1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Welding

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WELDING (i.e. the action of the verb "to weld" the same word as "to well," to boil or spring up, the history of the word being to boil, to heat to a high degree, to beat heated iron; according to Skeat, who points out that in Swedish the compound verb uppvalla means to boil, the simple valla is only used in the sense of welding), the process of uniting metallic surfaces by pressure exercised when they are in a semi-fused condition. It differs therefore from brazing and soldering, in which cold surfaces are united by the interposition of a fused metallic cementing material. The conditions in which welding is a suitable process to adopt are stated in the article Forging. The technique of the work will be considered here.

The conditions for successful welding may be summed up as clean metallic surfaces in contact, a suitable temperature and rapid closing of the joint. All the variations in the forms of welds are either due to differences in shapes of material, or to the practice of different craftsmen. The typical weld is the scarf. If, for instance, a bar has to be united to another bar or to an eye, the joint is made diagonally (scarfed) because that gives a longer surface in contact than a weld at right angles (a butt weld), and because the hammer can be brought into play better. Abutting faces for a scarfed joint are made slightly convex; the object is to force out any scale or dirt which might otherwise become entangled in the joint at the moment of closing and which would impair its union. The ends are upset (enlarged) previous to welding, in order to give an excess of metal that will permit of slight corrections being effected around the joint ("swaging") without reducing the diameter below that of the remainder of the bar. These principles are seen in other joints of diverse types, in the butt, the vee and their modifications. Joint faces must be clean, both chemically, i.e. free from oxides, and mechanically, i.e. free from dust and dirt, else they will not unite. The first condition is fulfilled by the use of a fluxing agent, the second by ordinary precautions. The flux produces with the oxide a fluid slag which is squeezed out at the instant of making the weld. The commonest fluxes are sand, used chiefly with wrought iron, and borax, used with steel; they are dusted over the joint faces both while in the fire and on the anvil. Mechanical cleanliness is ensured by healing the ends in a clean hollow fire previously prepared, and in brushing off any adherent particles of fuel before closing the weld. The scarf, the butt and the vee occur in various modifications in all kinds of forgings, but the principles and precautions to be observed are identical in all. But in work involving the use of rolled sections, as angles, tees, channels and joists, important differences occur, because the awkwardness of the shapes to be welded involves cutting and bending and the insertion of separate welding pieces ("gluts"). Welds are seldom made lengthwise in rolled sections, nor at right angles, because union is effected in such cases by means of riveted joints. But welding is essential in all bending of sections done at sharp angles or to curves of small radius. It is necessary, because a broad flange cannot be bent sharply; if the attempt be made when it is on an outer curve it is either ruptured or much attenuated, while on an inner curve it is crumpled up. The plater's smith therefore cuts the flanges in both cases, and then bends and welds them. If it is on an inner curve, the joint is a lap weld; if it is on an outer one, a fresh piece or glut is welded in. Gluts of rectangular section are used for cylindrical objects and rings of various sections. The edges to be united may or may not be scarfed, and the gluts, which are plain bars, are welded against the edges, all being brought to a welding heat in separate furnaces. The furnace tubes of boilers and the cross tubes are welded in this way, sometimes by hand, but often with a power hammer, as also are all rings of angle and other sections on the vertical web.

The temperature for welding is very important. It must be high enough to render the surfaces in contact pasty, but must not be in excess, else the metal will become badly oxidized (burnt) and will not adhere. Iron can be raised to a temperature at which minute globules melt and fall off, but steel must not be heated nearly so much, and a moderate white heat must not be exceeded. Welds in steel are not so trustworthy nor so readily made as those in iron.

Thermit Welding.—The affinity of finely powdered aluminium for metallic oxides, sulphides, chlorides, &c., may be utilized to effect a reduction of metals with which oxygen, sulphur or chlorine combine. C . Vautin in 1894 found that when aluminium in a finely divided state was mixed with such compounds and ignited, an exceedingly high temperature, about 3000° C, was developed by the rapid oxidation of the aluminium. He found that metals which are ordinarily regarded as in fusible were readily reduced, and in a very high degree of purity. These facts were turned to practical account by Dr If. Goldschmidt, who first welded two iron bars by means of molten iron produced by the process, to which the name of "thermit" is now commonly applied. The method has also been applied to the production of pure metals for alloying purposes, as of chromium free from carbon, used in the manufacture of chrome steel, of pure man ganese for manganese steel, of molybdenum, ferro-vanadium, ferro-titanium and others used in the manufacture of high speed steels.

Thermit as a welding agent is produced by mixing iron oxides with finely granulated aluminium, in a special crucible lined with magnesia. On ignition, the chemical reactions proceed so rapidly that the contents would be lost over the edges unless the crucible were closed with a cover. The result of the reaction is that two layers are produced, the bottom one of pure iron, the top one of oxide of alumina or corundum. If the contents are poured over the edge, the slag follows first, and is followed by the metal. But in welding the metal is poured first through the bottom upon the joint. It is practically pure wrought iron in a molten state, at 3000° C, or 5400° F. The heat is so intense that it is possible thus to burn a clean hole through a 1 in. wrought iron plate. The joints are prepared by abutting them, and provision is made with clamps to grip and retain them in correct positions. Often, but not always, the part to be welded is enclosed in a mould, into which the thermit is tapped from the crucible. The applications of thermit welding are numerous. A wide field is that of tramway rails, of which large numbers have been successfully welded. Steel girders have been welded, as also have broken and faulty steel and iron castings, broken shafts, broken stern posts (for which crucible? 6 ft. in height with a capacity of 7 cwt. have been constructed), and wrought iron pipes. Another application is to render steel ingots sound, by introducing thermit in a block on an iron rod into the mould, which prevents or greatly lessens the amount of piping in the head, due to shrinkage and occlusion of gases.  (J. G. H.) 

Electric Welding.—In electric welding and metal working the heat may be communicated to the metal by an electric arc, or by means of the electric resistance of the metal, as   Arc
in the Thomson process. Arc welding is the older procedure, and it appears to have been first made use of by de Meritens in 1881 for uniting the parts of storage-battery plates. The work-piece was placed upon a support or table, and connected with the positive pole of a source of current capable of maintaining an electric arc. The other pole was a carbon rod directed by the hand of the operator so as first to make contact with the work-piece, and then to effect the proper separation to maintain the arc. The heat of the arc was partly communicated to the work and partly dissipated in the hot gases escaping into the surrounding air. The result was a fusion of the metallic lead of the storage-battery plate which united various parts of the plate. The process was somewhat similar to the operation of lead-burning by the hydrogen and air blowpipe, as used in the formation of joints in chemical tanks made of sheet-lead. The method of de Meritens has been modified by Bernardos and Olszewski, Slavienoff, Coffin and others.

In the Bernardos and Olszewski process the work is made the negative pole of a direct current circuit, and an arc is drawn between this and a carbon rod, to which a handle is attached for manipulating. As this rod is the positive terminal, particles of carbon may be introduced as a constituent of the metal taking part in the operation, making it hard and brittle, and causing cracks in the joint or filling; the metal may, in fact, become very hard and unworkable. The Slavienoff modification of the arc-welding process consists in the employment of a metal electrode in place of the carbon rod. The metal electrode gradually melts, and furnishes fused drops of metal for the filling of vacant spaces in castings, or for forming a joint between two parts or pieces.

In arc welding, with a current source at practically constant potential, a choking resistance in series with the heating arc is needed to secure stability in the arc current, as in electric arc lighting from constant potential lines. Little effective work can be done by the Bernardos and Olszewski method with currents much below 150 amperes in the arc, and the value in some cases ranges above 500 amperes. The potential must be such that an arc of 2 to 3 in. in length is steadily maintained. This may demand a total of about 150 volts for the arc and the choking resistance together. In the Slavienoff arc the potential required will be naturally somewhat lower than when a carbon electrode is used, and the current strength will be, on the other hand, considerably greater, reaching, it appears, in certain cases, more than 4000 amperes. In some recent applications of the arc process the polarity of the work-piece and the arc controlling electrode has, it is understood, been reversed, the work being made the positive pole and the movable electrode the negative. More heat energy is thus delivered to the work for a given total of

electric energy expended.

The arc method is essentially a fusing process, though with due care it is used for heating to plasticity the edges of iron sheets to be welded by pressure and hammering. It has been found applicable in special cases to the filling of defective spots in iron castings, by fusing into blow-holes or other spaces small masses of similar metal, added gradually, and melted into union with the body of the piece by the heat of the arc. Similarly, a more or less complete union between separate pit<:es of iron plate J to J in. in thickness has been effected by fusing additional metal between them. The range of operations to which the arc process is applicable is naturally somewhat limited, and depends to a large extent upon the skill acquired by the operator, who necessarily works with his eyes well screened from the glare of the large arc. Unless the space in which the work is carried on is large, the irritating vapours which rise from the arc stream add to the difficulty. Strong draughts of air which would disturb the arc must also be avoided. These factors, added to the relative slowness of the work and the uncertainty as to its result, have tended to restrict the application of arc welding in practice. Moreover, much heat-energy is dissipated in the arc flame and passes into the air, while, owing to the time required for the work, the metal undergoing treatment loses much heat by radiation. Yet the method requires little special machinery. The current may be taken from existing electric lighting and power circuits of moderate potential without transformation, and may be utilized with simple appliances, consisting chiefly of heavy wire leads, a carbon or metal electrode with a suitable handle for its manipulation, a choking or steadying resistance, and screen of dark glass for the operator's eyes.

In 1874 Werdermann proposed to use, as a sort of electric blowpipe, the flame gases of an electric arc blown or deflected by an air jet or the like—a suggestion subsequently revived by Zerener for arc welding. The arc m this instance is deflected from the space between the usual carbon electrodes by a magnetic field. The metal to be heated takes no part in the conduction of current, the heat is communicated by the gases of the arc, and, to a small extent, by the radiation from the hot carbon electrodes between which the arc is formed. The process is scarcely to be called electric in any true sense. Another curious operation, resembling in some respects the arc methods, has been proposed for the healing of metal pieces before they are brought under the hammer for forging or welding. The end of a metal bar is plunged into an electrolytic bath while connected with the negative pole of a lighting or other electric circuit having a potential of 100 to 150 volts. The positive pole is connected with a metal plate as an anode immersed in the electrolyte, or forming the side of the containing vat or tank. A solution of sodium or potassium carbonate isii suitable electrolyte. That part of the bar which is immersed acts as a cathode of limited surface, and is at once seen to be surrounded by a luminous glow, with gas bubbles arising from it. The immersed end of the bar rapidly heats, and may even melt under the liquid of the bath. It is probable that an arc forms between the surface of the metal and the adjacent liquid layer, the intense heat of which is in part communicated to the metal and in part lost in the solution, causing thereby a rapid heating of the bath. This singular action appears to have been first made known by Holio and Lagrange. It is distinctly a form of electric heating, having no necessary relation to such subsequent operations as welding, and is, moreover, wasteful of energy, as the heat is largely carried off in the liquid bath.

The process of Elihu Thomson first brought to public notice in 1886, has since that time been applied commercially on a large scale to various metal-welding operations.Thomson process. The metal pieces to be united are held in massive clamps and pressed together in firm contact; and a current is made to traverse the proposed joint, bringing it to the welding temperature. The union is effected by forcing the pieces together mechanically. The characteristic feature of the process is the fact that the heat is given out in the body of the metal.

The voltage does not usually exceed two or three, though it may reach four or five volts; but as the resistance of the metal pieces to be joined is low, the currents are of very large values, sometimes reaching between 50,000 and 100,000 amperes. Even for the joining of small wires the current is rarely less than 100 amperes. Such currents cannot, of course, be carried more than a few feet without excessive loss, unless the conductors are given very large section. With alternating currents, also, the effectiveness of the work speedily diminishes, on account of the inductive drop in the leads, if they are of any considerable length. The carrying of the welding currents over a distance of several feet may, in fact, lead to serious losses. These difficulties are overcome in the Thomson welding transformer, which resembles the step-down transformers used in electric lighting distribution by alternating currents, with the exception that the secondary coil or conductor, which forms part of the welding circuit, usually consists of only one turn of great section, S S (fig. 1). This is often made in the form of a copper casing, which surrounds or encloses the primary coil P P in whole or in part. The primary coil is of copper wire of many turns. The secondary casing, with the primary enclosed, is provided with the usual laminated iron-transformer core, I, constituting a closed iron magnetic circuit threading both primary and secondary electric circuits. The terminals of the single-turn secondary serve as connexions and supports for the welding clamps C D, which hold the work. The clamps are variously modified to suit the size, shape and character of the metal pieces, MN, to be welded, and the proportions of the transformer itself arc made proper for the conditions existing in each case. The potential of the primary circuit may be selected at any convenient value, provided the winding of the coil P P is adapted thereto, but usually 300 volts is employed, and the periodicity is about 60 cycles. Inasmuch as only the proposed joint and a small amount of metal on each side of it are concerned in the operation, the delivery of energy is closely localized. The chief electrical resistance in the welding circuit is in the projections between the clamps, where the electric energy is delivered and appears as heat. A portion of the energy is, as usual, lost in the transformation and in the resistance of the circuits elsewhere, but, by proper proportioning, the loss may be kept down to a moderate percentage of the total, as in other electric work.

EB1911 Welding, Fig. 1.jpg

Fig. 1.—Thomson Welding Transformer.

The pieces are set firmly in the welding clamps, with the ends to be joined in abutment and in electric contact. The projection of each piece from the clamp varies with the section of the pieces, their form and the nature of the metal, and the time in which a joint is to be made; but it rarely exceeds the thickness or diameter of the pieces, except with metals of high heat conductivity such as copper. When the pieces are in place the current is turned into the primary coil of the transformer, sometimes suddenly and in full force, but more often gradually. Switches and regulating devices in the primary circuit permit complete and delicate control. At least one of the clamps, D (fig. 1), is movable through a limited range towards and from the other, and is thus the means of exerting pressure for forcing the softened metal into complete union. In large work the motion is given by a hydraulic cylinder and piston, under suitable control by valves. At about the time the current is cut off, it is usual to apply increased pressure. The softened metal is upset or pressed outwards at the joint and forms a characteristic burr, which may be removed by filing or grinding, or be hammered down while the metal is still hot. Sometimes the burr is not objectionable, and is allowed to remain. Lap welds may be made, but butt welds are found to be satisfactory for most purposes.

EB1911 Welding, Fig. 2.jpg

Fig. 2.

The appearance of round bars in abutment before welding is shown in fig. 2 at A; and at B they are represented as having been joined by an electric butt weld, with the slight upset or burr at the joint. Before the introduction of the Thomson process a few only of the metals, such as platinum, gold and iron, were regarded as weldable; now nearly all metals and alloys may be readily joined. Such combinations as tin and lead, copper and brass, brass and iron, iron and nickel, brass and German silver, silver and copper, copper and platinum, iron and German silver, tin and zinc, zinc and cadmium, &c., are easily made; even brittle crystalline metals like bismuth and antimony may be welded, as well as different metals and alloys whose fusing or softening temperatures do not differ too widely.

If the meeting ends conduct sufficiently to start the heating, it is not necessary that they should fit closely together, nor is it necessary that they should be quite clean, the effect of the incipient heating being to confer conductivity upon the scale and oxide at the joint. In some cases the application of a flux, such as borax, enables the welding to be accomplished at a lower temperature, thus avoiding risk of injury by excessive heating. While the pieces arc heating, the increase of temperature may raise the specific resistance of the metal so that the current required will be lessened per unit of area, while on the other hand the growing perfection of contact during welding, by increasing the conducting area at the joint, compensates for this in that it tends to the increase of current. With some alloys like brass and German silver, which have a low temperature coefficient, this compensating effect is nearly absent.

EB1911 Welding, Fig. 3.jpg

Fig. 3.—Automatic Welder.

The increase of specific resistance of the metals with increase of temperature has another valuable effect in properly distributing the heating over the whole section of the joint. Any portion which may be for the moment at a lower temperature than other portions will necessarily have a lower relative resistance, and more current will be diverted to it. This action rapidly brings any cooler portion into equality of temperature with the rest. It also prevents the overheating of the interior portions which are not losing heat by radiation and convection. The success of the electric process in welding metals which were not formerly regarded as weldable is probably due in a measure to this cause, and also to the ease of control of the operation, for the operator may work within far narrower limits of plasticity and fusibility than with the forge fire or blowpipe. The mechanical pressure may be automatically applied and the current automatically cut off after the completion of the weld. In some more recent types of welders the clamping and releasing of the pieces are also accomplished automatically, and nothing is left for the operator to do but to feed the pieces into the clamps. Repetition-work is thus rapidly and accurately done. The automatic welder represented in fig. 3 has a capacity of nearly 1000 welds per day. The pressure required is subject to considerable variation: the more rigid the material at the welding temperature, the greater is the necessary pressure. With copper the force may be about 600 pounds per square inch of section; with wrought iron, 1200 pounds; and with steel, 1800 pounds. It is customary to begin the operation with a much lighter pressure than that used when all parts of the pieces at the joint have come into contact. The pressure exerted in completing the weld has the effect of extruding from the joint all dross and slag, together with most of the metal which is rendered plastic by the heat. The strongest electric welds are those effected by this extrusion from the joint, in consequence of heavy pressure quickly applied at the time of completion of the weld. The unhammered weld, as ordinarily made by the electric process, has substantially the same strength as the annealed metal of the bar, the break under tensile strain, when the burr at the weld is left on, usually occurring a little to one side of the joint proper, where the metal has been annealed by heating. Hammering or forging the joint while the metal cools, in the case of malleable metals such as iron or copper, will usually greatly toughen the metal, and it should be resorted to where a maximum of strength is desired. The same object is partially effected by placing the weld, while still hot, between dies pressed forcibly together so as to give to the weld some desired form, as in drop-forging.

The amount of electric energy necessary for welding by the Thomson process varies with the different metals, their electric conductivity, their heat conductivity, fusibility, the shape of the pieces, section at the joint, &c In the following table are given some results obtained in the working of iron, brass and copper. The figures are of course only approximate, and refer to one condition alone of time-consumption in the making of each weld. The more rapidly the work is done, the less, as a rule, is the total energy required, but the rate of output of the plant must be increased with increase of speed, and this involves a larger plant, the consequent expense of which is often disadvantageous. If in the following table the watts for a given section be multiplied by the time, the relation between the total energy required for different sections of the same metal, or for the same section of the different metals, is obtained. These products are given under the head of watt-seconds. It will be seen that the energy increases more rapidly than the sections of the pieces— doubtless because the larger pieces take a longer time in welding, with the result of an increased loss by conduction of heat along the bars back from the joint. If the time of welding could be made the same for various sections, it is probable that the energy required would be more nearly in direct proportion to the area of section for any given metal. This relation would however, only hold approximately, as there is a greater relative loss of heat by radiation and convection into the air from the pieces of smaller section. The total energy in watt-seconds for any given section of copper will be found to be about half as much again as that for the same section of iron, while the amounts of energy required for equal sections of brass and iron do not greatly differ.

Energy used in Electric Welding

Iron and Steel.
Sq. In.
Watts in Primary
of Welder.
Time in















In practice, joints in solid bars or in wires are the most common, but the process is applicable to pieces of quite varied form. Joints in iron, brass, or lead pipe are readily made; strips of sheet metal are joined, as in band saws; bars or tubes are joined at various angles; sheet metal is joined to bars, &c. One of the more interesting of the recent applications of electric welding is the longitudinal seaming of thin steel pipe. The metal or skelp is in long strips, bent to form a hollow cylinder or pipe, and the longitudinal seam moves through a special welder, which passes a current across it. The work is completed by drawing the pipe through dies. The welding of a ring formed by bending a short bar into a circle affords an excellent illustration of the character of the currents employed in the Thomson process. Notwithstanding the comparatively free path around the ring through the full section of the bent bar, the current heats the abutted ends to the welding temperature. In this way waggon and carriage wheel tyres, harness rings, pail and barrel hoops, and similar objects are extensively produced. The process is also largely applied to the welding of iron and copper wires used for electric lines and conductors, of steel axles, tyres and metal frames used in carriage work, and of such parts of bicycles as pedals, crank hangers, seat posts, forks, and steel tubing for the frames. The heat, whether it be utilized in welding or brazing, is so sharply localized that no damage is done to the finish of surfaces a short distance from the weld or joint. Parts can be accurately formed and finished before being joined, as in the welding of taper shanks to drills, the lengthening of drills, screw taps, or augers, and the like. Electric welding is applicable to forms of pieces or to conditions of work which would be impracticable with the ordinary forge fire or gas blowpipe. A characteristic instance is the wire bands which hold in place the solid rubber tyres of vehicles. The proximity of the rubber forbids the application of the heat of a fire or blowpipe, but by springing the rubber back from the proposed joint and seizing the ends of wire by the electric welding clamps, the union is rapidly and easily made. When the rubber of the tyre is released, it covers the joint, regaining its complete form. Special manufactures have in some cases arisen based upon the use of electric welding.

The welding clamps, and the mechanical devices connected with them, vary widely in accordance with the work they have to do. A machine for forming metal wheels is so constructed that the hubs are made in two sections, which when brought together in the welder are caused to embrace the radiating iron or steel spokes of the wheel. The two sections are then welded, and hold the spokes in solid union with themselves. Another machine, designed for the manufacture of wire fences, makes several welds automatically and simultaneously Galvanized iron wires are fed into the machine from reels in several parallel lines about a foot apart, and at intervals are crossed at right angles by wire sections cut automatically from another reel of wire. As the wire passes, electric welds are formed between the transverse and the parallel lines. The machine delivers a continuous web of wire fencing, which is wound upon a drum and removed from time to time in large rolls. In the United States, street railway rails are welded into a continuous metal structure. A huge welding transformer is suspended upon a crane, which is borne upon a car arranged to run upon the track as it is laid. The joint between the ends of two contiguous rails is made by welding lateral strap pieces, covering the joint at each side and taking the place of the ordinary fish-plates and bolts. The exertion of a greatly increased pressure at the finish of the welding seems to be decidedly favourable to the permanence and strength of the joints. When properly made, the joint is strong enough to resist the strains of extension and compression during temperature changes. For electric railways the welded joint obviates all necessity for “bonding” the rails together with copper wires to convert them into continuous lines of return conductors for the railway current. In railway welding the source of energy is usually a current delivered from the trolley line itself to a rotary converter mounted on the welding car, whereby an alternating current is obtained for feeding the primary circuit of the welding transformer. Power from a distant station is thus made to produce the heat required for track welding, and at exactly the place where it is to be utilized. In this instance the work is stationary while the welding apparatus is moved from one joint to the next. Welding transformers are sometimes used to heat metal for annealing, for forging, bending, or shaping, for tempering, or for hard soldering. Under special conditions they are well adapted to these purposes, on account of the perfect control of the heating or energy delivery, and the rapidity and cleanliness of the operation.

Divested of its welding clamps, the welding transformer has found a unique application in the armour-annealing process of Lemp, by means of which spots or lines are locally annealed in hard-faced ship’s armour, so that it can be drilled or cut as desired. Before the Armour-plate annealing.introduction of this process, it was practically impossible to render any portion of the hardened face of such armour workable by cutting tools without detriment to the hardness of the rest. A very heavy electric current is passed through the spot or area which it is desired to soften, so that, notwithstanding the rapid conduction of heat into the body of the plate, the metal is brought to a low red heat. In order that the spot shall not reharden, it is requisite that the rate of cooling shall be slower than when the heating current is cut off suddenly, the current therefore undergoes gradual diminution, under control of the operator. The welding transformer has for its secondary terminals simply two copper blocks fixed in position, and mounted at a distance of an inch or more apart. These are placed firmly against the face of the armour plate, with the spot to be annealed bridging the contacts, or situated between them. As in track welding, the transformer is made movable, so that it can be brought into any position desired. When the annealing is to be done along a line, the secondary terminals, with the transformer, are slowly and steadily slid over the face of the plate, new portions of the plate being thus continually brought between the terminals, while those which had reached the proper heat are slowly removed from the terminals and cool gradually.  (E. T.)