Finally broke down and bought an arc welder

I looked on Craig's List for awhile and finally found a welder whose price would not empty my wallet too much. Although I wanted to get a unit that
also did DC, I couldn't find one in the price range that I was wanting. As such, I ended up with the Lincoln AC-255 "Tombstone" unit. It was in pretty good shape except for the power switch being missing. The previous owner said that he wasn't willing to pay the $80 for a new switch and just wired it straight across the switch and used the circuit breaker to turn the switch off. It has copper wiring supposedly. The ground clamp probably could use replacing since it is too loose to clamp to thin metal, but it didn't prevent me from being able to test it out today on a piece of heavily rusted 2" angle iron. I took a closer look at my circuit breaker box today, removed one of the breakers, and took it up to Home Depot to see if I could get a matching type of breaker in a 50A size. Turned out that they had the 50A and 60A breakers in that type for less than $15. I went with the 60A breaker and 10 ft of UF 6-3 which they let me have for the same cost as the regular 6-3 which was on a pallet on a top shelf and they couldn't easily get at that time. I also picked up the receptacle for the plug. Total cost of parts were probably less than $55. A little bit of research on the web to find out how to wire a 220V circuit (turns out the neutral wire doesn't get used with this plug, so a 6-2 wire would have been acceptable) and some holes drilled in the wall studs so that I could run the wire a bit further toward the center of the rear wall of the garage and I had a completed installation. This is the first time I worked with a 220V circuit. The 6-gauge UF type wire was a pain to work with and strip (well, at least with a pocket knife). I managed to get it wired up on a hot circuit without frying myself which is always a good thing. Turning the circuit breaker on and nothing smoked, so I was getting a pretty good feeling about the project. I took out the multimeter and tested the voltage between each blade and ground (110V) and between the two blades (220V) and got an even better feeling about the project. I plugged in the welder and it started humming which really got me feeling a bit cocky. Put the welder on 75A and ran a few beads and they turned out good. Put the welder on 225A and ran a few beads and they turned out good as long as I moved the electrode quick enough to prevent a burn through.
As I was putting the cover back on the breaker box, I noticed a piece of 3/8" rebar sitting on my work bench and wondered if it would be possible to weld with it. Perhaps I was starting to feel a bit too overconfident at that point. ;) I guess I'll leave that experiment for some other day when I have some 1/2" steel to weld.
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Congradulations on getting up and running. Beware, it is addictive!
A few comments: (First a waiver: According to our local net nannies I'm supposed to bottom post AND cut all your comments out, but not....)
It sounds like you did a decent job of wiring it up, no corners cut here. And yes, the UF is a RPITA to work with. Doesn't seem to slow up the stupid gophers much when they start in on it underground but that is another issue.
Time to go practice. Pick up some 1/8" 6013 or 7018 for new projects and 1/8" 6011 for rusty/dirty metal. Practice at 110 amps (your welder may vary so experiment a bit) until you can get good clean beads where you want them. For lighter projects, pick up some 3/32" in the same grades. Someone just posted about 1/16" rod but that is awfully small (and expensive).
For home projects you will rarely use the 5/32" and 3/16" rod your welder is capable of running. Maybe if you are running 1/4" and 5/16" plate for a firebox but other than that no.
Do your self a favor and make sure your lens is CLEAN. Best is to get some new outer cover plates from your local weld shop. It's so much easier to work if you can see what you are doing! Check the lens shade while you are at it. If you are under 125 amps or so, you can use a shade 10. Stick with a shade 11 for the bigger rods. If you have trouble starting an arc where you want it, position a big trouble light on the weld area.
You mentioned rebar, a big caution here: rebar is usually high carbon and should be thought of as "mystery metal" The HAZ (Heat Affected Zone) next to the weld area can get extremely brittle. Sometimes it's fine, other times it is so brittle it will shatter when dropped on the floor. Don't use it for any safety or critical applications.
Dont forget safety: all metal should be presumed hot, treat it like it is. High top boots with pants over the top. Cover all exposed skin, 15 minutes will give you a nasty sunburn (I'm partial to the triangular sunburn under my chin from open neck shirts) Wear cotton clothes, NOT sythetics that will melt to your skin. Make sure the spatter doesn't drop into flamable junk or dust on the floor. Have a fire extinguisher handy.
Have fun!!!
Home Welder wrote:

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"RoyJ" wrote: (clip) Wear cotton clothes, NOT

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ FROM PERSONAL EXPERIENCE: Cotton, yes, but when they turn into well worn work clothes with fringes of thread along the edges, stop wearing them for welding. A spark can ignite this stuff, and if your hood is down and you are welding, you may not know it until flames are big enough to make you feel warm.
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In rec.crafts.metalworking, on Tue 08 May 2007 09:08:41a, RoyJ

It's not buried underground, it just goes through a few wall studs in my garage. The breaker box is between the 2nd and 3rd wall studs from the left rear corner of my garage. I put ran the wire out the bottom of the breaker box, through a few wall studs, and then nearly to the middle of the rear wall. I probably need to get some longer leads for the unit though since the stock leads pretty much mean that anything that might need to be welded will need to be pulled all the way up inside the garage.
Around here, the biggest rodent based electrical problem is with tree rats (i.e. squirrels) and either suspended power lines or the wires in your attic.

I remember all of this from my younger days. Some of it I learned from high school shop class, some I learned from making bad decisions. ;)
I remember using a large gray Lincoln engine driven welder (SA200?) build a corral many years ago and got a pretty good 'sun'burn on my neck and arms. On a hot summer day, you really don't want to be wearing long sleeved shirts or a leather welding jacket and sleeves.
One of the good things about being in a detached garage is that a fire extinguisher source is readily available -- a garden hose with a spray attachment. It's not good for an electrical fire and you wouldn't want to use it on the actual welder if it caught on fire, but for anything else, it works great. I have even used it on a gasoline fire many years ago when my car had a fuel line leak and it caught on fire underneath the hood.
I see that the autodarkening welding lenses have gone down in price quite a bit over the last few years. I might end up going with one of them. The idea of not having to keep flipping my lid up and down is rather appealing.
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Good safety tips by Roy and Leo. I'll add mine. Wear ear protection. If you get to the point of welding much, you will eventually get a spark in your ear. That can cause serious damage. I like the plugs that are on clips because they are easy to put in and take out. And Leo is right on about the cotton frazzles. You smell smoke, you feel hot, and wonder what's burning.
Oh, crap, it's me! Swat, swat, slap, slap, dance, dance.
Tombstone's a good machine.
STeve
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Steve B wrote:

> smoke, you feel hot, and wonder what's burning.

I took high school welding class back in the days of big bell bottom jeans which had the leg end seams stripped out of them and then left to frazzle to a nice fringe on the bottom... Let's just say that this was a recipe for a pair of "hot pants"... <grin>

Probably the choice of many high school welding shops.... Enough amperage to do some quick cutting if need be... Maybe not the latest and greatest design / technology, but it's solid and dependable... If you're wanting something for a TIG-like bead, it might not be your best bet, but if you just need to stick something together and it's not too delicate of work, it'll do the job... Even if you were to pay full retail at Home Depot, you wouldn't be out that much money... If you can do the electrical hookup yourself like the OP did, you can come out with a pretty inexpensive setup... One definite advantage of stick over MIG is when changing electrodes / wire... The one MIG unit I tried a few years back was a bit of a pain to change the wire in... It was a flux core wire unit (i.e. no shielding gas) and the weld quality that I achieved was not as good as I can do with a stick unit... Too many splatters also... There's probably a learning curve to it and if I had used it for more than the couple of days that I used it, I might have gotten better with it... As it was, I went back to stick... Oh well...
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Every welding process has its limits and its good spots. Almost any process that you would stick with and do long enough, you could master. For the general hobbyist, though, if you could only have one machine, I'd get a tombstone, or a good used AC/DC arc welder. MIG has a short learning curve, and if you can get someone to show you how rather then figuring it out yourself, it takes about 1/10th the time.
The Tombstone does make an AC/DC model. The ONLY thing I don't like about the Tombstone is the current jumps, preferring one with a screw rod adjustment giving infinite adjustments so you can fine tune the current. BTW, what are new Tombstones going for now?
Steve
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I've seen the AC model sale priced at $225, the AC/DC version at under $350. The newer helmet is a joke and the cable length is way shorter than is convient but it does weld.

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Steve B wrote:

I think that the OP said that they were $239 over at HD... A bearable price once you factor in how many years of use you will get out of it... One could argue that it's nicknamed the Tombstone not just for the fact that it is shaped like one, but also that it lasts as long as one...
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"Grumman-581" wrote:

And you can usually get them off of Craigslist for about a hundred bucks, at least around here. Heck, last week there was a forty dollar arcwelder, an old 225A Monkey Wards unit.
Jon
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Jon Danniken wrote:

They aren't quite that cheap around here from what I've seen on Craigslist... I would be a bit hesitant to by the Montgomery Wards unit since I'm not familiar with it nor do I know who actually makes it... The old Lincoln "Tombstone" AC-225 or AC/DC-225 are known quantities... Kind of like an old pair of sneakers -- comfortable...
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A few things about Tombstones: there are a lot of them around they last forever you can fix them most of the time not much goes wrong with them you can get them used for cheap you can find one easily they are reliable even a new one doesn't cost much lastly, (add whatever you like.)
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wrote: Heck, last week there was a forty dollar arcwelder, an

I have a 230 amp Montgomery Wards. It was a better welder than the Craftsman sold at the same time ( about 1965 ). It has two ranges and a lever that adjusts the current in each range. The open circuit voltage on the low current range is 80 volts.
Dan
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