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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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