2016 July 1     Tech   Metal & Shop
Updated April 2017


Introduction


Nowadays, everyone's all fancy with their MIG and TIG welders, but let's face it:  stick welding is still awesome.  Not only can it weld thicker steel, but it also takes a level of skill that keeps it from being a "me too" type of art.  You know, the kind where everyone, their grandma, and their little dog too is into it.  (Actually some grandmas do stick weld, though.)

Traditionally, stick welders were big, heavy, and they required 230/240-volt outlets on fifty-amp circuits.  That placed arc welding even further out of reach of the weekend hobbyist and the home handyman.

Recently I've had the opportunity to try something different:  a 120-volt stick welder that's only about the size of a breadbox, and boy is it light!  It's the Forney #298, also known as the Easy Weld 100 ST. 

Can this little 110/120-volt welder be of any real use?  Let's find out.






A Quick Note


This website is made possible only with the support of readers like you, when you use the links on here to purchase your gear. 

The small commissions from sales are what allow me to keep this site going.   Thank you in advance for your help.




In This Article

Meet the Easy Weld

AC or DC?

Open Circuit Voltage

Quality

Striking an Arc

Performance

Can It Run 6011?

Can It Run 7018?

Holding An Arc

Duty Cycle

Stick Welding Sheet Metal

Can It Weld Stainless?



Overall Performance & Quality

Conclusion




Meet The Easy Weld


Forney was actually the first company to make arc welders for farmers and handymen, way back in the 1930's.  ("Arc welding" is the traditional name for stick welding, also known as SMAW.) 

After several years, Forney is once again offering arc welders.  This time, the machines are green instead of red.

The Easy Weld 100ST is their smallest arc welder, meant for the hobbyist and weekend-handyman market.  It plugs into a standard 110/120-volt outlet;  for best results, use a 20-amp circuit.

The 100 ST is so small and light that it almost looks like a toy.  That makes it incredibly easy to carry, with the added benefit that it doesn't take up a lot of space on your welding table.  Or, perhaps, a pair of sawhorses with an old door across them.  (Disclaimer.)




AC or DC?


You may have read that this is an AC welder.  Actually, it's a DC welder!  Though it plugs into AC wall outlets, the output is 100% Direct Current.  This unit is an inverter-type welder, which means it uses rectifier diodes to change the AC into DC.  I didn't tear down this unit to see what's inside, but they have to be fairly substantial diodes to be able to handle that kind of output current.

Big-time credit goes to the manufacturer for printing the schematic in their manual.  I wish the audio electronics industry would start doing that again.

One thing that's really cool about this welder is that it makes DC welding affordable.  It also makes it easy to power the machine, because you can plug the welder into a regular 120-volt outlet. 




Open-Circuit Voltage


The OCV on this welder is probably less than 30 volts.  When I check it with a multimeter I'll update this section.





Quality


Somewhere I read that this machine was made in Italy, but I think it's actually made in China.  Build quality seems much better than the typical low-cost welders.

You also get a much better manual with this welder.  No bizarre translations or "Engrish" here.  The manual is nicely printed on glossy stock.  It includes quick-start info sheets for both TIG and stick welding.

The electrode clamp (stinger) is fairly decent;  I've seen this same electrode clamp on several $99 welders, but it's not a bad clamp at all.

The ground clamp is better than you'll find the typical cheap welders;  more substantial or something.  Both clamps are good enough that I don't see any need to replace either one.



Shown with a US Forge chipping hammer, to illustrate how compact this welder is. 



Buy This Welder

Table of Contents




Striking An Arc


Some people say that DC welders can strike an arc more easily than AC welders.  It really depends on the open-circuit voltage.  The 100 ST doesn't have the OCV of the more expensive DC welders, but it seems to strike an arc fairly easily.  From what I've seen, 3/32" 6011's seem to strike almost as readily on this machine as on a Lincoln AC 225.

This machine struck an arc readily with all the electrodes I tried, including a couple different sizes each of 6013 and 6011... and yes, 1/8" 7018's. 


Buy This Welder

Table of Contents




Performance


As an arc welder, it's surprisingly good (haven't tested it with TIG yet).  The more I use it, the more I like this machine. 

It's no exaggeration to say that I'd rather use this than a full-sized 230-volt welder.  There are some jobs where a full-power welder is necessary, but the 100ST is so much more portable and pleasant to use.

Let's talk about the 100ST's performance with specific types of welding rods.



Can It Run 6011?


If a stick welder can't run 6011, then it's not much of a stick welder.  Therefore, that was the first thing I tried on the 100 ST.

By and large, welder performance is a function of output current.  The metal doesn't care if your welder is 120 volt or 240 volt.  If the machine can output 60 amps with 3/32 rod, then you can weld anything that would be compatible with 60 amps and 3/32 rod.  Simple!

This welder can easily run 3/32" 6011's, which are one of the most useful welding rods there is.  I often run 3/32" 6011 at less than 60 amps, probably somewhere about 55. 

Since the welder can max out at 90 amps, it can also handle 1/8" 6011's fairly easily.  1/8" 6011 at ninety amps will burn through all the mufflers you want.  And you can weld some big iron with it, too.

If you can't hold an arc with 6011's on this machine, you're doing something wrong.  Either that, or I would try a different brand of rods;  I had no problems whatsoever with Hobart 6011's


Buy This Welder

Table of Contents




Can It Run 7018?


Short answer:  YES.  Stick around and we'll see just how well it can do with 7018's.

First, I wondered, Will it run 1/8" 7018's?  According to the manual:  Yes... with difficulty.

On thick steel, 1/8" 7018's are often run at 120 amps, sometimes even 140.  Generally I wouldn't run 1/8" 7018 at less than about 105 amps.  This welder can't supply that much current.  But what if you're welding thinner stuff and you're not doing structural welding?  I wanted to find out for myself, so I tested the 100 ST on a couple different pieces of scrap steel.

Thing is, I was using a cheap extension cord.  And it was 25 feet long.  So you could probably get better results than I did with 1/8" 7018's.

First I tried to weld together a couple scraps of U-channel post  Each was probably about 1/8" thick, but definitely at least 3/32".  In other words, 3/32" rod would have been a better choice here, but I just wanted to try 1/8".  Maxed out, this welding machine handled it surprisingly well.  The current, which must have been 85 to 90 amps, seemed passable for this. 

Also this was an earlier test, and I hadn't quite gotten the knack for 7018 here.



First attempt with 1/8" 7018 on the 100 ST... not perfect, but not bad either. 
This is not the greatest-looking 7018 weld on earth, I know.  A little cold, but strong enough for this purpose.


If that weld was a little cold, you'd sort of expect that.  1/8" 7018's are pushing the limits of a machine like this. 

OK, now for a better test.  Let's try 3/32" 7018 AC.  Dial maxed out, 20-amp circuit, no extension cord.  Oh yeah, and I've had a little more welding experience by now......



NOW we're getting somewhere. 

That's 1/8" steel plate welded to another piece of 1/8" steel plate. 



If you weld pipelines all day, that might not be a great weld in your book... but for what I'm doing, this is a fantastic weld.  It's a better weld than the factory welds that were on here!  (And this cart was made in USA, probably with expensive MIG or flux-core machines.) 

Thing is, I don't even really know what I'm doing.  So if I can make welds like that with this machine, imagine the welds YOU could make with many years of welding experience. 

If you're going to run 7018's, just get the 3/32" ones.  I've had best results with 7018 AC rods;  they work great with DC welders too.  Just hook the electrode clamp to the "+" connector and the ground clamp to the "-" connector, and you'll be running them at DC Electrode Positive (DCEP).








Buy This Welder

Table of Contents



Holding An Arc


You've been using a $3,000 Miller DC machine since welding was invented.  Well OK, if you suddenly pick up this 120-volt machine, of course you won't be used to it.  And of course it's not going to outperform a $3,000 unit, just as a pretty-good $60 bench vise is not going to outperform this

But the thing is, I've found this welder to hold an arc easily with 3/32" rods.  Yep, even 3/32" 7018.

One thing you will find is that a small turn of the dial can make a huge difference in how well it holds an arc.  It's not like the bigger welders where you jump 10 amps each time or something.  If the electrodes keep sticking, turn it up just a little bit.  You should be able to run 3/32" 7018 AC's until the rod is used up;  if you do it right, there should be no problem holding an arc.

Be sure to use a 20-amp circuit, get a REAL extension cord, and use the thinnest electrodes that will work for the job. 


Buy This Welder

Table of Contents




Duty Cycle


The duty cycle at max amperage is 20%.  Technically, that means you can run two minutes out of every ten, which is actually a lot of welding.  It's still tough to imagine that a 120V inverter-based welder should be welding for two full minutes at 90 amps, but if the manufacturer says it can, then probably it can. 

Generally I'd try to run it for 30 seconds or less per duty cycle.  A lot of the thin stuff you'd be welding actually calls for multiple short welds instead of a continuous bead anyway.  Thus, a short duty cycle is not actually a problem.

This welder at 20% duty cycle is a lot better than the $79 arc welders with their 10% duty cycle. 

If you're running 3/32" 6011 rods at 50-65 amps, duty cycle is probably not even going to be an issue. 


Buy This Welder

Table of Contents




Stick Welding Sheet Metal


For stick-welding a muffler or other sheet metal, this would be a good welder to use.  That's because it can dial down to 25 or 30 amps, which you might want to use for certain types of 1/16" electrodes.  Also, it has a continuous range of adjustment.  As I said earlier, a small change in the output can make a big difference.

Some people will tell you this welder is only good with very thin 6013's (1/16 or 5/64).  That wasn't my experience;  it works great with other rods, too.  You can run 1/16" 7018's so hot that you'll have to turn down the amperage. 

That said, small-diameter 6013 has outstanding performance with this welder.  And really, 6013 is a sheet-metal electrode. 


Buy This Welder

Table of Contents




Can It Weld Stainless Steel and Cast Iron?


Cast iron, ductile iron, stainless steel, specialty alloy steels... if there's a 3/32 stick electrode for it, it'll probably work with this welder. 

For cast iron, I'd be wanting to try these electrodes from Muggy Weld.  The 3/32" size should work great with the 100 ST. 




Buy This Welder

Table of Contents




A Note About Circuit Breakers


I'll say it again:  use a 20-amp circuit for best results.  Yes, you can run 3/32" 6011's on a 15-amp circuit.  You can probably also run 3/32" 6013's or 1/16" 7018's.  But I would use a 20-amp circuit for everything, just to be sure. 

Some people are running these on 15-amp breakers and wondering why it's tripping the breaker all the time.  Also, some breakers are faulty or just old.  They trip well below the rated current. 

Another thing.  Don't run this machine on a GFCI outlet.  It will trip the circuit interrupter (yep, I've tried it).  Your 20-amp outlet has to be a regular one, not a GFCI.

And by the way, I mentioned using this on a not-so-great extension cord.  Well, I had another cheap cord sitting around that looked the same, but the wires must have been thinner.  The welder kept shutting off.  It worked fine without the extension. 

This machine seems to have its own internal circuitry to detect voltage drops and other faults.  You have to feed it enough voltage and current from the get-go, or you'll have trouble with it.  This is not the fault of the machine. 

Buy This Welder

Table of Contents




Conclusion


This machine works much better than I thought it would.  In fact, it's great.  For about 90% of the repair jobs or sort-of-messing-around "art" that I do, this welder could actually be my first choice.  If it's steel, less than 5/16" thick, and you can run a proper extension cord to it, the 100 ST can probably weld it.  (Once again, don't use a cheap extension, as I found out.)

This machine is affordable, yet it's definitely a cut above the $79 no-name welders from the discount tool store.  It may not have the power of a Lincoln AC225 or a Hobart Stickmate, but the 100 ST costs much less... and it can run on 120V AC, which those can't.  If most of what you're welding is 3/16" or thinner, you'll probably never need a bigger welder anyway.  The 100 ST is a very useful and versatile welder for anything down to 24 gauge sheet metal.  And yep, in a pinch, it can even weld 5/16" steel. 

The fact that it can run 3/32" 7018AC's so well: that seals the deal.  But even if it weren't for that, being able to run 6011's up through 1/8" diameter is handy enough as it is.  For the price of this machine, I'd just get one now.  Unless you've been spoiled with a $3,000 industrial welder or something, I think you'll wonder how you ever did without this.


I hope you've enjoyed this article and found it helpful.  Please help me out by using the links on here to purchase your gear.  Thank you!





         


Contact me:

3 p o.t o . 1 2 0 s t u d i o.. c o m


This won't directly copy and paste.  Please manually type it into your mail program.
No spaces between letters.





Home Page


Site Map


What's New!




Disclaimer

Copyright 2017










Back to Top of Page