Weave it or Leave it


Luis Avila, Writer

Welding is a scientific process of joining two pieces of metal by heating the two pieces to their melting point using a blowtorch or electric arcs. Aside from being a process widely used in industrial jobs, welding is considered as an art by many.

Sometimes you are faced with a situation where the weld will be exposed to people and you need to lay a pretty bead; “pretty bead” is a phrase used to describe a good quality weld. Aside from the looks, you need to have the right amperage in order to have the correct amount of penetration into the metal, the right welding drag/push angle to avoid undercut, and other procedures depending on the type of welding process being done.

Clayton Carlson, teacher of the agriculture mechanics classes here in Nipomo High School, says, “Welding is something that takes lots of practice, skill and patience.” Carlson compares welding to sculpting, where you sometimes have to mold, or bend, pieces of metal to get the right fit up. The heat caused by the arcs or blowtorch can cause the metal to warp, which is why a good fit up is needed.

Doug Horvath, student at Nipomo High, compares welding to painting. “When you paint, you need a very clean canvas, the smallest imperfection may ruin your piece of art. You need to prepare the canvas correctly, much like welding.” Having a clean piece of metal is very crucial in welding, especially in the process known as TIG, or tungsten inert gas. TIG is used mainly for welding aluminum together, and the pieces of metal need to be contaminant free in order to produce a clean, strong weld. Anything as little as mill scale to dirt or grease on the metal itself, or the filler rod, will cause imperfections in the weld.

There are also many different techniques and different ways to create patterns on the actual weld. The most common being a “C” motion, but there are many different patterns. You can zig-zag while welding, do cursive “L” motions, and even square motions. Horvath, likes to weave his. “I prefer weaving when I’m welding. Weave it or leave it,” he says.

There are four main procedures, and each of them require its own way of preparations in order to produce good quality welds. Certified welding inspectors make sure that the welds are good and strong enough for big projects such as bridges, elevators, buildings, cars, and the list goes on. They inspect them and give feedback and either approve or fail it, much like an art critique. Like Carlson stated, welding takes a lot of practice to perfect, and you shouldn’t be discouraged if your welds aren’t perfect.