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I Forge Iron

Multi-process machines and insane electrical


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So my blacksmithing buddy mentioned multi-process machines, like everlast which I would use along with my little Lincoln MIG. My use is hobbyist and project based, so not every day and probably not anything large. I don't usually weld any steel over 1/4-3/8" thick.

Anyway, I have several questions. First, a caveat: My blacksmithing buddy was a Navy electrician and I have done some work with 120V, but the second I sense even a whiff of danger, I'll call a professional. My nose is as sensitive to the scent of danger as it is to money, which is to say, pretty dang sensitive. Right now I'm just trying to grasp what my options are.

So, onward...

1. Has anyone used any of the multi-process machines and if so, what's your opinion of them?

2. Most of these Everlast machines are dual voltage but need 40A or 50A. The Wonder Hut has a sub panel currently wired 120V/60A---2 15A circuits and 1 30A circuit. Can I run successfully operate one of these multi machines on a 120V 30A circuit provided I keep the controls turned down?

3. Is it stupid/brilliant/unnecessarily complicated/too expensive to come up with a way to switch from 120 to 240 and devote all the power to equipment that needs more capacity? Or maybe switch the 120V/15A circuits off so all 60A is available? (I think I've asked this one before but I don't remember.)

I could re-wire for greater capacity, but that isn't as easy as it seems. The Wonder Hut shares power from the Moneymaking Shop and we're already wondering if we should increase the Moneymaking Shop's capacity. Right now, those two shops have 120V/200A between them. The house has 400A capacity but I don't think I can easily access power from the main house for another sub-panel and even if I could, I don't know if it would be financially feasible or frankly, if it's a good idea---when I get an electrician out here, I'll ask.

And yeah, this all seems backwards, designing capacity for a machine I may or may not buy, but I'm fairly sure I need a buzz box. There are little plasma cutters that are ADORABLE and will work provided I use my compressor, but if a multi-process machine will do all I need plus TIG, well...


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I've used multi process welders though not one of those and they're really handy. 

I say no to putting it on an under amped circuit. Not because you probably can get away with running it turned down but because sooner or later you or someone is going to turn it up. Even then everything might be fined but you'd be overloading the circuit and eventually. . . Maybe. :(

I try to cover myself as best as I can. I'd seriously think about upping the sub panel. You don't want to take chances in having to rename it the "Wonder What Happened to it Hut." 

Frosty The Lucky.

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On February 25, 2020 at 7:45 PM, Frosty said:

You don't want to take chances in having to rename it the "Wonder What Happened to it Hut." 

Heh. Good one. How long you been waiting to use that one?

Arrrgh. Yeah, more power to the Wonder Hut. It just gets me in an uncomfortable bind.

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You name your studio/shop "Wonder Hut" and think I have to try to come up with or wait to use humorous variations? It MIGHT be a challenge if I tried to use a new one every time I respond.

I thought you said you had 60a to it now. Can't you perhaps have a 40a and a 20a (for lights, etc.) on an isolation switch?  I'm not sure about the term, the same kind of switch used to isolate your house from city power when you're running a generator in a power outage. Sure it'd be inconvenient but it's not like you can weld and run other high demand power tools. The outlet the welder is on or box it's wired into (safer) is only charged when the isolation switch is thrown at which time everything else except lights and maybe one outlet are de-energized. 

It lets you use the welder without unnecessary risk, still have light and enough to run a peanut grinder 4.5" disk grinder/brush and not have to run more power and panels. If you need to use something else you turn the welder off and flip the isolation switch to energize the rest of the shop. The lights are always on their own circuit so narry a flicker. 

Perhaps a sparky will speak up and tell me I'm beyond wrong or explain it like someone who knows how to do this stuff. Sparky, please? :)

How's winter treating you, warm or cold in the Wonder Heat? :P

Frosty The Lucky.

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If you have a 60a sub panel it should not be a problem to add a 50a breaker to run the welder. As long as all of your wiring is sized right you should pop the breaker if you ever overload your sub panel. I don't think I have ever had my buzz box turned all the way up, even welding 1/2"-3/4" steel I rarely go over 175.

Well, I just caught were you said your panel is 60a 120v. Are you sure it's not 60a 240v? It would seem odd to me to have a 30a 120v circuit also. If the breaker feeding the sub panel in a 2 pole breaker you panel is 240v.

Remember, the 60 amp is the usable power (minus reductions) of your panel. You can have more then 60 amps connected, you just cant use more then that at one time. So theoretically as long as your using less then 10 amps for lighting you can max out your 50 amps for the welder.

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So, y'all got me re-checking everything, including my notes. I think I have it totally wrong.

We installed this panel in the geodesic dome I built for my lap pool aka Poolie. I built the dome out of 3/4" electrical conduit that bolted together, then had it shrinkwrapped using the stuff they shrinkwrap yachts, etc., with.

Poolie was all 120v---pump and heater---when installed. In the summer, it worked great but the heater couldn't keep up once it got cold. So I hired some electricians to install an exterior panel inside the dome so I could heat the pool with 240v. Passed inspection, though my pool guy said there was stuff in the panel that was not to code for spa/pool. Nothing was dangerous, but it was kind of funky. But we got the pool hooked up and I used the pool for six years.

I took it all apart because the pool was misbehaving in the way swimming pools do and the shrinkwrap was falling apart. I used the dome as a temporary shop and realized I wanted something more permanent. (There are pictures of the dome interior in this thread about Burnie the charcoal retort.)

I hired a company to build the frame and exterior siding around the electrical panel. (Note: I will never hire that to be done again. The crew were all nice and non-creepy, but when you don't know how to install a window the right way up, well, maybe this isn't the career path for you. They did leave a bunch of extra material for me, which I used on the inside of my new Wonder Hut.)


The white siding is surplus they left for me. The ceiling has billboard tarps (this one is for an olde-timey biplane club). Walls are just under 8' and the peak is about 11' from the floor. Floor space is about 15'x15', so it's small, but will work for me. Roll up door and person door on the north side. Three windows. I also insulated and used moisture barrier under the floor.

Anyway, my notes say we have 60-amp service at the panel now inside the Hut. The electricians said they had pulled heavier-gauge wire that required (I'm pretty sure because they had it) and that there were two 15-amp 120v circuits in addition to what I needed for the pool. I wrote down that they were 15-amp breakers and I don't recall swapping them out for 20-amp, but that's what's there.

My pool guy said the electricians installed a 50-amp double breaker for the pool heater-pump assembly and it was oversized for this application. As I recall (because this isn't in my notes but I'm pretty sure this is correct) my pool guy wired the pool-heater assembly as 240v, which let me keep the water warm during the winter. 

The pool heater-pump assembly was hardwired to the panel. There was also an exterior light installed as required by code the electricians hung on the side of the dome, as well as one GFI outlet that's still there---these are the circuits I have noted as 15-amp. When I took the dome apart, I turned off the service at this panel and at the panel on the mast and removed all of the wiring but that for the GFI.

I went out to look at the panel because Fowllife made a great point about how weird the set-up I described would be. I also realized I was so sure about what was there, that I must be wrong.

This is what I found:


So now I'm all confused and feeling stupid, baffled, and dispirited.

What have I got going on here?

And I gotta find an electrician.


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19 hours ago, Ohio said:

1. Has anyone used any of the multi-process machines and if so, what's your opinion of them?

The capacity to change from Stick to MIG to TIG, with the same machine is very handy and is easy to achieve with the new electronic panels. You will need different torch of course, but the quality of the machine depends of the manufacturer, not the configuration. Professional welders using large machine prefer to have dedicated machines not swapperoo ones, but for hobby and medium duty a multi is a good choice.

Your best choices in the US of A is Lincoln, Miller and Everlast, and get yourself 210 amps or up. 

As for your wiring conundrum, I am flabbergasted to see how you put up with dual voltage when the rest of the world is on one.

But you and me will not change that in the foreseeable future :)

Get an electrician and put in the highest amps you can afford. It will always be too little at some stage in the future. 

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what ever gave you the idea that the rest of the world uses only one voltage?  there are various levels of transmission voltages all over, and of course there is the various three phase power systems which in turn breaks down into a lower single phase plus many machines have internal transformers to reach other voltages for operation



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And then there is the 50 vs 60 hertz systems and as very special examples Japan using both  frequencies and an odd voltage in places and Philadelphia/Hartford  with some places still using an archaic 2 phase systems. 

Let us offer thanks for modern power supplies that can be used on more than one system!

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So I went outside and looked everything over minus my excitement about multi-process machines. It all makes sense again.

The panel in the Wonder Hut has one double pole (240v) 50-amp breaker and two 20-amp single pole (120v) breakers. The service is 60 amps coming from the main shop panel at the mast. I opened up that box as well to confirm that there are 200 amps, which is correct. Plus I found wasps, which I killed. 

BTW, everything was turned off before I started poking around. I prefer my foolishness to be whimsical and charming, not all electrified and smoking.

I don't think I want to increase capacity at the W'Hut now. We have a big upgrade to the Moneymaking Shop coming next year---huge, as in, I'm going to have to sell a kidney to afford it---and it makes more sense to re-evaluate our needs then. This will also prevent me from buying big machines any time soon because I will be both poor and minus one kidney.

Normally I'd be all over the "Get it done before you move stuff in or cover it up," but this shop is small and everything will be in conduit and relatively accessible. (The dome was made of 3/4" EMT, so I have the conduit. Recycling, baby.)  

As always, thanks, you all.

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Ha ha, yes, there are others besides the USA that use dual voltage for domestic use. ... Aruba, Guam, Liberia, Haiti,  Nicaragua ... yes, Japan too. Besides Japan, most small countries that have or had some affiliation with the USA.

3 phase is obviously not pertinent and the frequency is also not in discussion. Yes, electric trains use yet another system ... How much easier would it be if you all had 220V ... or 230 or 240V ... for domestic and even industrial use? answer, much better and in line with over 80 % of the world. It pays to look at the list below and see who else uses 120/240 or similar arrangements. My point is that dual is double trouble. After all if 120 is OK, why isn't it all 120V? Because it is inadequate as soon as you need more power, so it would be way easier to have all 220 ~ 240V for everything, and you would need smaller cable.

But you know all that., you just like to banter with me.

I wonder if there has been a study to compare injuries from DIY work that benefited from 120V allegedly safer, and injury due to confusion and mistakes due to the dual system? 


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you want 15 amps at 120 use a single 15 ga power line and a neutral,

If we need more at 240 volts just use 2 14ga power lines at 15 amps  each equal to 30 amps at 120 volts on a 10ga line, both are the same power factor of 3600 watts nothing to be confused about except for someone wanting to complain,  need more power go 3 phase.  Why arent all cars using the same engine, why are some diesel others alcohol or gasoline?

FYI Nicola Tesla an American invented electrical power systems, why did others have to change it and confuse others. :)


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Mm ... my information tells me that it was in fact William Gilbert to discover electricity ( no one invented it) and the first to use the term, over hundred years earlier and in the good old UK. 

I have a soft spot for William Gilbert because besides discovering and naming electricity, he also challenged the "churchocracy " and their geocentrism, and supported Copernico, like my personal favorite, Galileo Galilei. 

Eppur si muove. By the way I am sure Galileo would have used 240V all the way ... :)

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The embedded base is much larger in the USA than places like the UK and we even had the big fight between AC and DC for powering towns;  but yes it would be a whole lot nicer if the entire world used one system of voltage, plugs, frequency, nuts, bolts, etc. 

Now where did I put that Whitworth wrench---(I had a friend who owned an old british sports car; it was 12 volt but used 2 6 volt batteries in series to get it...)

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1 hour ago, ThomasPowers said:

12 volt but used 2 6 volt batteries in series to get it...

We are getting a little off topic here, but this was very common in farm tractors in the '60-'70. Earlier then that a lot were a lot 6 volt systems. There are even quite a few positive ground systems in that time frame as well.

A lot of the new/newer heavy construction machinery is running 24v systems.

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