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How could a welder made in 1939 be out on a pipeline today?
You may think that 6G welder is welding those pipe joints up with some fancy computer controlled welding machine, and you'd be wrong in most cases. Good old fashion stick welding like great grandpa did in World War ll is still the dominant process. Yes, the new pipe welding machines have electronic controls and other fancy stuff, and they have aluminum windings - and sure, they are out on the pipeline - mostly Lincoln brand, and the rest are Miller. However, on most pipelines these are stick welding machines.
It is possible that you'll find a machine that pre-dates WW ll out on a pipeline in 2012. Why and why stick? Stick is easy to transport, set up, and it is tough. Stick welders can weld in a breeze. Other welding processes use a shielding gas, so they can't weld in any wind. Stick welders don't break down much - they are so simple. Stick is an extremely strong process.
What about the machines?
Although there are some pretty snazzy modern stick welders out on the pipeline, you'll also find the Lincoln SA200 Pipeliner. You'll see some made in the 60s and 50s, and once in a great while, as far back as 1939. Why? The Pipeliner SA200 welders are great machines. Heavy copper windings make for a smooth arc. They are built like a brick porta-potty, so they run and run.
Modern machines are made with aluminum windings. As the windings get warm the electrical resistance increases, so the machine must be adjusted. When the welder takes a break and comes back, they must be adjusted again. An old SA200 with copper windings doesn't have this problem, so it welds on the same setting all day long, no matter what - they always weld like butter.
The world of Lincoln SA200 welders is an interesting one. Lincoln wound some of them in the 1970s with aluminum, but went back to copper with the Pipeliner Classic Series ll. Stay away from aluminum if you're going to get a Pipeliner.
Later model Classic units are diesel. The high cost of fuel makes this matter. IF you are running a rig 12 hours a day, diesel can make a big cost difference because diesel cost less to operate. However, a gas model will be less expensive to buy.