Stitch Welder (Welding Rods Not Included)
Item Number: 19045
Pros: Low cost, functional, no need to buy gas, good manual
Cons: Changing rods, higher temp
Needs: on/off switch, rod holding screw that can be hand tightened
OK, you are on a limited budget and you have to weld some sheetmetal on your project car. What do you do?
The best option? Go out and borrow a 220V MIG welder with continuously variable power control, gas, and perferably a spool gun. Sadly, anyone that has a higher end MIG welder probably guards it with their life and needs it in their shop. However, if you can get ahold of one, this would be the root I’d choose.
You could go out and buy or borrow a low end MIG welder. They can work, however my own experiences have not been good. Unless you can fine-tune the power output of the MIG welder, you can look forward to limited success welding sheetmetal. I burnt holes in a lot of sheet metal using the MIG welders I borrowed, although skill level was obviously a factor in that. Unfortunately, most low end models only have 3-4 fixed power settings, not a continuously variable knob for power. Every shop should have a MIG welder, but before I buy I’m holding out for something I know will work.
But what else can you do? Fortunately for me:
- I do have access to an old, but quite good, 220V arc (stick) welder that my son inherited from his grandfather and
- I ran across a low cost add-on. The stitch welder from Eastwood makes welding sheetmetal with an arc welder very doable.
Personally, I was a tad skeptical about how useful it would be - especially given it’s “under $75″ price point. However, it is not a gimmick. This thing actually works. I won’t go into the gory details (see Eastwood’s stitch welder instruction book for details on how it works), but suffice it to say that even a rookie like yours truly was able to create decent welds on sheet metal using this tool.
Is it perfect? No.
- For one, you are welding with rods, not a continous spool of wire. This means that you will spend a lot of time installing new rods as you proceed. I was using 1/16th inch rods and in general this would join about 2 inches of metal before I had to use another rod. Sadly, the existing version of the welder uses a simple slotted screw to hold the rods (i.e. you need a screw driver). A screw that could be hand tightened would speed up the welding process considerably.
- This welding attachment does not have an on/off switch. Why is this an issue? Well, I stuck a lot of rods to the surface of the metal when I was learning to use the system. If the rod stays stuck for even 2 seconds, it will melt to mush. Given that the on/off switch on my welder was outside the car when I was inside, I either needed a spotter that I could yell “off” too or I had to use all my might to yank the welding rod off the surface. An on/off switch on the attachment would be much more elegant.
- The stitch welder is much, much better at doing recessed lap joints than butt welds. If you need to do any butt welding, I’d strongly encourage you to purchase Eastwood’s Welding Aid Tri-Pak . Putting one of these copper plates behind the gap in the butt weld makes the process much easier.
These minor negatives aside, I was very impressed by this tool. It is not a gimmick. If you have access to an arc welder with variable power control, do not hesitate to add Eastwood’s stitch welder to your collection. It is a useful tool for the hobbiest on a budget.
Overall Rating: Thumbs up
posted by @ 1:50 pm