The instructor told us to bring an old set of work clothes to change into for his class. Someone asked about just getting some coveralls to wear over their regular college clothing.The idea was vetoed by the instructor. “You will be sitting on a bench welding and sparks and red-hot balls of steel will eventually roll into your lap which will burn through your coveralls and also your good pants and shirt underneath.
I listened to my last tearful tale of ruined clothes a long time ago and have no intention of doing it again.” The next question asked was about the stray sparks burning through old work clothes and onto skin.
“You can avoid some of that by paying attention to what you are doing,” was the instructor’s reply. He then added that it would be a good idea to wear something that was tight about the neck.
Some time back, my friend Mike Flerchinger came up with good advice. “You will eventually get a fair-sized ball of hot metal inside your shirt.
When it reaches skin, it will sizzle. This will make you contort so your clothing moves away from the hot spot so the hot steel rolls away from your skin. It may stop five or six times before it gets cool enough to unbutton your shirt and pull it out.”
Then he got that typical Mike’s big grin on his face and added, “If it gets down as far as your belt and is still sizzling, you do not want to pull away from your belt and let the hot steel fall any farther.
When that happens, you just let it burn where it is until you can reach it and remove it.”
The welding instructor’s personal preference was to weld bare-handed. “A welding glove will get hot from the outside and by the time your pinky finger feels too hot, that heat is going to increase inside the glove to the burning stage before you can get the glove off.”
(I have had this happen. Most of the time I weld bare-handed.) His comments on hot steel getting inside your clothes was that, depending on the difficulty of getting an overhead bead started, the welder may just opt to let it sizzle and keep running the weld he is making.
He also insisted that it was just as easy to run an overhead weld as it was a top-side horizontal weld. “Steel sticks to steel. Welding slag falls off. (Welding rods are coated with a flux that stays on top of the molten metal of the weld to keep atmospheric oxygen away from the molten metal.
This is the material called welding slag. Without this protection the surface of the weld area would oxidize, forming iron oxide, commonly called rust.)
When you are running vertical or overhead welds, you don’t have near the problem of the slag staying in your way and making slag pockets within the weld area that weaken it,” was his explanation.
I burned lots of welding rod before I got good enough to make any kind of an overhead weld. Once I figured it out, I observed that what he said was true.
Most of us who have been around welders for any length of time have experienced welder burn to the eyes.
The usual is for a welder’s helper to not be really careful to have his eyes covered when the welder starts to weld. The electric arc that creates the heat necessary for two pieces of metal to become one is as bright as the sun. Just a few flashes will cause intense pain, usually several hours later.
Some time back, Mike was welding up some hydraulic lines with Jesus helping. I had cautioned Jesus about making sure his helmet was in place every time before Mike started to weld.
I told him what welder burn to the eyes was and how important it was to avoid looking at the welder arc unprotected, even for an instant.
Three o’clock the next morning I got a phone call from Jesus. “I need to go to the hospital. My eyes are on fire.”
I asked him, “Do your eyes burn when you turn on the light, even with your eyes closed?” He said they did. I told him to have his wife fold a wet wash cloth and lay it over his eyes.
That would keep the light from penetrating his eyelids and also make them feel cool. I assured him he would be all better in 24 hours. He was. He was also more careful using the welding hood.
Wire-feed welders are wonderful when they work. When they don’t work, all they do is cause great set-backs in my vocabulary improvement program.
They generally blow inert gas through the torch (the part the welder holds, through which the welding wire feeds), which keeps atmospheric oxygen from the weld.
Unless you are trying to weld some very dirty or very rusty pieces of steel together, there is no slag.
The trick with either type of welder is to have the space between the two pieces opened up enough for you to reach the bottom of the void and make a weld that melts into 100 percent of that space.
The most critical point is to evenly melt the welding rod or wire into both sides of whatever it is you are fixing.
The typical novice error results in what is called a cold process weld. The molten metal you make from the wire or rod melts nicely into one side of the repair and only leans up against the other side.
Back when Mike and I were both working for the same outfit, the company low-boy trailer broke on the highway.
A local welder was summoned who made the repair and left. Twenty feet more and the repair failed. The next thing that happened was that Mike was loaded in a pick-up with all the welders, torches, grinders and tools he needed, and sent the 120 miles to the breakdown site.
Mike’s repair did not fail. He said that cold process, lack of penetration and possibly the wrong choice of welding rod was the cause of the first repair’s failure.
My wife happened by once while I was in the midst of a welding repair. I had a spare welding hood and invited her to watch.
I told her what I was doing as I welded. With the observation finished, I asked her what she thought. She said it looked like I was creating metal.
Not creating, I explained, just moving it around, from the welding rod to the work pieces with enough heat from the electricity to melt it together into one piece, equal to or stronger than virgin metal. I knew she understood the principle when she compared it to what holds our marriage together. FG