Chris The Curious

Decent wire welder for occasional use

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Ummmmm,, as an example, my a/c - d/c  Lincoln tombstone is wired for a 50 amp circuit ( breaker in panel) on 230 volt, it will adjust up to 225 amps for welding.

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Thanks., Dasher.  I'm easily confused when it comes to things I don't understand.  Appreciate the clarification.  So you say a "old work horse" welder.  I'm sure I could find something like that on Craigslist........but what would be a good brand to look for?

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I'm in Australia, so my go to brand for that type of welder is not available to you, but as others have said, Miller, Lincoln, Hobart and others have been making them for years and are reputable brands, the reason I suggested the old heavy type, is because they are just that, old and heavy, thus no one wants them anymore, but they were built with quality internals, whereas the latter day cheapies often have aluminium components instead of brass and copper, as you intend to have the welder in your shop permanent, a little bit of weight is no big deal, and if need be, just add a couple of wheels if not already fitted.

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I purchased a lincoln pro-mig 135 almost 20 years ago and it is still going strong today. 

Hobart has some good machines for the money.

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Chris, if you can, taking a welding course from your local community college would be helpful, as you can learn terminology, types of equipment, and learn techniques before you spend money. I started with a Lincoln 140 wire feed welder, but it was limited in what it could do; I added an Everlast multi process machine and can TIG, stick weld, and plasma cut. An oxyacetylene rig finishes everything else. A 120V wire feed welder can get more penetration if you preheat the work. If you can find an old industrial quality 240V wire feed welder, you can do more with it.

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I was planning on doing that, but it turns out I'd miss half of the scheduled classes because of prior commitments.   I'm competent with Oxy/Acet.  Have done some TIG and am "comfortable" with that.  I'm an instructor at our local Vo-Tech and will probably ask the instructor of the welding class if I can sit in for a couple or three nights (when I CAN make it) to get some pointers on Arc.  I'll be seeing him at the staff meeting this Saturday.   I get frustrated because the danged stick keeps getting stuck to the work.  And back when I was doing it, there was no such thing as an automatic lens helmet, so as soon as I'd flip my visor down, I would end up moving my stick hand and screw everything up.  I think I'd probably do better with these new helmets.  We'll see.  I am lucky in that I have a friend who owns a welder's supply store, and one of his employees is a friend of mine and a certified welder.  I'm sure among all my "sources"  I'll figure something out.

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Having Oxy/acet experience is good, very good. Tig is very little adjustment if you're good at gas welding. Stick operates on the same principles though adding filler to the puddle is less in your control. 

Keeping the rod from sticking is on everybody's learning curve as is holding the rod the correct distance, "stand off." Join the club Chris, we all had to deal with those and it's just a matter of a couple tricks and some practice.

My first tip is learn to "brush" the steel with the rod, not "touch" it. Start the arc with a short sweep of the rod just brush it. Pushing the rod directly at the joint makes it really easy to stick it. 

The sound of the arc will tell you more than what you can see, even with an auto darkening shield. I NEVER learned to do the head nod and flip my shield down, that move always threw me off target. I learned to hold the rod in position by laying my stinger hand on the steel while I lowered the shield with my left hand and started the arc either on the previous bead or to the side and moving it in. 

Stick welding abides by the same basic principles as gas welding: Make the puddle then fill it. Manipulate the arc to define the shape of the puddle to control penetration, need more puddle withdraw the rod a LITTLE. Once the arc is burning for you, you fill the puddle by bringing the rod closer to the joint so the arc cools and heat transfers to the rod itself and it melts. The polarity will cause the molten droplets to be attracted to the joint. Use the polarity and gas jet of the burning flux to push it where you need it. 

It's easier than it sounds but these things become automatic, you'll be controlling the arc reflexively in no time. Even the clutz kids in metal shop 1 were competent with a couple hours(class periods) bench practice time.

By all means ask one of the welding instructors at your VoTech school, it's only a matter of minutes on their part and electric bill to practice between class periods. It's been a long time but either 6011 or 6013 is one of the stickingest rods around. I think that's why they have you learn with it.

I used to tap the slag off the end of 7018 with my chipping hammer or it was harder to restart the arc and I so much prefer to brush start the arc than tap start it.

Frosty The Lucky.

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Thanks, Frosty.  Like I mentioned, I'll probably pull the welding instructor aside at the Staff Meeting this Saturday.

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My pleasure Chris, I wish we were closer together I'm sure I could have you welding well enough to teach yourself in an afternoon. You have the eye hand skills it's just another tool for the mental tool box.

Frosty The Lucky.

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A lincoln tombstone welder is a pretty good starting point. I bought mine new when I was still in high school. It was the first big tool I bought for my shop. It has been underwater a dozen times and caught fire twice, and is still going strong ( I used it today in fact). A wire welder is easier to learn and for intermittent use probably a good choice. The smaller ones are relatively inexpensive and very compact. I have a lincoln 110 volt mig, that i use for installing. It is pretty limited in output, but runs smooth and is reliable on a 10 amp 110 volt light circut. Because it is for business i bought name brand, but those that harbor freight sells run pretty well for the money. If you get the harbor freight machine, buy good wire. Whatever you get, spend the money on wire or rods. Name brand here actually makes a difference.

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I always say get a transformer stick machine. Wire fed machines are Jekyll & Hyde when it comes to penetration and cold lap. A buzz box and an acetylene torch will get you down the road; my bread and butter.

And, (almost) any stick machine can run tig (with the right accessories).

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I have a light industrial Mig in the shop and I don't think I would want anything smaller as the only welder in a Blacksmith shop as the penetration is not good enough.  I  bought a lincoln AC tombstone 25 years ago and it worked well for building a treadle hammer an air hammer and lots of other things over the years.  

A few years ago I bought a small Esab inverter welder and have not used the AC welder since.  It  welds so much easier than the Ac welder and much less spatter, if I want to take it home and fix something it will run on 110v.  I have some jobs that have to be welded with 7018 (1" round 4340)  and a couple of stainless jobs that we use the inverter stick welder for . 

If I had to downsize to a home shop BLACKSMITHING not fabricating the little inverter welder is the one I would keep.   I should sell the old Lincoln.

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