January 9, 2007
What happens when an editor gets to weld? Let Senior Editor Eric Lundin share his first-hand experience. Visitors could try their hands at a variety of welding and cutting processes at Miller Electric's semitruck parked in Hall B at the FABTECH International & AWS Welding Show in Atlanta , Oct. 31-Nov. 2.
The Miller staff verified that their insurance premium was up-to-date, crossed their fingers, and allowed me to try manual plasma cutting and GTAW.
I used the new 18-pound plasma cutter, the Spectrum 375 X-Treme™. It uses either 115 or 230 volts. The company wanted to offer the user a choice in amperage at 115 volts, so it designed the unit to work on the more-common 15-amp service rather than 20-amp service. I had never done plasma cutting before. It's not difficult by any means, but you have to pay attention to the direction the sparks are going to know if you're cutting all the way through.
I used the Passport™ for GMAW. GMAW isn't hard, but again you have to pay attention—in this case, you have to be careful when starting the arc. The GMAW unit has a few features that make the arc starts smooth. At one point I goofed it up and had far too much wire sticking out of the gun, and the wire had a big ball of metal at its tip. Instead of stopping and cutting off the excess, I just tried it again and got a nice, smooth start.
The lesson I learned here is that an editor is more comfortable with a pen than a welding torch or plasma cutter.