I've always wanted to get into welding, and I recently found out how easy it is to make a basic stick welder with microwave oven transformers. The first reference to this that I found was here (oddly enough, hosted by that girl that was tackled by airport security for wearing a breadboard on her shirt a couple years ago), but after some research I found that MOT-based stick welders are fairly common. I found these plans, which are much more refined than the instructables tutorial, and describe a much larger welder. There's even an old thread from 2003 still living on an offroading forum with documentation on how to convert an AC stick welder to DC with a bunch of big SCRs. If I can put together something basic for less than $200, that should be a great way to orient myself and figure out what's what before making a serious investment.
I'm fairly confident I can make any of these (I'm an electrical engineer, although I've had to look up a lot of refresher material on analog circuits) but I don't know much at all about welding.
On one hand I could start with something very conservative; a 4-MOT 120V AC welder. Cheap, portable, limited usefulness.
On the other hand, I could try to make the last stick welder I'll ever need; 8 MOTs, with the possibility of a bridge rectifier for DC output. Expensive, large, non-portable, but highly capable.
I have a laundry list of projects that could all use some welding (custom fence, bits for a car, custom boxes and stands, etc). Should I try to build the best stick welder possible, or should I go for a much more convenient design so I can gain experience faster?