Cheap Welding for Punks

Picture of Cheap Welding for Punks
Cheap homemade welders compared: AC stick, DC stick, DC spoolgun. Oxyfuel discussion.

Welding is usually the easiest and quickest way to build something.
You just put the parts next to each other and weld them.
You don't have to drill bolt holes and go to the hardware store for bolts.
Metal doesn't split like wood. It doesn't have grain and knots that make every piece different.
You can get all kinds of scrap metal for free. Bed frames, parts of old cars, etc etc.
And you can make your own welder for free or close to it.

Don't have access to a welder? LIAR!! All it takes is some junk car batteries and a welding rod.
Or some dead microwave ovens to butcher for the transformers.
Make your own industrial revolution!

Make these welders yourself!
AC stick welder,
DC stick welding with car batteries
wirefeed spoolgun with car batteries
Solar powered battery welder

This instructable is my "table of contents" for welding projects. When I do more projects I'll add more steps here to link to them.
Remove these adsRemove these ads by Signing Up

Step 1: Welding With Books!

Picture of Welding With Books!
The most important welding tool is... INFORMATION.
Whenever I screw up a weld, I go look up how I should have done it. Sure enough, there's a proper polarity, current, feed rate, shielding gas/flow rate, flux etc for the weld. I do it that way, and suddenly I'm a great welder.

No matter how many welding books I get, I need them all. There's some kind of Japanese-style collusion between publishers to distribute the information between all the books. None of them have all the information you need. Every book will add a lot of information the others don't have. They also tend to devote a lot of space to info you'll never need, like how to weld train tracks using an automated submerged-arc machine.

The Miller online welding calculators are really good, especially for something like TIG that has 5 or 6 different parameters.
bettina-sisr4 months ago
Hi I got 7 different sized welding tips, 2 cutting torches, 2 sets of hoses all for under $30 at various garage sales, thrift stores and from friends done with 'em. (Mostly from yard sales). A lot of the time the Mrs. is running the sale and the Mr. put some stuff out and as I am a woman too there is usually some gabbing, then a sale for them, and welding equip for me! Everyone's happy! It just takes looking around. The hoses I got at Habitat for Humanity Resale store and 1 at Good Will. Oh and Tim have you tried guitar strings yet (for filler rod)? I love your experimentation and your obvious love of creativity!
Krimm2 years ago
(removed by author or community request)
chip123 Krimm2 years ago
Is it called glue, by any chance? :P
pdub77 chip12311 months ago
^that guy^
cherze1 year ago
aluminum welding produces a very harmful smoke for your lungs. You must use a respiratory mask that brings pushed air from at least a few feets away.
1 lung full of hydrogen + 1 electric arc = many pieces of TimAnderson scattered around the countryside ... love the instructable though.
DeanGPotts1 year ago
i genuinely fear for your life!! ... but i love this project and may give it a try real soon.
skaar1 year ago
i have a mig welder, 120v plug in thing, takes more amps than the circuits in my apartment allows, so it's sitting there. it's dc output, and i've got plans to bypass the transformers to make it dc input. finding a schematic has been a tad less than easy, and i'm not up enough on electronics to figure out all the details, mostly being chicken to break something, can't afford to replace much.
so, maybe there's a generic method for finding out where the dc output is from the power supply, the heavy duty stuff is unfamiliar, and i'd guess these things are generic enough that all are familiar.
intended power source is car battery with small charger motor/windmill through alternator, that i'm more comfy with.
eric m5 years ago
Gas welding costs too much. I really don't understand the reason that torches and regulators cost at least $150. Don't forget tanks that cost another $200. And it seems less and less people are gas welding. Someone needs to make a cheap torch and rig for like $50 but i haven't seen them. Maybe someone from instructables could make a cheaper alternative homemade torch. Need less costly regulators too.
skrubol eric m2 years ago
Tanks are expensive as well because of the pressure the O2 tank has to deal with and storing Acetylene isn't as simple as just compressing it and putting it in a tank (I believe there is a liquid in acetylene tanks usually for the acetylene to absorb into.) This, I assume, is why I've never seen disposable acetylene tanks.

You can get an oxy-mapp welding setup for around $50. It's utter crap, but it can be used to weld. The regulators are.. not, they're just needle valves and it uses disposable o2 and mapp tanks. Disposable o2 tanks get expensive really quickly though, as they aren't as high pressure as the refillable kind. It's a false economy unless you only use it for a few minutes (how long an o2 tank lasts) per year.
yeah, acetylene tanks are full of cardboard soaked in acetone. another useless fact courtesy yours truly.
I know im really late posting. sorry.
its not cardboard, but close. i have an acetylene tank that my welding teacher cut in half without dying somehow (i havent asked him how he did it, and he did it before i joined the class) but inside the tank is a chalky white substance that you can poke with a bit of force using your finger nail and it will leave a permanent indentation, and if you drag your finger on it it feels like really textured drywall. the acetylene absorbs into this material to provide stability (acetylene is EXTREMELY unstable and wants to explode when disturbed).
Jake-off eric m2 years ago
Actually I was watching a tv show recently called stuck with hackett, this hobo looking man goes around building amazing things out of complete junk. One invention was a make shift gas torch out of an old water filter, and surgical tubing. Its not exactly safe but if you're still interested I'd look into it
I know I am almost 3 years late, But today I bought an Oxy/Acetylene Kit for $89.00 + 20% off, From HF. It is ofcourse chinese, but it honestly works the same as my Victor Oxy/Acetylene. It came with Hoses, Regulators, Cutting, and Soldering Tips. Plus a Striker ans a pair of welding goggles, and a few rods. Total was $71.90
I am not trying to give a free commercial to them, but they have very cheap stuff, otherwise offensively expensive.
pfred2 eric m4 years ago
Cheap gas rigs are in a word, cheap! Nothing worse than gauges that creep, and when I am playing with explosive gasses the last thing I want to think about is equipment failure. I like my Smiths gas welding equipment myself. My rig cost a couple grand. I've had the cheap stuff too.
benner81 eric m5 years ago
The regulators are the big cost, mostly because they have to reduce oxygen pressure from 3000 psi on a full tank to something like 30 psi for cutting. However, if you want to save money, you can buy a pretty decent gas setup at Harbor Freight for around $100 (on sale, which is like every five weeks or so) and some gas companies will let you rent tanks for less than 50 cents a day (plus the cost of gas).
Dr Qui2 years ago
Do these methods work for thrash metalers goths and emos or just for punks?
piper12342 years ago
mm you never know when you gonna need to weld rail tracks with a submarined arc weld.... or how was it? :P haha ;) thanks for the info, blessings
gold034 years ago
The battery welding technique is used in the field by guys who are four wheeling, and break stuff off their truck like shocks or springs. I have seen a drive shaft repaired in the field using exhaust tubing and batteries. 

This is an emergency fix to get you back to civilization where a nice, neat, strong repair can be made.

Everyone who wanders the earth, should know this particular skill.
abadfart gold034 years ago
iv seen it done with a spare alternator for work on remote areas 
skaar abadfart2 years ago here's a setup that uses an alternator...
reinlar2 years ago
I have a Lincoln flux core welder too. My wire feed can be set to zero, so I'm planing to skip the over-ride switch you call for and just make a thick rubberband from a bicycle tire tube (about 1" wide) to hold the standard hand switch to the "on" position. One less step to do, then add a single standard welding lead attaching plug to the cabinet, to stick my cable and electrode holder into (that came from an old Lincoln Buzz-box welder). So, rubber-band, one extra outlet on the cabinet, = combo stick and wire-feed welder ! TAAA-DAAH !!!

Now I'm wondering if I could attach a cheap TIG hand-grip and gas cable, use the accessory MIG (gas-shielded) kit which I bought to turn this flux-core into a real gas MIG, and do some TIG welding??? Could this be possible??? Anyone out there done it before??? I suppose the only real challenge would be heat control, but maybe a by-pass circuit could allow use of a standard foot pedal. Ideas anybody???

Thanks, for the great instructable Tim. You may have inspired my to build the worlds cheapest FLUX-MIG-TIG-Stick Welder !!!

BTW- I'm also working on a cheap wire-feed gun using a standard battery-powered drill
chuckyd2 years ago
The discussion about the number of days required to pay for a helment is irrelevant. The real question is how many days will be spent in the hosptial recovering from a burned face received from the newspaper, and will he ever see again after burning his eyeballs?
steamer5512 years ago
alumaweld is the easiest way to weld aluminus together. You just need a propane or map torch. ey also have rods for welding bronze and brass.
Reeper5 years ago
so, can you make nice welds with that gun. when you start welding your wire is about 2 inches out of the electrode, it is suggested to be about 3/8 to 1/2 max or it makes those globes that you can see in the video. I dont know if your ticketed or not but the welds didn't look too sweet, but the welding off of batteries is a cool idea. Whats the duty cycle so you don't blow the batteries up?
TimAnderson (author)  Reeper5 years ago
I learned a few things after making the welds in that video. One or two loose spatters seem to come off even when I'm in the zone. Sometimes I use anti-spatter spray (lecithin). Quality of surface and wire seem to matter. The expensive stuff (harborfreight) seemed to be a bit better than the supercheap stuff I'm using now. What's your favorite brand? Maybe I'll try .035" now that I'm a bit handier with it. Batteries are juicy. A T105 golf cart battery stores a bit over 200 amp hours and can deliver it at electric car amperages. I don't have the table handy, but you can weld like you're driving uphill in a car that weighs 5000 lbs. More than you can with a buzzbox.
i frequent the origamiboat yahoogroup, and the old hands/farts say that to weld aluminum you crank the amps, move fast, the weld sounds like you're spraying, and you get perfect welds every time. i've been meaning to take up welding again, and was wondering, since it's been a while, if there's a particular sound that properly done steel welding makes.
icej75 skaar2 years ago
It should sound like frying bacon when you're in the zone.
off topic from your Instructable, do you think that non spatter spray works?
Downcount4 years ago
Great instructible! i myself use a hydro-oxy torch for small things, but i like the many different ways you can arc weld!

lol btw i went to a so-called "expert HHO welding" site yesterday and they called gas torches a "Settling torch". Obviously not expert enough to know that it's an Acetylene torch.
Some fabrication shops use Propane and oxygen torches, because it is cheaper. But it doesn't cut as well as Oxy-acetylene.
Hycro Downcount3 years ago
I'm thinking maybe buddy was spelling it how he pronounces it? A few "old-timers" that I know pronounce it as "a settling torch" because it's so similar to acetylene in sound (and much easier to spell:P)
trip08844 years ago
Call me a noob, but I haven't welded since I was 12 years old.  My old man had an old stick welder that he let me use as a kid. I don't remember if it was AC or DC (for some reason I think you could switch it--if that's possible). Also, I don't recall if it was 110 or 220V...that was about 13 years ago.  I remember all the PPE stuff (as that was stressed), how to lay a decent bead, and stressing them.  What I'd really like to know is what type of welder would be best for my needs. I want to weld some heavy gauge steel for a plow, but would also like the welder to be versatile enough for some shop work on lighter gauge metals for building tool racks and artwork. Suggestions/help please?
If you want to weld things about as thick as bed rails (angle iron or unistrut) you need 1/16" 6013 electrodes (these are AC) and the welder needs a dial so you can set it at 45 to 55 amps.  Above this current you destroy the steel, or else you overheat the rod.  These are very difficult welds and it takes LOTS of practice.  6011 and 6013 are very different rods.  6013 are much easier and can be bought at harbor freight.  Don't confuse 6011 and 6013!

If you want to weld heavy gauge things (like your plow), you need 1/8" 7018 (these are DC).  Normally, AC/DC welds with 1/8" rods are 95 amps, but 7018 rods use 115 amps (95 is much too low), so welding is fast and pleasant, but super hot.

At 115 amps, lots and lots of heat is made.  You should use at least 7018 for anything that needs very high strength.

So you should get a 110/220 volt welder that does both AC and DC.  You can wire the machine's plug for either a 110 plug or a 220 plug.  If you go the 110 route, you can't weld with any rods thicker than 1/16.  3/32 rods are too thick (not enough current out of a 110v box, and may destroy angle iron).  You can't weld angle iron well with 1/8 rod (too much current needed to melt the rod - metal gets destroyed), so it you don't need 220 for most projects.

A good rule of thumb: Rod should be no thicker than 1/2 the width of the metal you are welding.  1/16" on angle iron.  1/8" on 1/4" (or thicker) plate.

If you go the 220 route, be sure the welder can be turned down to 40 to 55 amps, else it is too hot to be used for thin stuff.  Above 120 amps is also useless, as pretty much any steel you will encounter as a hobby can be welded at 115 amps with 7018 rod.

My recommendation is to buy a cheap harbor freight 110v AC welder for thin things and make all your thin stuff with that.  Then buy a 220 volt welder for the jumbo stuff.  That way, you can set the 120v welder at the perfect current for the 1/16" rods and set the 220v welder at the perfect current for the 1/8" rod.  Switching the current back and forth is surprisingly time consuming and the 110 welder is probably what you will use 90% of the time.  If you spend $500 on a 220v unit, that's great, but you are likely going to end up rolling the current down to 50 amps and so the $75 harbor freight "el cheapo" unit is what I use almost exclusively for my fun welding projects.
Excellent guide, thanks. I will save it as .txt in my PC for later consult.

Google Translateado al Spanish y algo retocado:

Si desea soldar cosas tan gruesas como las barandillas de la cama (hierro ángulo o Unistrut) necesita electrodos 6013 de 1/16 " (se trata de CA) y la soldadora necesita un selector para que se pueda programar a 45 a 55 amperios. Por encima de esta corriente Ud. destruirá el acero, o si no, recalentará el electrodo. Estas son soldaduras muy difíciles y se necesita MUCHA práctica. Los electrodos 6011 y 6013 son muy diferentes. Los 6013 son mucho más fáciles y se pueden comprar en un Harbor Freight (negocio de herramientas económicas). No confunda 6011 con 6013!

Si desea soldar cosas de calibre grueso (como un arado), usted necesitará electrodos 7018 de 1/8" (estos son para corriente directa). Normalmente, las soldaduras AC/DC con electrodos de 1/8" son a 95 amperios, pero los electrodos 7018 usan 115 amperios ( 95 es demasiado poco), por lo que la soldadura es rápida y agradable, pero súper caliente.

A 115 amperios se genera mucho, mucho calor. Usted debería utilizar al menos electrodos 7018 para cualquier cosa que necesite muy alta resistencia mecánica.

Así que usted debería conseguir una soldadora de 110/220 voltios que funcione tanto para CA como para CC. Usted puede enchufar la máquina, ya sea a 110 o a 220 V.

Si usted elige 110 V, no puede soldar con electrodos más gruesos que 1/16 (1.6mm). Los de 3/32 (2.3mm) son muy gruesos (no obtendrá suficiente corriente de una máquina de 110V, y puede destruir el hierro ángulo). No se puede soldar bien hierro ángulo con electrodo de 1/8 (es necesaria demasiada corriente para fundir el electrodo - el metal se destruye), por lo que no necesitará 220 para la mayoría de los proyectos.

Una buena regla general: El electrodo no debe ser más grueso que la mitad del grosor del metal que está soldando. 1/16" en el hierro ángulo. 1/8" en placa de 1/4" o más grueso.

Si usted elige 220 V, asegúrese de que la soldadora pueda ser regulada a 40 a 55 amperios, de lo contrario estará demasiado caliente para ser usada para cosas finas. Por encima de 120 amperios es también inútil, ya que casi cualquier acero que se encontrará como un hobby puede ser soldado a 115 amperios con electrodo 7018.

Mi recomendación es comprar en un negocio de mercancías baratas una soldadora de 110v CA para las cosas finas y hacer todas las cosas finas con ella. Y luego comprar una soldadora de 220 voltios para las cosas grandes. De esta forma, Ud. puede establecer la soldadora de 110V para electrodos de 1/16" y la de 220V para electrodos de 1/8". Cambiar la corriente de un voltaje a otro insume sorprendentemente mucho tiempo, y la soldadora de 110V es probablemente lo que va a utilizar el 90% del tiempo. Si usted gasta $500 en una unidad de 220v, eso es genial, pero es probable va a acabar rodando la corriente a 50 amperios y por eso la soldadora "barata" de $75 es lo que uso casi exclusivamente para mis divertidos proyectos de soldadura.
Thanks for the in depth reply. I plan on taking your advice concerning the el cheapo stuff, and appreciate the rule of thumb reminder.  I guess my projects will be the true test!
6013 works for DC just fine. It's all I've ever used for it. 6011 is a deep penetrating rod that works that must be used with a whipping motion, and 7018 is a low hydrogen rod that must be kept in a rod oven to keep out moisture.
Is 6013 DC negative or positive?

I never really go to the "whipping" thing, because the rod had so many sticking issues. It always seemed to fight.

I am not sure how a "deep penetrating" 6011 rod works on metal that is 1/8" thick or thinner. It doesn't seem like 1/8" metal even has a "deep". Maybe 6011 is only useful on thick metal with 1/8" rod? 1/16" 6011 electrodes (multiple brands) caused me a lot of grief as a new welder. When I switched to 6013, most of my problems went away. It was like night and day.

My theory is 6013 is a sort of "sweet spot" for thinner angle iron welded with 1/16" electrodes on cheap AC welders. It was sort of like finding jack's magic beans, it was that much an improvement. Considering AC welders are so much simpler and cheaper than DC, and 6013 is the only 1/16" rod my local harbor freight carries, everything really came together, and that doesn't usually happen when I am making things.

Get More Out of Instructables

Already have an Account?


PDF Downloads
As a Pro member, you will gain access to download any Instructable in the PDF format. You also have the ability to customize your PDF download.

Upgrade to Pro today!