Field Expedient Stick Welder from Cordless Tool Battery Packs

The self-proclaimed and actual “smartest idiot on YouTube” is back with another entry from the “don’t try this at home” file. [AvE] recently did a teardown of a new DeWalt cordless drill-driver, and after managing to get everything back together, he was challenged by a viewer to repurpose the 20V battery packs into an impromptu stick welder.

AvE_short[AvE] delivered – sort of. His first attempt was with the two battery packs in parallel for higher current, but he had trouble striking an arc with the 1/8″ rod he was using. A freeze-frame revealed an incredible 160A of short-circuit current and a welding rod approaching the point of turning into plasma. Switching to series mode, [AvE] was able to strike a reasonable arc and eventually lay down a single splattery tack weld, which honestly looks better than some of our MIG welds. Eventually his rig released the blue smoke, and the postmortem teardown of the defunct packs was both entertaining and educational.

While we can’t recommend destroying $100 worth of lithium-ion battery packs for a single tack weld, it’s interesting to see how much power you’re holding in the palm of your hand with one of these cordless drills. We saw a similar technique a few years back in a slightly more sophisticated build; sadly, the YouTube video in that post isn’t active anymore. But you can always stay tuned after the break for the original [AvE] DeWalt teardown, wherein blue smoke of a different nature is released.

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Frankensteined Cordless Drill Lives Again

With tools, especially cordless tools, you’re going to pay now or pay later. On one hand, you can spend a bunch of money up front and get a quality tool that will last a long time. The other option is purchasing a cheap cordless tool that won’t last long, having to replace it later and thus spending more money. With cheap cordless tools it is common for the battery to fail before the physical tool making that tool completely unusable. Sure, another battery could be purchased but sometimes they cost just as much as the tool and battery combo originally did. So what’s a cordless tool user to do?

[EngergySaver] had a set of DeWalt cordless tools with a bunch of working batteries. He also had a cheap drill where the battery had died. His bundle of tools included two flashlights, one of which the case physically broke in half, probably from a clumsy drop. Instead of tossing the broken flashlight pieces in the garbage, [EngergySaver] kept them around for a while. Then one day he had the idea of combining the base of the broken DeWalt flashlight with the top of the old battery-less drill. He had the parts so why not?

The battery pack was 18 volt and the cheap drill expected 16.8 volts. [EngergySaver] figured the voltages were close enough and decided not to worry about the difference during his hack. He started by disassembling both the drill and flashlight down to the bare plastic housings. He marked an appropriate place to splice the handles and made some cuts. After the wiring was spliced together and the tool casings reassembled, a piece of sheet metal was cut and bent around the handle at the joint between flashlight and drill. Hose clamps hold the sheet metal tight around the handles, keeping the new hybrid tool together. And although we’re not crazy about the sheet metal and hose clamp method, it seems to be working just fine. With a little work and ingenuity [EngergySaver] resurrected an old tool for our favorite price; $0.

The Best NiMh Charger?

[Paul Allen] has been working on the latest iteration of his NiMh battery charger and it looks amazing!

We’ve covered [Paul Allen]s awesome hacks and tutorials before, but never this project. What makes his charger so special is it’s ability to monitor and log every aspect of the charging process. Not only does it have a SD card for data logging, but it also interfaces with a Windows application for real-time monitoring as well as analysis and visualization of the charging process (Linux users don’t fret it has a serial interface too).

[Paul] doesn’t say if he plans to open hardware or kickstart the charger, but some of his older posts give us a quick peak at the gerbers. Let’s hope this awesome project makes its way into the wild soon, and hopefully we’ll be able to try it for ourselves and see if it lives up to its name.

Hackaday Prize Entry: Laptop Batteries For A Power Bank

USB power banks – huge batteries that will recharge your phone or tablet – are ubiquitous these days. You can buy them at a gas station or from your favorite online retailer in any capacity you would ever want. Most of these power banks have a tremendous shortcoming; they need to charge over USB. With a 10,000 mAh battery, that’s going to take a while.

We already have batteries with huge capacities, are able to charge quickly, and judging from a few eBay auctions, can be picked up for a song. [Kumar] is working on a device that leverages these batteries – and the electronics inside of them – to build a smarter power bank.

Right now, [Kumar] is working with Dell Latitude D5xx/D6xx replacement batteries that he can pick up easily. These batteries have an SMBus interface, and with a low power ARM microcontroller and a TI BQ24725a, he has everything he needs to efficiently and safely charge these batteries.

[Kumar] says he’s looking for some community suggestions and feature requests for his project. If you have any, be sure to drop them over on his project page.

The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by:

ESP8266 Keeps An Eye On Your Batteries

There are many more things to know about a battery than its voltage and current output at any given moment, and most of them can’t be measured with a standard multimeter unless you also stand there for a long time with an Excel spreadsheet. The most useful information is battery capacity, which can tell you how much time is left until the battery is fully charged or fully discharged. [TJ] set out to create a battery data harvester, and used the ubiquitous ESP8266 to make a fully-featured battery monitor.

Measuring battery capacity is pretty straightforward but it does take time. A battery is first benchmarked to find its ideal capacity, and then future voltage and current readings can be taken and compared to the benchmark test to determine the present capacity of the battery. The ESP8266 is a relatively good choice for this kind of work. Its WiFi connection allows it to report its information to a server which will store the data and make it available for the user to see.

The first page of this project details building the actual module, and the second page outlines how to get that module to communicate with the server. Once you’ve built all of this, you can use it to monitor your whole-house UPS backup system or the battery in your solar-powered truck. There is quite a bit of information available on the project site for recreating the build yourself, and there’s also a video below which shows its operation.

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Hackaday Links: April 5, 2015

[Dino] found something pretty cool at Walmart. It’s a USB Lighter; basically a car cigarette lighter that’s powered by a battery and charged via USB. A few bucks will buy you a battery, charge controller, and USB plug that will deliver over 2 amps at 3.7 Volts.

Speaking of battery chargers, here’s something from [Thomas]. He works in a hospital, and the IV pumps have a terrible charging circuit. After a few dozen chargers, they’ll give a battery error on the screen. They’re not bad, only unbalanced. [Thomas] made a simple rig with a Tenergy battery charger to rebalance the packs. No link, but here’s a pic. It beats paying $34 for a new battery pack.

Those Silhouette Cameo blade cutters don’t get enough respect. You can make vinyl stickers or an Arduino-themed pop up card.

Retroreflective spraypaint. Volvo has developed something called Lifepaint. It’s for bicycles and bicycle riders. Apparently, it’s clear when you spray it on, but if you shine a light on it – from a car’s headlight – it will reflect back. Any cool ideas here?

The Art of Electronics, 3rd edition, is finally out. Didn’t we hear about this a few months ago? Yes, we did. It’s shipping now, though, and there’s a sample. It’s chapter nine, voltage regulation and power conversion.

Ah, April Fool’s. I’m still proud of the Prince post, but there were some great ones this year. RS Components had Henry the Hover Drone, but we really like the protoboard with ground planes.

The market wasn’t always flooded with ARM dev boards. For a while the LeafLabs Maple was the big kid on the block. Now it’s reached end of life. If only there were a tree whose name ended in ~ino…

Hacklet 39: Battery Power

3296371398740598106[robin] has a Red Camera (lucky!), an absurdly expensive digital video camera. As you would expect the batteries are also absurdly expensive. What’s the solution? Battery packs from cordless drills.

Cordless drills are interesting pieces of tech that can be easily repurposed; there are huge battery packs in them, big, beefy motors, and enough hardware to build an Automatic Cat Feeder or a motorized bicycle.

What if those old Makita batteries don’t charge? That usually means only one or two cells are dead, not the whole pack. Free LiIon cells, but you need to charge them. Here’s a single cell charger/boost converter that will do the trick.


A problem faced by amateur radio operators around the world is the lack of commercial power. Plugging a portable shack into a wall will work, but for uninterrupted power car batteries are everywhere. How do you combine wall power and car batteries for the best of both worlds? With an In-line battery backup module.

9k=All of the projects above rely on charging a battery through wall power, and sometimes even that is impossible. Solar is where we’re headed, with solar LiPo chargers, and solar LiFe chargers. That’s more than enough to keep a smartphone charged, but if you want to go completely off the grid, you’re going to need something bigger.

[Michel] has been off the power grid 80% of the time since he installed his home PV system a few years ago. How’s he doing it? A literal ton of batteries, huge chargers, and a 5kW inverter.