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I've been wanting something different to take outside and do most of my stick welding instead of dragging my $4,000 Miller Dynasty out in the weather - it's been hit by sudden rains twice now and replacing it or any of it's electronics gets real expensive really quickly. I've been looking at some of the AHP and Everlast machines for awhile now - their price point and reputation is stellar as well as their performance. AHP generally has a higher duty cycle compared to Everlast but their selection is quite limited for now - one 200a ac/dc tig/stick machine, one plasma cutter and one small 160a dc tig/ stick. Part of what sold me on their brand was the welding shop next door - he's an old school guy that prefers the transformer machines for their raw power but he wanted to get more into tig work for special jobs. Used scratch start off an old Lincoln Dialarc 300 for years but it's limited to dc only and no high frequency capability. After he had used my Miller Dynasty 200DX a couple of times he really wanted one - but he's about to the age he wants to slow down and get out of the business and retire. Biting off the cost of that machine is pretty tough and their value does take a pretty good hit used, so that wasn't going to work. We had discussed in the last year about some of the bargain-priced inverter machines and how these smaller companies were really starting to compete with the bigger names in reliability, quality, and overall features. Most of these were designed with the hobbyist in mind but in the last couple years they are aiming for the bigger commercial markets to directly compete with Miller, Lincoln, Esab, ect...

 

After checking out a lot of reviews and videos he pulled the trigger on AHP's Alpha Tig 200 ac/dc unit - under $900 delivered to your door and includes everything but the argon gas to use it. We've both been quite impressed with it's performance so far - he loves running 7018 stick rods as well as the tig function and has taught himself how to use the more advanced pulse functions and frequency controls in a pretty short time. I've tried to help when I can about specific settings for doing special work and his experience in running scratch start basics has made it pretty easy for an older fella to pick all this up quickly. He's had it now for about 6 months - the thing hasn't blinked once and it gets used pretty hard in the shop - even taken outdoors to work on large equipment, pretty impressive stuff. Had one little issue with the tig trigger switch failing to work - it had pulled one wire off it's board, a quick solder job and it works perfectly.  The more I hear about these machines the better it gets - these small companies are out to make a serious dent in the market and the bigger names have somewhat dropped the ball on quality of components all the while their pricing point just keeps climbing. Both Miller and Lincoln are now using Mexico sourced parts - not a good idea in the welding world since it takes very few failures to lose customers - welders don't have the patience nor the time for equipment that doesn't hold up long term. 

 

I've been wanting the AHP Alpha 160st for awhile now - but they have been out of stock since October. The rep said they keep getting slammed with orders and it's no secret that industrial shops are buying this model to use as a small portable for field work where it isn't practical to drag out long leads off an engine drive or up a ladder. I know there has been posts on some of the forums about small schools purchasing quite a few for teaching/certifying Pipe welding - this little lunch box sized machine is more than capable of running lift-arc tig root passes as well as the 7018 cap and fill passes on pipe welds - it's arc performance is that good and the weld quality can easily pass x-ray testing.

 

http://www.ahpwelds.com/product/ahp-stick-160st

https://www.amazon.com/AHP-Alpha-160ST-Stick-Welder-Voltage/dp/B01HDUMAUC/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1515423667&sr=8-1&keywords=AHP+160st

 

The price works out a little cheaper off Amazon - don't sweat the listing as saying it's a 2016 model - they are the current market 2018's and come directly from AHP anyway so it's not a problem. That is directly from AHP's tech staff since I questioned the listing and had other specific questions about this machine that are not listed in it's specifications.

 

Enough rambling - I know....here's a couple pics

 

5a538adb80db6_20180107_1808091.jpg.1c994d8d4f36ba1192ca7f8bb88b9624.jpg

 

5a538b00487eb_20180107_1807541.jpg.f77135471807dd31de497ff4294c040a.jpg

 

This thing is ridiculously small - like, half the size of my lunch box I take to work and far lighter @12.5lbs. No wonder guys have been putting a strap on them and welding stuff off a ladder, lol.

 

A few notes that are specific to this machine that they don't tell you - stuff I consider pretty important.

 

Their tech people recommend never using ANY cellulose type rods - none, including 6011.

 

They also stated to keep the leads short - like 10'-12' long at most. Longer leads puts more feedback to the electronics and can shorten their lifespan.

 

The front panel DINSE connectors are the smaller 25mm size versus most using the larger 50mm size. Roughly 3/8" diameter vs. 1/2". No big deal, several companies offer 50x25 adapters for that - I ordered a set the same day as the welder from one of the welding suppliers. Didn't want to have to use an odd tig cable/gas adapter to run my various tig torches.

 

The lift arc tig function has a ramp-up style feature - it takes a second or two to hit the full knob setting for the given amps the welder is set for, this is a good thing. That one difference is why I didn't want the Everlast 160 model despite it having an internal gas solenoid and high-frequency start/remote capability. That other model is a little more expensive but easily twice the size of this one - all I want is a basic machine that is light and small - and cheap. Dragging the extremely expensive 60lb Miller outside is not something I want to do - the thing is just too expensive to replace and it's internals would scare NASA.

 

Now, this is a 120v/220v machine. Shown on the display is it's max capability on 120v power - it comes with an adapter cord to go from the standard 50P welder plug to the common 120v 15/20a wall plug. At 120amps , that's close to being able to run 7018 rods in 1/8" size - but, the limiting factor is always the wiring from the plug to the panel in any structure. These machines are known to easily run the 3/32" 7018 rods almost continuously without a problem - but the wiring to the panel/breaker must be up to snuff or you'll be tripping the breaker often. You should really have a good quality 25amp wall outlet and minimum of 12ga wiring back to the panel - as well as keep that wire run short as possible if you want to run it on 120v often. They will also draw a lot more inrush current on 120v as will any machine - my Dynasty will almost always pop a breaker within a short time in comparison to this little machine - the Miller just has a lot more electronics drawing on the circuit in comparison. Using multi-pass methods you can easily do some very thick materials using 3/32" 7018 rods - it's an industry practice that commonly used in the field for high stress work.

 

Anyway - just thought I'd put out the info on it and testing will hopefully begin soon. I need to pick up a valve type torch or at least a handle to run the gas since this one is not equipped with an internal gas solenoid. No big deal - I can always use another torch - lol. I've been pretty sick the last few days and the weather lately has really kept me in the house - hoping to at least get it outside and run some rods to fully test it's power levels and ensure there are no problems. I can find only a very few complaints about these things on the net - just a few have arrived DOA for whatever reason and AHP promptly took care of it - this machine has a good 3yr warranty. Looking forward to having something much smaller/lighter that I can set up and go to work a lot quicker than dragging out the Miller. That expensive tool lives in the basement shop and is really a dedicated tig machine for nearly all metals with it's advanced tig functions. I do have an old Lincoln AC185 buzz box sitting outside under a garbage bag for years now that gets occasional cellulose rod duty - it burns 6011 quite well and despite living out there in the weather it has never missed a beat - pretty good investment for a $25 welder my brother in law found at an auction - no idea why no one wanted it but I'm glad I grabbed the opportunity.

 

It's a highly capable machine, much more than just hobbyist or entry level and for the price point can do a lot of work. No ac side to it so any aluminum work is out, but the dc on these runs so smooth it's almost disgusting - Miller and Lincoln need to seriously up their game as more and more professional/industrial shops are buying these things at a fraction of the cost of the big name machines. I've got a buddy that bought out an old friend's shop nearby in my old hometown - can't wait to show him this thing since he owns and regularly uses a Miller Maxstar 150 that cost him $1,800 at the time it was new and he's had issues with it lately. I've always wanted a small Maxstar - but even used they are super expensive and are known to burn out if pushed too hard - for the price point of the AHP you can't go wrong and their performance record is stellar. For anyone wanting to get a good dc stick rig at a very reasonable cost or learn to tig weld steels - this is a great machine for the money.

 

Sarge

 

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Oh the projects that I would like to tackle, if only I had a welder and knew how to use it.

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@rmaynard I am with you Bob , since my shed has a wood floor , I don't think welding would be a good idea. Luckily my brother has a welder and does not mind me  bringing work over to him. He also has a nice 3 bay heated garage which makes any work easier. 

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Frankly, for the cost of this machine and the YouTube videos out there now - anyone can learn to weld with some practice. #1 rule is to always protect yourself and your surroundings - electricity can kill easily, not to mention the fire hazards associated with welding. For those with a wooden floored shop - stick weld outside, learn to use lift arc tig inside. It's important to have an area that is free from air currents for tig work - when the shielding gas is lost from the wind the tungsten will blow out and your weld will quickly go to crap. I have done tig work outside but it has to be the right conditions and uses a lot of argon. This little machine has no tig torch included for the price but there are some pretty decent ones available at a reasonable cost - just make sure it has an included gas valve. A simple regulator or flow meter is the other thing required plus the pure argon gas - that's it for tig welding capability. Tank leases aren't too bad depending on who you have for a supplier - I own my own tanks but I do a lot of work here. Tig can be a pretty demanding skill but with practice and a steady hand you can do some amazing work.

 

Sarge

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Posted (edited)

I got a couple of lessons from my local welder friend on his big stationary 240 volt MIG welder. I did pretty well, but when I got home and tried the same thing with my neighbor's 120 volt portable MIG, I just had no luck. So I gave the welder back and have had to get all my small welding jobs done by my friend. Now, the project that I have involves a front end loader and I can't move it. So I'm going to have to get a welder and learn right here. 

 

 

 

Edited by rmaynard
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If you were closer I'd give you free lessons - taught a lot of people around here to weld, especially on stick work. Those 120v mig machines should be outlawed - they are responsible for a lot of injuries and damaged equipment from folks thinking they can handle material heavier than 1/8" thick - which they will not without a properly ground/cleaned multi-pass weld. If you have a place that can handle the sparks/debris from mig welding you can do stick welding as well - and frankly, have a weld that can be trusted more in terms of penetration and quality within the root. Migs are fussy about conditions and settings - they can lay down a beautiful weld that most folks would be proud of - yet only have about 1/3 the penetration that they should. It is far too easy for a novice to lay a nice bead on top when they don't understand what they are doing - not nearly the case with the stick process. 

 

There are some excellent YouTube folks that have basic and advanced welding lessons out there - one of the best hands down is Jody Collier, aka

http://www.weldingtipsandtricks.com/

 

His arc shots and ways of explaining the process and techniques is second to none - I watch him myself a lot to improve my skills and stay on top of industry changes and I'm not alone - many pro welders love watching this guy and he's about as down to earth as it gets. He also sells some very useful stuff on his website at a competitive price - his "tig finger" protector is known worldwide and I have several for tig/stick work. It's basically in insulator sock to isolate the heat away from your hand and fingers if you're resting on the material being welded - sure saves on skin and gloves...lol.

 

One note about tig work - if you can torch braze even just decently - you can learn to tig weld. They are very close to the same skill set and tig is the cleanest welding process by far. I can weld right in my living room if I want.

Be wary though, tig produces a very strong electromagnetic field and can mess up some electronics - the most notable being human pacemakers. Most units made now are designed to isolate from those fields, but some are not and it's up to a physician to determine that. My wife's aunt has one that is not insulated - they give me a warning if she is coming over and I just stop welding while she's here visiting - rather do that than cause a problem for her. 

 

More cold weather coming again this weekend - well over 40*F here today but I still feel like crap and it's so damp I'd rather not drag a brand new unit outside just yet - can't even see the street from the dense fog here. Hopefully better tomorrow - I'm dying to stress test this thing.

 

Sarge

 

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Thanks for that info. Yes, if you were closer I would take you up on some lessons. I learned to braze when I was a teenager, and I can cut. I took an auto body class at the local vo-tech, and stick welding was what was taught. That was 1978. I'm thinking that I may try my hand at stick welding again. 

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It's funny - your hands/brain never forget this stuff, just gets rusty if you don't do it often or for a long stretch. I didn't stick weld for nearly a year and it took some practice to get into it again, but after a few rods I was back in the groove easily. Odd, but despite all the issues with my hands, nerve deadening and such stuff with age it's easier now than ever - I've finally learned how to just relax and get on with it. An angle grinder, a box of rods and some time spent practicing will go a long ways. If you want to learn to do multi-pass high strength welds - pick up a box of 3/32" 7018. Some brands will run far smoother than others - be wary of the cheap Hobart rod sold at TSC - I've tossed nearly half a 10lb box away with rods that wouldn't run properly. Lincoln Excalibur is excellent , just for reference.

 

Sarge

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The flu finally gave me a little break yesterday for awhile - and the weather gods smiled as well, 58*F here yesterday morning at 9am...

A quick look at the radar showed a small window of time with no rain from the system coming in that was bringing huge changes to our pattern yet again so I took the time to pull the little toy out and do some quick tests. Didn't feel like dragging the heavy 220v drop cord out so I just decided to test it on the 120v side with some 3/32" 7018 rods. It runs those rods flawlessly, in fact, as good or better than the $4,000 Miller Dynasty. This thing lacks a dig control but frankly, it's current sensing works so well it's not needed - I could nearly snuff the rod out and it just kept it burning smoothly. Long arcing didn't seem to affect the machine either, which was a surprise. I set up one piece of plate in the vise and ran 5 full 14" Esab Atom Arc rods in as fast a succession as I could swap them out - it never blinked nor tripped the breaker. The outlet I've set up outside is a standard dual leg 20amp with the wiring back to the panel being nearly 50' long in 12ga building wire. Now, the Miller in comparison could barely make 1 rod before it would trip a breaker on 120v - this thing did it with no issues and to top it off it was also running an additional 25' 12ga drop cord. 

 

Arc performance is amazing for such a little box - ran it at 90amps and that seemed spot-on for this size rod. Pushed one last quick fillet joint before it started to sprinkle rain and had to quit - the exact reason I do not like dragging that expensive and much heavier Miller outside. Out weather here can change in a flash - as we always say, if you don't like the current conditions - wait 5 minutes and it will change. 

 

5a58ca5981b53_20180111_1136251.jpg.cec7d5caa40800abd9c6864c4f5f873a.jpg

 

I didn't take time to photo the back side of the fillet - but penetration is excellent and had no problems holding the leading edge of the puddle and it flowed in like butter. Can't wait to run some 1/8" rod and really push it hard but I'm sure it will do fine. When I get to feeling better I do want to fully test the limits of the tig side and push it hard against the duty cycle - that's where a lot of these smaller inverter-based machines fall off if they aren't built right. Just for grins, I took it over to the welder next door - he's seen these listed and has the bigger 200a AHP tig machine but was surprised at how small this one really is. He may pick one up to do sanitary SS work in a local plant as it would save a lot of aggravation having to use his engine drive running outside with super long leads when he has to weld piping and fixtures in there. 

 

No regrets so far, for the money I'm really impressed with this little bugger.

 

Sarge

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Thanks for the detailed write-up Sarge.  And the photo's also. Have plans to add a heavy duty outlet down to the basement garage, haven't worked out the details but all the information you provided helps. Beginning to wonder if I should have ever hooked up with this forum, Geez Louise, between the quality of the workmanship and the level of sophistication in the technical info I might not be able to keep up!!! Damn, I have to take an Advil or something.

 

Chris

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A couple really important notes about running 120v welders, or any welder capable of running off standard wall current versus using a 220v supply -

 

Most all units, when running on 120v will have an inrush current demand in excess of 40 amps - the inrush is stored within the cable for the most part but it's the amount of time that the inrush is needed to operate the welder that is the problem. The shorter the required inrush time span, the better they work on 120 volts. Larger machines such as my Dynasty 200DX Miller has a lot of extra electronics in it to support all the highly advanced tig functions for both ac and dc processes. I've tried to use it at less than 10' from the electrical panel on a high quality 20 amp breaker - just a few tig starts and it will trip the breaker. Went to a delay type breaker, it did better but still had issues tripping the circuit off. Now, this is with good quality US made copper hard wire in 12ga - when I increased the wire size from the breaker to the outlet to 10ga wire it did get some better results. Not easy to do as most outlet boxes do not have enough room to bend in the 10ga to the outlet - it's a real pain to put together. So basically, the Dynasty pretty much cannot be ran on 120v - it just won't work.

 

This much smaller and less demanding AHP 160 doesn't have all the advanced tig/stick functions, gas solenoid system, memory programs and such -  but, the inrush current rating is nearly identical to the bigger and more complicated Miller. Now, you'd think this would have the same result of tripping the breaker - it does not. Since it's whole electronics demand and how the IGBT high voltage side current storage system is smaller and built for a lower amperage output rating translates to a much shorter inrush current time span. During the initial testing day, I had it outside on a 20 amp heavy duty Cooper outlet (commercial grade). Distance in the wire run from that outlet back to the panel in the basement is right around 45' in length. Due to the weather and length of the welder's stinger leads it was also running on a good quality 12ga commercial drop cord - 25' long in fact. Given the distance, I did not expect it to be able to handle a hard continuous weld run of more than a couple rods in succession. I ran 5 full 14" long 3/32" rods as fast as I could burn them and change rods out. The AHP and electrical breaker never blinked once - nor did the supply cord/outlet/plugs get even warm to the touch. I'm sure on a super hot and humid day that may change due to the temperature demand affecting inrush current needed to perform the same welds versus being 55*F outside. 

 

So, what's all this rambling on about?

Basically - if you do not have the ability to add or can afford to run a 220v circuit for a welder, this little box will more than do the job on 120v wall current. It must be a 20 amp circuit running 12ga wire - no 14ga lighting circuit will support a welder of any sort. For those with limited resources, just getting started or just don't have a place (renting) that can be upgraded this is a great option for being able to weld your own parts/repairs. Using just the industry standard 3/32" 7018 rod you can easily weld clear up to 3/4" material. Now, it is a given that this is a multi-pass process of course - a machine that is capable of 3/4" material in a single pass process is in excess of 350 amps. It is common industry practice to properly bevel thicker materials for multi-pass work. Industrial/structural/pipeline work is regularly welded multi-pass for a reason - it is more reliable to get x-ray quality versus single pass processes, even in a highly controlled environment. I've welded 3/4" thick lugs for heavy pre-cast structure work - these are 10 pass welds that have to be inspected and verified that they are sound, this stuff is holding buildings together. In my trade it is becoming more common for Laborers to weld pipe casing for bore work - some of that casing is up to 3/4" thick walled pipe and requires 12-14 passes with a full gap root pass. Since we do the work to support the boring machine many times now we are being used to also weld the casing during the boring operation, most jobs use 1/4"-1/2" walled casing pipe. On a lot of jobs we are "cheating" by using 5/32" rod running off engine drives at 175-190 amps - two passes is just a lot faster and this casing is not for pressure work nor does it have to be watertight. It just depends on the job and the engineering requirements but most times it's pretty relaxed. I could easily do the same work with 3/32" rods and this little tiny box running off a small generator, so don't rule out it's capability.

 

My other big point is this - if you want to build parts or do repairs on materials over 1/8" thick, this little bitty box is a great choice. With 3/32" rods, this machine's capability up to 120 amps is more than adequate and most times that rod is running at 90-95 amps. Using a slight whip and pause technique I'd be comfortable running clear up to 1/4". A big reason to choose the smaller rod versus using the more common 1/8" rods is the fact that you can stay far tighter into the joint with the smaller 3/32" rod versus 1/8". The root base of the weld is always key in strength - the bigger rods make it more difficult to stay down tight into the root of the joint to achieve the proper penetration for joint strength. You'd be surprised how many commercial shops prefer to use 3/32" rod versus 1/8", especially in 7018 alloys. 7018 produces a very low hydrogen, highly ductile/high strength weld very easily - anyone can learn to run this rod properly versus the tougher to use 6010 and other cellulose-based rods. This little machine is not rated for nor really capable of running ANY cellulose rod - including the easy to strike/burn 6011 high penetration. The electronics are not built to handle the feedback load - that is important to know, so just don't do it.

 

The other reason I bring all this up - the common belief among hobbyists and beginners is that mig is easier/better than stick processes, WRONG.  Using any mig requires a deep understanding of proper penetration and setting the welder up properly - that is beyond most people's skill level. 120v mig machines are the worst in my opinion - they are at best good for maybe very light body work, tacking or welding material up to 1/8". It is far too easy to make a nice looking bead with a mig that wouldn't hold up any better than a simple gas brazed joint - I see this a lot out there in many hobbies. I've watched Jeep guys lose a spare tire carrier that was welded with low power migs and even high powered commercial mig machines - the welds weren't done properly by someone that is trained - it was a hobbyist doing this stuff at home. Losing a 35"+ plus heavy off road tire/wheel combo spare on the highway isn't funny and folks have been sued for this stuff. I see guys building a lot of accessories for their tractors with these little crappy migs. Some of this stuff is downright dangerous - not pointing any fingers at anyone in particular, just want to put this information out there so folks can avoid getting hurt or causing any damage on something that should have been easily done. For the money and skill required - you are far better off learning the stick welding process and using this little cheap unit - it is a great choice for a hobbyist or even highly trained professionals alike. Add to that the capability to run lift arc tig with nothing more than a proper tig valve torch and an argon cylinder with regulator - now you can do food grade stainless work! It can not do any aluminum, this is dc only but the range of metals that can be welded is amazing and learning to do tig work is actually fairly easy - it's basically the same skill set as torch brazing. Want a super-duty grounding point on the frame of your tractor? Tig weld some copper on top of the steel, drill a hole and add a bolt - now you've got an ultimate grounding point. Silicon-bronze will do the same thing with a tig braze process and not corrode over time - even better and can be used to join some crazy dissimilar metal combinations.

 

Since I've been sick lately, I've had a lot of time to spend thinking about helping others - I get bored easily anyway. Not particularly a rant - just wanting to get folks informed as to why I like this little machine so much. It's great to see an entry level price point with an excellent track record on the market and this machine is far more capable than anyone would give it credit for. For it's price - it takes away any excuse to farm out welding jobs for nearly anyone that wants to do work on metals, whether it's repairs or fabrication. With some time and practice, anyone can learn a valuable new skill and at this price it's affordable for almost anyone. They are running out of these little machines at an alarming rate every time they get a new batch in for sale - there is a reason for that and I'm glad I finally got my hands on one - it will be a staple around here and for remote jobs for a long time to come. Sorry I rambled on for so long, but I'm very detail-oriented and have never been able to explain things in short, concise points - just my nature. Hope it all helps someone understand some of the misconceptions about working with metals - it really does apply to what we all love to do with our little tractors...have fun - build something !

 

Sarge

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Holy bad ground Batman! Well Done. IT is an "eye-bleeder" for sure but definitely helpful. I had a "sparky" guide me when I built my house and was going to talk to him about running range cable to the garage in my basement. Now I have more information to absorb and think through. Will look into the machine you're talking about. I have had limited exposure to mig and didn't really take to it. Your comments were spot-on about that. 

Whew...too much to think about, have to take a break.:think::bow-blue::text-goodpost:

Thank you,

Chris

 

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Just keep in mind - while totally capable on 120v, this does not make a welder efficient. They will draw far more electricity on 120v versus using 220v - any machine capable of dual voltage is guilty of this. 220v is always better and it will keep those electronics a lot happier - that is important for long-term use. I do plan to do some more testing, especially with the tig side and running it wide open on 220v - gonna see if the magic smoke comes out, lol.

 

I gotta get rid of this flu - it's creating far too much time out of the shop, where I belong.

 

Sarge

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Been using the little AHP a LOT lately, man, I love this little box of a machine. It's been loaned out a couple of times as well to my brother in law - he wants one badly but they are out of stock again for a while.  Yesterday, I needed to make some repairs to an old lawn tractor cart, think it's either an Agri Fab or similar. Both corner frame reinforcements were cracked at the welds from abuse and rust. The AHP performed flawlessly running 7014 1/16" rods for repairing the sheet metal parts, about 20ga material. It's so nice to grab the heavy 25' drop cord and this little lunch box sized machine and take it where it's needed instead of dragging out a bigger machine or using the old Lincoln 180a buzz box and the 220v supply cord. 

 

5b06c15359e1b_20180523_1236571.jpg.474f1b064eb159525790a8dd1bdbf19e.jpg

 

Spent almost all day making a new axle, fitting some used tires/wheels and repairing various spots on this cart to make it functional again - productive day and yielded a useful tool. Haven't had time yet to test out the tig function and I'd really prefer to get another torch to use with it that has the gas valve instead of having to shut off the tank regulator outlet - but I'll try to report back soon.

 

Son in law says the 160ST is still out of stock - he called them again on Monday, lol...

 

Sarge

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