ERNIE, a question I was told to ask you.

Someone named/going by Steamboat Ed (steamer) read the following post I had put in rec.metalworking and said I should post it here and ask
Ernie so here it is below. Thank anyone for your time. I basically got two responses over there and only one really tried to address my base question which is about a couple of machines I'm thinking of buying to replace my current welder.
Original post below------
Hey, all, I currently have a Hobart Stickmate 235/160 AC/DC machine and I am thinking of buying a larger machine; what I'd like is to know thoughts and opinions about what would be a good machine to get.
I mostly do hobby welding but that may include hours of continuous welding (I sometimes, rarely, will weld for a couple of hours non- stop). I build smokers and have also built metal brackets to use to raise my concrete foundation on my house (and lots of other projects), and almost all the material I weld on is 1/4 inch to 3/8 inch thick. Mostly I use 6010 or 6011 rods which are 1/8 inch diameter, although I have found a really good use for 3/16 inch diameter 6010 rods. I have also used 5/32 6013 and 7014, and most all of this has been done with DC at the maximum output of my welder, 160 amps (well, whatever it puts out when it's cranked up fully, nominally it is 160 amps).
I was in the middle of building 35 brackets to go under my foundation last year when, POP, my little Hobart went from humming along to being noisy as hell and it's never gotten quiet again. I'm not sure what changed, maybe an adjustment screw on the slider in the thing fell out, who knows? It gets hotter than hell (even with a 120 V, 112 CFM fan scabbed over a hole immediately over the rectifier in the thing). I don't use it all day any day, but, from time to time, I will crank it up and burn rods for, literally, a couple of hours. I do a fair amount of welding in the 90-120 amp range with 6011 rods that are 1/8 inch diameter, and also some 7018, 6013, 7014 rods, all at 1/8 inch diameter at various amperages, but never anything below 75 amps.
I feel I'm asking too much, at the higher output, from my little machine and would like a larger one. I live in rural (sort of, we have a 24/7 Supercenter about 4 miles from me; how rural can it be?) north central Texas and my power feed from the grid is what we call 220 VAC, 60 Hz (but, with my RMS meter is really 250 VAC). Whatever it is, it is single phase and not strung between two of the grid's phases (208, I believe) as I have spoken to the utility to be sure. My shop is fed off a 100 amp breaker from the power pole and has a 100 amp main breaker in the power panel/breaker box.
So, I started looking at the Lincoln Idealarc 250 with PFC (power factor correction) it can draw as much as 68 amps at 230 VAC supply (I presume that is what I have here as it is the closest of the voltages I've seen to my voltage). I looked at a comparable (sort of) Miller unit the Dialarc 250 AC/DC which, with PFC, gets me down to 60 amps draw at less than its rated max output (225 amps output, DC).
It seems both could do what I need and run on my available power, although, my outlets in the shop are 50 amp, so I may have to change receptacles and breakers (or, at least breakers). But, the Miller rep was at the shop I stopped at and he gave me the sales pitch on the Shopmate 300 DX. Skip most of the tedious details and it seems like it's the equivalent of a giant switch-mode power supply (like in our computers). It draws less amps at max output (57 amps) and has a higher duty cycle at 60% at 250 amps. It weighs about half as much as the Miller or Lincoln machines I mentioned previously (testament to that it probably is a switch-mode power supply), and can support TIG if I choose to do that, and, according to the rep (who would probably sell his mother for a nickel so I'm not hanging on his every word here), it has arc characteristics that are similar to a three-phase machine (which I've never used so how would I know three-phase characteristics from meatloaf?). It can also support MIG, but since I have a Millermatic 210 that I'm happy with for my light-weight stuff that is not an attraction for me.
Anyway, since any one of these machines is gonna set me back about 2,300 bucks I'd like to see what thoughts and opinions and experiences you folks might be able to pass on to help me make a better decision; I'd like to not spend that kind of money and hate it a few months later.
Thank you for your time and information.
--HC
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OK to sum up you fried your little Stickmate, and would like to upgrade to something bigger. You have reasonably stable mains power, but not a lot of it.
On the machines you list, any of the transformer machines would work, but I would avoid the shopmate like the plague. Miller invented that machine for schools, and that is where it should stay.
The best machine that I can recommend is the Miller CST280 inverter.
http://www.millerwelds.com/products/stick/cst-280/
List price is around $2300, but the real price is more like $1900. I bought one for my school 2.5 years ago and it has been a workhorse ever since. Absolutely excellent stick welder, and can be used for basic TIG. It can use a foot pedal, but does not have high freq. start, AC output, or a gas valve. You can use a gas valve body TIG torch and it does have lift arc start. Aluminum up to 1/8" can be TIG welded using DC Electrode Positive, and a very large tungsten.
The best bit is the power efficiency. It makes 6010 rod crackle with joy, and runs 7018 at a purr.
At school we run it for extended periods of 180 - 210 amps output and it has never complained once.
I put it above all the transformers you listed, and also Lincoln's comparable inverter machine, simply because Miller has inverters down pat.
You will love the portability.
The other viable option would be a generator machine, but with fuel prices soaring I am not sure how that would effect your bottom line.
BTW I built a HUGE smoker/BBQ for the school from an old 300 gallon air tank. Works great. I have a 500 gallon tank I am tempted to build into a trailer mounted Smoker/BBQ.
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Hey, Ernie, thank you for your reply.
I looked that machine up and it sounds good to me. I like the lower power consumption over the transformer/traditional styles. It's cool that it could do some TIG work as, while I was working in the shop yesterday, I was wondering if that process might work better for some work I'm doing where I do short welds in an open area and my MIG is leaving too much metal (even with the wire speed adjusted down). Since I do all my work in the shop a generator machine isn't going to do what I need; I have extended periods of setup and then intermittent welds to make so a grid-supplied unit is ideal.
I'm not sure what part of the country you're in but I get my trailer kits (axle, springs, hubs, bearings, hitch, et cetera) from abctrailerparts.com in Alabama (I'm in Texas). It's a small outfit, I think just the one guy, Randy, but he's been good to take care of my orders for several years and the one time I had a problem with an axle he got it taken care of. If you contact him, tell him Hartford sent you. It won't get either of us a break on the price but it will spread goodwill with him knowing I pointed business his way.
Just in case you've never done it, don't use an old propane tank if you can help it. Whatever they put in those things to make the propane smell is tenacious; I cut one up to make a charcoal cooker and I took it to the car wash and pressure washed the inside (after I had it cut open) and then make my cooker from it. It still smelled bad. I had to build a couple of wood fires in it to get a coating on it and I'm not convinced that I couldn't still smell that stuff some; I never cooked on it. I did, however, not find any evidence of the "pockets of gas" that everyone around here claim remain in the tank; the propane had long since vacated the tank, it was jut the stink that was left.
Thanks again.
--HC

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The chemical is called Methyl Mercaptan. It is one of the stinkiest things on earth.
The only way I know to get rid of it is it burn it out with a BIG rosebud tip.
For the home smoker I am building the main tank is going to be a 100 gallon air tank. The smoker I built last year at school is a 300 gallon air tank that came from our air system. The BIG tank at school is a 500 gallon air tank I found at the junk yard for scrap price of around $180.

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FWIW, I acquired a compressor tank (80 gallons?) free at a metal recycling place. I called the "boiler and pressure vessel" inspector at the city (Seattle) to find out what couold be done to test it to determine if it was safe. He quickly said he would be in the area the next day and offered to come check it for me. He came, and checked various parts of the tank for metal thickness using an ultrasonic measuring device, and assured me it was fine. No charge. Thank you for our fine government. Who says they can't do anything right?
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B - O - N - U - S !!!
:)
But how did you get the scrap yard to give it to you free in the first place? It should have had value even as just scrap steel.
Regardless, love the input; maybe others can have similar results; very useful if you're trying to get a new air tank instead of a new smoker.
Thanks.
--HC
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I visit there often, am friendly with the help, and drop off a little homebrew once in a while.
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Ahhh, yes, nothing like a little liquid gold to grease the skids. :)
--HC
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Impressive, I never knew what it was. Looking it up indicates it is related to or a member of a group of chemicals called thiols which are composed of, in part, sulphur atoms which would help, I think, to explain its funk. :)
Burning it out would be an arduous task to say the least, especially when considering a large tank. And God help us all with our little heads stuck inside a tube of steel burning that gunk out. I use (and highly recommend) a 3M 7502 half-face respirator (the 7500 series has the 7502 Medium and, I *think* the 7501 Small and the 7503 Large, but I do not remember for sure) and the 3M fitlter pads 2097. With that setup (the 2097 on the 7502) I cannot smell the grinder or the welder or the darned mineral spirits paint (Rustoleum High Temp quarts I spray on my smokers). The respirator costs about 25 bucks and the pads are, IIRC, about 10 bucks a pair. Worth every penny when you don't blow black mucus from your nose for hours after working in the shop.
Any thoughts, good or bad, on the other Miller "combo" units such as the Dynasty 200 they list under TIG machines? They claim it will do stick and TIG but list it under the TIG secstion of their catalog. I ask because, after another session in the shop today, I am wondering (dreaming) that maybe TIG would help me have better results on some of my finer welding (like hinges and door straps) and, if I'm going to pony up the cash to buy a new unit, I would like it to be the best it can be. I've welded aluminum one time only so I 'm not worried about needing to TIG aluminum, just mild steel. So, the CST 280 can do TIG but is listed under the Stick section of their catalog but the Dynasty 200 DX is listed under the TIG section of their catalog and can do Stick. Ah, who knows, I think the marketing people make it this confusing on purpose.
:)
--HC
Thanks again and I don't know

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The Dynasty 200 DX is a full fledged TIG machine with AC and DC capability. It is a very nice machine, but does not have near the duty cycle or amperage output of the CST 280 in stick mode.
The Dynasty 200DX is a very nice machine, but for the heavy stick welding you are describing, the CST 280 is superior. I have had a Maxstar 200DX for 8 years and love it. The Maxstar is the DC only version of the Dynasty. If you need super portability and the widest range imaginable of input voltages, the Maxstar and Dynasty 200's win hands down with the ability to run on anything from 80 to 500 volts, single or 3 phase, 50 or 60 hertz. The CST 280 is a 220/440 single or 3 phase machine. It is primarily a Stick welder, but will do very nice DC TIG welding.
I still feel the CST 280 is the better machine for you.
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Thanks, Ernie, for the reply. I am cool with that. I checked at the local AirGas place today and they'll sell me that CST 280 for 1,700 and change. I'm excited about that. I have someone already biting on the line for one smoker and should have an answer in a day (and a down payment)...then it'll be time to buy a new toy (plus the TIG attachments).
Thanks again for this info and the info on the thiols (with that info and what Gunner pointed out I think I can reconsider my ban on the use of used propane tanks).
--HC

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Let me jump in here. Ernie works at a welding school who buys lots of scrap steel from a local vendor, cuts it up into bits and welds it up again, turning it into even scrappier scrap, and then sells it back. When they have something like an old air tank he has the opportunity to pick it up for a low price. He certainly didn't bribe them with liquor as has been inferred here.
Also, you can make a smoker out of propane cylinders, but old air tanks are better. Small propane cylinders (20#) are easy to destink - remove the valve, pour in a cup of household bleach and add a couple gallons of hot water, pick it up and thoroughly slosh it around, then dump it out. Done. But a huge cylinder would be much much harder. You'd have to cut it open and then spray on the bleach solution, and the whole area would stink for a long time. Unless you have Hercules handy, of course. :-)
I wish I could find a place where guys who weld up smokers posted regularly. I would love to hear from guys who had been doing it for awhile. I only want to make one! :-)
Grant
HC wrote:

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Grant, to be sure we're on the same page, I was certainly not meaning anything negative with my comment about offering beer in return for getting sweet deals at the scrap yard. Whether the sweet deals are facilitated by that offering or not doesn't cause me any animosity or ill will; when I visit my local scrap yard with stuff to dispose of I give almost all of it to them for free, even the aluminum cans. When I go there and want to know if they have anything I need I get free range to roam over the yard and usually get whatever I want for free; it's a good relationship and I was thinking of beer offerings in a similar light.
I have a 1,000 gallon propane tank I bought to use as an air tank but never did (fearing it might blow up if it was corroded inside and lacking a suitable way to test it). I was thinking, in light of the information about de-stinking with bleach, that I could dump about 10 gallons of wally-world bleach in there and run a hose in it for a while then seal it off and use my tractor to roll it around a while. Yes, it's probably pretty redneck...but it might work. :)
My advice on building a smoker would be to accept that mostly likely, no matter what you do, you'll find, when it's done, that you could have done things differently. With that in mind, use good materials and paint it well (I love the Rustoleum Hi-Temp in quart cans (use a big automotive-style sprayer) because it holds up well to the heat (even on the firebox) and also to the elements). The idea being, if you finish it and wish you'd done a bunch differently you can sell it and build another; that's what got me started.
Have fun!
--HC

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I have found that liquor has been one of the most efficient cost effective greases to get the wheels of commerce turning that I have ever seen. Politicians and all sorts of businessmen have known this since they hammered out the first round rocks. Cold drinks of all types work well, too. No telling you what a pizza or some hot coffee on a cold day would get you. It's just the idea that someone comes in and is willing to spread a little joy around while looking for scrounge.
I have had all kinds of delivery men, garbage men, counter men, and other men who I feel treated me a lot better (sometimes financially) because of a little extra grease now and then. And then if they were not agreeable to liquor, I'd ask, "What else would you like on the next trip?" If I ever profited less than I gave, I had the opportunity to end the arrangement. But I rarely did.
Steve
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SteveB wrote:

Yep. A little goodwill goes a loooong way. Especially if the folks on the receiving end aren't even used to people being nice to them. Sometimes a simple please and thank you is all it takes. Sometimes it takes (around here, anyway) some shine.
Or so I have heard.
--
John L. Weatherly
Nashville, Tennessee
  Click to see the full signature.
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Hey, Ernie, any recommendations on what hardwareI should buy to run TIG from this machine?
Which, if I may ask, school to you teach for and what area of the country is it located in?
--HC

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Air cooled... CK210 valve body torch, from CK Worldwide. Water cooled... CK230 Flex-head valve body torch. You will need a flow-gauge for the argon bottle. Smith ball-and-tube flow gauges are the best, but not the most compact. Victor and Western make more compact versions, but stick with a ball-and-tube type. Gas lens collet bodies, and Lanthanated tungstens.

I am the Topside Welding Instructor for the Divers Institute of Technology in Seattle, WA.
www.diversinstitute.com
Topside means I teach them to weld when they are NOT in the water.
We train commercial divers, mostly for the petroleum industry, but there is also a lot of inland work in ports, bridges, piers, dams, powerplants, reservoirs...
I am also a Certified Weld Inspector, Non-Destructive Testing instructor, and a very serious cook.

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Ernie Leimkuhler wrote: > >> Hey, Ernie, any recommendations on what hardwareI should buy to run >> TIG from this machine?
> Water cooled... CK230 Flex-head valve body torch.
Are the correct cable and hose lines for the CK230, from the 300 series torches?
I bought a used CK230 flex-head torch, without hoses, thinking, I could hook it to the cable/hose lines for my CK20 torch, or the lines from a H35 series ESAB, neither of which were a match. I hate to go back to my local supplier, with my tail between my legs, to inquire or order. I had thought, I could do this cheaper by getting a used torch, since, my local source wanted to charge me full list for a CK230 setup. I kinda burned my bridges there. I cannot find an online parts breakdown for CK. This is probably, only going to be an occasional use torch for tight spots. I am hesitant to free up the dollars for a set of new CK SuperFlex cables at full list price and then some. I would like to source some hoses that fit.
Thanks, for any help,
Russ
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CK only sells through dealers, but every welding supplier will have their parts breakdowns. They use several different connectors depending on the amperage of the torch. You don't have to buy the superflex cables (I would), since they still sell the normal vinyl ones.
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Ernie, thank you for your reply. I'm sorry it's taken so long to get back to this.
I talked to the guy at Airgas and he's trying to sell me a Weldcraft TIG torch claiming that is what Miller uses. The one in particular is a the WP17V25-2. It's an air/gas cooled torch. I'm waiting for a call from the guy there to ask some more questions about torches (about the Weldcraft and the CK). I have an e-mail in to Weldcraft asking if that torch has the Gas Lens Collet Body you have recommended. I have an e-mail from CK with a list of distributors so I can maybe get someone more motivated to sell me that brand instead of the Weldcraft.
I found a Victor regulator like what I think you are referring to; it's a HRF1425-580.
I have a bottle of argon that I use with my spool gun for welding aluminum, so I'm covered on that (I'll just replace the twin-dial regulator with the ball-and-tube type for TIG). What I intend to TIG (or *try* to TIG) is on the hinges I build from 1/4 inch steel with a 19/32 inch hole drilled in it with a piece of 9/16 inch hot-roll rod through it; it leaves a very tiny gap and I get more metal buildup than I want with the MIG (looks like a donut on the side of the hinge): I hope to just melt the material and let it run together with no filler metal (autogenous (I've been reading Wikipedia)). I may decide to try to TIG the hinges to the smoker to improve the appearance of that those highly-visible welds; so that would be 1/4 inch steel to a similar or thicker steel piece. With that in mind, what size electrode would you recommend?
Last Wednesday I met with a guy about my smokers and he is returning tomorrow with the owner of the company (oilfield services) to put a down payment on one of the smokers. If that actually happens then I'll be in good shape to purchase this welder and TIG stuff. If they're just blowhards then this will have to wait.
Okay, underwater welding. Wouldn't that be like the welding equivalent of being a rock star? That's serious stuff. That's gotta be a complicated job combining diving and welding. I'm impressed.
Thank you again for all your help, time, and information.
--HC

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