2016 July 1     Tech   Metal & Shop
Updated 2019


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.  And I would use a MIG welder, so I'm not knocking them.)

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 very lightweight, and not much larger than a breadbox.  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.

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In This Article

Meet the Easy Weld

AC or DC?

Open Circuit Voltage


Striking an Arc


Can It Run 6011?

Can It Run 7018?

Holding An Arc

Duty Cycle

Stick Welding Sheet Metal

Can It Weld Stainless?

Overall Performance & Quality


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 DC.  Though it plugs into AC wall outlets, the output is 100% Direct Current. 

This is an inverter welder.  Basically they work like this:  AC wall current passes through a rectifier circuit to form DC.  The DC then passes through an inverter stage to produce high-frequency square-wave AC.  This goes through a step-down transformer and a couple of diodes to give the DC output voltage used for welding.

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

According to the panel on the side, voltage ranges from 21.4 volts to 23.2 volts. This is probably arc voltage, because if it started with OCV in the 20's like that, I would think it would drop even lower when you started welding.  (Voltage drops across a resistor.)  Every time I use the machine I forget to test it with a DMM, but hopefully I'll remember next time.

Quality & Durability

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. 

As for durability:  I've done a LOT of welding with this machine since I got it.  It's covered in grinding dust.  It's been through the bitter cold of winter and the heat of summer.  It's been run beyond its duty cycle.  And it still works.

Based on what I've seen so far:  if this machine dies, I would definitely get another one. 

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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.  Small inverter welders generally have lower OCV than the more expensive DC welders, but the Easy Weld seems to strike an arc fairly easily. 

Use 3/32" or smaller electrodes with this welder.  And make sure your electrodes are good.  Once or twice I had a bad batch of 6011's that kept sticking.  Another batch from the same manufacturer worked perfectly. 

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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. 

1/8" steel is very common in welding, because a lot of things are made with 11-gauge plate or 1/8"-wall square tubing or angle iron.  So, this is my go-to welder for a lot of these projects. 

The dial goes up to 85 or 90 amps, but it probably tops out at 80.  The performance is great with 3/32" rods, as long as you don't try to weld cold or overly-thick steel.

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.  As long as you can get the arc started, 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. 

It can also handle 1/8" 6011's fairly easily.  1/8" 6011 at ninety amps will burn through all the mufflers you want.  After testing it with a clamp meter, I wouldn't say this machine is 90 amps, but it should be enough to weld with 6011.

If you can't hold an arc with 3/32" 6011's on this machine, you're doing something wrong... or the rods are bad.  Make sure you have a good batch of 6011's that haven't been stored in high humidity.  I had no problems whatsoever with Hobart 6011's when they were fresh.  After about a year stored improperly, many of them wouldn't hold an arc.  (6011's are tough because you can't restore them by baking out the moisture, as you can with 7018.)

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Can It Run 7018?

Short answer:  YES.

It doesn't supply enough current for 1/8" 7018, especially not for thick metal.

Here's some U-channel that I welded together with 1/8" 7018;  machine was cranked up to maximum, which is supposed to be 85-90 amps.

First attempt with 1/8" 7018 on the 100 ST.  This is a cold weld, but I was not able to break it apart. 

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. 

Much better. 

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;  regular 7018's are more difficult to start.  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).

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Holding An Arc

Make sure the machine is warmed up.  In cold temperatures, I've found it takes about half a rod to achieve that.  If you try to weld with the machine cold, it's not going to have as much output current.  I know this for certain now.  Lower current means the welder won't hold an arc as well. 

Once it is warmed up, I've found this welder to hold an arc easily with 3/32" rods.  Yep, even 3/32" 7018.

The results are going to depend on the metal thickness you're trying to weld.  I can say from experience that it's not going to hold an arc too well if you're trying to weld 1/2" steel.  However, it seems to hold an arc perfectly well on 1/8" to 1/4" steel.  (If you find that it won't, try a different brand of welding rods.)

Be sure to use a 20-amp circuit.  If for some reason you have to use an extension cord, get a good one

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Duty Cycle

The duty cycle at 80 amps is 20%.  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 80 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. 

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Stick Welding Sheet Metal

For stick-welding a muffler or other sheet metal, this would be a good welder to use.  It has a continuous range of adjustment and you can set the amperage as low as needed for sheet metal.  A small change in the output current 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.  If you're welding metal that's 1/8" thick or less, you should be able to run 3/32" 7018 AC's all day long with this machine, as long as you mind the duty cycle.

Small-diameter 6013 does have outstanding performance with this welder. 

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Can It Weld Stainless Steel and Cast Iron?

Cast iron, ductile iron, stainless steel, specialty alloy steels... if the metal is not too thick, and 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.  Then again, since I wrote this review I've welded cast iron a number of times with 1/16" and 3/32" 7018.  As long as you do the correct pre-heat and post-heat, and the metal you're welding is not too thick, this machine should work as well as any other.

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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.

I've run this machine on a not-so-great extension cord.  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.  Like pretty much any other welder, it has to be able to get enough voltage and current from the wall outlet, or you'll have trouble with it.  This is not the fault of the machine. 

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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!


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