Learning to Arc Weld

Up to this point, all my work has been done with the oxyacetylene torch. And I can honestly say many works to come are going to be done by way of the torch. But I have always being curious about arc welding. Especially since the weld is instantaneous because of the 10000 degree heat. This is especially useful in projects that would take a considerable amount of time to complete with a torch such as building a welding table.

So last weekend I ventured to Harbor Freight to pick up their little 8 pound inverter welder. I spent $ 200 though because I needed a good autodarkening helmet, a chipping hammer, and some magnets. I got the 2 year warranty just in case. Yes I know, many people like to give the Chinese welders a bad rap. But let me just say that this little welder is quite good considering the money. It is not meant for the professional welder who does structural work but for art purposes it suits me fine. I am using 6013 1/16 "electrodes at this time. I have noticed they are a bit shallow and sometimes on small joints I have to go over them because the first time it is only flux that really lays down. Any civilized suggestion is appreciated .

I am somewhat embarrassed to show my efforts so far but I will in a separate post as I hone my skills. But for now I will do a assessment of this technique. So let me start with the pros of arc welding. One is it is less expensive for equipment than MIG and TIG welding. Secondly, the heat is instantaneous and would be excellent for tack welding armatures and metal furniture that you can finish with oxyacetylene. Thirdly, because you are not warming up the work with a flame, the heat is highly focused and warpage is greatly reduced. Finally, this particular welder I have is very light weight and there are no gas gauges to watch over.

Now the second part of the assessment. The cons or negative aspects. Arc welding is called stick welding because the electrodes get stuck to the work. This is especially true of rusty metal, having too low an amp setting, and the end of your rod has melted flux obstructing the circuit. Second disadvantage would be the power cord. You can not use extension cords because they would reduce the amp output of your welder unless the extension cord is the same thickness or greater than the cord on the welder. Because of this I am limited to 5 feet within my outlet until I make electrical changes. And lastly the flux. I mean you really have to wack at the work with the hammer to get the flux off. How else would you know if you truly laid a good weld down?

In conclusion, taking the good with the bad, I would still like to practice more and become proficient at this. The tool and the technique are surely going to find use in my future work along with my torch. I will be able to weld steel pieces too thick for my torch with beveling and going a couple passes with the electrodes. My next installment in the arc welding series will compare the different types of electrodes.