Brooklyn-based maker Chris Hackett is founder and director of the Madagascar Institute, whose slogan is: “Fear is never boring.” Can’t argue with that! In MAKE Volume 33, Hackett shows us how to make our own welding rods.
In his intro he writes:
There are a bunch of DIY welder articles and how-tos out in the maker ether, ranging from the super-simple, dumb, and brutally effective (three car batteries, wired in series) to the high-tech and fancy (TIG machines from microwave bits, oxy-hydrogen torches from split water and plumbing supplies). With all of the information out there, it is safe to say that experienced makers will be expertly fusing metal even if an oddly specific, exceptionally brutal catastrophe were to strike the welding industry. If civilization and supply chains collapse the anti-zombie fences will still get built, and the Thunderdome will be sturdy and made from steel.
However, all of the DIY welders I have seen assume you have access to welding rod. … The standard, coated arc-welding rod is the common currency of welding, used to hold the world together. They are ubiquitous. You can get them everywhere. Until you can’t. … Even the finest DIY welder is useless without welding rod. I did a bunch of research, Google-ing and drilling down through increasingly sketchy forums, ranging from the mainstream DIY to the super-sketchy survivalist fringe. Tons of interesting information on every imaginable topic, but, as far as I can tell, it seems like no one has ever made their own welding rod and documented it online. A minor, but potentially crucial gap in the DIY world, solved here.
Basically, a steel rod is wrapped in cellulose (paper) soaked in sodium silicate. The wrapping is crimped to maintain close contact with the rod. The electrodes are then dried out (I used a toaster oven — a rod oven, or some time in the sun should do the trick as well).
You know those silica gel packets (usually labeled “Desiccant: Do Not Eat”) packaged with things that shouldn’t get damp? With this project, you finally have a use for them. Hackett shows us how to make sodium silicate from water, silica gel, and sodium hydroxide (lye). Then you use wire hangers for the rods, wrap them in newspaper soaked in sodium silicate, and bake them (Hackett used a dedicated toaster oven). After that, weld with your new homemade rods and take pride in your clean welds.
MAKE Volume 33: Software for Makers
In our special Codebox section you’ll learn about software of interest to makers, including circuit board design, 3D CAD and printing, microcontrollers, and programming for kids. And you’ll meet fascinating makers, like the maniacs behind the popular Power Wheels Racing events at Maker Faire. You’ll get 22 great DIY projects like the Optical Tremolo guitar effect, “Panjolele” cake-pan ukelele, Wii Nunchuk Mouse, CNC joinery tricks, treat-dispensing cat scratching post, brewing sake, and more.