars, and rivets is so much easier you might sometimes wonder how you did without it. You can locally heat parts that are already assembled for adjusting and bending. It is great for heating a completed piece for applying a finish.

You can take a torch set anywhere. You don't need to find a welder outlet.

But wait:!: There is more :!: :mrgreen: :mrgreen:

It slices it dices it cuts holes and brazes. It is about the only tool for hot shaping of large sheet metal. It just about does your dishes! :o

I like the convenience of the AC225 and my Millermatic, but if I could only have one welder, I'd pick the torch. Please keep in mind that this is my recommendation for most useful in a hot forging shop, rather than a predominantly fabricating shop.

Like you, I tend to acquire things and THEN figure out how they work. :D If you've never used a torch, spend a good bit of time reading about it and asking questions. If you can find someone to help you get started, that would be really good. It's not a trivial tool, and can be intimidating as you learn to use it.

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anon_smith: I used to have the AC 225 and there is certainly nothing wrong with them. I'd rather have one than a small MIG welder, mainly cause you get better penetration.

Ah ha! So THAT'S why you sold me your small MIG welder! :D As someone with no welding experience when I acquired it, I still make lousy welds with it. But they stick, and are getting better. Sort of.

As much as I hate to do it :wink: I have to agree with Ed, a torch would be a good first choice, if only because of it's versatility. Not that I followed the advice, please understand, just agree with it.

Of course, most of the times, a good forge weld is just as effective and much less expensive. Also easier to learn, in my opinion (but I'm crazy, just ask me). Most of the time. And of course there are also many, many other forms of joinery that can be used instead of welding, be it with a machine or forge. But I'll leave that to others to discuss.
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Wow :shock:

Good stuff. I certainly appreciate it.

OK, so talk to me a little bit about buying a torch. Is there a name brand, "everything you need to get started in one box" set-up available? What would you recommend? I assume that most of you would advise going name-brand and staying away from the Harbor Freight type stuff. Right?

What is the whole torch rig going to cost (roughly)?

What about the cost of acetylene and oxygen?

I have never watched anyone weld with a torch. Do you use any kind of filler rod, or are the mated surfaces simply melted together?

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Buy a name brand from a local supplier. Either Victor or the old Harris Calorific brand (or whatever it's called now). You will always be able to get parts and service. My really good Harris set was stolen some years ago so I have a second hand Victor but it gets the job done.

A new set should have the complete setup less tanks, i.e., regulators, torch body, tips, hose, etc. Tanks can be leased or purchased but be aware that if you buy tanks and then move half way across the country, you may have trouble getting the local supplier there to swap out the old tanks. Some companies are real strict on this and some aren't but a lease can always be cancelled if need be.

Torch welding can be done with filler rod or without depending on the type of joint. The viewing lens is a much lighter shade than an electric welding helmet - much like a very dark set of sunglasses.

A 75 cubic foot acetylene here in Central Texas is $35 and a 125 oxygen is $12. Usage is entirely dependent on what you are doing. Welding does not take much of either but cutting will blow thru the O2 in a hurry.

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Well...I 'll be the devils advocate for this one.....firstly learn how to forge-weld....if you're short on time then start looking at the other method.....I use a Lincoln Handy Core Flux core welder.....this little 110 v unit helps me stick stuff that I either don't have the time or talent to weld in the forge.....the nice thing about flux core is that although you get a lot of spatter.....you don't have to worry about gas, rods, or any of that other stuff....just fire up the welder and pull the trigger (after you lower your helmet.....not like the guys on TV)....this can get you making passable welds fairly quickly....the only way to make good welds is like any other method.....good instruction and practice, practice, practice......that's my 2 cents worth....

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OK, my nickels worth. First and foremost, if you have no training on bottles, regulators and the associated gasses that are stored and pass through, get some training. The old guy at the jobsite that does the cutting and welding may just be an excellent source. However, I will recommend the local trade school or community college. You may go to church with the instructor. The point is, get training. Reliable training. Read technical publications. Become educated. The new torch set in my shop is a Smith. $165.- if I recall. One welding tip (or mebbe two, can't recall). Torch body and cutting head. I weld with a Henrob torch pretty much daily due to the nature of my business. I have a Miller Thunderbolt (that belongs to an old friend that no longer uses it but won't sell it. It's mine for life but he won't sell it. :) ) This welder is seldom used. My other welder is a Miller 172 MIG. This unit gets used daily as well. I build tooling and do production welds with it. .023 wire (solid, 75/25 gas) The stuff I do is mostly small. I have built 2 arches with this welder (light guage tubing). It meets my needs and was cheaper (remember this word) for the initial investment. I also have a Hypertherm 350 plasma torch. With this ensemble I get by pretty well. I have run a scratch start TIG on the Thunderbolt with pretty good success (stainless project). The posts above have really done a good job of explaining the basics (and Glenns posts of rod info are very good information. I often hide a mig weld in production. Some production has migs out in plain view. This is work for a company that has an established business and customer base. They have a line of products. I produce them (and it is an extensive line). I don't discuss this stuff much. Nobody sees it unless they come to my shop. It is piecework and pays fair. People sometimes come to the shop and ask just what a particular item (production work) is used or sold for. Sometimes I know, sometimes I don't. I don't really care on the stuff I don't. Just give me the check and order some more. :) I forge a lot of 14 and 16 guage sheet and we'll leave it at that. Acetelyne works excellent for this work. Acetelyne also works excellent for attaching a handle to a ladle in quick fashion. TIG is the future for me. It is spendy process. My Henrob does everything I want for now. The more tools I have, the more processes I can achieve. I ain't the brightest bulb in the box but I do have current running through me. :) Traditional smithing is really the key to learn just like traditional fusion welding (acetelyne in my opinion). Tenons, forge welds, rivets collars are all excellent methods to join with. Some I'm better at than others. Bolts are honest too. Threads and twist drills go way back. Don't let some idiot at a demo try to tell you that they didn't have these " back then". Acetelyne was discovered around 1856. It (as a gas) was used in marine environments and also shorebased for lighting. It was used to cut steel with. These uses were the gas only burning with atmospheric oxygen. Tanks and other issues were developed (including regulation and filler material for the acetelyne cylinders). I'll leave the technical stuff to Junior and the other smart (and experienced) guys. :) Suffice to say that acetelyne was being used as a primary welding medium by around 1910 in many areas. This kills using acetelyne at a pre 1840's Rondy but makes it an excellent tool for the trailer at an early 1900's demo or fair. Also an excellent tool to have in a museum shop that is dated around late 1920's or early 1930's. Rambling and using up lotta bandwidth. Be well folks. Flux cored wire gets used along with shielding gas in stainless plants to weld monster tanks. I tested art such a place recently. We'll see if they hire me.

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As a post script to the ramblings above, a Miller 210 MIG is a good bargain and here we can open the gates for opinion and conjecture. The Miller 250 is an excellent welder. Pipeline and production welders use wire feeders on power sources that can also stick and TIG. A small 110vac welder (with cored wire) does OK for light work. I have built stuff with a Lincoln weld-pac 100. I would seldom recommend the purchase of this unit (or Hobarts/Millers equivilant) unless you into body and fender and then you will need the shielding gas and solid wire). Anything can be done with anything with the right determined operator. you will gain experience from many things. Purchase a good name brand welding unit from a good reputable local supplier. They have experience and parts. Sometimes there is a choice of suppliers. Feel them out by just shopping. Talk to local welders and tradesmen. get a good feel for what is available. Your money invested in a semester of training at a trade school or College will give you good returns on your time and money invested.

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  • 11 years later...

Nice work Jonathan it came out well. Good job. Don't sweat the socket, they take practice to get the knack of making them integral. Making them separate pieces isn't unusual.

Weren't whale flensing knives more like pole arms? I've seen everything from Ulus to blades on 10'+ shafts used to flense whales. In pics, that is. SHEESH I may have done a few things but I've never been whaling! I've eaten fresh muktuk but that's not the same as pealing a whale.

Frosty The Lucky.  

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  • 3 weeks later...

One way to get a welder for a good price is to try 


this website is used by cities and school districts and colleges all over the country to get rid of surplus stuff. I bought 2 miller 300 power units and 2 wire feeders for $800 a pair. it was a risk because they were in unknown condition but all I had to do was buy a few parts and they were up and running. There are lots of tools that come up for good prices that are a great way to get tools if your willing to do a little work on them.


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Hi Don,

Budget matters, as does your power supply. 

I'd argue for a Mig or Tig set up but you should also have a torch. 

OA torches help with localized heats and popping off hard to remove scale. I also use my torch set up when making rivets and squaring off

hex bolt heads for hardware. Think of all the small localized heats you've needed to make. Also good for making stubborn coke or coal decide to burn. 

Torch welding was the first technique I learned in high school shop and its an acceptable process for fusing steel or welding with filler metal. Much

like Tig welding as it's slower going but you manipulate the puddle with the pressure from the gas jet. Expansion and contraction can be a problem due to heat control. 

After I learned gas welding I moved on to stick welding and then to Mig and Tig. 

I Arc weld when i need portability or just general welding outside. Arc welding rarely cares about wind. I Mig weld when I need to get a lot done. I use the Tig when I want/need the weld to look good or just blend in all together. It saves a huge amount of time on cleanup even if it's a much slower process than Mig welding. Tig is also handy for attaching stems, branches and other small diameter stock together. 

Each process has it's place. 

This is my idea of a great welding and auxiliary heat kit -

1- OA journeyman torch set. Most equipment can be rebuilt for about 1/3 the cost of new. Victor, Smith, Harris

I highly recommend a gas economizer, which is essentially a pilot light and valve that allow you to quickly use the torch for a localized heat and then set it aside in the off position. When you need the torch again you pull it off of its perch and swing it by the pilot light and boom, you're Vulcan with forge fire coming out of your finger. The analog version of an induction forge. Sorry, no beeping.  New prices will make you faint but rebuilt are fairly inexpensive. The same people that rebuild regulators and gas valves are good contacts for sourcing. 

As mentioned above, flash back arrestors, a tight adjustable wrench and a bottle of slightly soapy water for leak testing. It's a little unnerving when you look at your acetylene bottle and it has a minute pilot light flame coming off the regulator. Always check that your bottle are off before leaving the shop. Well ventilated spaces are preferred for all the obvious reasons. 

2- 200 amp, 220v Mig. Many used units around and someone mentioned going to local welding supply stores for used/traded up inventory. $600 to $1000 with argon/CO2 mix bottle. Most Miller and Lincoln wire feed welders from the 90's on are dependable and versatile machines. Welding schools are also good places to find used welding equipment. 

Smaller welders are great tools for smaller work but entry price for all but harbor freight gear gets you into the $500 range after you gear up. Shop around and get into a slightly bigger welder. If budget is tight Lincoln Arc "tombstones" seem to pop up fairly steady in my area and rarely exceed $400 with leads.  

Like power hammers, buy the biggest welder (within reason!) you can afford, or more importantly, power. You can turn down a large welder and weld light gauge material but it can be exasperating trying to make a small welder weld heavy gauge. You'll need your OA kit for that but that's way down the line. 

Training? Practice. Dare I say the Utubes? Actually great material there just look for quality training videos. There are private parties and welding supply companies that have sufficient info and video content to get you started. Nothing replaces watching a master welder in person though. 

Good Luck!




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