Lincoln Handy Core, the Best Starter Welder?

By Ben Norton / November 22, 2018
Lincoln Handy Core Title Image

In this post I analyze the Lincoln Electric Handy Core and tell you about the features that make it great as a starter welder. The Lincoln Handy Core comes with a bunch of accessories for those new to welding.

But is it the best starter welder?

Lincoln Electric Handy Core Welding Kit

​Pros

  • ​The the Handy Core K2278-1 is a flux core only welder. Which means that this welder will only use flux core welding wire. And will weld mild steel only.
  • ​The Handy Core's further appeal to beginners is that you get a bunch of accessories to get you going, supplied with the welder.

​Cons

  • ​​The Handy Core is a light duty flux core welder so it isn't suited to heavy welding jobs.
  • ​There is no means of using shielding gas. If you want a welder that will use shielding gas as well and you want to stick with the Lincoln brand then you'll need to look at the Handy MIG and or the Lincoln Weld Pak.

​Conclusion

The Handy Core being a flux core only welder makes it easy for someone starting in welding.

As flux core wire welding is regarded as the simplest welding method for a new welder to learn to use and is generally more forgiving of the lack of skills of a novice welder. 

Flux core wire may not produce the prettiest of welds particularly in a novice's hands - pretty welds can come later when you have more skills.

Marketed as a welding kit, you get some sample wire, extra contact tips, a hand held face mask, and a chipping hammer and brush. All made by Lincoln Electric a quality brand.

If you truly have nothing to start you off welding, then all you'll need to add is some gloves, and an apron to protect your body.

And some welding pliers so that you can cut your welding wire. And you will be good to go.


​​Plus points of the Lincoln Electric K2278-1 Handy Core for a Newbie to Welding

​Lincoln has borne the requirements of a new welder in mind. You have the welder itself with the MIG gun and cord to the grounding clamp all attached at the factory.

This cuts down to a minimum the normal let me work out how all this stuff fits together puzzle. With those items already connected up, your only job really is to install the flux core wire, set the voltage output switches to what you want and the wire feed speed and you are up and welding.

Super easy for a beginner.

​What Can you Expect to Use the Handy Core for?

​The Handy Core's ideal use is for mild steel repair jobs around the home, garage or workshop.

Handy Core Welding Pic

Light farm repairs, small metal art projects, car repairs like a car exhaust - just put the output voltage settings on low plus 1 or 2 so that you don't blow through the metal with too much heat.

Structural jobs, or those jobs that need to bear a lot of weight are not suited to this welder. As are particularly gappy or dirty welding repairs. As this welder is not particularly high powered burning through rust, paint and oil and even galvanization will challenge this welder.

So it is best to clean up your weld joint as best you can prior to welding with the Handy Core to give your little Lincoln the best chance at doing a good job for you.

Gappy welds will need a lot of filling up with filler metal and multiple passes.

Pre heating the joints may well help with more challenging welding jobs.

​YouTube Video On the Lincoln Electric K2278-1

​In this short 1 minute 34 second video ICanDoItMyself shows you his first few welds with his new Handy Core.  He does a reasonable job welding up a gate hinge.

Have a look.

Lincoln Electric K2278-1 Handy Core

Video Credit: ICanDoItMyself

​Lincoln Handy Core Review of Features

​Duty Cycle

​​The Handy Core's duty cycle of 70 Amps at 20% shows you it is a light to medium duty welder.  70 Amps isn't particularly a high voltage output and the Handy core's maximum's voltage output is 88 Amps anyway. The really nice thing is that the duty cycle measures these Amps at 20%.

So what does that mean?

Duty Cycle is measured over a ten minute period. It means that with this welder set at the 70 Amp setting, you should be able to weld for two minutes continuously before the welder overheats. It will then need to be rested before you can start welding again.

20% on the duty cycle is pretty good at this end of the starter welding market place.

And shows this welder is more robust and can go for twice as long compared to its cheaper competitors welders sporting 10% duty cycles.

​Welding Output Range

​The Handy Core has a welding output range of 35 Amp at its lowest setting up to 88 Amp at the high end.

Note that when you have the welder set on its highest output expect to get less than the 20% indicated on the duty cycle (less than two minutes continuous welding) as the duty cycle is measured at 70 Amp.

​Minimum and Maximum Metal Gauges Welded

​From 18 gauge to 1/8 inch mild steel on the Handy Core.

Lincoln Electric doesn't claim this welder will weld 3/16th or 1/4 inch and should you want to with this welder you will need the skills to prepare your joint by beveling and you will also need to make multiple passes.

​Powering the Handy Core At Home

​You will need a minimum of a 20 Amp fused outlet if you don't want to keep tripping your fuses. And that outlet needs to provide a good ground connection. Successful welding demands a good ground to work.

The Handy Core is a 115 volt welder and comes with a normal 3 pin plug. Ensure there is nothing else powered on and working on that circuit if you want to run the welder at its maximum amperage.

Other working electrical devices, even lights on the same circuit will affect the quality of the welds you get.

​Handy Core Controls

Handy Core Front Controls

Handy Core Front Controls

​​There is a wire feed speed dial that runs from 1 to 10.

The wire feed speed runs from 0 to 300 inches per minute.

You have two switches for your voltage output settings. Both are rocker switches with Low/High on the first and 1/2 on the second.

An on off switch

The Handy Core comes with Lincoln's cold contractor safety feature.

This keeps the welding wire electrically cold until you press the MIG gun button to weld. 

A number of the entry level welders do not have this feature so should you lay down those MIG guns between welds near an electrical circuit you'll find you get a number of unwanted arcs, risking Arc Eye.

You won't get that on the Handy Core.

This flux core welder also has thermal protection that will shut down the Handy Core when it detects it is over heating. The Handy Core is fan cooled so leave the welder switched on so that the fan can run and cool your welder down, till you can start welding again.

​Voltage Output Settings

​Really simple and easy for someone new to welding. There are only two switches that control output voltage.

One switch that can be set between Low and High, the other switch that goes between 1 and 2.

Moving from the lowest setting to highest.

  • Low and 1
  • Low and 2
  • High and 1
  • High and 2 is the highest setting

​Welding Parameters

​Although we are not given what Amp voltage output setting relates to which button combination, extremely useful for a beginner, Lincoln electric gives suggested settings for the different gauges of mild steel.

  • Low and 2 for 18 gauge steel and a wire feed speed of 3
  • Low and 2 for 16 gauge steel and a wire feed speed of 3
  • High and 1 for 14 gauge steel and a wire feed speed of 3
  • High and 2 for 12 gauge steel and wire feed speed of 4
  • High and 2 for 1/8th inch steel and a wire feed speed of 4.

Of course you may need to change this a little for your particular welding project.

Fantastic, as so many of the entry level welders with kits leave you completely in the dark as to their welding settings. 

​Flux Core Welding Wire Sizes

​Lincoln Electric provides you with a full 1 lb. spool of 0.035 of their quality Innershield NR-211-MP Flux core wire. Some of the other welding kits only provide sample half pound spools and some of those spools of wire are pretty low quality.

This wire I consider one of the better flux core welding wires out there on the market.

It's an all position wire that you can use for single pass or multi pass welding.

Wire designed by Lincoln Electric to go with their welder.

The Handy Core takes a maximum of a 1 lb. spool of flux core wire - The Innershield comes in 1 lb. and the next step up is a 10 lb. spool.

And to help feed the flux core wire the Handy Core has inside a knurled drive roll - suited to feeding flux core wire.

Lincoln doesn't advise using 0.030 sized flux core wire in this welder.

Handy Core and MIG Gun

​Other Notable Features

​10 foot of cord length to the MIG gun and ground clamp is pretty good for an entry level welder when some comparable models have 6 to 8 feet of cord length.

8 foot of cable on the power cord, again pretty good. Gives you lots of flexibility on using this welder without an extension cord.

2 spare 0.035 inch contact tips - you'll be going through these as a novice welder so order yourself a pack of spares.

​Welding Kit Accessories Included

​Welding hand shield with #10 filter plate and clear glass cover plate.

It's not a bad hand shield for what it is and if you are really keen, use it for your first few welds.

Quickly though you will want a proper helmet.

Holding the hand shield while you are learning to weld - after all you may want your hand to hold your project piece or do something else - is going to be a pain pretty quick.

And if you are planning on using the hand shield then investing in a pair of safety glasses offering UV protection when you buy the welder is going to be a great idea.

Take the time to protect your eyes.

A combined chipping hammer and brush is also included. It is of reasonable quality as it comes from Lincoln. Though as you gain experience you'll probably want a separate chipping hammer from the wire brush.

​User Experience with the Lincoln Handy Core

​Most users are happy with their Lincoln Electric K2278-1. Check out what users on Amazon think and have to say by visiting the sales page.

​Scroll down to the bottom and select the latest star reviews you would like to look at.

​Make and Manufacturer

​A definite advantage of choosing to buy the Handy core is that it is made by Lincoln Electric, a long standing name in the welding space.

Founded in 1895 and based in Cleveland, Ohio. Lincoln Electric now operates out of 23 countries and across 63 locations, it is certainly a world wide operation. The Handy Core welder is designed by a US company and manufactured in Poland.

The Handy Core itself was released to the market in 2004 and has proven itself a solid performer over all that time.

​Lincoln Electric Handy Core Manual

​The manual itself is a little basic but it does cover the necessary subjects. Controls, wire feed, suggested stickout, welding parameters, etc.

Here is a link to the manual should you like to read it.

Lincoln Electric Handy Core Manual

​Size, Weight and Portability of the Handy Core

​​At 46 lb. in weight and overall dimensions of 18 x 12.8 x 8.8 inches the Lincoln Electric Handy core is certainly portable. One user I saw claimed to use it up a ladder. So there you have it.

Portable enough to not only take up a ladder but to use it up there. That's some testament.

​Warranty on the Lincoln Handy Core Welder

​The Handy Core is sold with 12 months parts and labor warranty (90 days warranty on MIG gun itself and cable) which is pretty good at this end of the home welder market. Some cheaper welders and even welders of comparable cost offer 90 days to 6 months on everything and that's it.

So should something go wrong and we all hope it doesn't at least you know you are covered for the first year. And really this welder should give you years of reliable service.

​Last Words

​Should you want to pay a bit more for a quality name you should get years of service from the Lincoln Handy Core.

It may not be the best starter welder in my opinion but it come pretty close.

I invite you to take a look at my assessment of the beginner welding kits with my view of which one is the best.