Spend your way out of problem, or Think your way out?


Last week my 29 year old Lincoln SP-130T welder quit working. I looked inside for an hour, but nothing obvious was wrong. I looked on line, discussion groups had no clear faults, and were full of dumb people saying dumb things.


The welder owed me nothing, it was about $600 way back then, and it had served me faithfully through dozens of 10 lb spools of wire and enough argon/CO2 to fill a small blimp. Looking around the hangar, there was hardly a steel object it had not played a role in creating. From my trailer that has driven around the county filled with Corvair parts to the 42’ main truss supporting the front half of the hangar, it had burned all the beads fusing them together. If it had struck its last arc, so be it, it had served above and beyond.


I looked and saw that a new 180T was about $850, and I was ready to buy one, it seemed like a good solution… but something ingrained in me wanted to know why old faithful was done. Phil Maxson suggested calling the factory tech line, but I didn’t have patience to wait through an hour on hold to speak to someone in the Philippines or India in a call center who had never seen a welder before, as we have all come to expect as ‘customer support’. Besides, wasn’t I just going to be spending money trying to fix something that was worn out?


Phil thought I was being negative and called Lincoln’s tech support for me. I was more than surprised to have a short wait , and was speaking to a master technician in Ohio, who had actually worked on the production line that had built my welder. He told us where on line to find the wiring diagram, waited while we printed it, and talked us through 45 minutes of careful trouble shooting, explaining how each system worked. I have been welding for 40 years, but I was learning a lot about how these functioned internally from this man. After all else was eliminated, he said this was the rare case where the board was dead. He told me I could go to a dealer, or I could find one on eBay, and how to tell a real Lincoln part from a counterfeit. The board was $130.


Phil plugging in the new board.

The new board got here yesterday afternoon. 20 minutes after dinner, and my 29 year old welder was back in action. I was happy.


My satisfaction wasn’t in the $720 saved over buying a new welder, nor any other physical factor. It was in deciding that I could think my way out of a problem rather than just submit to what consumer society implores us go do, spend money to ‘solve’ every problem. No matter how life changes, there are few things that feel as good as bring self reliant, particularly when the alternative that most others take, really comes down to subconsciously doing as you are told.


If you decide to build your own Corvair engine, you are willfully deciding to think your way out of the question of what will power your plane, rather than spend your way out of the question. Just like Lincoln, I have been here a long time, I have printed information and real parts, and I will spend time to teach you all the systems. In the end, you will be safer because nothing has the lowest risk as a simple machine operated by a person who really understands it, and you will have the quiet internal pride that comes with the purchase of no consumer product , ever.



3 Replies to “Spend your way out of problem, or Think your way out?”

  1. Give Phil his due! Yes you were being negative as would I for I do despise “customer service” as it is today.

  2. Good read. In addition to your happiness, I’m happy that there are still tech support people who know what they’re talking about, have the patience to walk a customer through the steps to identify the problem, and actually recommend lower priced alternatives for sourcing the parts. That Master tech is a gem!

  3. Enjoying my 80th Spring. Loving the 644mm ride around the sun while pirouetting at maybe 940 mph every day. Started Oxy-Acetylene welding well over a half century ago. Just started MIG welding, both 75-25 and flux in January. Love it. Glad your USA made Lincoln has been resurrected! Keep up the good work!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.