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.

Step 1: 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.

Step 2: Don't Poison Gas Attack Yourself, Etc.

Welders don't live very long.
Smoke including welding smoke is usually full of some poison or other.
Manganese poisoning is one of the hazards, especially if you do a lot of welding in confined spaces. Wear a respirator with the proper filter.
Or make your own, 1942 style!

New Zealand has a great online manual on welding safety. The number of ways to harm yourself with welding is truly amazing. I took a welding class once. It turned out I'd been doing some really dangerous things. Lets say you need to arc weld a distance from your welder. So you carry a coil of cable. If you weld with that coil of cable around you, you can stop your heart with an induced current.

Step 3: AC Stick

Weld Steel, stainless steel and (sort of) aluminum.
Cost: $0 and up.
see the entire DIY AC Stick Welder Instructable.

It costs nothing to make. The junk you need is probably already in your alley or garage. A bundle of rods costs $7 or so anywhere in the world.
It's much easier to make this welder run on 220 volts than on 110, since it draws half as much current on 220 and your breakers are less likely to blow.
Striking an arc without sticking the rod to the work is a skill, look for some instructional videos on youtube. I do it by listening. It makes a particular sound when you do it right.
It's very easy to weld on steel that's about the same thickness as your welding rods or a little thicker.
For thinner walled stuff it takes some skill and looking up the proper settings.
Stainless is also easy to weld with this unit. Just get some stainless rods at the welding store. Use low power and thin rods, stainless is a poor conductor of heat and it's easy to melt through. But it's easy to make it look nice. It's "stainless" so it's easy to make nice shiny welds.
They sell aluminum rods also, but I've never gotten them to work for me.

Step 4: DC Stick

Weld Steel and stainless steel
Cost: $0 and up.
Another welder that's already laying in pieces in your alley, car, and garage.
see the entire DIY DC Stick Welder Instructable.

A few old batteries can deliver awesome amounts of current.
Combine 6volt and 12 volt batteries to get any voltage you need. I've never needed more than 36 volts.
I've done some really heavy welding with batteries. I've also cut holes by dipping the rods in water first.
For stainless, you can wire it electrode positive so most of the heat goes into the rod rather than the work. It's harder to strike an arc with this DC unit than the AC one. The AC unit has a higher "open-circuit voltage". Batteries are a "voltage source" and the arc is much shorter than with a "current source".

Step 5: Solar Welder

Here's my Solar Powered Welder project.
Pretty much any alternative energy project will include something that will make a fine welder.
If you're living in an off-grid house with a battery bank, you've got the most powerful welder ever made!

Step 6: Battery Spoolgun - Flux Core Wirefeed

Welds Steel
Cost: $75 and up.
see the entire DIY Battery SpoolGun instructable.

Wirefeed is very easy to use. A lot like a gluegun. Just point it at the pieces you want joined and pull the trigger.
Flux-core wire means you don't need a shielding gas cylinder. The fluxcore wire I've used has deposited very thin slag. Not much work to brush it off. Fluxcore wire costs $4/lb and up.

Cheap fluxcore wirefeed welders are abundant in hardware stores and used on craigslist.
For even less cost on ebay you can get a spoolgun and run it on car batteries. Old car batteries will put out as much current as a very expensive welder.

Control welding heat with distance from the gun to the weld. Close in is a short low resistance wire - more current and heat - melt it in. Further out - longer wire - more resistance - less heat and a puddle that builds up higher.

To weld stainless steel and aluminum you'll need shielding gas.
For ~$200 you can add a gas cylinder and regulator.
Different materials require different shielding gases.

Thin walled materials such as tubing require skill.
You must look up wire diameter, feed rate, and voltage to get a good weld and not burn holes.
You must look up and do everything exactly right to weld aluminum.

Step 7: Oxy-Acetylene (Oxy-Fuel)

Weld Steel, stainless steel, aluminum. Braze anything. Really good on sheetmetal, thin tubing, and rusty stuff.
Cost: $200 and up.

A lot of people have a set of tanks around just for cutting. They don't realize it's their best welder for a lot of jobs. Put your smallest tip on it and it's easier to use on thin tubing and sheetmetal than any other welder I've tried. You can use coat hangers and random wire for filler rod.

Acetylene isn't the only fuel for this, you can use propane, hydrogen, or pretty much any flammable gas. Acetylene has the hottest flame. Get the free manual for gas cutting/welding from the welding supply shop. It has tables for what size tip and pressure to use for what fuel. And what thickness of what metal you're working on. Like all other welding, checking the book first makes your welds beautiful.

I just gas welded a stainless steel ladder from tubing. I used stainless bicycle spokes from junk wheels for filler rod. Now I want to make a whole lot more stuff like that. You don't need a helmet or gloves, just a pair of welding goggles. It's really quiet.

At Oshkosh they teach people to weld airplane frames and aluminum with oxy-acetylene and oxy-hydrogen. It's a really sociable type of welding. It doesn't drive people off with UV, fumes and noise. For aluminum you use some white flux to paint on the area before heating.
We used ESAB #35 aluminum flux and Alcotec alloy ER1100 3/64" welding rods.
TM tinmantech Aluminum Premium Flux also.

Muffler shops, even the big franchises use oxy-acetylene for patching pipes. You can adjust the flame to "reducing" with a shortage of oxygen. The starved flame turns rust back into steel.

Stainless will rust unless you treat it right. You can't use a steel brush or an old grinding wheel that's been used on regular steel. That will rub rustable iron onto the surface. Get a fresh grinding wheel and only use it for stainless. After welding you need to "passivate" the stainless. Rustable iron crystals come to the surface of the weld. You need to clean your weld with something - not steel wool, not steel brush. I'm using a bronze brush. Then use lemon juice to etch all the iron off the surface. The chrome and nickel that remains won't rust. Unless you mix grades of stainless, or have an electrical problem, or....

But don't worry about that stuff for now, it'll still rust a lot slower than regular iron.
<p>I noticed lately when I welded with arc I would cough a lot. Medicated inhaler will only help. Safety gear are not heard of where I live. I'm planning to wet a dust mask and use it. Do you have any simpler suggestions than 1945 pilot mask?</p><p> I enjoyed your 'Ible. </p>
<p>Wet dust masks will do little to no good.</p>
<p>1945 era gas masks have Asbestos in them, DO NOT USE, Asbestos causes cancer. A pilot's simple Oxygen mask as your only source of breathing air might help, keeping in mind as old as they are they may leak a bit.</p>
<p>The ultimate guide to safety on fumes *AND OTHER HAZARDS*: <br><br><a href="https://www.millerwelds.com/resources/safety-precautions">https://www.millerwelds.com/resources/safety-preca...<br><br></a>Provides multilingual resources for safety, and recommends a lot of ventilation and the use of an air breather (soft of like a SCUBA breather) while welding fumes are present and cannot be vented or blown away from the weldor.</p>
<p>My 2 cents on the fumes &amp; welder's fever:<br><br>3M makes a very high quality 1/2 face breather mask, and depending on the quality of the filter you buy to attach to it. One of their filters will even stop a horrible stench from rotting stuff. That filter, along with a high volume fresh air ventilator blower should help, and never, and I mean NEVER weld on anything galvanized. <br><br>This is not to say it will protect you COMPLETELY, but it will minimize risks. Big as you can get fans and a 3M mask, you should be safer. Even a floor fan from Harbor Frieght has enough volume to run the dangerous fumes away from you, and those fans are cheap relative to getting a lung disease that can kill you. The 3M mask is literally dirt cheap too. In the USA, Lowe's and Home Depot has them, and you sometimes have to order the higher quality filters. <br><br>And as to surplus military gas masks, the US government military gas masks, possibly from WW II through as late as the Korean War era, has asbestos in the filter, so avoid those like the plague. They can give you lung cancer. The newer ones aren't in the surplus chain as of the last time I checked, since our military won't turn loose of useful gas masks while we're involved in so many military actions around the world. Used up ones, maybe, but don't trust one they wouldn't refurbish.<br><br>My 3M mask cost me about $35.00, and the filters (sold in pairs) cost about $5.00 a set. Mine is 3M part number 6200/07025 for the medium sized one.The matching filters I got were bought to stop particulates from grinding and sanding various metals to avoid breathing in particulates of the metals I work with - not welding them.<br><br>What I have isn't high enough quality to stop zinc fume poisoning, another grade might. A call to 3M would quickly tell you which grade of filter to get, if any will stop the metal fumes. I bought 3M 2071 P95 filters to fit the 5000 series and 6000 series masks. Guys I know (cops and deputy coroners) who work crime scenes with decomposing bodies use them and swear they'll stop the horrible stench. I've never had that 'privilege', thank goodness. <br><br>NO, I do NOT work for 3M, nor any of it's parent or subsidiary companies, but I know their product is said to be pretty damn good. My experience is that it works perfectly on metal particulates.<br><br>For you guys overseas from the US, these can be ordered via WalMart.com, probably from Lowe's and Home Depot, but I'm not sure they will export ship them. <br><br>WalMart can ship, but I couldn't tell you if they will ship overseas. Get a pal to buy them and send them to you.</p>
<p>Great one</p>
<p>Sometimes I come across a controversial talk about welders so I decided to retaliate those who are against welders. I also work with an association with some respectable welder guys in welding supplies. They are just awesome and their behavior makes us to take great care of them. </p><p><a href="http://www.weldpedia.com/2016/05/welding-supplies-united-states.html" rel="nofollow">http://www.weldpedia.com/2016/05/welding-supplies-...</a></p>
You are my inspration
<p>Hello Tim,</p><p>I enjoyed your article, but I must point out one minor flaw. Acetylene is great for welding not only because of the high heat but also it's shielding properties for the weld puddle. Propane should not be used to weld as it does not have the same shielding characteristics, and will result in porosity in the weld. PS: I use gas welding on darn near everything, especially motorcycle repair and bodywork. It is becoming a lost art but it does work great.</p>
<p>what shielding properties? acetylene has a higher temperature but that's it </p>
Propane is great for cutting. There is a good reason that propane is not used industry wide for welding. Acetylene's flame is not only hotter, but a slightly carburising flame makes for a high quality weld due to the molecular properties of acetylene. You could weld with propane, but with much less quality.
Along with the ventilation system, you should also drink a tall glass of milk after your finished welding,Don't know why but a well known welder told me that milk can be used as an antidote to the fumes.
<p>that's a myth and it reffered to the zinc fumes from welding galvanized material</p>
Something in milk (a quick google doesn't turn up the exact chemistry) helps absorb zinc from the bloodstream- zinc is thought to be the main cause of "welding fever". It seems like it's thought to be a decent treatment for some of the symptoms, but not a good replacement for having adequate ventilation and/or a respirator in the first place. Also, of course, I have no idea if it does anything about other nasties like manganese, chromium, aluminium etc...
Heavy metal salt ions are very reactive in solution, attacking the proteins of your body. The milk gives it proteins to attack and pushes the reaction towards completion lowering the molarity of ions in solution to "attack"(read, react with) the body. You can't breathe milk, however, so a respirator and ventilation system is still a great idea, as stated before.
You <em>could</em> breathe through a hookah or bong, filled with milk. A respirator is probably easier and cheaper, albeit not as weird.<br/>
<p>haha, bong filled with milk. thanks for the funny comment. So many ibles out there with endless safety discussions that add nothing to the ible. There should be a separate section for safety comments. At least that was a good laugh.</p>
That's an interesting idea, but it doesn't make sense. The main protein from milk (casein) should not be crossing over into your blood stream. If it is you have far bigger problems than a case of welder's flu. The first stop is in the stomach, where the acidity causes the casein to curdle (as in cheese). At the same time enzymes (biological chemicals) break down casein into smaller pieces. The next stop is the duodenum where more digestive goo is mixed in causing further digestion. Things are pretty well mixed up and torn apart by then. Further enzymatic digestion occurs in the small intestine (to some extent), and absorption into the body occurs in the same structure. Your body pretty much maintain the same molarity of proteins, ions and other goodies at all times. There are exceptions to this, but they are rare. Your kidneys remove excess ions, waste products and some proteins. They also can remove water to maintain a constant osmotic pressure. In the end who knows why milk is said to help welding fever? Most of the welders I know tend to favor beer as a post work beverage. Perhaps the fact that they are NOT drinking beer is more important than drinking milk. Alcohol is a diuretic (which means that it causes your body to remove water than normal). Maybe it is because you are not out with your friends drinking away and rather resting is more important (not too many bars sell large glasses of milk.) Maybe it is more important to maintain hydration? Working in areas with poor ventilation suggests cramped quarters that may be hot. This is the great thing about science. We can (well theoretically, poisoning people isn't exactly an ethical thing to do) test all of this scenarios and find an answer.
Not 100% sure if you were responding to me or not, but I felt obliged to point out that I mean milk drank specifically after ingesting heavy metal. They are in the same physical location, and don't need to travel anywhere.
I was writing in response to you. The various metals you are describing are inhaled, as they are in fume form. Some may dissolve in the saliva during the brief time it is in the nasal/mouth system in the way to the lungs. But as a whole, you'll breathe it in and that's the real problem. So...unless you breathe milk I'd say it wouldn't work :-)
Seriously, are you kidding? Did you not read my initial post before you replied? Because that is exactly what I said.
<strong>Dec 9, 2008. 1:49 PM</strong><br/><em>You can't breathe milk, however, so a respirator and ventilation system is still a great idea, as stated before.</em><br/><br/>Yes...I saw that post. I did think it was funny.<br/><br/><strong>Dec 12, 2008. 11:38 AM</strong><br/><em>Not 100% sure if you were responding to me or not, but I felt obliged to point out that I mean milk drank specifically after ingesting heavy metal. They are in the same physical location, and don't need to travel anywhere.</em><br/><br/>This is what I was responding to in the follow up post. That's why I placed it underneath your drinking milk to stop welder's flu bit. You specifically stated that the metal salts are in the same location as your digestive tract. I was trying to point out that's not where you find them (in your digestive tract.)<br/><br/><strong>Dec 13, 2008. 4:04 PM</strong><br/><em>Seriously, are you kidding? Did you not read my initial post before you replied? Because that is exactly what I said.</em><br/><br/>Yes, I was kidding. Yes, I did read your previous posts. I was responding to you saying that there was a specific answer to why the drink milk business might work.<br/><br/><strong>Why I answered this question</strong><br/>I thought it was a good idea to offer a counterpoint. I would hate to think anyone might try to weld some metal that off-gassed a zinc compound AND then drink milk to prevent sickness. I doubt that it would work.<br/><br/>I wanted to encourage people to use proper equipment, and why folk treatments are a bad idea in this case. I can see in some bizarre situations how drinking milk might help, but it is far more likely that your kidneys would handle clean up. Heavy metals are secreted in urine, not through the digestive track. Your kidneys have to deal with the effects of osmotic changes AND high concentrations of toxic metals.<br/>
I will happily play the unwitting windmill to your Quixote in this strange, online morality play, as long as the moral at the end is "be safe". *("Be excellent to each other" was also an acceptable answer. -Alex T.)
sigh... I agree, let's be safe. Use a mask. Have the milk for cookies, not for welding maladies. "Weld unto others as you would weld unto them" - Iron Jesus Gospel of Alchemy
I am wondering why no one ever told me that welding fumes are dangerous. I used to work assembly and packaging at a metal shop, and over time I started operating a welding robotic arm full time and doing some small welding jobs from time to time within the company. So I never took any official classes or training, but over time just started being around the welding constantly. I learned quickly to keep my helmet down to protect my eyes and skin from sunburn, but no one ever told me the fumes were dangerous. Are all welding fumes dangerous, or only certain types?
YOU ARE GOING TO DIE! Well, it depends on a lot of things, but the best guess is sometime in your 80s at this point. You had a crappy health and safety program at your work. They should of supplied proper safety training and products. That said, Republican administrations tend to "relax" regulations on employee safety. It's the whole "small government" philosophy. This isn't a political statement of mine, but one that is platform of the Republican Party. One of the most infamous cases was the mine collapses in the last couple of years. You don't have to rescind the rules. Instead you cut the number of inspectors to an area. The other thing an administration can do is make it less expensive to appeal an infraction (lower fines, more time for compliance, etc.) Economics can be a really neat thing to study. I don't wear a tie (hate them) and I drive a beat up car. There are a lot of real world consequences from elections and political ideology.
I know stainless if overheated will put out zinc oxide, which shouldn't be breathed. I just bought a small book on welding, as I'm just learning, but haven't had time to read it, as I've just finished finals yesterday. If I turn anything up, I'll share.
I took a couple welding classes, and I don't recall ever being warned about it. Certainly I never wore a respirator in class or saw a welder wearing one.<br/>Stick and fluxcore fumes are bad, and some others. I think gas on steel is fine.<br/>My metal comes from junk, so there's always some finish to grind off or get burned in the weld, either way there's crap in the air. I'm really glad to know how to <a rel="nofollow" href="https://www.instructables.com/id/GasMask/">make my own gas mask</a> now.<br/><br/>
Thats why is said "along with", I never intended someone to think differentley.
Good point- it was just your phrase "an antidote to the fumes" sounded a bit general.
Even better is to not let that stuff get into you in the first place. A decent respirator is not that expensive.
Had i not seen the posts from stasterisk, the king of random and your posts i would not have went ahead and build my ac stick welder. I am continiously improving it also. It has given me ideas to continously improve on the design. Since then i have been welding as much as possible. Had i not seen this article i wouldnt have tried.
<p>Thumbs down, 1 for the name of your article and two for the way you wrote it. If you can't come off like a nice person then get off.</p>
<p>I think the punks part was referring to steampunks, so it might not have been as negative as it seems.</p>
hey man. chill.
<p>Great work.</p>
<p>Nice work.</p>
<p>Extra ordinary Work.</p>
<p>Very nice</p>
<p>Fabulous work.</p>
<p>Superb work</p>
<p>Fabulous work.</p>
<p>great spot</p>
<p>cool work.</p>
<p>nice work.</p>
<p>nice one</p>
<p>Hi Tim,</p><p>Above, you said, &quot;Get the free manual for gas cutting/welding from the welding supply shop.&quot; Did you mean that as, ' get a free manual from a shop', or were you talking about a particular manual you've mentioned elsewhere?</p><p>Thanks</p><p>@ others buying used gas welding gear: I'm all for buying used &amp; saving money on tools, but PLEASE be cautious. I've been gas welding for 45+ yrs, my first welding lesson was from Mom, (I was about 9-10 when I heard it told.)</p><p>Her &amp; my aunt went to Texas during WWII &amp; learned to weld, making boxcars. One day, in the adjoining shop, there was an explosion. She went to see what happened &amp; got 2-3 steps into the shop before turning back due to smoke &amp; fumes. She put her hand on the door to push it open &amp; felt something wet &amp; soft.</p><p>When she looked, it was brain tissue of one of the workers from the adjoining shop.</p><p>Acetylene is unstable, that's why tanks and gas are expensive. Gauges/regulators/torches are precision, delicate instruments. Combine oxygen &amp; acetylene in an enclosed space &amp; you have a bomb.</p><p>Gauges/regulators/torches can be tested with compressed air &amp; soapy water for leaks. Either figure out how to do it, or pay someone. Also, don't use cracked hoses or hoses with hose clamps or twisted wire for a clamp; hose ends should be crimped. </p><p>Your life is worth more than the few bucks you might save.</p>
<p>cool work.</p>
<p>superb one.</p>

About This Instructable




Bio: Tim Anderson is the author of the "Heirloom Technology" column in Make Magazine. He is co-founder of www.zcorp.com, manufacturers of "3D Printer" output ... More »
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