Strike an Arc Exactly Where You Want It to Begin--stick Welder

50,129

40

30

About: I miss the days when magazines like Popular Mechanics had all sorts of DIY projects for making and repairing just about everything. I am enjoying posting things I have learned and done since I got my first ...

When using a stick welder it is often not easy to begin an arc exactly where you want it. Some risk damage to their eyes by peeking out from under the hood. But, a carbon rod allows starting a bead exactly where you want it to begin.

The piece of steel in the photo is about 3 inches across. I ground the paint away so an arc can start easily. The arrows were made with a felt tip pen. This Instructable will show how to start an arc in the center area between the four arrows.

The portion with paint removed at the lower right corner of the photo is only a place to attach the welder's ground clamp.

Teacher Notes

Teachers! Did you use this instructable in your classroom?
Add a Teacher Note to share how you incorporated it into your lesson.

Step 1: Prepare and Positon a Carbon Rod

Welding supply houses usually sell carbon rods. These come with a heavy copper foil on them. Touch the foil to a grinding wheel from the tip back a couple of inches. Peel the foil away from the rod.

Touch the tip of the carbon rod to the steel just behind the point where the bead is to begin. Be sure to wear welder's gloves.

Step 2: Cross the Electrode Over the Carbon Rod

Cross the electrode over the carbon rod from behind the carbon rod as shown in the photo. Without moving the placement of the carbon rod or the electrode, shake your head once to flip your welding helmet down to cover your face so you are ready to weld.

Step 3: Start the Arc

For purposes of the photo, the welder was not turned on, but notice that the electrode has been slowly pulled upward until the tip of the electrode comes up onto the carbon rod. At this point the arc will begin on the carbon rod. Once the arc begins, feed it down the carbon rod and onto the steel.

Step 4: The Result

The heat from the welding arc obscurred much of the arrows I drew with the felt tip pen. In this photo you see the beginning of the bead I started and I darkened what was left of the lines again with the felt tip pen, but I did not change their original position.

After a while slag will coat the carbon rod and it will not work as well as it ought. A slip joint plier works well as a tool for scraping the slag from the carbon rod. Just place the rod in the jaws and twist lightly.

Be the First to Share

    Recommendations

    • Instrument Contest

      Instrument Contest
    • Make it Glow Contest

      Make it Glow Contest
    • STEM Contest

      STEM Contest

    30 Discussions

    0
    None
    Cantoo

    Question 1 year ago on Step 1

    I may have found an answer to my own first question :-) I now think a spark does appear with the carbon, but just doesn't land on the work until I get to the "target". A helpful local hdwr store employee who has done lots of welding, suggested I attach a piece of scrap metal so it rests just above the targeted place for the weld. That scrap piece IS in contact with the work, but the first part of the weld is just on that scrap metal. When I drag the rod (and spark) off the scrap onto the target the intended weld begins. Oddly, his store did NOT have any carbon rods to sell, and he had not even heard of them. I've had really no luck in searching the web for carbon rods. Can you suggest where I might find them? One last thing. This technique you've given gives me a better LIGHTED VIEW of the work when the spark appears earlier. I have a constantly dark lens, and have shopped for "instant" darkening lens replacements for my helmet. But I've been told by that store guy that those lenses are not as safe as I've been told....& my eyes can still be at risk of seeing the ark, even for a brief moment. What do you think?

    1 answer
    1
    None
    Phil BCantoo

    Answer 1 year ago

    I am sorry to be late with my response to your inquiries, especially the first nine days ago. Somehow notification of comments to my posts got shut off. It was a while before I asked the folks at Instructsbles about it, and the notifications were restored just today.

    If you wish, you can attach an alligator clip on a light cable to the carbon rod and another clip on the same cable to the steel being welded. If the carbon rod is not caked with welding residue and flux, touching the carbon rod with the tip of the elctrode while the tip of the carbon rod rests on the bare steel should also produce an arc when the electrode comes into contact with the carbon rod.

    I got a couple of dozen carbon rods in small packing box at a welding supply store. I did not check to see if you live in the USA or elsewhere. If you are in the USA, try an Airgas welding supply store, or any other welding supply store. Carbon rods are more commonly used for back gouging to remove metal. They may not be used a lot by home weldors, but they are used in industry. Once carbon arc torches for 230 volt welders were fairly common. They are useful for heating steel so you can bend it easily. I have another Instructsble on how I made one.

    0
    None
    Cantoo

    Question 1 year ago on Step 3

    In step two (?) of using the carbon rod to help position the electrode, I may misunderstand. It seems to read that when holding the electrode, high up on the rod, it is not sparking. But when I draw the electrode down toward the end of the electrode and is touching the carbon rod, it WILL spark. Oh .... Suddenly, I think I get it. The carbon rod seems to not be carrying the current... so there's no spark until the electrode hits the metal object that the carbon rod is resting on. If that's so... I guess I've learned that carbon rods are non-conductive ??

    0
    None
    fozzy13

    7 years ago on Introduction

    Awesome tip. I may have to try that sometime soon. I'm just learning to weld with a cheap stick welder..

    1 reply
    0
    None
    Phil Bfozzy13

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    You will like this very much, especially if you do not have an auto-darkening helmet. It allows you to start an arc exactly where you want it and allows you to start and arc easily when the current is a little lower than would be ideal. The only problem is that it requires an extra hand, unless you engineer a holder for the rod. That could be even a piece of wood with a hole for the carbon rod and a magnet is attached to the wood.

    I hope all goes well for you. Enjoy your welder. If something goes wrong, you can always grind out the old weld and do it over. ;-)

    Thank you for looking.

    0
    None
    Phil Bthematthatter

    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    Your question could mean a couple of different things. If you mean, "How do people write their name, etc. on a piece of plate with a welding rod?" some probably do it free hand. Some mark the steel with soapstone. It leaves a white mark that can usually be seen while welding. If you mean, "How do people follow the seam to be welded?" they may be able to see it, but not always. They may use their hand dragging on an edge to make a straight path. MIG welding does not give much light and it is easy to wander from the seam. Some lay down a piece of wood to follow with the heal of their hand because they cannot see where they are welding. If you mean, "How do people cut intricate patterns with a welder?" the kind of cutting one can do with a welding rod is pretty coarse and rough. Intricate patterns are usually done with a plasma cutter now. Some of these allow inserting a design into the machine and it is able to read and reproduce the design on the steel. If you have ever watched American Chopper on TV, they have a machine that can cut intricate patterns in three dimensions. They program it like a computer.

    0
    None
    skaarPhil B

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    have you run across any pens with inks that shine? like the marker tape used on safety vests, if it shone bright, it'd be lots easier to see, perhaps a glitter pen...

    0
    None
    Phil Bskaar

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    I have not seen any such pens. Welder's chalk does show up fairly well when using a stick welder.

    0
    None
    thematthatterPhil B

    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    when i was in high school we had a metal bench that the AG class had welded designs in like an Indian head (our mascot) and other pictures and text that was welded into the metal bench.

    0
    None
    Phil Bthematthatter

    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    The people who did the welding may have drawn the outline of the images with soapstone (welder's chalk). It would be hard to follow with a MIG welder, but a stick welder throws enough light that the person welding could follow the lines. Still, it would take some skill born of practice.

    0
    None
    2 stroke Phil B

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    i do it free hand i wrote my initials under my schools welding table its easy stick welding mig is a little harder to write with oxy fuel is easiest but i used stick

    0
    None
    rimar2000

    10 years ago on Introduction

    Phil B, this seems very useful. I will try it. Can I use a chalk to mark the point? (I write all this without translator!)

    4 replies
    0
    None
    Phil Brimar2000

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    You will not even need chalk. Just touch the carbon rod to the steel slightly behind where the arc is to begin. You can use chalk to show where the bead should run, though. An automatically darkening welding hood is a great help. They are expensive for most of us, but so very nice. Your English is far better than any Spanish I have gleaned. Enjoy your vacation.

    0
    None
    Phil B2 stroke

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    They are great and less expensive all of the time. About 10 years ago some of the really cheap ones were not totally dependable, according to what I was reading. Some have told me they do wear out eventually.

    0
    None
    2 stroke Phil B

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    yeah the cheap ones flash u my friend had one flip is better the the cheap ones

    0
    None
    bigliptak

    11 years ago on Step 4

    I'm a really novice, like I just bout a stick welder on ebay, and haven't made my first weld yet. I'm looking to weld tubes to modify seat stays on a recumbent bike. Is stick welding the way to go? Granted you have welding gloves on, but isn't there a hugh risk to being zaped by holding the carbon rod when starting the arc? AKA isn't this kind of risky business, if not just asking to be eltrocuted/burned?

    1 reply
    0
    None
    co2wms7whccbigliptak

    Reply 9 years ago on Step 4

    toss your carbon and get some thin steel rods with a flux coating, that is if its steel to steel... MIG would probably be best for anything bike related though.