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My Welder.... aggravating as sin!


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I got her used, and really like that she's flying Steeler colors. I thought that would be good mojo for a metal guy, but apparently she thinks I'm some kind of Cowboys fan.

It didn't come with a manual, so I'm trying to figure things out as I can.  No formal training outside of high school metal shop more years ago than I care to think about.

The good news is that there's youtube nowadays and that fellow Jody over at weldingtipsandtricks.com really puts out some good videos.  I've even let my machine watch a few of his videos on the telephone so she'd understand what I was wanting her to do.  She doesn't listen.

I ran out of 7018 rods so I picked up seem 1/8" 7014 at Tractor Supply.  The box says 120-170 amps, iirc, but that produces some of the worst beads you could imagine, with BB's flying everywhere and serious gouging of the metal.  It's like a blowtorch more than a welder.  I toned it down to around 80 amps and set the "arc force" (whatever that is) down a good bit, and it makes a fairly decent bead for a guy like me.

Living and learning, very slowly.  I need to call Heliarc to see if they have a spare manual for this thing so I can decipher what all the dials mean and how they are impacting my welding.  I'm sure it's the machine's fault the beads are coming out all sloppy.

Anyone familiar with these machines?  Do they have peccadilloes I should know about?


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The switch is set in the photo to Electrode Negative, or what we used to call Straight Polarity. Good for TIG, less than wonderful for Stick. You want Reverse Polarity, or Electrode Positive for most operations.

ESAB made these machines.    http://www.esab.com/gb/en/support/upload/Heliarc-252-352-AC-DC-2.pdf


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7014 is I believe DC reverse rod. That's just from memory and that's questionable. It should say on the package, a little Googlefu should find out.

I haven't seen a Heliarc in a lonnnnnng time. I mean back in the days when you actually used helium! Heck, I learned tig on a Heliarc machine in the early '70s.

Frosty The Lucky.

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The biggest problem I've had is trying to determine what is causing a particular issue when there are so many variables.  The rods say they are +-, 120 -170 amps... I mean, can't you narrow it down a bit?  Why give such a huge range of possibilities?  And why does every video talk about volts and amps, but not this mysterious "arc force"?  It's no wonder that a good welder gets paid good money!

I'll try switching it over to electrode positive and dialing down the arc force to 2-4 like the above-linked manual talked about.  Got my Ultra Jig in the mail from Yesteryear Forge and have a full day of smithing/tinkering planned, so I might as well throw some weld practice in there!

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VaughnT, I run 7014 DC+ and set the amps low as I can for the metal and still push the slag back to see the puddle.  If the rod said 120-170, I'd start with 130 because I'd stick the rod on 120 and make a mess on 170.

My understanding of arc force is that is only matters if your arc gets too short and the voltage starts to drop too much like it's going to short out and stick.  Then the arc force kicks in to stabilize the arc.

WeldingWeb is also really good for questions like these.  Very helpful to me.

Disclaimer:  I'm not a welder.  I have a welder.

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Stupid disappearing post again.... Please move where required. Thanks.


120-170 amps DC for 7014 sounds high compared to what I typically use on 1/8" rods. Note though that AC settings are often higher than DC setting suggestions, so that may be in range for running 1/8" rods on AC. Note that it's important to note rod size as well as amps so things make sense.  120-170 sounds closer to the settings for 5/16" rod in DC vs 1/8" for example.


With stick, how far you keep the tip of the electrode from the plate effects how hot the weld is as well as amps. Typically for 1/8" 7018, we have the machine set at 125 amps DC+ so the students can simply drag the edge of the flux on the plate as it burns and get nice beads. I can make just as nice a weld at 100 amps DC+, but I have to hold the rod off the plate farther to get the machine to increase the voltage and make the rod burn hotter. This can be useful to you if you have poor fit up and need to fill a gap. By turning down your amps and increasing your arc length, you can adjust how "hot" the weld is while welding. If the gap opens up, push the rod in closer and it tends to cool the bead some. Back it out farther and it burns in a bit deeper.


Arc Force is kind of tough to explain. It's called "Dig" and other things by other manufacturers. It adjusts how "soft" or "crisp" your arc is. Rods like 7018 tend to run nicer with a soft arc. rods like 6010 tend to run nicer with a "crisp" arc. I don't have a really good way to explain this better. This is something that can be very subtle and newer students may not be able to notice the difference simply because they are changing too many other things at the same time while welding and those changes mask what the arc force is doing to the arc while welding.


Keys to stick welding... Amperage, arc length, rod angle and travel speed. Get these right and things should work well. I try and have students eliminate as many variables as possible at the start. Arc length is an easy one to eliminate if you use "drag" rods like 7024, 7014, 7018. the flux builds up a little shell that extends past the tip of the electrode while welding. You simply keep the flux on the plate and your arc length will stay the same all the time. You can easily feel the flux touch the plate. Amps, mid range is a good starting point. For 7014/7018 that works out to around 125-135 amps DC+ using 1/8" rods. Not all rods from all companies are the same, so some variation may be needed to get what that particular rod likes "best". Rod angle... It's a bit easier to show someone than explain it, but I find tipping the rod so the top is in front of the bead at between 1 :30 and 2 O'clock is about right. Travel speed tends to be the hardest to keep consistent. On average a full length rod will lay down about 6-8" of weld bead, depending on the joint profile. If you are getting more length than that, you are traveling too fast. If you get a lot less, you are going too slow. When done you should have about 2" of rod left in the stinger, or about where the numbers are printed on some rods. You don't have to make any special motions while doing all this. You can simply drag the rod in a nice straight line. I find that some students fin trying to manipulate the puddle with circles, arcs, figure 8's etc just messes them up when starting out, and they forget to keep everything else consistent.


If you do every thing perfect with 7024, 7014,7018 the bead will tell you when you are done. If you have to beat the slag off, you didn't do something right. If you are close, the slag will break up in nice big chunks with minimal chipping. If perfect, it will simply curl up behind you like a scorpions tail or just fall off.


As a side note, 6013 is also a drag rod and can act similar to the rods suggested above. It does have heavier slag though and many students have issues seeing the puddle well with it or they bury slag because they can't differentiate between slag and puddle well.  That's why I typically don't recommend it for new guys trying to learn on average.

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  • 1 month later...

You've already got solid advice here. Run your machine on reverse polarity around 90 amps and go up from there until you like your results. Should do the trick. 

Also, aftrist is right. If you are learning to weld, 6011 is the rod to teach you. It strikes easily but will also stick during welding very quickly if you bump the rod on the work. It's a great way to learn how to control arc length and rod angle. Puddle control will come in time. Start with stronger beads, then once they are consistent, try weaving "up n back" to create the "stack of dimes" look. The slag is stubborn as can be so a decent chipping hammer is in order. Luckily, making one is a quick easy project :). 

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The best advice I can give you is sign up for a night course at you local community college welding class. Having someone who can look over your shoulder while you are welding will save you countless hours of trial and error. The tuition is money well spent. At the college I went to in CA the tuition covered all the rod I could burn in class. I ended up taking the stick , mig, and tig classes.  Welding is like smithing, one on one is the better way to learn.

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I will trade you for my old Miller 250 if you want something less complicated :) ....The upper range of the suggested amperage for the rod is max for if you are burning it into material that is way thicker than the diameter of the rod..like 4 times thicker at least...and flat...and even then is usually too high lol. It depends a lot on the machine. Arc force can be handy for doing uphand vertical position welds....especially on piping where the bottom is kind of a transition from an overhead position to a vertical and the deposited material tries to snuff out your arc. Don't worry about that. Like suggested by others...get some more 1/8 7018 , set to DCEP and fine tune it on a flat coupon. Or several even because as the piece heats up it will make your beads look rough too. I find that rod to be the best all around rod for proper welding. Proper welding...not the farmer special = arctec 443 and down hand vertical haha. Once you find that sweet spot its just a matter of adjusting to suit the position and material you are welding.

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Tips for starters 

Read the box. Electrode positive or negative 

Find out the coldest it will light and work up

Keep a short arc length 

Wait till the puddle moves you on - font force it BBs show a high amperage keep a short arc the current rises as you lift away to a longer arc 

Clean your work of oils and grease before job weld 

Get a good connection on the return clamp

Always drag 

Dry run and work out how you get to a to b without stopping 

Never weld over slag 

Keep your head out the fumes and ventilate 

Always prop  your hand or arm if you can. If you can't keep your elbow tucked into your ribs 

If the rod lights and runs the rest is down to you - practice 


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11 hours ago, BIGGUNDOCTOR said:

The best advice I can give you is sign up for a night course at you local community college welding class. Having someone who can look over your shoulder while you are welding will save you countless hours of trial and error. The tuition is money well spent. At the college I went to in CA the tuition covered all the rod I could burn in class. I ended up taking the stick , mig, and tig classes.  Welding is like smithing, one on one is the better way to learn.

This is actually what I meant to say.

Do this first, then burn a few hundred pounds of wire.

That's pretty much what makes you a welder,  a stack of empty 50 pound rod boxes behind youn

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