Introduction: Homemade Spot Welder

Anyone can build this simple to use light duty spot welder. I found all the parts I needed in my shop. I looked at some other plans on the Internet but they all seemed to require something I didn't already have.

Step 1: The Transformer (core)

I had three MOTs (Microwave Oven Transformers) collecting dust in a box with a bunch of adapters and transformers. The one was exceptional for the fact that the primary and secondary were separated by a shunt. Placed on it's base the secondary was on top and the primary on the bottom (pictured).

I used a pipe cutting blade (hacksaw blade) on a reciprocating saw to cut the secondary off the transformer core. Near the end of the cut I had to use extreme caution as I did not want to damage the primary coil. The primary and secondary can be identified by the number of turns and the gauge of wire. The secondary has many thousands of turns and uses hair thin wire. The primary is more like 18 gauge.

Once the secondary coil was cut away I used a short metal bar and a hammer to pound the trapped portion from the core. It was wedged in there pretty good. I cleaned out everything except the shunt and the primary.

Step 2: The Transformer (new Secondary)

I lucked out and found a 4 foot piece of grounding wire. It looks like a dozen 10 gauge wires bundled in one insulated coating. The only markings were three triangles. I understand from other sources that 4 gauge is recommended. I can't tell if I followed this exactly or not, but based on how hard it was to wind this monster in there I would hate to think of winding something thicker. It's surprising how stiff a thick wire like this is.

I bent the wire into a long tall U shape and fed the free ends into the transformer core. I then bent and curled and gently maneuvered the free ends back through the opposite sides. I ran out of room in the core before I ran out of length. I could get one more turn out of it if need be.

Transformer theory is a little beyond my ability to write about. There are many sources on the net if you are interested in this subject. The idea here is to have 3 or 4 windings on the new secondary. This will produce somewhere between 3 to 6 volts. I measured 2.5 when I plugged it in for a quick test. The lower the volts, the higher the amps. This is the main reason that such a thick piece of wire is used.

Step 3: Building the Jaws

So once I realized that the new secondary was actually producing an output, I decided to proceed. Up until this point I wasn't sure it was even going to do anything at all.

I used scraps of wood. A long narrow piece as the base. A fat piece mounted on it's side and screwed in from the bottom. A piece of thin plywood to seal in the remaining side. I had some copper pipe scraps that worked out well. In my caution over heat I doubled up, using a 1/2 inch hard copper pipe with a 3/8 inch soft copper tube shoved inside. I drilled some small holes in the pipes and then used drywall screws to assemble the entire thing.

The bottom jaw is fixed and I used a couple screws to do that, one into the base is visible in the picture. The upper jaw swings up or down and I used one screw, coming in from the side, near the back to achieve this. A small spring pushes the upper jaw up and an offset cam is used to push it down.

The bolts are made of copper. I stripped them off an old copper battery connector. I don't know how difficult it is to source copper bolts but there is a specialty fastener place in town that I would likely check first. I sharpened them on the bench grinder so that they came to a bit more of a point.

I tapped the holes, but copper is ductile enough that you can drill a hole slightly smaller than the bolt and just force it in. The bolt will cut the threads for you. I put the bolts in at the very start. I did everything else making sure that the bolts continued to meet when the jaws close. It is essential to keep the jaws electrically isolated from each other everywhere except the tips of the bolts.

Step 4: Assembly

A second piece of narrow plywood was required to extend the base for the electrical components. Being the first time I have attempted to make a spot welder I had to improvise on a few things. I would have chosen a longer piece if I had been able to see that far ahead.

I added an 8 gauge copper wire from a clean source as the copper on the pipes was quite tarnished at least on the outside. I forced the secondary wire into each of the tubes and wrapped the 8 gauge wire around the remaining exposed copper on the secondary wire. A pair of vice grips and channel locks crimped the tubes closed as tight as my hands would allow. Note: the 8 gauge wire runs up to the bolts at the front.

I had read a fair amount about spot welders prior to starting but I could never quite figure out the timer and custom power supplies. I had also heard talk of MOTs having power factor issues as well. I decided to just forge ahead and put a light switch on it. The switch is rated for 15A so I figured I couldn't go wrong. I put a red and black dot on the switch for quick reference. The box also provides a good (safe) place to connect the plug and all the wires.

Step 5: Schematic

This schematic is about as simple as it gets. It's akin to the schematic for a lamp. I include it for completeness.

PLEASE USE CAUTION: This project uses 110V AC. There are sections of the device that can deliver a deadly shock to the operator. One should take all the necassary precautions both when building or operating. If possible wires carrying 110V should never be exposed as casual contact can lead to a shock.
Mar connectors, soldering, junction boxes and electrical tape used properly can save your life.

If you don't know what you are doing or if you have never attempted projects involving 110V please don't learn the hard way. Go to Home Depot and take a wiring work shop or something.

Step 6: Operation and Conclusion

I built this spot welder for two reasons:
1) I always wanted to have a spot welder.
2) I broke the handle off a stainless steel cup measure and I wanted it back on.

I built the jaws so that there was enough room to get it in there without necessarily creating an alternate path for the electricity. It took a little fiddling to get it in there properly but once the cam locks down, the piece stays right where you want it.

I plugged it in and crossed my fingers. Threw the switch and I could hear the transformer hum. Then a small spark and an ever growing red glow between the bolts. The glow starts off red but gets orange the longer you leave it. I count to 10 and turn it off. This seems to create a fairly good bond.

The thickness of the piece changes the time you would require. I tried to join two eighth inch pieces and got nowhere. This is a light duty welder for thin metal. Sheet metal work is about the most you can expect. Heat is not as big of an issue as I thought. Maybe because I used a lot of copper. The bolts and the ends of the jaws are warm after use but not as hot as I would have expected.

For more power I could remove the shunt in between the primary and secondary. I could also add an AC capacitor (~30uF) across the primary connection to adjust the power factor. I'm just not sure why. It works fine for small pieces and I'm satisfied with low power that doesn't shoot sparks everywhere anyways.

Step 7: Safety Measures

I have received some negative press regarding safety (and rightly so). I decided that I should add a box around the transformer. It will provide protection for the operator and avoid any exposed 110V contact completely. Going with the idea that it can built without purchasing anything I started scrounging around for a box. They were throwing out a broken PC power supply at work.

SAFETY NOTICE: PC power supplies contain large capacitors that can store energy for a considerable amount of time (days). I checked with the person that removed the power supply and he told me that it had not been plugged in for quite some time (months). The shock isn't likely to kill you but it will make you wish that you had waited a little longer to open the box. Please use common sense.

I removed the internal parts from the box and put them in the pile of e-junk that is scheduled to go off to the recycle depot. I left the switch and plug to avoid open holes but you can cover it with gaffer tape or electrical tape instead. Don't use the switch in these boxes as they are not rated for 15A. I also left the ground wire that is attached to the box. I carried a third wire to the box and grounded it. This effectively grounds the core of the transformer which is now attached to the bottom of the box.

The box can be modified with tin snips if you take your time. I use pliers to bend back any parts that are twisted after cutting. Electrical tape to cover any sharp edges or protect insulated wires. I tested everything after I was done. It increases the audible hum that the transformer makes when it is on. I had considered adding a light that would indicate it was on, but I don't think that's necessary. I know exactly when it is on.

I also talked to a friend of mine who works with a spot welder at an HVAC factory in town. He said that the boxes they were welding would occasionally short across the tubes instead of the tips. It doesn't harm anything but it prevents the welding. They solved the problem by wrapping the tubes in electrical tape.

I hope that this gives you a fairly good idea of how to make this device even safer to operate than it was originally. Please use caution as this device is not a toy. Serious burns and/or electrical shocks are possible if safety is not your primary concern.

Comments

author
twotimefranks made it!(author)2016-05-06

Quick safety question. I have rewrapped the secondary of my mot with 2/0 with only a couple turns so I'm getting 2.5 v out. So at 12 amps in at 120 I have the potential of 575 amps out. So I'm just a tab bit nervous about holding the thing I want to spot weld....Even though I realize at 2.5 v it'd have a pretty hard time of poking me. You guys have had no problems?

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jds1969 made it!(author)2016-05-06

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_shock#Facto...

Read about the dangers here. It sounds like you need at least 42 volts unless you are attaching it directly to your heart tissue. I've never felt even the slightest shock from my welder. Burns are the greater danger. Using welding gloves should protect you from both dangers.

author
twotimefranks made it!(author)2016-05-06

Ok thanks for the quick reply!

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xXxFelipexD made it!(author)2011-12-22

it works by giving short circuit? because I think it would be necessary to place a resistor
My multimeter is saying is that my primary resistance of 3.5Ohm
I think it strange

author
LazyH made it!(author)2016-04-12

Sorry, I know it's a late reply, but there might be someone else interested in this as well so here goes, anyone feel free to correct me if I get it a little wrong.

The workpiece acts as a resistor, it's not a very strong resistor (low ohms in other words) which is good because that allows more amperage to flow through and melt the metal more effectively. In addition, your primary has a different impedance to dc and ac, and with ac it has a different impedance if the secondary is open vs the secondary in contact with metal to be welded. Your multimeter measures resistance by putting an electrical current through the coil.

Electrical energy is only generated in a conductor when a magnetic field changes within close proximity to said conductor. Since the primary windings act as an electromagnet, that means energy is only transmitted through a transformer when the magnetic field is generated or collapses, this doesn't happen with direct current like in your multimeter, so your multimeter only reads the short circuit resistance or dc resistance of the coil, whereas if you measured the resistance to alternating current, you'd notice that the impedance would change depending upon the resistance and winding of the secondary coil.

author
mrmetallica made it!(author)2016-02-15

fantastic build.will be making one soon.stupid question,whats the chance of getting a shock when holding the metal parts that your welding ? just a thought before i start .

author
jds1969 made it!(author)2016-02-16

Mine runs at 1 volt or less so a shock is unlikely but I take precautions just in case. I wrapped the arms in electrical tape to avoid unintentional short circuits but it protects the operator from contact as well.

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mrmetallica made it!(author)2016-02-16

so is it safe holding the metal with bare hands or are gloves better ?

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jds1969 made it!(author)2016-02-17

Gloves are always better. Electricity is only half your worry as the heat moves through metal fairly quickly and you can get a nasty burn before you realize it.

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mrmetallica made it!(author)2016-02-18

ok cheers .im waiting for warm weather to get into my shed and start.

already stripped a microwave down .

author
JuanitaL made it!(author)2015-02-18

That's so cool! What would you use a spot welder for? My husband-strange as it may sound-has recently taken up welding as a sort of hobby. I bet he'd love to make his own spot welder. How thick was the wire you used for this?

www.dawlineboring.com.au

author
JSM_43 made it!(author)2015-01-25

A monumental lack of electric knowledge displayed here!

1) The key to understanding transformers is that, excluding losses which can be made rather small, the power on the primary side equals the power on the secondary side. So if 110 V is applied on primary and 10 amps flows then the power IN is 110 X 10 = 1,100 watts. Say now you measure the voltage on the secondary side and you find 5 volts then the current on the secondary side MUST BE (1,100 divided by 5 =) 220 amps. If the gauge of primary and/or secondary coils are insufficient to carry their respective currents then you have a fire situation!

2) A rule for your welder might be that the "waste" in the wiring should be less than 5% ie 50 watts in the above case. From this and the resistivity of copper the gauges can be estimated. One can take more loss in a welder because by its nature its use at high current is short term.

3) Whenever the secondary is open circuit the current drops to zero and the power also drops to zero. The primary current is them zero (or close to).

4) Another useful measure of transformers is the term "turns per volt". Hence if the primary has say 220 turns and 110 volts is applied the turns per volt is 2. This applies equally to the secondary so if you now want say 5 volts on the secondary of that same transformer you need 10 turns on secondary coil..

5) To estimate the turns per volt just wind a few turns around primary or secondary, measure the voltage in your new temporary coil then divide your number of turns by the voltage measured. Typical for a tiny transformer could be 15 and for say a 2 KV power transformer could be say 4 or lower.

6) A whole new area is what are known as "current transformers" (essentially no different in principle, just in how they are used) which can be highly dangerous and are best avoided!

author
jds1969 made it!(author)2015-01-25

Thanks for sharing your knowledge on transformers and your monumental lack of social graces.

author
ryanlimyx made it!(author)2014-12-16

can we use thicker or thinner wire to tweak the amp?

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jds1969 made it!(author)2014-12-17

Using thinner wire will likely just melt the wire. The magnetic shunts sitting between the two coils is used to limit the power. If you want to adjust the amperage the number of turns on the secondary needs to change or you need to control the amperage in the feed to the primary. Check power limiting circuits.

author
mstone10 made it!(author)2012-07-28

I have a problem with mine, basically the work piece will get red hot almost melting but will not actually weld together.

Anyone experience this? or anyone know how to resolve this problem?
I think maybe the electrodes need to have an immense amount of clamping force to actually work. I could be wrong, I would appreciate some insight from anyone who knows whats happening here.


Thank You.

author
jds1969 made it!(author)2012-07-28

It does take a certain amount of pressure but usually just enough to make contact through the two pieces which is what it sounds like you have.

I'll take a few stabs in the dark on this one:
1) clean and sand both side of the weld prior to starting
2) ensure the weld stays unstressed and clamped until cold
3) certain metals/alloys are notoriously hard to weld
4) sharpen the welding tips to concentrate the heat at a point
5) I always count to time my weld (experiment with longer times)
6) try thinner material (I couldn't make a weld in anything over 1/16 inch thickness)

author
fidgety2 made it!(author)2012-06-14

i have a semi-unique issue i have built a spot welder and it occasionally works very well but the majority of the time what happens is when i place a piece of metal in between the electrodes and plug in the machine the secondary wire insulation begins smoking and getting very hot unfortunately the metal in-between the electrodes (contact points) stays cold could someone please help me or tell me what i am doing wrong and how i can remedy this problem i really hope that this is just some silly beginner mistake and not something more serious that will require a considerable amount of work and effort

thank you,
fidgety 2

author
tesladude123 made it!(author)2012-07-18

In my opinion it sounds like you have used thin wire for your secondary winding what gauge wire did you use?

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jds1969 made it!(author)2012-06-18

Sorry for not getting back to you until now. This sounds very serious and dangerous. I would be extremely cautious about using this primary winding as it sounds like there is a short somewhere in it. With enough heat internal to the unit like this, the core can blow-apart. If it is possible, try to replace your transformer and core. A lot of your secondary can likely be re-used. At the very least I would ensure a metal box around the troublesome primary core for your own safety. One way to test for a short is to accurately measure the ohms of the primary coil and compare it to a good one of equivalent size.

author
fidgety2 made it!(author)2012-06-18

Thank you I appreciate your insight

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throbscottle made it!(author)2011-11-29

I would like to say thank you for your instructable - yours is one of the designs I looked at before coming up with my version, and gave me some inspiration!

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jds1969 made it!(author)2011-11-29

Thank you for the compliment.

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Doddity made it!(author)2011-07-11

Having a problem with mine. I have two transformers with the input in parallel and the output in series. I get a great spark between the wires while testing but when i joined it all to my welder the secondary wires get really hot and it doesn't make the weld. I used non-copper contact screws by the way.
Any help would be appreciated

author
jds1969 made it!(author)2011-07-11

The key is low voltage, high current. I've never tried two transformers at once but I think you might want to run your output in parallel rather than series. If you used steel screws/bolts then this is likely causing some of your current to be burned up in heating the screws. The difference in resistance is important when welding. I suggest you try finding something made out of mostly copper to make tips. You might want to try a single transformer and then move up to two if you still think it's needed. Good luck and stay safe.

author
Doddity made it!(author)2011-07-13

I got the Amperage over Voltage thing sorry that was badly said. The circuitry is all fine and me and my dad came to the same conclusion about the tips.
Thanks for all the help anyway I'll try and comment a picture when its working

author
switch62 made it!(author)2011-10-02

You might have the secondaries  (output) of your transformers connected out of phase.  You may need to swap the wires on one side of one of your transformers.

The phase of a winding depends on which direction it is wound, clockwise or anticlockwise, in relation with the other windings.  Your  transformers should be setup like the diagram below.  The dots on the terminals represent the phase polarity, like positive on a battery.  If the primary is wired the opposite way the phase flips on the secondary

If one of the secondaries is wired the other way or it's phase is flipped then you will get little or no voltage from your welder and the secondaries will get hot. The 2 secondaries are fighting each other instead of helping (adding) each other.

If you connect one of your secondaries the other way your welder should work. But as jds said more current is better than more voltage.  Only time you may need more voltage is if you have a high resistance metal or joint.

Phase is also important for parallel connection as well.  Even more so beacuse as soon as you apply power the secondaries are "fighting" and you can blow a fuse or a winding.

transformer_series.pngTransformer_parallel.png
author
Doddity made it!(author)2011-10-02

Mine is set up as your first diagram shows. I really have to talk to my electrotechnology teacher about finding the phase better.

The way I found it was connect it one way, see how powerful the spark was, then switch and compare them. Connected one way I only got a small spark, the other way there was a bright glow, akin to a arc from an arc welder. I assumed this is because the power was adding on as opposed to cancelling each other out. Would I be right in assuming this?

author
switch62 made it!(author)2011-10-03

I would say bigger spark would mean that you have the secondaries wired in phase.

The easiest way to check phase is using an oscilliscope so you can see both AC waveforms at the same time.  Wire the mains to the primaries in parallel and then use a dual trace scope to connect to the secondary windings.  The windings should not be connected together.  If the waveforms are in phase, the peaks and troughs will happen at the same time.  If out of phase the peaks will line up with the troughs.  Once in phase the positive of each probe will be the dot.

But not everyone has a scope.

The other way would be to measure wire up the secondaries in series.  Then measure the voltages across each secondary, V1 and V2.  Then measure the total voltage VT.  If VT= V1 plus V2 then in phase.  If not equal, probably close to 0VAC, they are out of phase, flip the connections on one secondary.  Use an AC meter for the voltage measurement.  You also might need a resistor across the secondaries, say 100 ohm at 5 Watt for this situation, the resistor may get hot.

Note: this only checks the phase relationship between the secondaries.  It will not check the phase relationship between primary and secondary (dot convention) of each transformer.  To do that you need a different type of setup for safety.

Transformer_in_phase.pngtransformer_out_of_phase.pngTransformer_phase_test.png
author
Doddity made it!(author)2011-10-04

Thanks for your help, I'll try get back to you once school starts as i may have access to an oscilloscope. Fingers crossed =).

author
aburbano+becerra made it!(author)2011-08-05

Muy bueno gracias...

author
the.rollie made it!(author)2011-07-27

those are the only two reasonings i ever needed to build something.... wanted one, and needed one for some miniscule task/problem

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electroboy1337 made it!(author)2011-05-15

Where can I get some 4 Gauge wire? Will this do? http://dicksmith.co.nz/product/W1230/4-gauge-power-wire-transparent-red

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jds1969 made it!(author)2011-05-16

That's very similar to what I used but it was 25 stands of 14 gauge rather than 1700 of 48 gauge. In the end, it's about current carrying capacity. Welding supply shops have this sort of wire if you are looking for another source.

author
Udon made it!(author)2010-06-25

Hey, great instructable.
I follow how it works, but I got a question.
I'm not sure if this has been asked and answered yet, but, what is the shunt in the MOT?
What does it do, and what affect does it have on the transformer?

Thanks

author
jds1969 made it!(author)2010-09-17

Hey sorry. I just noticed that no one replied to you. I will try to answer but again I'm just a transformer theory novice.

The shunt is two pieces of iron that short out the flux between the primary and secondary coil. In the end it limits the amount of current that can flow through the transformer.

Removing the shunt could in fact cause a blown fuse if the total current exceeds 110V/15A. MOTs are sometimes referred to as unregulated transformers and there are lots of warnings because of it. Hope that helps.

author
maxpush99 made it!(author)2010-06-23

It would help if you try to have the 2 windings in resonance. after you remove the secondaru windings you should weight it you use the same amount of copper by weight in your new winding,\ Just calculate lenght by thickness or weight the new windings good luck

author
student.mckinney made it!(author)2009-11-04

But just think of all that fine guage wire that was wasted..... I have like 50 spools of wire from transformers, I just cannot let go of those little guys....

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scarabeetle101 made it!(author)2010-04-02

 *electromagnets*

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student.mckinney made it!(author)2010-04-04

I use it for electromagnets, I wind my own guitar pickups, use it on pcbs, etc... Great stuff!

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qwertyboy made it!(author)2010-04-14

It would take FOREVER to unwind all that wire. It would be just easier to cut it off like he did. Maybe you could brng all that copper to a recycling center for some money.

author
rimar2000 made it!(author)2010-02-19

This question is addressed to several authors of welding related instructables.
Some time ago I was excited with the possibility of constructing a spot welder, but here in my city there is no way to get an
used microwave transformer: nobody throws away something as that.
Then I tried with my 220-volt electric welder, but I could hardly weak solder some iron wires of 2 mm, even though I was a good time trying.
Today I decided to uncover my welding machine, and found that in the secondary winding there is no place to put
even a loop of thin wire. But in the primary, yes!
I think I can easily add several turns of thick wire, by way of a "bis" secondary winding. Now come the doubts, and related questions: whether the primary winding has 248 turns (more or less, it is what I could count), and get 220 volts, it is assumed that each round of "my" coil will produce 220 / 248 = 0,887 volts. What for me? Put only one or two turns, or try to reach five or six? A more laps, more volts but less amps. I suppose that losses play an important role in the case of small voltages, and who knows what is best.
Maybe you has an answer and save me the work of trial and error, which can become very tedious. Thanks in advance!

author
jds1969 made it!(author)2010-03-03

Love your instructable:

https://www.instructables.com/id/Hacking-a-welder-pirateando-una-soldadora/

author
rimar2000 made it!(author)2010-03-03

Thanks for your kindness, jds1969.

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jerkey made it!(author)2010-02-10

Keeping the shunts in the transformer was a good idea.  They serve the function of limiting the total current, in my understanding.  Without the shunts, you would have a very hard time keeping from blowing the circuit breaker.

You should mention something about getting a bit of soldering flux, and brushing that onto the work before spot welding.  It can make the difference between a great weld and a poor one.

Great instructable!

author
rimar2000 made it!(author)2009-12-29

Very, very interesting.

I don't have a Microwave Oven Transformer, but one of 220 to 110 V, 500 mA.

¿Do you think that transformer can be useful? Consider I live in Argentina, the line is 220 V.

Here is not easy to obtain a Microwave Oven in the trash...

author
jds1969 made it!(author)2009-12-29

I'm inclined to say not but since you're left with few options you might give it a try. My transformer is "rated" for 1000W and it seems like yours is not. It may limit the current or it may increase the heat in the core. It would be wise to watch for overheating. Since the duty cycle can be reduced (i.e. 10 seconds on and minutes off) maybe you can get away with it.

author
rimar2000 made it!(author)2009-12-29

Thanks, I feared that.

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Menticol made it!(author)2009-12-12

 Awesome! For further imrpovement, you may add a spring-loaded pedal. Pressing the pedal closes he jaws over the piece and start the welding. Releasing the pedal opens the jaws and opens the circuit. 

author
BobbDobbs made it!(author)2009-01-20

For additional safety I would take the ground wire from the cord (using a three prong plug) and tie it to the transformer case (drill and tap a machine screw into the core) and also tie the ground wire to one of the tongs, probably the stationary one. The purpose of this is that if there are any unintentional shorts, it should trip the circuit breaker rather than floating at a high voltage waiting for you to touch it.

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