Sodium Pickle Lights

A few weeks ago, the folks at the 23b hackerspace held Sparklecon, an event filled with the usual infosec stuff, locks and lockpicking, and hardware. A con, of course, requires some cool demonstrations. They chose to put a pickle in an arc welder, with impressive results.

This build began several years ago when the father of one of 23B’s members pulled off a neat trick for Halloween. With a cut and stripped extension cord, the two leads were plugged into a pickle and connected to mains power. The sodium in the pickle began to glow with a brilliant orange-yellow light, and everyone was suitably impressed. Fast forward a few years, and 23b found itself with a bunch of useless carbon gouging rods, a 200 Amp welder, a pickle, and a bunch of people wanting to see something cool.

The trick to making a pickle brighter than the sun was to set the arc just right; a quarter of an inch between the electrodes seemed optimal, but even then pickle lighting seems very resilient against failing jigs made from a milk crate, duct tape, and PVC. Video (from the first Sparklecon, at least) below.

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Spot Welder; Don’t Buy It, Build It

Spot welders are super handy for making sheet metal enclosures for your projects. The problem is, commercial ones are rather expensive… The good news is, they’re actually really easy to make! This is [Caio Paulucci’s] first submission to Hack a Day, and it was a weekend project him and his father just finished.

A spot welder works by dissipating large amounts of heat in between two electrodes in the material you are bonding. It makes use of a transformer that converts mains voltage to a very low voltage, but high current energy source. The cool thing with this type of welder is it’s perfectly safe to hold onto the electrodes as the voltage is so low, you won’t get electrocuted. By running a super high current (generally >1000A @ ~1-2V) through a small surface area, you can super heat most materials hot enough to weld them together.

They can be made using the transformer from a microwave, some heavy duty welding wire (generally 2/0 or thicker), and a few other odds and ends such as wood, electrodes, and maybe a few nuts and bolts. At the most basic level, you are basically re-wrapping the transformer’s secondary coils to change the ratio to produce a low voltage, high current transformer.

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Current limiter for a MOT welder


[Mike Worth] wanted the option to run his Microwave Oven Transformer welding rig at less that full power. After being inspired by some of the other MOT hacks we’ve featured he figured there must be a lot of ways to do this. But his searches on the topic didn’t turn up anything. So he just designed and built his own adjustable current limiter for the welder.

At the beginning of his write-up he details what we would call a bootstrap procedure for the welder. Go back and check out his original build post to see that he had been holding the framework for the cores together using clamps. To make the setup more robust he needed to weld them, but this is the only welder he has access to. So he taped some wood shielding over the coils and fired it up.

The current limiter itself is built from a third MOT. Adjustment is made to the cores by changing out the E and I shaped pieces. This allows for current limiting without altering the windings. [Mike] holds it all in place with a couple of bicycle wheel quick connect skewers.

It just goes to show that you should never get rid of a microwave without pulling the transformer. Even if you don’t need a welder wouldn’t you love a high-voltage bug zapper?

DIY spot welder makes metalwork easy

At Hackaday, we’ve seen enclosures built out of just about every material. From wood, glass, epoxy resin, plastic, and even paper, all these different types of enclosures provide some interesting properties. Sometimes, though, you need an enclosure made out of metal and welding together steel cases isn’t exactly easy or cheap. [manekinen] came up with a really great solution to the problem of welding together sheet metal. It’s a very easy to build spot welder perfect for fabbing steel cases.

The core of the build is a transformer pulled from a Technics stereo amplifier. [manekinen] removed the stock secondary winding and rewound the transformer four turns of 35mm ² wire (about 2 AWG). This made the transformer put out 2.6 Volts a 1 kA – more than enough to weld 22 ga sheet.

For the control mechanism, [manekinen] put a limit switch on the electrode arm and wired that to a timer. A knob on the front of the welder allows him to vary the time the welder is on from 0 seconds to 4 seconds.

The results are fantastic – trying to rip apart a weld only results in the metal itself tearing; exactly what you want to see in a welder. It’s a great build made even more fantastic by the welder building its own enclosure.

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Hundred dollar capacitive discharge welder


[Robert] needed to weld metal tabs on a few batteries. In a proper manufacturing situation, this is usually done with outrageously expensive welders. Not wanting to spend thousands of dollars to attach bits of metal together, [Robert] built his own capacitive discharge welder for only $100.

Instead of the giant transformers you’d find in a spot welder, a capacitive discharge welder uses a huge bank of capacitors – greater than 1 Farad – to weld pieces of metal together. Huge caps like these are commonly used for ridiculous car stereo setups, so with the addition of a car battery charger purchased from Walmart, [Robert] had most of a welder on his workbench.

To control the mass of power coming from his huge cap, [Robert] used a 13o amp Silicon controlled rectifier to improve the control of his welder. With the battery charger, cap, and SCR, [Robert] only needed a few bits of heavy gauge wire to tie the entire build together.

[Robert]’s build welds metal tabs on battery terminals beautifully, but the possibilities don’t end there. This welder could easily be repurposed to build the skeleton of outrageously intricate dead bug circuits, or maybe even keeping that thing you made with your Erector set in one piece permanently.

A capacitive discharge welder/cutter for all your lightweight needs


[Radu Motisan] wrote in to share a cool project he has been working on lately, a pulsed microspot welder/cutter.

The device is capable of spot welding thin metals such as foils and battery tabs by sending a pair of high current pulses between the two electrodes whenever [Radu] presses the trigger button. The cutting portion of his device uses the same general mechanism, though it requires a far greater number of pulses to get the work done.

The welding/cutting process is controlled by an ATMega16, which is also tasked with taking input from the user and displaying information on the LCD panel. The microcontroller creates quick (in the ten to several hundred microsecond range) pulses for both welding and cutting, with the latter obviously requiring a long series of pulses.

[Radu] started out using a relatively small capacitor array to power the device, but has recently upgraded to a 1.6 Farad car audio capacitor, which works (and looks) much better than before. His blog seems to update every few days with more pictures and details about his welding station, so be sure to check back often for updates.

Be sure to stick around to see a short video of [Radu] adding metal tabs to batteries and tearing down an aluminum can with his cutter.

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Improving your welder without a microcontroller

We’re always impressed when a piece of hardware is torn apart, rebuilt and ends up exceeding the capabilities of the original device. [Dave] and [Will]’s home-built TIG welder is no exception to that rule.

When [Dave] and [Will] started working on converting a simple AC stick welder to a welder with every function imaginable, they decided to keep it simple. After looking at some high-price commercial welders they came up with a list of features they wanted to have and decided to implement this in TTL and CMOS logic. The guys didn’t want to go with a microcontroller solution because not everyone can code, and discrete chips are very easy to troubleshoot given minimal tools.

For the high voltage part of the build, the original flyback transformer was replaced with a neon sign transformer and homebrew spark gap and capacitor. The plans for a homebrew spark gap and cap didn’t quite work out so they were replaced with commercial units. The guys included schematics and a PCB layout (PDF warning) of their build. It’s always great to see an amazing logic chip build, and improving an existing tool never hurts.

Thanks to [Franci] for sending this one in.