Beginner's take on an Arc Pig
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  1. #1
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    May 2015
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    Beginner's take on an Arc Pig

    Hello everyone,

    As a beginning stick welder, I've tried to stay away from any gadgets or aids that might eventually become crutches. The Arc Pig was just such a thing--it looked like it might make some frustrating situations easier, but I thought sheer practice would serve me better in the long run. Recently, a particularly difficult project made me rethink why I wouldn't even let myself own one, so I finally broke down and ordered it.

    Briefly, the Arc Pig is a Tesla coil that draws its power from the weld current, and is inserted inline with welding cables. It is recommended to keep the cable length between it and the electrode holder to less than 8 feet, so the unit has bumpers on it that allow it to be dragged on the shop floor. When a torch-mounted switch is closed, the Arc Pig injects a high-frequency voltage that starts or stabilizes an arc.

    The welder I use doesn't have a lot of delicate electronics, so I'm not worried about any interference that the high frequency signal may cause, at least to the welder itself.

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    Since I didn't necessarily want to keep this permanently attached, I took this opportunity to make my cables modular, with lots of color-coding and Lenco connectors. The company recommends that the ground go first to the Arc Pig, then on to the welder, so there are both genders on the ground side in the picture below:

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    The switch supplied with the unit is intended to be mounted on an electrode holder or TIG torch, but I thought I'd use a foot pedal instead. I found one on eBay that wasn't too expensive.

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    Finally, in order to be able to swap to another switch, I used a Jones connector on the pedal and on the Arc Pig itself.

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    Getting all of these cables cut and terminated took a little longer than I thought it would, so it was around midnight when I finally fired everything up. I held the tip of a new electrode around 3/16" away from a piece of metal, and pressed the foot pedal. The arc started right up, with no problems. There was a split second during which the auto-darkening helmet triggered, but the starting arc was too small to see.

    Then I tried out a few situations that made me want to get one of these in the first place. I put a 1/16" 7014 electrode in the holder and dialed the amperage down to a rather low amount. For this one, I just held the pedal down throughout the arc, and it did help keep it lit. Otherwise, I would have almost certainly stuck the electrode either at the very beginning of the weld, or soon thereafter. In fact, doing this let me see firsthand what a bead with much too low an amperage looks like, since I'd not been able to maintain one for long enough previously.

    Afterwards, I tried something that I know I shouldn't do. I stopped a bead, but left the melted flux on the end of the electrode. I held it in place to start another arc, pressed the pedal, and it fired right through the flux. Normally, I'd take the electrode out and run its end across a file that lays at one end of the welding table, then put it back in and start again.

    One thing I did notice: Most of the time, I simply ground the welding table itself, since the vast majority of what I do is just "practice" anyway. I think I felt something of a tingle in the gloved hand that was resting on the table when I pressed the pedal. (I didn't deliberately try to get shocked to see if my "thoughts" were correct.) I haven't been able to find this again, but I think I ran across something stating that the ground could cause at least a tickle.

    All in all, the Arc Pig is something I'm glad to have as an option. I haven't left it connected for every weld I've made since getting it, but I can see that there will probably be situations for which I'll hook it right back up. It is also (perhaps primarily) billed as an HF starter for TIG welding, but since I haven't "graduated" to TIG welding yet, I can't say how much difference it makes. It could be argued that one should become so skilled at stick welding to never need such a thing, but I simply don't have enough years left in life to become that good at it.

    I hope someone finds this "review" useful.
    Last edited by Apothecary; 07-10-2019 at 10:54 AM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2018
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    1,380

    Re: Beginner's take on an Arc Pig

    Might be sweaty hands inside your welding gloves. I get that during hot spells. Up around 100*, what with the high humidity, the sweat just runs inside the gloves. You can feel the twitch when you change electrodes. Same same when kneeling on wet ground, and changing electrodes, or leaning on the metal when welding.

  3. #3
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    May 2015
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    Okolona, MS
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    Re: Beginner's take on an Arc Pig

    Quote Originally Posted by farmersammm View Post
    Might be sweaty hands inside your welding gloves. I get that during hot spells. Up around 100*, what with the high humidity, the sweat just runs inside the gloves. You can feel the twitch when you change electrodes. Same same when kneeling on wet ground, and changing electrodes, or leaning on the metal when welding.
    Farmersammm,

    That could very well be the case. I am in Mississippi, after all, where it can be muggy at midnight during the summer. It doesn't take long at all to get sweaty simply from putting on welding gear, before even striking an arc.

    Thanks for the reply!
    CW

  4. #4
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    Re: Beginner's take on an Arc Pig

    I had one for a while and ended up selling it when I bought a tig machine.

    There are a couple guys on the board that use them also
    Michael Ray for one ... I think he strictly uses it for stick / start.




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  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
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    Lockhart,Tx (BBQ capitol of the world)
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    965

    Re: Beginner's take on an Arc Pig

    Apothecary,
    The manual says: Output cable length: 0-25 ft (8 ft suggested).
    I've used mine at the maximum length of 25 ft the whole time I have owned it without a single issue.

    I've had one for 3 years and I love it!
    I bought it because my hands shake and I have trouble starting and restarting an arc.
    Because of this I hold the switch down continually while welding.
    The first time the Arc Pig automatically re-struck the arc it was so quick (probably 1/2 second) that I wasn't sure it had actually happened.
    My #2 daughter is the best arc initiator I have ever seen and even she likes it.
    I use the Arc Pig on a Lincoln 225 that my dad bought brand new in 1967 because it is the only welder I own, besides my oxy-acet that is.
    I've used the Arc Pig with 1/16" rods at 40 amps and 1/8" rods at 100 amps and a lot in between it worked flawlessly with all of them.
    I am just a hobby/farm welder so my experience may not reflect use in a production or industrial setting.

    One other thing that the Arc Pig could be used for is to convert almost any ancient/cheap/homemade scratch start ac tig welder to HF start.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2013
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    Mount Tabor VT
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    5,825

    Re: Beginner's take on an Arc Pig

    Quote Originally Posted by rexcormack View Post
    Apothecary,
    The manual says: Output cable length: 0-25 ft (8 ft suggested).
    I've used mine at the maximum length of 25 ft the whole time I have owned it without a single issue.

    I've had one for 3 years and I love it!
    I bought it because my hands shake and I have trouble starting and restarting an arc.
    Because of this I hold the switch down continually while welding.
    The first time the Arc Pig automatically re-struck the arc it was so quick (probably 1/2 second) that I wasn't sure it had actually happened.
    My #2 daughter is the best arc initiator I have ever seen and even she likes it.
    I use the Arc Pig on a Lincoln 225 that my dad bought brand new in 1967 because it is the only welder I own, besides my oxy-acet that is.
    I've used the Arc Pig with 1/16" rods at 40 amps and 1/8" rods at 100 amps and a lot in between it worked flawlessly with all of them.
    I am just a hobby/farm welder so my experience may not reflect use in a production or industrial setting.

    One other thing that the Arc Pig could be used for is to convert almost any ancient/cheap/homemade scratch start ac tig welder to HF start.
    I've wondered about the Arc Pig. They don't offer much explanation of what it does. I'd think it'd be helpful in arc initiation with 7018. I'm guessing it to be similar to TIG high frequency, high voltage, low current. It'll reach out an inch or more to zap you.
    An optimist is usually wrong, and when the unexpected happens is unprepared. A pessimist is usually right, when wrong, is delighted, and well prepared.

  7. #7
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    Mar 2005
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    Re: Beginner's take on an Arc Pig

    Quote Originally Posted by Willie B View Post
    I'm guessing it to be similar to TIG high frequency, high voltage, low current. It'll reach out an inch or more to zap you.
    Exactly.

    Here’s a video

    I guess you just ignore the eight-year-old girl arc welding with no hand protection.

    .





    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro
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    Hypertherm PM 45
    1961 Lincoln Idealarc 250
    HTP 221


    True Wisdom only comes from Pain.


  8. #8
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    Jun 2016
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    Not there
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    Re: Beginner's take on an Arc Pig

    If you use electrodes on thin crap and don't own one? You aint real bright. It's a great piece and chump change really.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2018
    Location
    New Zealand
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    Re: Beginner's take on an Arc Pig

    Quote Originally Posted by rexcormack View Post

    One other thing that the Arc Pig could be used for is to convert almost any ancient/cheap/homemade scratch start ac tig welder to HF start.
    its exactly what old tig welders came with.
    you can still find old stand alone HF units around.

    one of the best uses i've seen is for starting rods when you need to weld down a hole/tube where you have no room to scratch. that would be very handy on repairs. bung the rod into a tight gap, hit the button and go.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2015
    Location
    Okolona, MS
    Posts
    15

    Re: Beginner's take on an Arc Pig

    Quote Originally Posted by Willie B View Post
    I've wondered about the Arc Pig. They don't offer much explanation of what it does. I'd think it'd be helpful in arc initiation with 7018. I'm guessing it to be similar to TIG high frequency, high voltage, low current. It'll reach out an inch or more to zap you.
    Willie B,

    Here's a link to a part of the manufacturer's page that may explain its operation somewhat. Somewhere on the website, or perhaps in the owner's manual, they mention that actually touching the electrode while the high frequency is activated will give you a tickle, but ALMOST touching it will give you the zap that you spoke of. As owner's manuals go, theirs is rather entertaining to read, but my favorite is their mission statement.

  11. #11
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    Jul 2018
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    Cumbria, UK
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    Re: Beginner's take on an Arc Pig

    I keep thinking about one of these since this thread was posted the other week... I can see real world benefits, although not all the time. I actually have an old Sterling HF TIG box lying around that I've never tried to use, I might have to do some experimenting...

    Very neat implementation by the OP, thanks for the pics!

  12. #12
    Join Date
    May 2015
    Location
    Okolona, MS
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    15

    Re: Beginner's take on an Arc Pig

    Quote Originally Posted by Bonzoo View Post
    If you use electrodes on thin crap and don't own one? You aint real bright. It's a great piece and chump change really.
    Bonzoo,

    Actually it was welding "thin crap" that made me decide to get one. My sister-in-law wanted a lawn chair repaired. The bottom, which is light-gauge expanded steel, had loosened along one edge. At first, I turned the current down to about 35 amps with a 1/16" 7014 electrode, but I couldn't keep an arc going. When I turned the current up enough to keep it lit, I watched the expanded steel essentially disappear into thin air as I tried to touch it with the arc.

    True to my usual form, I finished the task with what I had, but quickly ordered the tools I needed to make sure I wouldn't get into that situation again.

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