Make a carbon arc torch for your 220 volt stick welder

Picture of Make a carbon arc torch for your 220 volt stick welder
MIG welders can do many things, but they cannot heat metal for bending or brazing. Your stick welder can do those things with a carbon arc torch added to it. 

I am using a torch already fully constructed, so you will not see the parts aside from their place in the final unit.

Materials needed:

2 pieces of 1 x 2 firring strip 6 inches long (each)
2 pieces of 1/4 inch steel rod 7 inches long (each)
2 1/4 inch water pipe nipples 2 1/2 inches long (each)
2 #8-32 thumb screws about 1/2 inch long each
2 #8-32 nuts
2 1/4 inch flat washers
2 pieces of steel 1/8 inch thick and 3/8 inch x 3/4 inch
2 crimp-on connectors for #10 stranded wire
2 #8 terminal screws from an old electrical outlet
1 compression spring about 1/2 inch in diameter and 2 inches long
1 nylon cable tie about 6 inches or more long
8 #8 round head wood or flat head sheet metal screws
20 feet of #10 stranded plastic or rubber covered copper wire
2 pieces of scrap steel or aluminum 1/16 to 1/8 inch thick and 1 1/2 x 1 1/2 inches (each)
1/4 inch carbon rods (Get at a welding supply house.)

Tools needed:

Wood saw
Hack saw
Drill press and bit assortment
#8-32 tap
Crimping tool for electrical terminals
Soldering iron (150 watt) or gas torch and solder
Arc welder

Begin by cutting the wooden handles from the firring strip--6 inches long each.

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Step 1: Make the wooden handles

Picture of Make the wooden handles
Cut two pieces of 1 x 2 inch pine, like a firring strip. Make them 6 inches long each.

Step 2: Prepare the handles for the hinge

Picture of Prepare the handles for the hinge
The handles are hinged at the rear end of the torch. The side with the single screw is free to move. The 1 1/2 x 1 1/2 pieces of aluminum or steel are fastened with two screws to the other handle. The side out of view to the camera is a mirror image of what is shown here. Leave the single screw a tiny bit loose so the hinge action moves freely. (The hole you see in the aluminum is left over from a previous life.)

Step 3: Prepare the handles for the spring and nylon tie

Picture of Prepare the handles for the spring and nylon tie
Using the torch will involve squeezing it with one hand. You want the spring to gently push the handles open when the pressure from your hand is released. But, you do not want them to open without limitation. So, a nylon cable tie goes through the center of the spring and around the bottom of the handles to restrict how far the handles can open.

Close the handles and drill a hole about 3/16 of an inch through both. The nylon tie will go through these holes later, but not right away. Open the handles wide and drill a 1/2 inch countersink hole on the inside face of each handle. These holes are for the ends of the spring.

Wait to install the spring and nylon tie until after the next step.

Step 4: Drill the ends of the handles for the steel rods

Picture of Drill the ends of the handles for the steel rods
The holes for the steel rods should be straight and parallel to each other so the tips of the carbon rods will touch when the handles are squeezed together during use of the torch. A drill press or similar assistance for drilling holes parallel to the outer surfaces of the handles is a big help, although it may be possible to get pretty close with a hand-held drill. These holes should be about 1 1/2 inch deep into the ends of the handles.

Weld a flat washer on each steel rod. Insert the rods into the handles. Drill for a locking screw on each handle. This screw fixes the rods so they cannot shift or rotate from your setting of their angle.

Now place the spring into the countersink holes on the inner surfaces of the handles. Hold the handles together lightly and insert the nylon tie so it goes through the spring. Slip the end of the nylon tie through its own retaining hole and adjust the tension on the nylon tie for the amount of space you want between the handles when they are not being squeezed. Trim the nylon tie so the extra is removed. You may want to heat the cut end of the nylon tie with a match so it loses its sharp edge. Sometimes those can scratch and cut. (See the previous panel for the photo there.)

Step 5: Weld the nipples to the rods

Picture of Weld the nipples to the rods
If you can get black iron nipples, so much the better for welding. If you can get only galvinized, grind away the zinc coating wherever you will be welding and do not breathe any fumes. Do your best to align the nipples to the steel rods before welding so the center of both nipples is on the same plane as much as possible. This will be important for making the tips of the carbon rods meet when the handles are squeezed together during use of the torch. Some discrepancies can be overcome by bending the 1/4 inch steel rods a little.

Nipples are a little larger than their nominal sizes. You may want to run a 5/16 inch drill bit through the nipples. This would allow using 5/16 inch carbon rods for a bit more heat, although I have always been able to do anything I need to do with 1/4 inch carbon rods. Besides, it is not always easy to find 5/16 inch carbon rods.

Drill a 3/16 inch hole in the side of the nipples near the lower end (as when the torch is in use). Place a #8-32 nut over the hole and weld it in place. The nut's threads will likely distort a little during welding. Chase the threads with a #8-32 thread tap. Screw the thumbscrews into the nuts.

A 1/4 inch carbon rod is shown in the nipple ready for use in the photo.

Step 6: Add tabs for electrical connections

Picture of Add tabs for electrical connections
Weld steel tabs 3/8 x 3/4 inch to the 1/4 inch steel rods for the electrical connections. Be careful to check their position before welding so the tabs will not touch and short out the torch when the handles are squeezed. Drill each tab and thread for #8-32 screws. Brass screws from old electrical outlets work very well, although you may need to chase the ends of their threads with the thead chaser on your crimping tool.

Cut the 20 foot piece of #10 stranded wire in two halves. Crimp the connectors on each 10 foot piece of #10 stranded copper wire and attach the wire to the tabs.

Step 7: Secure the wire

Picture of Secure the wire
Another smaller nylon tie can be very helpful for securing the wires as they pass under the handle as you see in this photo. Use electrical tape every foot or so to keep the two wires together.

Strip the other ends of the wires back about an inch and tin each with solder to keep them from fraying.

When you are using the torch, either wire will be held by the welder's ground clamp and the other will be held by the electrode holder (stinger). There is no polarity to be of concern. Keep the electrode holder and the ground clamp separated from one another so there will be no unwanted sparks.

Step 8: Insert the carbon rods and align their tips

Picture of Insert the carbon rods and align their tips
You need about two inches of carbon rod extending from each nipple at the very minimum. This keeps the actual torch from becoming too hot. With the welder's power off, adjust the carbon rods so they meet each other when the handles are squeezed together. Bend the 1/4 inch steel rods slightly as necessary to insure the tips meet.

During use you will need periodically to stop and readjust the position of one or the other of the carbon rods because one invariably burns faster than the other. I find I can do this easily while wearing welder's gloves.

Step 9: Using the torch

Picture of Using the torch
This is how your finished torch should appear.

Put on your welding helmet and gloves. Set your 220 volt welder between about 70 and 90 amps for 1/4 inch carbon rods, depending on how much heat you need for your job. (115 volt welders do not have the power or duty cycle needed to operate a carbon arc torch.)

Be careful that the torch does not touch anything conductive once the welder's power is on. When you need to put the torch down, you can leave the welder running, but turn the torch upside down and set it onto a piece of plywood or a clean, non-metalic workbench surface.

Flip your helmet down with the snap of your neck. Squeeze the handles together until the tips of the carbon rods touch. Hold them together for a couple of seconds so they can heat up. Then gently relax your grip just a little so the tips have a gap between them, and a brilliant blue arc will form between the tips of the carbon rods. It will be very, very hot. You will soon get a sense of how much to spread the tips.

Keep the arc moving over the steel you want to heat. If held in one place too long, little pools of molten metal will form and you could even burn or blow through your work. I find it works best to heat a small area on a piece I want to bend and then pull part of the bend I want to make. Then I heat the area next to what I bent until it is ready to pull. If something does not go quite right, heat it again and bend to correct.

If you are brazing something, heat the metal until it is hot enough to melt the brazing rod.

A carbon arc torch does not use gas flowing under pressure, like an oxy-acetylene torch. You do not need to worry much about small parts being blown out of position.

A carbon arc torch greatly expands the versatility of your 220 volt stick welder. Some people use the flame of a carbon arc torch the way one might use the flame of an oxy-acetylene torch to make metal form a pool. Then they add welding rod to weld as they would with a gas welder. I have read that it is possible to use only one carbon rod. The ground clamp goes on the work and the single carbon rod acts like a spot welder. I tried this once, but the pieces of metal were not clamped tightly enough to make it work.
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can someone recommend what size of carbon rod and current for 220 ac welder.im planning to weld the floor pan for my Bug.thanks

Phil B (author)  JustToComment1 month ago
How are your planning to weld the floor pan in a VW Bug? Are you using carbon rods to make a hot flame that you use like an oxy-acetelyne torch to make filler metal fuse with the parent metal? Are you pressing carbon rods from both sides like a spot welder? Are you using a carbon arc flame to braze? Are you repairing something that tore? Are you making butt joints, or overlapping pieces of metal? Are you using a backing plate of copper or aluminum to minimize burning through?
difflock3 years ago
A carbon arc torch is something I've wanted for my AC stick welder......

I did have an idea though.....

a couple of cheap stick electrode holders fixed together with a hinge and a spring.....

you then have a slightly more refined carbon arc torch! :)
Phil B (author)  difflock3 years ago
Your version will be more expensive to make and will be heavier for your hand to hold and control.
difflock Phil B3 years ago
I know it would be a bit more expensive to make (the cheap electrode holders are less than £10 each)....


I dont know if they are more expensive in the US though......

but apart from a hinge and a spring of some form, its all that would be needed.......

as for the weight, I'm not sure it would be heavy......
the budget electrode holders arent heavy as most of the material is plastic......

I'm definitely going to make a carbon arc torch though.....

I'd eventually like to use it for welding aluminium plus brazing of various metals...

is it possible to simply use aluminium TIG welding rods for filler material?

aluminium welding is the one thing I always seem to need, but I currently havent got the tools to do so (I cant afford a TIG capable of aluminium welding, and my MIG is configured for steel.....)
I know this is three years late, but, did you find that the cheap holders didn't have the staying capacity? And I would have thought they might not have the strentgh for 1/4 Carbon to be held firmly enough?
check out harbor frieght tools .com . not the best quality gear but if yr on a budget go thier.
Phil B (author)  difflock3 years ago
In the US I have seen electrode holders for about $15. As I remember the Pound is around $2 plus, so maybe around seven Pounds.

I have no experience with welding aluminum or with using a TIG. I have read about both and watched some videos on YouTube, but that is about all. I am not much help to you.

I would be interested in seeing a photo when you get your carbon arc torch ready to use and to hear a report on how it works for you.
difflock Phil B3 years ago
I think I'll make up a basic one from scraps (similar to yours) to see how I get on with it....

if it works out, I'll make a nicer one (which will also allow me to correct any errors/problems)

I've never welded aluminium due to not having the right setup, and I've never used a TIG welder due to costs.....

although, I am planning an alternator welder, which will become a DC TIG welder.......

but once I've built a carbon arc torch, and had a go with it, I will indeed post an update of how I got on with it.......
hey to the gentle who looking a microwave transformer np im sitting on to of them i can send u 1 np
still have 1 atm out of the unit an another still ing the unit.
tfmach2 years ago
G'day Phil, many thanks for your excellent tutorial. I'v long wondered about a cheap heating solution to allow me to harden custom cutting tools; adapting the little stick welder for the job is of course perfect. Just finished mine, haven't experimented with it too much just yet, but seems to work great. I'm running 8mm rods on a 150amp welder. I find at this early stage that the arc has to be extremely small which is a little tricky--I dare say that perhaps a gutsier welder would allow a wider arc/greater heating area. Or maybe, 6mm electrodes and rebuilding another one with thinner diameter rod? Not sure, just a bit of conjecture.
Phil B (author)  tfmach2 years ago
I thought I left a reply to your comment, but it does not appear, even after refreshing the page. Thank you for making a carbon arc torch. It looks really good. I have been able to heat and bend steel rod up to around 13mm (1/2 inch) using 6mm carbon rods (1/4 inch) at around 90 amps on my big 230 volt welder. I generally get an arc at least the diameter of a finger. I have some 8mm (3/8 inch) carbon rod, but the metal tubes on my torch are too small for them. I could weld larger tubes parallel to the existing tubes. Try clamping some 6mm carbon rod inside your existing torch tubes and see how that works. Thank you, again.
tfmach2 years ago
A picture
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Markaw6 years ago
Is it possible to make a fairly precise cutting tool without having to crank the up welder and blow through welding rods on this type of welder? I'm looking for some fairly clean edges and not molten globs. The only option I can see is a gas setup to do the cutting. On this inst...I like the ability to heat and bend that will make some projects I have in mind a lot easier to complete!
The only precise methods for cutting metal: - waterjet (expensive tooling) - special saw (band or circular like the Evolution saws) for straight cuts The melting or combustion tools like plasma cutting or arc leave always molten globs to finish.
Not if the process is set up correctly. I use a oxy-propadine torce on a regular basis and it leaves a very clean edge.
What you are referring to is carbon-arc cutting. Essentially you use a stream of compressed air to blow through the puddle. It produces a lot of sparks and is a very messy cut.

You would be far better off using a plasma torch or a gas cutting torch.
omnibot Markaw4 years ago
Oxy-fuel welding and cutting is one option. If you can heat the metal anough and then apply a stream of pure oxygen to it iron and most ferric alloys will burn fairly straight through. Wear heavy clothing though, it sparkles like crazy but the cuts are fairly straight. It's normally used for really heavy sheet-iron and steel at wharfs and constructionsites.
Look up thermite cutting on youtube. It leaves a bunch of slag but its still crazy!
Phil B (author)  Markaw6 years ago
In regard to heating and bending steel, my wife hates my welder because my metalwork produces grit on the garage floor. Some of the grit is from slag and some is from grinding metal. I mentioned MIG welders with inert gas instead of flux. She is ready to buy one for me. But, I want to be able to heat and bend steel when I need to do so. I am not ready to give up my stick welder.

On the cutting you want to do, how thick is the steel and how much cutting will you do? I use an abrasive cutting wheel a lot for cutting. If it is relatively fine work, I use a small disc on a Dremel tool. See my Instructable http://www.instructables.com/id/Sawsmith_Radial_Arm_Saw_Enlarge_Arbor_Hole_on_a/ If it is just cut off work, see my Instructable http://www.instructables.com/id/Cut_Off_Saw_from_an_Angle_Head_Grinder/ If you need to do a lot of cutting with curves, a plasma cutter might be what you need, but those cost some money. I do not have a plasma cutter. A friend does, and he found the cheap ones are not worth the bother.
Thank you, for the design, I think i was in to the one I built was about $11.00 U.S.
I can use it either on a 110v or 220v welder depending on the thickness of what you are trying to heat. With the 220v you can heat horse shoes fairly quick to the point of being able to twist them. Once again thank you for sharing your design.
Older tech but a good tool to have in your shop.
Phil B (author)  Badgermilker4 years ago
I am sorry I missed your comment when you posted it. Your torch looks very good. I am glad you are enjoying it and it works well for you. I see you used a commercial door hinge. You set your thumbscrews for holding the rods in place fairly high on the pipe nipples. The first edition of my carbon arc torch had the thumbscrews higher, but then I discovered I could not use carbon rods once they were only a certain length. I cut the nipples off and welded on nipples slightly larger in diameter for larger size carbon rods. At the same time I put the thumbscrews quite low so I could use the carbon rods until they came to be quite short. Thank you for looking and for commenting. It is always nice to have been helpful to someone.
ta-manie5 years ago
Hi Ive just been to an agricultural show in a rural town in South Africa.
Saw a demo of a carbon arc torch. Coudnt believe my eyes (with welders helmet on). The simplicity. It was the answer to my prayers. The catch: The demo guy yapping about having sole copy righ of some kindt. (It didnt sound right). The next killer: the price ZAR650. (almost $90). Got home, googled "carbon arc torch" and more prayers anwered.
 Cant wait to get home and start making my very own torch.
I own a 220v inverter stick/arc welder and assume it should work well.
Regards, will post progress shortly. Hold thumbs for me, guys.
Cape Town.
 South Africa.
Phil B (author)  ta-manie5 years ago
Thank you very much for your comment.  I am very happy that this will be useful to you and save you a good deal of money.  I do not have any experience with an inverter welder, but did view a demonstration video of one on YouTube.  The key consideration will be the welder's duty cycle.  If the duty cycle on your welder is too short, it may overheat and cut out before you are able to get the heat you need out of your carbon arc torch.  it is an interesting world when a guy in the northwest of the United States can provide something useful to someone in South Africa, and both of them have never met one another.  Best wishes. 
rimar20005 years ago
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!
Phil B (author)  rimar20005 years ago

There are a number of pages in English on transformer design with all sorts of formulae.  I do not know what is available in Spanish. 

A friend had a spot welder and its transformer quit working.  We think there was an internal short in one of the windings.  I do know the secondary was not made of wire or cable, but a continuous flat sheet of copper wound with an insulation layer around itself.  They used copper sheet in order to carry the high amperage load. 
Oh, that is a good notice for me! I could use a flattened copper pipe, wrapped with a plastic hose.

Today I went figuring out, and in my small town there are not many alternatives to choose cables. There was one of section 25 mm and another 16 mm (5 mm copper diameter). I chose the latter, I'll do the test and if it is too scarce, I will buy the other.

I can read and understand
fairly well English, when I encounter a word I do not know or do not remember, I go to Google translator. But I think my experiment don't deserve to study the fundamentals of transformers, it is a simple test.

Thanks for your response, I will let know to you the results.
Phil B (author)  rimar20005 years ago
Some transformers use sheet aluminum in place of copper.  We have rolls of aluminum sheet about 10 inches wide and perhaps 25 feet long that is sold for flashing when putting shingles on a roof.  It is used to seal around chimneys and where two sections of roof meet.
The flat sheet of metal (copper or aluminum) also was suggested to me for my brother. I'll keep it in mind if the 16mm section wire fails. The sheet can be multi-sheet, for better handling. Thanks for your kindness.

An interesting warning that my brother gave me was that the construction of the clamps must be very strong, because usually there is a tendency to deviate when squeezed hard.......
Phil B (author)  rimar20005 years ago
I remember the clamp arms from the spot welder my friend had.  They were a copper alloy tube about 25 mm in diameter, maybe bronze.  They were strong.  I think you could use steel.  If you are worried about extra electrical resistance from the steel, you could run a copper cable parallel to the steel.  The steel would provide the strength and the cable would provide the electrical pathway.   Also, the hinge system was very precise and sturdy.  Normally I would say ordinary door hinges would not work, but look at what I did with two hinges set apart from one another in this Instructable.  Setting two ordinary hinges apart makes a more precise hinge system.
I am thinking to make an welded isosceles triangle of iron tin tube (the pipe that is used for electrical wiring) approx 5/8 or 3/4 inches diameter, and use the basis side (approx 5 inches) as hinge. Higth approx 12 inches, with an horizontal hole at top, where the mobile electrode will be screwed, reversible to switch between sheet and wire solder. The fixed electrode will be flat in both cases. The axis for the triangle may be a rod of hard wood.

Very clever your Cut Off Saw from an Angle Head Grinder. I have one alike buyed cheap, it is not so strong, but is very useful to make repetitive cuttings.
dg2clarke5 years ago
Can something like this be used to fuse-weld material which would otherwise be too thin for a given arc welder? For example the manual for my welder recommends no thinner than 1.5mm mild. Could I use something like this to weld/braze thinner material like 1.2mm without blowing holes in it?

Phil B (author)  dg2clarke5 years ago
In theory the answer to your question is, "Yes."  A book on welding describes using a carbon arc to heat the metal in the same way you would use an oxy-acetylene torch to weld.  When the puddle forms, you use a steel filler rod to add material as if you were gas welding.  In practice, I see a lot of reddish residue after using my carbon arc torch.  I have concerns about it contaminating the weld.  The carbon arc is also not as precise and as easy to control as a good gas torch. 

The book I mentioned also speaks of using a carbon rod to spot weld.  I would say the two pieces have to be clamped together very, very tightly.  Then the current and the duration of the current flow has to be within narrow parameters.

I have successfully used a stick welder for material even thinner than 1.5 mm.  I held a piece of aluminum stock behind the weld to absorb extra heat and to provide a backstop so molten steel could not blow away.  I also maintained the arc only a second or two.  Then I let the weld cool a bit before striking another arc on the material.  You have to dial the current down quite a lot, and that can make starting the arc difficult.  See another Instructable I did on using a carbon rod to start the arc where you want it. 
foxtail6 years ago
This is a fantastic instructable...here's a picture of the TCAW setup I made out of some scraps pf purple heart (wood) I had laying around (that's the real color) a marine hinge, and some 3/4" hollow shaft:
I can't believe you used that much purple heart for a welder. Remember it gets darker and darker in the sun until its almost black
But it's such a beautiful looking welder ;)
Phil B (author)  foxtail6 years ago
The carbon rods will become quite hot in use. The purpose of mounting the rods on the ends of steel rods is to protect the wooden handles from excess heat. How do your wooden handles stand up to the heat in the carbon rods with the carbon rods basically mounted at the end of the wooden handles?
foxtail Phil B6 years ago
you know, I haven't used it for longer than 5-10 minutes at a clip before. Purple Heart is extremely dense, and it has shown I tiny bit of charring, but not enough that it affects how tightly the pieces are clamped onto the wood. If I'd used pine or any other softwood though, they would have been toast by now, I'm sure. As it is, my current set up works fine for me.
Phil B (author)  foxtail6 years ago
Sounds good. I hope you get a lot of benefit from using your carbon arc torch and really enjoy it.
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