Bodging stuff together with metal. Part 1

  • I bought the world’s shittiest welder at the pawn shop a couple of months back. It was super cheap, and unlike all of my better welders, is very portable and runs on a standard 110VAC outlet. I knew it was going to be garbage when I bought it, but figured I’d take a shot at upgrading it.

    I’ve got some parts to take my ~$80 pawn shop welder and turn it into something much closer to a $600-700 device. Known issues before I even start are:

    • Uncalibrated feed rate
    • AC operation (should be DC Electrode Negative)
    • Flimsy Ground Clamp
    • Poorly fitted wire feed nozzle tip
    • Shitty powerfist flux core wire that comes with the gun.

    I can waste some of the shitty wire to calibrate the feed rates. Instead of setting it to 4 on an arbitrary 1-10 scale, I can just make a new label based on testing to dial in a specific number of inches per minute. That’ll make it easy to set the feed rate for specific materials. There are formulas and lookup tables for that.

    I bought a $6 regulator off ebay that will let me convert the welder to DCEN. I can put a switch in there later if I ever add gas so I can do DCEP MIG, but that’d mean dealing with a gas bottle, and really I like how portable this thing is with fluxcore.

    The powerfist fluxcore wire is well documented online for having bad consistency, so I bought a $10 roll of quality wire. The stuff is a consumable anyway, so “wasting” the roll of shitty wire is not an issue. Picked up new tips too, a 5 pack for $3. I already had a nicer ground clamp I can put on it. At some point I’ll put a plug and socket on it so I can use the same ground cables with my TIG welder. Having a couple of different length cables with different ends is nice. Being able to add an extension is also nice.

    Anyway, I need to weld a foot onto a pottery wheel… so this is looking like a good time to do the workshop I’ve been thinking of doing. I have masks enough that 4 people can play with this thing. I’ll grab some scrap steel and, over the course of a couple of sessions, we can upgrade the world’s shittiest welder trying it at each stage to actually see how the different variables affect the performance of the machine. We can probably find some scrap steel and use that to test weld penetration and practice on. Then we can weld on the foot if the result is deemed usable (if not, I’ll bring in my TIG welder and actually do a reliable full penetration weld.)

    I won’t teach you to weld… But if you can use a hot snot gun:


    Then you should be able to use one of these:


    Probably with similar levels of reliability.

    I plan to do the first session this weekend. Saturday or Sunday, based on responses in this thread. We’ll plug in the WSW and see what it does stock. Calibrate the wire feed, then change out the tip and wire, then try it again. If you want in, please post here. I know that @Ron_Ron, @kile and @Vaughn have expressed an interest in playing with red hot steel.

  • Design Lab

    @pierre sweet! lets veld!!

  • Preference as to day and time? My weekend is mostly open right now.

  • Nice! That a welder would really add a lot to round out the equipment at makerspace.

  • 3D

    Sounds Hot

    I am intrested.

  • My TIG welder/plasma cutter lived there for over a year. @Ron_Ron 's little stick welder is still there. What would really round out the room is for me to fire-proof the booth so we can … not set fire to the building. Once I get firebricks laid down on the floor, I’ll need to figure out a way to run the paint booth functions without getting over spray every where. It is a bucket of filth to deal with.

    I plan to strategically place the three fire bricks I brought in to contain the burning.

  • LOL forgive my ignorance I didn’t know things were in a functional state.

  • @GHunter said:

    LOL forgive my ignorance I didn’t know things were in a functional state.

    Sadly we have a ton of tools and equipment that only gets used by people who know about it. My TIG only went home because I needed to weld some trailer parts for a friend. It’ll come back when I can be bothered to load all that heavy shit into a vehicle, but the learning curve on fluxcore is much easier, so that is the one I’m expecting to see the most use. I expect my TIG will get used in plasma cutter mode more than as a welder. Tyler did a bunch of pioneering work before we ran out of plasma consumables (I’ve since bought more) using laser-cut templates in 1/8" ply to cut interesting shapes.

    In an ideal world, I’d raise about 5 grand, and get a fibre laser module to mount in the 2nd head position of our laser cutter and use it to cut metal sheet. Super precise steel cutouts that you can just fold up and weld together would open up a world of real \m/etal projects. Be nice for recycling old computer cases and such too.

  • I was talking to @Vaughn about the potter’s wheel I was going to add a foot to. He pointed out that the motor on it looked like it had been beaten to hell. So we tried to spin it up. It just sat there and vibrated. If we can’t run the wheel, I’m not putting a ton of work into fixing it. Might still use it to practice welding on, but still…

    I dug up a 1/4 horse marathon in the metal shop that should do the job (I think I can even electrically reverse the motor @amanda_e ) so if I can come up with a decent way to mount the foot pedal and hinge to it, that might be a go. I pulled the 1/3 horse GE motor off to try to figure out if it had a burned out winding or something. The case was packed with pine needles and dirt. Bearings seemed to spin OK. So I cleaned out what I could, and applied power. Still won’t self start but I can spin start it by hand. I’ll take it apart, clean it properly, oil or replace bearings… See if it can be salvaged. If not, new motor is the answer. I would like to use the original, because it is nice and compact (I think it was a washing machine motor in another life) and the shaft with the drive wheel is already fitted to it. Anyway, I’ll be in the shop this afternoon messing with this shit. If you are interested, swing by and we’ll see where we’re at.

  • Well, I did not make the progress I’d like to have made this weekend. I did bring in the world’s shittiest welder, it is sitting by the thermo forming station in the metal shop until I can figure out where I’m putting it. Preferably some place where you can set up a fire-resistant working area. I might set up a cabinet for welding and plasma-cutting supplies in the paint booth (to keep the gear from getting hit with overspray) and buy a cheap welding curtain that we can replace the shower curtain with, just when we have the welder running. Ideally I’d like to improve the air extraction and overspray situation in there, because that area gets filthy. Maybe adding a second, powerful blower on an arm that can be used to directly extract from the work area?

    I’m thinking of spray-painting a sign down the side of the welder like this:


    Turns out I need a hammer-on lug from princess auto to put the ground clamp I want on it anyway… So I’ll check there and see if they have welding curtains cheaply. You used to be able to buy them on a stand, so you could potentially take them out in the parking lot, or throw a couple in a pickup to take to do a quick job.

  • Scorpion has an evacuation arm we can donate that would work well for a small welding station. A squirrel cage blower motor should be good for sucking fumes out, and they can be salvaged from various pieces of equipment. We used bilge blower fans for our spray booth here at work, and they worked well. (12VDC, which was nice, and non-sparking).


  • @BrianB said:

    Scorpion has an evacuation arm we can donate that would work well for a small welding station. A squirrel cage blower motor should be good for sucking fumes out, and they can be salvaged from various pieces of equipment. We used bilge blower fans for our spray booth here at work, and they worked well. (12VDC, which was nice, and non-sparking).


    Thanks Brian. I think we might have an arm in the Pigeon cage… I am pretty sure I have a squirrel cage fan in the metal shop some place, but the bilge fan idea is gold… I’m pretty sure the paint booth blower we have now just uses a brushed universal motor. So it is not actually safe for the use we put it to.

  • Classroom

    @pierre, I must have missed something.

    ¿Who on earth is Dierre, and what is a Ghittiest 2Belder?

    Bad keming by your typesetter.

  • @kile said:

    @pierre, I must have missed something.

    ¿Who on earth is Dierre, and what is a Ghittiest 2Belder?

    Bad keming by your typesetter.

    Deliberate use of a terrible blackletter font to make it clear just how shitty this thing starts out.

  • Spent a couple hours puttering in the shop trying to get this stuff going… I needed a 3/8" square pin with a head on it for a project I’m working on, and this seemed like an ideal opportunity to weld something up. Cut a piece of 3/8" keystock, turned a round spigot on the end in the lathe using the 4-jaw chuck. Ground one side of a square nut, and drilled it out for a press-fit on that spigot. Hot-fit the two pieces together, it’ll likely take a thousand pounds (or a bit of time with a hammer-and-punch) to get them apart…

    Now I want to weld the shoulders, and fill the hole in the nut. After that they’ll be one solid piece.

    That’s where I hit a snag… There were two dead automatic helmets in the shop… My shitty $50 Power Fist one, and @fullmetalmaker’s $300 Optrel. I have a decent-ish auto helmet in my truck purchased this summer, but I’d like to be able to have more than one person playing with the toys… I have another dead Power Fist helmet in my garage too. So I’m going to disassemble, and try to repair some welding helmets next. They have a lithium battery on the board that is known for failing.

    Incidentally, I’ve been using a tactical flashlight to confirm function of automatic welding helmets for ages, but a recent AvE video has convinced me that I’ve been being paranoid, apparently they provide adequate UV and IR protection even if the LCD is not firing up… It’ll just be too damn bright to see what you are doing, and likely give you a hell of a headache in short order… I’m going to keep using the bright flashlight to confirm that the helmet is doing its jobs.

  • This is the pin I’m going to weld together…


    It’ll secure a crowfoot flare wrench inside an adaptor to reach into some difficult to access areas. Plan is to lay a fillet up all 4 faces where the cap meets the shaft, then fill the remaining hole in the head. After that, grind and dress the finished part.

  • @pierre Firebricks are overkill for arc welding as slag and sparks cool down to fast to transfer any serious heat. Sheet metal on the ground and up the walls a couple inches. (to the height of working would be great for grinding) Fireproof silicone the corners and most importantly put in a curb. Sparks tend to hit the ground and slide off under something, that is usually the culprit in welding fires. We should have a considerable amount of tin around.

  • @Nicholas how about plasma cutting? My grandfather had a pretty brutal burn from getting sprayed with the output from O/A cutting, and I figured that my plasma cutter basically does the same sort of “Get it hot, rust it fast, and blow a stream of molten steel out the back face” routine…

  • Plasma cutting leaves a bit more heat in its slag due to its nature. A layer of two of type x drywall would be more than sufficient. Code calls for two sheets of type x for a 1-hour burn rating in firewalls.

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