Convert a Wire Feed Welder to a Stick Welder




About: EmmettO is a general mad scientist, blacksmith, metalcaster and former Unix admin. Now he fixes darn near anything that people throw at him and breaks things that need to be broken.

Disclaimer! This is a potentially hazardous project to undertake. Electrical currents inside a welder can be deadly! If you choose to undertake this project you are doing so at your own risk. Every effort should be made to protect yourself from electrocution. Welders can hold onto an electrical charge even after they have been switched off. Do not assume the welder is discharged just because it is turned off. It is also possible to damage your welder if this is done improperly. I am not responsible for any injury or damage incurred if this instructable is followed. All instructions are at your own risk!

Converting a wire feed welder to a stick welder is not very difficult to do if you are able to identify a few wires and drill a few holes. Only a few materials are needed. My setup can now use wire or sticks. This is good for me because I have a giant stick welder that I use for heavy work and therefore have rods for when I run out of wire or if I want to weld alloys etc for my portable welder.

There are many different models of wire feed welder so this is not a specific step by step process. The specifics of what I did may not apply to your welder and I tired to write this with that in mind. I did try to give the thought process that I went through while trying this so that it could be translated into most kinds of welder. You milage may vary.

It's easier to find sticks for welding different material than it is to find flux core wire for the same alloys.
Sticks are a little easier to build up large welds.

Wire feed welders are designed to use a very thin electrode (wire thin) and can't handle thicker electrodes.
Makes the welder a little harder to move around because of the added cable.

This is my first instructable, any positive suggestions are welcome.

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Step 1: Materials

To complete this conversion you will need the following items.

Wire feed welder with a variable wire speed. Preferably one that can be turned down to 0.
Electrode holder. A 200 amp rated holder is plenty. $10-15
Approximately 6 ft of 04 sized welding cable $4
A low voltage switch. I scavenged one off equipment I had but they usually cost $2.
Low voltage wire (about a foot max.)

Alligator clip jumper wire.
Screwdriver to take the case of the welder off.
Wrenches or pliers
A sharp knife or utility knife.
A drill and drill bits for metal.

Helpful items to have

Small crush on battery terminal $1
Soldier and soldering iron. This instructable can be completed without soldiering but will require electrical tape or some other mechanical connection method.
Screwgun to make assembly and disassembly faster.

Step 2: Open Up Your Welder and Trace Wires

My welder is a Lincoln Electric Weld Pak but most wire feed welders should be similar. It has a ground line and a wire feed line. The ground line is a braided copper cable. The wire feed line is slightly more complicated. It consists of a tube that the wire travels through to get to the tip and the switching wire to activate the welder. Most wire feed welders will not start the welding current until this switch is activated. The problem is that they are momentary switches, you have to hold them down to keep them activated. It might be feasible to simply replace this switch with a SPST switch but I decided to add a switch to the welder chassis. 

1. Down to business! The first thing you need to do is unscrew the cover of the welder. Mine had twelve screws that I had to take out. All of them were in plain sight. I think welders are still considered serviceable so I wouldn't expect any hidden screws or odd bits being required here.

2. Locate the point where the Wire feed line enters the chassis of the welder. There will be two signal wires that come out from this point. Trace them back to wherever they go. Mine went to a small circuit board. This is the relay that switches on the power to the transformers.

3. Locate the positive terminal wire. The ways to identify this wire are by it's size (should be a heavy gauge wire) and it should lead into the wire feed system. My welder had a handy bolt that connected several feeds together. It had heavy heat shrink tubing over it so I had to cut the tubing off to get to it. Don't electrocute yourself doing this! You want to find a place in the positive feed to connect your new cable to. If no connections are readily available, you may have to cut the wire and put in a bolt similar to the one in the picture.

These steps so far are mainly exploratory. You may want to open up your welder and just look first and then try and plan what you're going to do.

Step 3: Confirm You Have the Proper Switch Wires

On some old wire feed welders the power did not switch on and off with the wire feed. If you have a welder like this you do not need to do this step. Your welder will go hot as soon as it turns on.

Be very careful with this step! It could damage your welder if done improperly.

1. Turn your wire feed down to 0.

2. Attach the alligator clip jumper to the terminals you suspect are the switching wires.

3. Make sure your hands are away from the inside of the welder and away from the ground terminal and the wire feed line.

4. Plug in the welder.

5. Turn on the welder.

6. You should hear the transformer engage immediately. The welding terminals are live at this point so treat them as if you are ready to weld with them. If the wire feed advances the wire then your welder does not have a wire feed speed of 0. Immediately turn off the welder if the wire advances.

7. If the wire does not advance, turn up the wire feed speed slowly until you see the wire advance slightly. Then back the speed down to 0.

If the wire feed speed did not go down to 0 and you had to turn off the welder in step 6 then there is no simple way to complete this project. If you have a good knowledge of electronics and electricity you might be able to locate a point on the relay circuit where only the main power is engaged but not the wire feed.

Step 4: Attach a Switch

1. Locate a place on the welder you can attach the new switch. On mine there was plenty of space on the bulkhead in between the wire feed system and the electronics. I just flip up the door to the wire feed apparatus and flip the switch.

2. Soldier or otherwise attach a piece of the low voltage wire to each of the terminals. Make sure the wires are long enough to reach the point on the chassis that you will mount your switch to.

3. Soldier or otherwise attach your wires to the switch.

4. Drill a hole for the switch to fit through. I had to drill smaller holes for screws to mount my switch.

Step 5: Add Your Electrode Holder Wire

1. Now Drill a hole where you want the new wire for your electrode holder to come out. I had mine come out just below the wire feed mechanism. I can roll the wire up and stuff it inside the cabinet so I don't have an extra cable dangling around. 

2. Run your welding cable through the hole.

3. Strip the welding wire back slightly and attach the battery terminal connector by crushing it on and/or soldering it on.

Step 6: Attach the Wire

 1. Make sure the welder is turned off, unplugged and discharged before touching the feed lines! I used a screwdriver to discharge mine by shorting the ground and positive.

2. Unbolt the connection you've chosen or if there isn't one available, add a bolt.

3. Add the battery terminal to the connection and tighten it down.

Step 7: Finishing Steps

Now you can close up the Welder and attach the electrode holder to the new wire. Don your safety equipment and test it out!

Remember, The welder is likely to only be able to handle thinner electrodes. I tried a thick 6011 electrode and it wouldn't arc well. Then it drew so much current it blew the breaker in my house! Thin electrodes work fine. I've even welded with stainless rod on this setup.

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    25 Discussions


    Question 1 year ago on Introduction

    How long does a welder hold a charge for? I have an old arc welder. Been sitting 20 years not pluged in.

    1 answer

    Answer 1 year ago

    In perfect conditions, it could hold a charge forever. It's unlikely but always best to assume that it is holding a charge.


    Reply 2 years ago

    Its a welder conversion how to not grammer class.


    4 years ago

    This won't work properly.
    Stick welders use constant current power supplies, whereas wire feed welders use constant voltage.
    I'm not saying it won't burn a stick, but it won't weld properly.

    I really wanted this to work. I was going back and forth on whether to get a flux cored welder or a stick welder, and I thought I could have it both ways after finding this instructable.

    Further research showed that the two power supplies are fundamentally different.

    2 replies

    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    Yes, they're different. People have commented on that already. It doesn't do well with thick rods, but works adequately with thinner rods.

    Given that I've already used the welder several times both with sticks and with wire, I can tell you that it does indeed work. I've used it to weld high carbon rods and regular 6011 rods.

    There are some peculiarities that I've noticed, I'll admit. The rod sticks frequently, and the arc gap has to be kept small or it'll go out. Given the option I'll go with my monster sized Hobart, but it's worked well enough for a quick job.


    Reply 4 years ago

    I'm sure it works after a fashion, and it's certainly better than having no welder if your wire feed mechanism has died.


    4 years ago

    can i convert my weldcorp 90amp fluxcore welder into a stick welder? what electrode size is possible to use?

    1 reply

    Reply 4 years ago

    I really don't know the brand so I can't say. If you try it, go for a 1/8" or 3/32" rod. The thinner the better.


    4 years ago on Introduction

    knowing what i do with electronics and electrical products i have to commend you on this .....only thing i would do is make one showing how to make one that could do everything...i have one that could be modified to be tig and mig with just adding the tank and the adapter kit and some electronic parts....i have thought of making it for stick welding also and to do this i plan on putting 2 switches and one adjustment knob in-line .....the switches shut off the wire feed and stinger for one and the other changes it from ac to dc .....the knob can adjust the amps lower than the max which mine is 125 amp on either dc or ac...if i was able to do instructable i would make one but i dont have the equ to do if you want to use my design in one i will send you a walk through...

    3 replies

    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    also thinking about making a plug for the stick weld clamp and cable so when not in use it can be detached from the unit


    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    That's actually a really good idea. It would make moving and storing the thing a lot easier.

    As far as a mig alteration, I don't have the materials to do it or the money. I usually stick to flux core and stick because it's cheaper.


    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    the mats are able to be pulled from old junk microwaves and old TV's

    i live by a rule if i can build it from trash i do so as to be able to if SHTF


    4 years ago on Introduction

    This is exactly what I was looking for, I have the same welder even. Do you have any pictures of the final setup with the attached holder?

    1 reply

    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    Not that I'm aware of. At the moment, the welder is buried in my basement. I'm planning to pull it out and work on a project (one of these days). I'll take a picture of it then.


    4 years ago on Step 2

    Cheaper welders have the wire hot even when the trigger is not pulled. All the trigger does is feed the wire.


    5 years ago on Introduction

    I just did this mod on my lincoln and it works perfectly...I used a velcro strap on the trigger instead of installing a switch..I live out of the USA where rolls of flux wire aren't always available and sometimes quite expensive..I can run thicker beads using 5/32 electrodes now...It's pretty regular arc welder's lowest setting is 75 amps so welding thin metal is not an option with it..the wire feed can weld very thin (clean) metal and now with the sticks, I have an in between option. Also where I live you can buy single electrode or a few at a time...No need to buy a whole box..


    6 years ago on Introduction

    also make sure the unit is out of warranty b4 u do ANY modifications on it. and make sure yr health an life insurance an home owners is paid up as well.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    You are absolutely correct about the different design between machines designed for stick and machines designed to work with wire feed units. However, while I agree with what you stated, I am not sure that it applies to the cheap buzz box type imports sold for $150 or less at discount hardware stores. I suspect that those machines are all pretty much the same internally and the only difference is the knobs and switches on the front. Some reputable welding machine manufacturers have developed a line of inverter units that have the capacity to switch between CV and CC operation as well as AC and DC for TIG applications providing you've purchased the correct accessories. I would be pretty reluctant to experiment with the internal design of a high quality CV machine. It might work fine for a while, but forcing it to do something it is not designed to do could eventually cost you a bundle for repairs. If the total cost of the machine is less than a couple of hundred dollars it wouldn't make much difference. You shove it off to the side and go buy another one. But if you've shelled out five grand for a 600 amp sub-arc power source it could be very painful, expensive and time consuming, to say nothing of the humiliation commonly associated with demonstrations of your own stupidity. By the way, the amperage control on a wire feeder is adjusted by the wire speed knob. If you turn up the wire speed while the machine is running you will see the voltage readout drop as the amperage increases, when you turn the wire speed down the voltage goes up and the amperage goes down. The machines are designed this way so that you can achieve the proper balance between amperage and voltage dependent on the diameter of the wire you're using.

    1 reply

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    And if I had that kind of money I wouldn't need to do this. I'd have a mig or a tig and wouldn't worry about it.