Step 19: Make your own stick welder?

Picture of Make your own stick welder?
A wire feed welder would be too complicated to make at home, but, over the years people have published articles on how you can build your own stick arc welder. A very popular Instructable tells how to make a 120 volt AC arc welder from two microwave transformers. See also my previous Instructable for links to three sets of plans for building an electric arc welder. Here are some instructions on how to use an automobile's alternator to weld for emergency repairs. Another link there has an additional scheme for using your vehicle's alternator for welding. And, if you scroll down, that link also includes some brief instructions for linking multiple car batteries together to weld. This 1980 article from Mother Earth News tells how to make a very portable DC arc welder from an alternator, a deep cycle battery, resistors, and an old lawnmower. This unit produces about 50 amps, and will be limited in what it can weld. There was a time when I was so eager to build one of these, but I never did. Here is a video of a more refined welder built on a lawnmower frame. Despite the 50 amp. output of the Mother Earth News welder, a welder similar to the one in the last link handled 3/32 inch rod fairly well. 

A used welder can be a good buy. Watch estate sales and other auctions, as well as Craigslist for your area. I bought my 230 volt Miller Thunderbolt stick welder on eBay. The photo was muddy-looking and no one else bid on it. The very good auction price became a quite reasonable price after shipping costs were added. It has been a great welder. I bought my Hobart flux core wire feed welder as a factory refurbished unit. No one has much good to say about cheap import welders. Owners are usually soon disappointed.

(The photo is from Google Images.)

BenG92 months ago

Thank you for taking the time to post this. I have been welding for about a year plus: self-taught from reading books, talking with real weldors, youtube videos and online articles like this and of course the best practice - actually welding. This is an excellent article. I really liked your heat warping diagram and the way you explained that. I knew there was a better way to approach this problem and I will implement some principles you made clear. I noticed you are in Vancouver - I'm not far, just over the Glenn Jackson Bridge in Portland. Thanks again!

Phil B (author)  BenG92 months ago

Thank you for your comment. My welding education has been very much like yours. I wanted both to catalog what I had learned for my own record to consult later, and to share it with those who might find it helpful. More welding would certainly help me. But, I do not have unlimited supplies of steel for practice, nor do I have regular projects.

A few years ago we had purchased our present house not too far from where I-5 and I-205 join together again in the north end of Vancouver. I was attending meetings about four times a year at The Clarion on Airport Way. I rode my bicycle down from our house and got onto the bicycle lanes down the middle of the Glenn-Jackson Bridge. Since we actually moved to Vancouver, an encounter with skin cancer has caused me to cut back on exposure to sunlight and bicycling.

It might be fun to meet sometime.
kretzlord3 years ago
excellent instructable. This gives me the confidence to try it out for myself. Thank you!!!!
karlpinturr3 years ago
Nice, reasoned, clea and logical 'ible. Just one question - what (if any) is the correlation between electrode diameter and the thickness of the metal you're welding?
Phil B (author)  karlpinturr3 years ago
Here is a discussion of that. It depends on several factors, as you can see from the discussion. I use 3/32 inch rod for many, many situations and simply adjust the amperage. But, where there is more of a gap or thicker metal, I use 1/8 inch. For anything thin I use 1/16 inch.
Thanks for that.
This is probably the best how to article on welding I have seen. Very well thought out. Good of you to add the safety pieces as well since many others including some of those on national television seem to forget it. Thanks for a well done article.