Don't know what your budget is, but you can get a used 250 amp DC welder for under $300 easily, FWIW. This is mine. Bought it for $200 at an industrial surplus place. Works perfectly. A couple weeks later they had another one just like it for $150.Man oh man, wish I could afford a big DC welder, what a difference!
I love old welders to, I am a Lincoln fan but the thunder bolts have the advantage of infinite amperage adjustment I have 5 machines that will arc weld but I use my Lincoln 225 AC and Lincoln sw 200 mostly, mainly because both of them are already rigged out with 60 or 70 foot leads so I don't have to move anything. If I could afford it it would buy every old machine posted here, the old transformers are pretty much bomb proof.I really like the old stick welders. I remember selling Miller Dial Arcs, Blue Stars, Legends, Old Lincoln Welder Generators that looked like mini submarines and R2D2's. Total Old School welding.
I didn't learn it until I had already bought a DC machine but with all the electrodes available for AC you can pretty much do anything the average guy needs to do with AC. I struggled with undercut and worm tracks with 6013's until I had an old pipe welder turned esab rep spend just a very few minutes showing me some technique. he told me he learned it on a job that specified 6013 was to be used. I rarely use 6013 anymore but when I do it works fine for me.It would probably shock people because I am a retired welder, and now a welding instructor, and yet my welder at home is a Sears AC welder from 1980 or so.
It still works, and I can get good welds out of it, so I just keep what I got.
I never felt I should get anything better because I was always used to 3 phase, 480 volt power on welders with 100% duty cycle. How could I do better than that at home, I am nowhere near 3 phase power!
If it still works, invest a few more dollars and get those insulators replaced and you will be good as new. Your local welding supply should have what you need to repair them (tweco brand is good).Here's my "new to me" Miller Thunderbolt buzzbox I bought yesterday for $19 Cdn ($14.47 usd).
View attachment 1360
Since that is a DC machine, a 6010 rod will work better in it than a 6011 which is AC rod. Also looks like you for got the #1 rule of welding which is Cleanliness is next to godliness. Clean that steel to bright metal before welding and you will see a 10X better weld. Remember the old trick for setting your machine--Convert the rod diameter to decimal, i.e. 1/8" rod =.125 so start with 125 amps and adjust accordingly from there to achieve the perfect setting.Just got a stick machine yesterday. I had to jump in. Amico Power DC-160A. It's not top of the line, but neither is my work with it. 6011 and 7018 rods. In the pic the 7018 is super cold. I got a little excited and forgot to put a little more heat into the rod. View attachment 1422
Also looks like you for got the #1 rule of welding which is Cleanliness is next to godliness. Clean that steel to bright metal before welding and you will see a 10X better weld. .