Stick welding revelation

For years I have used a very basic SIP Merlin AC Arc welder (mostly
repair work, sticking the mower deck back together, and the occasional
bit of crude fabrication). Its a transformer based lump, pretty crude
with a ridiculously poor duty cycle (weld for 7 mins, let it cool down
for half an hour - improved to weld[2] for 7 mins let it cool for 15
with the addition of a couple of large fans internally). However I put
up with it on the grounds that I don't need to weld things that often.
[2] In fact never mind welding, just turn it on a wait for ten mins and
it will overheat and cut out all by itself.
However the thought also occurred to me that one of the reasons I don't
need to weld that often is because its such a PITA to use, one tends to
find alternative ways of doing it! That and it might be quite nice to be
able to do some proper fabrication work from time to time.
So earlier in the year when an excuse was presented[1] and I finally got
round to upgrading to a decent inverter based MIG setup, which has been
really nice. At the time I bought it I also got an electrode holder so
that I could also stick weld with it if I wanted - but had never got
around to trying it out until today.
[1] Daughter needed to do some welding for a college project, but could
not go in due to lockdown.
I wanted to weld up some bits of rebar outside, and the wind was quite
strong. So, ideal time to try it in MMA mode... and wow what a
difference! You can strike an arc with ease, it runs quiet and smooth
with a really nice stable DC arc, and makes it almost easy to get pretty
decent results with relatively little skill or practice. No buzzing,
spluttering, or sticking either.
So moral of the story, I wish I had gone for something like it years
ago, and I now have a new found respect for IGBT inverter arc welders -
they make the whole process quite civilised!
(anyone got a use for a 150A Merlin?)
Reply to
John Rumm
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Tell me exactly what to buy. Seriously. The welder I bought for £50 in 1976 is beginning to get on my nerves a bit.
Reply to
williamwright has brought this to us :
I added a 240v cooling fan to the case of mine, plus a handy 13amp socket. The fan runs whether or not it has thermally tripped. It makes a lot of difference to the run time before tripping and to the recovery time after tripping.
Reply to
Harry Bloomfield, Esq.
I have an old (very old) 140 amp AC/transformer stick welder and a fairly new (year or so old) 140 amp inverter based stick welder. The difference is huge! It's so much easier to strike with the new one and it makes neater welds as well. It actually makes stick welding almost a pleasure! :-)
Reply to
Chris Green
I did something similar a few months ago and wish I'd done it much earlier. I'd had a large'ish transformer-based MIG welder for a looong time, it worked well-enough but I used it so rarely that my welds were always a bit embarrassing, which meant I used it less. I took the plunge and bought a 180 inverter MIG/MMA from R-Tech and using it is a totally different experience to using the old welder, I also switched from using CO2 pub gas to an Argon mix. Welding is so much easier and gives excellent quality, plus the box is much smaller and lighter. There are cheaper units out there but R-Tech were helpful on the phone and have a long'ish warranty. They aren't cheap, but I sold the old welder so the upgrade cost was affordable and well worthwhile. I thoroughly recommend R-Tech and the 180 MIG welder.
Reply to
Yup, I used a pair of either 6" or 8" mains fans - it was better certainly, but still far from good!
Reply to
John Rumm
Yup, I have a very cheap (like 15 quid) one from Lidl and it's nearly useless for anything serious. It does work though, for a very restricted value of the word. ;-)
I have a SIP branded 150Ah stick welder that I have built (and still got) many things with, including several trailers. When you get a good one, plugged into a good supply (and not a long extension lead) and with the right rods, it worked very well.
The Mrs bought me a Lincoln MIG years ago and that's a real pleasure to use. Had an rental bottle on it from BOC (Argoshield Universal?) but gave that back [1] and now have a rent free one that works out much cheaper. I have gassless wire but not used it yet.
I did a welding class at college (one afternoon a week for 2 years) and we covered most of the technologies available at the time and it was very handy (for my practical lifestyle pov).
Cheers, T i m
p.s. College welding class, lad in the booth next to me stick welding up a test piece. I here a 'pop', then see a torch come over the screen and into my booth and hear some screams. I put my torch down and flip my visor in time to see him busting out though the curtains behind the booths and run over to the quenching tank, where he plunges his face into the rusty water ...
It turns out a ball of weld / flux had ricocheted off his apron and gone up his nose ... ;-(
They sent him to hospital 'in case' and I believe he made a full recovery. ;-)
[1] Along with my oxy-acetylene bottles.
Reply to
T i m
Well based on my limited experience, something inverter based with IGBTs in the electronics.
If all you need is stick, then something like:
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(and having now used a decent welder in stick / MMA mode, it has greatly expanded my concept of what kind of work I would be happy to tackle with it - I would still probably not want to try welding very thin sheet steel, but general fabrication with, bar, tube, angle, and square hollow etc would be fine)
The one I went for is:
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(many of the reasons being similar to the other poster in this thread who got the same machine)
I also got a cart to stick it on, the stick electrode, and reels of both 0.8mm and 0.6mm wire, plus a few spare tips etc.
For shielding gas I found a local Mark One hire shop was also a Hobbyweld agent:
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They do bottles with no rental element, so well suited to intermittent users. The gas was £35 (plus you pay a £65 deposit with the first bottle, but then just swap it for a full one for the price of the gas). I went for the Hobbyweld 5 mix which is 93% Argon, 5% Carbon Dioxide, 2% Oxygen.
ISTR the Merlin cost me about that in the late 80's, and yup, getting on nerves seems to be about what they are best at!
With hindsight, I bought it as a solution looking for a problem - I just thought it would be a handy thing to have. I remember telling a work mate who I knew was into welding, and his only question was "Why?" - the significance of the question dawned on me over the next few years, when as each problem presented, the solution turned out to not be that good.
Reply to
John Rumm
John Rumm presented the following explanation :
I bought my transformer stick welder in the mid-80's second hand, complete with a pile of new angle iron. I learned stick welding working on a contract in Italy and fancied keeping my hand in. I had in mind to make lots of heavy duty shelves for my new garage. I ended up with two at each side, near the car door and they are still there, but over full now. It has come in useful many times since then for lots of jobs.
Since then, I bought a transformer MIG welder, but that has been much less useful or used.
Best welding accessory I bought was a auto-dimming welding helmet.
Reply to
Harry Bloomfield, Esq.

I actually have two of the cheap Lidl / Alto stick welders (I just wanted to try them for the S&G's) and the 'better' of the two is fan cooled as you say.
I wasn't aware of any 'duty cycle' with my old SIP stick welder as it never cut out on me. ;-)
Cheers, T i m
Reply to
T i m
Yup :-)
(I am tempted to get one of the R-Tech XL ones - they have a bigger window so you get a better view of what you are doing)
Reply to
John Rumm
Indeed, but I have not got any of that in stock[1], but still have a third of a 5kg box of 2.5mm electrodes left (which I bought them from CPC *years* ago :-)
[1] and the slight faff or remembering to swap the polarity.
(It was telling that I got through about 8 rods in ten to fifteen mins with the other welder that would have been over an hours work!)
Reply to
John Rumm
IME gasless wire is a bit sensitive to wind too. Another +1 for even the cheap lidl stick inverter welder being quite easy to use (although I find its limit to be 2mm sticks).
Reply to
I have welded satisfactorily when not swapping the electrodes. There was a lot more platter though.
I have a very old MIG welder and was thinking of making the jump to TIG[1] with AC/DC provision to weld aluminium. Some machines can do all three MMA/MIG/TIG.
[1] I would obviously need a bottle of pure argon.
Reply to
And that is fine on 240V? I have a SIP 240v MIG that feels underpowered, as does the cheap Lidl MMA inverter.
And if I could do a trade I would actually be reducing my tool count!
Reply to
Yes, I'm running it on a 13A plug and welding up to 3mm MS. The manufacturer says a 16A plug will be needed to use the highest settings but I'll deal with that when I need to. It looks like JR and I bought the same model welder so maybe he can report on using it with thicker steel. The only thing I don't like is the display of current, which works (apparently) when welding ... but who looks at a display when they're welding?
Reply to
I think it also depends a bit on the wire chosen - some are more fussy than others.
I looked at a few, but most of the three in ones I looked at seemed to only do DC tig. In the end I thought there was a danger of ending up with a jack of all trades master of none result, and decided to get a stand-alone setup later.
(in fact you can do "austere" lift start DC tig with my machine, but it obviously lacks the finesse that you get with a "real" tig machine)
Reply to
John Rumm
I have installed a blue commando style socket for it in the workshop, but so far have not found anything that needed more than the 13A supply.
(note that until the other day, it was still loaded with 0.6mm wire which was more suited to daughter's project using lots of 0.8mm steel - so it was not being taxed. I was using 2.5mm rods, and that was fine on a plug. I did not try my 4mm rods)
Will do, when I have something heavier to weld.
:-) yup, you need to set your camera to film it!
(a sample and hold would be handy)
Yeah, I can see this growing... AC/DC tig, plasma cutter, etc.
Reply to
John Rumm

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