2020 April 5    Metal & Shop

Introduction


You might have seen those $100 stick welders, such as the Hitbox AT2000 or the HZXVOGEN HT2000.

There are other, very similar welders in this price range ($90-$110), too numerous to list.

Today I'm going to test an AT2000 and take it apart.  Let's see what we've got here.


Welding & metalworking can be dangerous.  Use caution.  (Disclaimer.) 





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In This Article

The Ground Clamp

External Build Quality

The Electronics

110 / 120-Volt Performance

220 / 240-Volt Performance

Power Cord Adapter

Conclusion



The Ground Clamp


These units (such as the AT2000, and this very similar model) include a ground clamp that looks (at first) fairly good.

The metal is a bit thin, though.  It doesn't take much to make the handles look like this...



If I were going to use this as my daily welder, I'd be tempted to install one of these ground clamps on it instead.  At the very least, this low-priced ground clamp from Forney would probably be better than the stock one.  Out of the box, though, the provided clamp does work.  And if you're careful, yes it will probably remain usable for a while.

Here's my question to all these manufacturers who keep making ground clamp handles too flimsy.  If you're going to use the materials and go to the length of making a ground clamp, why skimp on the handles?  Make them a mere 1/32" to 1/16" thicker, and they won't end up in the garbage!


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External Build Quality


The outer casing is metal, with a good-quality paint job. 

Everything seems to fit together and line up nicely. 



I like the big "On/Off" switch on the back;  the rocker switch operates crisply (but not too much so), and it says "1" and "O" on it, like a big computer power switch.  The switch is located where you'd probably expect it to be, for this type of welding machine.

Aside from the ground clamp being too thin, this welder has very good external build quality.


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The Electronics


Taking the AT2000 apart, I immediately noticed one problem.



You'd hope to see well-known capacitor brands here... 


When an electrolytic cap goes bad, it will often take out other components with it.  There's no real advantage to using cheap capacitors.  Of all the things you could build with cheap caps, an extreme high-current machine such as an arc welder should probably not be one of them.  I know these guys were trying to make a really good welder for the $100 price bracket, but in my opinion, they'd have been better to make it $125 and spend a few bucks on better capacitors.

The big capacitors in my test unit say "NIPPON CHEMI-CON".  I would love to see genuine Nippon Chemicons in here... but we don't know if they're genuine. 



Hmm...


My experience tells me these are not.  I'm not saying that they deliberately put fake brand-name caps in a $100 arc welder, but..........

I'm just going to say that re-capping this welder is on my "To Do" list. 


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110 / 120-Volt Performance


Before you even try one of these welders, please be sure to read this article.  110/120-volt welders will disappoint when run with the wrong type of extension cord.  It doesn't even take that much of a voltage drop to make the electrodes stick constantly. 

Supposing you've got the right extension, and it's on at least a 20-amp circuit... yes, it'll run the good stuff, within reason.  It should run 3/32" 6011, 3/32" 7018, and 3/32" 7018 AC, in addition to the usual 6013 and 7014 that they recommend for beginners.  In several articles on this site, I've recommended 7018 AC for these inverter welders, simply because it restarts much easier than regular 7018.  And besides, if you step up to an old-school AC arc welder, that box of electrodes will still be usable.

Even with the right cord and circuit breaker, you may find it sticks a bit at 110/120 volts.  Semi-serious welding is doable with these "lunchbox welders", if you know their limits.  That means staying with 1/8" or possibly 3/16" steel, and refining your arc-starting techniques a bit.

Even on a 20-amp circuit, the maximum output is probably no more than 1600 to 1800 watts.  With arc voltage of (probably) 22 or 23 volts, max output current will be about 75 to 77 amps.  I did some tests and found that 80 amps DC is about the most you can expect from a 110/120V inverter welder. 

75 to 80 amps can weld 1/8" steel easily, once you learn the techniques.  I ran some test welds with 6011 and 7018AC, and it'll hold an arc... usually.  Make sure you're not using rods that have sat out in the dampness for a couple years.

Even on a 30-amp circuit, I'd be surprised if this welder can do more than about 100 amps. 

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220 / 240-Volt Performance


If I re-cap this machine, I may update the article.  Right now I hesitate to run it on 220/240 volts.  Those 250V 2200uF's are the main issue;  they just don't look like the genuine brand.

There's also the off-brand caps elsewhere in the unit.  Not having a schematic, I'd have to expect any cap failure could take out the whole machine, fast.

I do feel confident that this unit can weld at 110/120 volts, and probably it would last for a while that way.  It's so far below the 250V rating of those big caps.  (Your results may vary considerably, and that's really the big issue with the lowest-priced welding machines.)

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Power Cord Adapter


The AT2000, which seems to be no longer available on Amazon, did not include the correct power cord adapter.  So if you wanted to use it with a NEMA 6-50 outlet (220/240 volts), you had to order a special adapter for it. 

This very similar welder may include the correct adapter.  When I find out for certain, I'll update this review.


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Conclusion


If you're not into re-capping electronics, this could still be a usable machine at 110/120 volts.  Some people are having great results with it, and I wouldn't discount that.

Still, I would recommend this welder if 110/120-volt welding is your primary goal.  Because it's a well-established brand name, you're more likely to get support for it if something goes wrong.  I've put a lot of hours on one of those-- actually, a few years-- and it still works as well as the day I got it.

As for the 220/240 volts, you might find it usable... but you might not.  Based on what I've read, the HT2000 may have the same capacitor issues as the AT2000 (shown in this review). 

Each of these welders is about $100 brand-new.  Low price-point electronics have a tendency to use cheap capacitors;  that's a trend that I've seen over and over again, for many years.

Because of that, I recommend saving up and getting one of these instead of any $100 welder.  I have no affiliation with that company, but I've had good experiences with their products, and they've been around for a long time.

         

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