Advice on buying a welder

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I have limited experience with "stick" welding.  I have 220 Volts 50
Amps available.  Having no TIG or MIG experience, I think a decent used
stick machine would be best for my home & hobby use.  I see used AC
transformer welders advertised on Craigs List.  Would I be better off
holding out for an AC/DC machine?

Would it be practical to add a rectifier to an AC welder an an attempt
to make it into a DC welder?

I have done some reading in this group and other sources.  At the
moment I am searching for a Miller Thunderbolt AC/DC, but am open to
your advice and suggestions.

I am located in the San Diego, CA area.

Thanks in advance.

Re: Advice on buying a welder

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DC is much better, but AC can work.

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A low end AC/DC machine costs so little is just not worth the trouble.

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Good choice, but also look at the comparable Lincoln units.

If you want portability get a Miller Maxstar 150S for around $650.

Re: Advice on buying a welder
Your benchmark for this class of machine is the 225 amp Lincoln
'Tombstone' welder
These can be had for around $250 brand new
The AC/DC version
can be had for around $350 new
The Miller 'Thunderbolt' are similar, just not as many out there at the
hobbist/homeowner/farmer level

Lots of farm and hobbist welders using the AC versions, the DC version
allows smoother welds, a few extra rod types. For a hobbist buying new,
it's a tossup between AC only or AC/DC If you get a bit more advanced,
want to run lo hydrogen rods or hardsurfacing, rods, get the DC option.

Used equipment is commonly avaialable. My local Craigslist has a
constant stream of 180 to 225 amp stick welders in the $50 to $150
range. Most are AC only, many are old, most work fine. I would not be
afraid to pick up a Craftsman or Airco welder if the price was right.
Don't even think about the 120 volt versions.

Several of the guys have built diode stacks to convert the AC to DC. If
you want a project, go ahead. Usually the cost of the 4 diodes and the
reactor start pushing close to the difference in cost between the AC and
and AC/DC machines. If you have an AC machine or get one cheap, it might
be worth the time to build the diode bridge, heatsink, reactor, and
cooling fan.

My personal preference is to find a used 180 to 225 amp 240 volt AC unit
for around $100 with the cables, holder, and helmet. Try it out, learn
to use it, buy something with more features later IF you need it. I see
there was a Lincoln listed on your local craigslist under tools.

Nadogail wrote:
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Re: Advice on buying a welder

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Ive got a nice Hobart 250 AC/DC machine, located in Costa Mesa
(Newport Beach). True industrial machine. You will need to put some
leads and a stinger and ground clamp on it though $200
Works just hunky dory. Might be able to dicker a bit on the price.

I believe its 200 amps at 60% duty cycle. Copper transformer.


Rule #35
"That which does not kill you,
 has made a huge tactical error"

Re: Advice on buying a welder

Although there's nothing wrong with the "tombstone" welders by Lincoln
and the equivalent Miller machines, they are limited to a 20% duty

If you're patient and persistent I'll wager you'll be able to find a
deal on a Lincoln 250 amp "Ideal Arc" machine.  The one you want is the
AC/DC "round top" welder.  Be careful because all kinds of machines
were sold under the name "Idealarc".

These were legendary machines.  There's a tremendous difference between
the quality of a 150 amp and a 250 amp machine.  The round top idealarc
machines were built for heavy duty industrial / institutional use.

I own several stick welders.  And this is my personal favorite.


Nadogail wrote:
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Re: Advice on buying a welder

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Otherwise, you will outgrow it soon, and be back in the market for a better
one soon.  I had a Thunderbolt, which I bought new.  It was great, but had
its limits regarding larger rods, or heavy duty cycle.  But it is a good
LITTLE machine.

AC welding is good for thicker metals, imho, if I have it right.  When I
want something to really really hold, I will stick it with 7018 stinger
positive and crank up the power.  I think it is better for all position
welding than AC, or at least that is my experience.

Long story short, there will be times when you purposely want to use one or
the other once you get experienced.  Have that capability.  Even if you buy
the Tombstone Lincoln, get the AC/DC.  I just don't like the jumps in
amperage, but rather an infinitely variable setting.  But that being said,
the Tombstone is one hell of a machine for general purpose welding for the
money.  I believe there has been as much welding done with Tombstones as

Shop around.  You can buy a lot of machine for a pretty decent price in the
used machine department.  I think you will like the Thunderbolt, but will
soon outgrow it if you weld much at all.  You may have to bump up your
electrical service, but that's no biggie.

Just mho based on my experience.  Good luck.


Re: Advice on buying a welder

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Using a lincoln AC-225C stick welder here.

Its about half the size of the tombstone, which I owned several.

The AC225 weighs about 85 pounds.

Reason I got rid of the big tombstones...
got real tired of moving them ...each "big real estate deal" then move on to
a better home...

I know you can put wheels on them, carts, etc....but man, they are still
heavy suckers....


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Re: Advice on buying a welder
You always want to buy the biggest machine you can afford. But when was
the last time a hobbist needed to burn 3/16" rod for hours on end??
That's the only time the 20% duty cycle comes into play. I do the usual
trailers, Jeep bumpers, trailer hitches with 1/8" rod and some
occasional 5/32"

The OP has "limited experience" wants to do "home and hobby" useage.
Point him towards something he can use the first day right out of the box.

Steve B wrote:
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Re: Advice on buying a welder

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You said it all in the first sentence.  And for the same amount of money,
you can buy a bigger better used machine.  Sure, a guy can some machines
first day right out of the box.  What about second day when he wants to kick
it up a notch?


Re: Advice on buying a welder
The 'You" in my last post was referring to Steve B as someone who always
says buy the biggest and best and most expensive. The OP is a hobbist,
get a hobbist grade machine.

I've bought used and helped some newbies get used machines. It's always
dicey. My last unit cost $5 but it needed cables, connectors, new jacks,
work on the amperage selector, and didn't come with a helmet. It sat in
my 'do something with it' pile until it came back to life on a cold
winter evening. I'd NEVER tell a newbie to go buy a unit in that shape
even if it was a good unit and just needed accessories. They would never
get it running.

A friend said he needed a basic buzz box, had missed out on one for
$100. I ran across a nice used one with a kart included for $50. My
buddy was at work, I just bought it on the spot. For a while it was
looking like a would get to have ANOTHER welder around here as he hemmed
and hawed that the unit I had was not EXACTLY like he had looked at.

Steve B wrote:
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Re: Advice on buying a welder

RoyJ wrote:
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Yeah but once you start pushing that 20% duty cycle it drops off to
about 5%.  I have a few larger industrial machines, but have a little
shoebox wire feed that runs on 115VAC for semi-remote tack jobs.  Stick
it back together until you can get the job close to a real welder.
Even for that, 20% DC gets annoying real fast.

The shoebox cost me $20, and that's about all it's worth.  A "real"
welder doesn't cost that much more and can do so much more.


Re: Advice on buying a welder
I've run my old 180 amp buzz box for hours on end, steady welding with
1/8" rod on custom bumpers made from 1/8" wall tube. Probably running
something like 60% to 70% duty cycle at 110 amps. Welder warmed up but
not anywhere near it's limit. So where do you get this 20% duty cycle
going down to 5%?  Granted, the manufactuers used underrated diode
assemblies so you can't get decent power out for DC but that is true all
the way up the line until you get to 3 phase equipment. wrote:
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Re: Advice on buying a welder

RoyJ wrote:
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Wasn't necessarily referring to your welder....

Some of these little new welders that have a Duty cycle rating of 20%
can barely maintain that.  My little Sears shoebox being one of them.
After about 2 minutes of welding it drops out.  If I don't wait for it
to cool back down, it drops out again.  Quicker and quicker.

The point really was, as others have made,  don't buy a toy.  Buy the
biggest welder you can afford and pay attention to the DC ratings.
Anything that uses a 10-20% DC rating to get 100 amps is going to
disappoint and be incredibly frustrating to learn with.

I do most of my welding with either of my Millers or a Thermal Arc, but
they aren't very portable for those remote "make it work" jobs.  My big
welders have 100% DC ratings up to about 250A, which I rarely ever deal


Re: Advice on buying a welder wrote:

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I've welded with a Miller Thunderbolt since the 1980s and only a couple of times
have I ever run into duty cycle limits. The thing is, when I'm making something,
it's not just welding, it's cutting, fitting, clamping, tacking, checking,
measureing, correcting, and only THEN welding, usually for a few inches. Then go
on to something else. However, one time I had to weld up some 3/4" plate with a
full vee. That was a PITA with a 20% duty cycle welder. But one time in 20 years
isn't all that bad.

You have to factor in the fact that a home shop welder has to be moved, and it
has to be stored. A heavy industrial welder is tough to move, nearly impossible
if steps are involved, and requires a lot of storage space. Also, DialArc
machines run around $400 used on the West Coast, and buzzbox units are often
$75, and the difference can be meaningful for a lot of hobbyists. Arguably you'd
get better results in saving the difference and spending it on a real good
autodark welding hood, where the visibility would be so improved, your welds
would look much better.


Re: Advice on buying a welder
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I am in the same camp as you -- I agree that it is wise to buy as much
welder as possible.

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It surely is great, though, to not worry about duty cycle. Mine is
200A at 100% duty cycle.


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