A portable wire welder equipped with flux-cored wire provides the advantages of wire welding with the portability of stick welding. Note the wire brush and chipping hammer.
When upgrading welders, which is better?
Welding has advanced since the 1930s, when stick (electrode) welders, using an AC power source, began making their way to farm country. Today there are other options, such as TIG and wire welding, but stick welders remain the go-to form of welding to tackle many farm tasks. Here are several tips from experts to help you use your stick welder more effectively.
Because farm equipment manufacturers use metal inert gas (MIG) welders to assemble machinery, many farmers assume a MIG welder is the optimum welder for a farm shop.
However, experts say that an A/C or A/C-D/C welder that uses stick-type electrodes might be a better choice.
"For general repair and maintenance work, where you’re going to be welding rusty or painted metal, maybe outdoors in the wind, stick [welding] is a better process," says John Leisner of Miller Electric Mfg. Company. "MIG is good for fabrication, where the metal is clean, unpainted and the environment is wind-free."
MIG welders produce beautiful, liquid-looking, spatter-free welds, but require stringent conditions. Metals at the weld point must be completely free of corrosion and paint. Ground clamps must be attached as close to the weld point as possible. Any wind (even the breeze from a shop fan)can disrupt the shield of inert gas around the welding arc and create weak, ugly welds.
"Metal preparation is always recommended for any welding process, but with stick welders you can weld rusty painted metal outdoors in the wind with good results," Leisner says. "You can connect your ground clamp to the machine 20' from where you’re welding and still get a good arc. I’d say 80% of the time, stick welders are a better fit for farm use [than MIG welders]."
The downfall with stick welders is welding thin metal. Conventional A/C stick welders tend to "burn through" when welding metals thinner than 1⁄8", while MIG welders can weld metal as thin as 24 gauge (0.0239").
Dan Klingman, a technical trainer with Lincoln Electric, says using a stick welder with a direct current (D/C) option can reduce "burn-through" when welding thin metals.
"You can use straight- or reverse-polarity on a D/C welder, which changes the direction of flow of electricity. Straight-polarity reduces the tendency to ‘burn through’ when you’re welding thin metals," Klingman says.
Farmers who try a modern A/C-D/C stick welder are often surprised. "Somebody who goes from the welder their grandpa bought 30 years ago to a new welder will notice a big difference," Klingman says. "The new electronics make it a lot easier to strike an arc, and they produce a smoother arc that minimizes spatter."
Chad Schincke of Dakota Dunes, S.D., won a trip to the 2009 Miller Welding University, hosted by Farm Journal and Miller Electric Mfg. Co., and noted the advantages of welders equipped with modern technology.
"Compared to the old A/C welder that I was used to at home, the newer welders seemed to have more power. They didn’t stick all the time when I was trying to start an arc, and it was easier to maintain an arc while I was welding," Schincke says. "That made it easier to do vertical and out-of-position welds that I wasn’t really comfortable with when I used our old welder."
Alternate options for MIG. While stick welders are the most versatile welders for farm use, there is an option that makes MIG welders more flexible under farm conditions. Converting to flux-cored wire can increase a MIG welder’s ability to weld painted, corroded metals outdoors in the wind.
- December 2011