What's the best stick welder for a wannabe

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Xtazab

Joined Jan 3, 2019
1
Hi guys:
I don't own any welding equipment (yet). I'd like to get a stick welder (don't ask me why, I just seem to like stick for no particular reason) https://mechanicguides.com/110v-stick-welders/ with no particular use in mind, other than to play with it so see if I can learn to stick weld. I downloaded a bunch of videos to accomplish this. They indicate that after burning through about 40 pounds of rods, and following the proper procedures, I should be "reasonably" accomplished. I don't wanna spend a lot of money. I see Miller offers a ton of welders, different types, different sizes, some ac, some ac/dc, transformer/inverter, some with TIG and stick, etc. What's a good "basic no frills welder" for a wannabe? I'm 65 years young, and not looking for a new career. Just want a new "toy" to learn how to stick weld. And then maybe build a few simple projects. I doubt I'll put 50 actual hours of weld time and any welder I get.

Thanks Guys,
Chris
 

shortbus

Joined Sep 30, 2009
9,328
Do you have a project in mind? What thickness of metal do you think you will be welding. Those are things that will go into picking a welder. If you are thinking of welding stuff under 1/16" in other words sheet metal, a stick welder isn't such a good idea for a newbie. If I was to start out again, like you, I would probably go with a Mig welder. And get one that can also use 'cored wire', it really is like a stick welder, it just uses a roll of wire instead of sticks. Much less wast in the end because you don't have a couple of inches of rod to through away after each stick is burned.

You don't have a location of where you live listed. But for a pretty reliable welder for little money Harbor Freight is where I would go. I would stay away from anything that has "inverter" in the description, unless your willing to buy top of the line expensive equipment. I know many here would/will disagree with me on this, but I learned to weld at around 13 years old and am now 71. And have done it for all of the years in between.
 
I kind of agree with shortbus in that a MIG machine is more useful in ways, but at the same time you could pick up a scratch start TIG torch and gas valve and convert a stick machine to a basic TIG welder. You can't do aluminum with a DC machine, but it should melt steel just fine. I don't know how a basic AC machine converted to TIG would work with aluminum, but there are a number of youtube reviews and how tos to learn from.

I have never used one, but I have known a few people who had good things to say about the Harbor Freight welders. One good thing about them is you can actually take them back to the store and deal with people if you have issues instead of arranging shipping, phone calls, and everything else.

As far as 40 year old technology is concerned there isn't a whole lot of variables with stick welding and a lot of the current stuff is just "sparkly things" instead of any real changes. You set your amps and strike and arc. The reason it is 40 year old technology is because it works, it's reliable, and it works (did I mention it works??)

Duty cycle is a lot of times what you are really paying for with the more expensive machines. If you are just casually putting together things and spacing your weld times out then it's not a big deal. If you plan on continuous welds of more than a few minutes each time duty cycle is going to start being something to pay attention to

Edit

So I put my foot in my mouth again. jannie123 read more like an advertisement than an actual suggestion, but after checking it out the specs looks decent. The thing is my grandpa had an old Lincoln that probably lasted 30 or 40 years on his farm. My brother used it for a few years beyond that even. It didn't have a dial... you plugged in the cables to different sockets to adjust it
 
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shortbus

Joined Sep 30, 2009
9,328
I kind of agree with shortbus in that a MIG machine is more useful in ways, but at the same time you could pick up a scratch start TIG torch
Ever used a scratch start Tig? I have and they are no fun. I spent more time changing and sharpening electrodes than I did welding. Not something I'd ever suggest to a new welder.
 

LowQCab

Joined Nov 6, 2012
1,931
Go to Harbor-Freight, get the cheapest Flux-Core-MIG-Welder they have.
It's easy to learn to use, and very versatile, and cheap.

Use 0.030" Flux-Core-Wire, smaller Wire is easier to learn with,
unless You want to weld really thick 0.250" Steel, then use 0.035"-Flux-Core-Wire.

You MUST HAVE an Auto-Dimming-Welding-Hood,
don't even bother with the cheap "fixed-Filter" Hoods.

If You want to up-grade,
just get the DC-version, and make sure it is "Electrode-Negative",
( the "Ground-Clamp" must be Positive ).
The DC version is definitely worth the cost difference,
it's actually easier to learn, and gives immediately noticeable, higher-quality Welds.

For 0.250" Steel, you will need 240-Volts to Power the Welder,
and a Welder capable of delivering up to ~220-Amps.

TIG-Welders are not for beginners.
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bassbindevil

Joined Jan 23, 2014
378
If you want stick, I'd suggest getting an old 240V arc welder from a local classified ad. There's very little that can go wrong with them that can't be fixed with a pocket knife and screwdriver. Don't bother with a 120V "buzz box" unless it's nearly free (or 240V isn't available). That's what I started stick welding with: only 30 amps (fixed), but with practice (and multiple passes after grinding back to solid metal), it was good enough to make an alternator bracket for my truck from 1/4" mild steel, fix a crack in my bicycle's rear dropout, and turn scrap pipe into mail box and bird feeder poles.
If you get an auto-dark helmet, make sure it has replaceable batteries. I thought I was smart investing in a real Optrel helmet, but after sitting in storage too long, the batteries failed, and getting to them involves gently hacksawing into the module.
 

GetDeviceInfo

Joined Jun 7, 2009
2,082
I stick welded for years as a Millwright, typically structural steels, 1/4” +. I personally wouldn’t recommend it for home / hobby projects, and can’t imagine it running off of 120v. But newer technology might allow that. I agree with MIG for versatility in lighter materials. I myself am going TIG for different metals.
 

k1ng 1337

Joined Sep 11, 2020
442
My dad, a journeyman welder always attributed a successful weld by the amount of heat (power) applied. He would say that this is far more important than an expensive setup as it's easy to control power with a simple system you could even build yourself as long as you understand metallurgy.

He worked for Hitachi making heavy duty mining equipment and preferred a base model welder over the bells and whistles.
 

shortbus

Joined Sep 30, 2009
9,328
I myself am going TIG for different metals.
I bought myself one last spring. I got an AHP Alpha Tig 201XD, and love it. When still working I used Lincolns, Millers and all the other industrial ones. This inexpensive welder is perfect for the home shop. It comes with all of the nice, needed things and has many of the bells and whistles of the big bucks machines. I've used it pretty hard and have no complaints. I see now they have sold out of them and brought out a new model.
https://ahpwelds.com/catalog/tig

Before buying I did a lot of watching Youtube "tests" between the brands, and this was the one that always came out on top so that's what I bought. And haven't had any regrets.
 

GetDeviceInfo

Joined Jun 7, 2009
2,082
I bought myself one last spring. I got an AHP Alpha Tig 201XD, and love it. When still working I used Lincolns, Millers and all the other industrial ones. This inexpensive welder is perfect for the home shop. It comes with all of the nice, needed things and has many of the bells and whistles of the big bucks machines. I've used it pretty hard and have no complaints. I see now they have sold out of them and brought out a new model.
https://ahpwelds.com/catalog/tig

Before buying I did a lot of watching Youtube "tests" between the brands, and this was the one that always came out on top so that's what I bought. And haven't had any regrets.
Thanks
 

shortbus

Joined Sep 30, 2009
9,328
I had an old scratch start inverter Tig that this one replaced, and like I said the Alpha Tig is so much farther ahead it's unbelievable.
 
Ever used a scratch start Tig? I have and they are no fun. I spent more time changing and sharpening electrodes than I did welding. Not something I'd ever suggest to a new welder.
Actually I haven't yet... I had always thought about trying it out, but after watching reviews of budget multi process machines I'll go that route if I ever get around to it. To me it's one of those things that would be nice to have, but at the end of the day it will very rarely get used. I have been on the same 10 pound spool of wire for over a year now as it is.
 
You MUST HAVE an Auto-Dimming-Welding-Hood,
don't even bother with the cheap "fixed-Filter" Hoods.
Why the hate towards a standard hood? Personally I can't stand the auto dimming. I've grown so used to using the old variety that on instinct I twitch my head even with an auto dimmer and flip it up when done.

I won't lie they are nice, but I wouldn't call it a must have.
 

shortbus

Joined Sep 30, 2009
9,328
Thinking back to the days when 4-150-Watt Flood-Lights were necessary to see the tip of the Rod.
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I have stick welded for over 50 years, and never even heard of something like that. You put the rod near the joint and nod your head, causing the hood to drop down and weld. Or at least that's the way my oldman and grandad who were both journeyman welders taught me. But I do have a couple of the auto darkening hoods now, one I keep for stick and Mig and the other just for Tig. I have 2 because the stick and Mig have a lot of smoke and fumes that dirty up the cover glass and the Tig doesn't do that, so I keep one that is always clean just for the Tig welding.
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ThePanMan

Joined Mar 13, 2020
359
This thread has me considering getting a TIG. But if I may be a real arse you can get two car batteries, connect them in series and get a stinger and ground cable and make your own stick welder. I've seen it done quite a few times. I suppose it may be hard on the batteries, but stick welding is a "Must Know". My pop learned stick in the navy and spent a lifetime supporting his family as a welder. He's been gone since 1995 but if he were here today I'd LOVE to hear what his opinion is (or would have been) on modern welders.
 

MaxHeadRoom

Joined Jul 18, 2013
25,017
But if I may be a real arse you can get two car batteries, connect them in series and get a stinger and ground cable and make your own stick welder
From my experience with 'stick' SMAW welding, the voltage is high initially to enable striking the arc, but the transformers used have a crank in and out magnetic shunt, this allows the voltage to collapse to a reasonable level once the arc has struck and welding commences.
 

ThePanMan

Joined Mar 13, 2020
359
In a post apocalyptic society two batteries will get the job done. It's not recommended, but I've seen it work. Never tried it myself, but then again I'm not a welder.
 

shortbus

Joined Sep 30, 2009
9,328
From my experience with 'stick' SMAW welding, the voltage is high initially to enable striking the arc, but the transformers used have a crank in and out magnetic shunt, this allows the voltage to collapse to a reasonable level once the arc has struck and welding commences.
while that is true on industrial machines, I'm not so sure that the "home duty" machines, like the old "tombstone" type have shunts. They just plug the stinger into different tap/holes to change the amperage's and let the voltage fall where it will.
 

MaxHeadRoom

Joined Jul 18, 2013
25,017
while that is true on industrial machines, I'm not so sure that the "home duty" machines, like the old "tombstone" type have shunts. They just plug the stinger into different tap/holes to change the amperage's and let the voltage fall where it will.
My home shop Miller had the feature. ;)
 
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