Welding wisdom

May 19, 2008
By: Tim Heston

I just finished up with a four-day crash course in welding technologies at the Hobart Institute of Welding Technology in Troy, Ohio. Assistant Editor Michael Bishop,

Associate Editor Amanda Carlson, and I decided it would be better to get our feet wet in the world of welding at an
educational institution rather than mucking up the works at a fabrication shop. I"m sure every job shop in the Midwest is thankful for that fact.

So in those four days we learned about oxyacetylene, shielded metal arc, gas tungsten arc, and gas metal arc
welding, and we had the opportunity to put some heat to some metal. No one got burned, and the building didn"t burn
down. So we had that going for us.

What we did learn was that welding is not something that comes easily. Of course, we didn"t think it would be easy;
that would be too much of an insult to welders everywhere. We thought, however, that we might have a little more success that we did.

The Hobart instructor Nelson Morales put it best: We are not going to try to make a welder out of you in four days and in four welding disciplines because it takes a lifetime to become a good welder. At least you can get a crash course and say that you"ve done some welding.

We also learned some things along the way:
  • Graduates of Hobart Institute of Welding Technology don"t have a problem finding jobs. They placed 100 percent of their
    graduates in 2007, and by the looks of job postings at the school—for gigs paying up to $25 for pressure tank welding—that trend is likely to continue in 2008.

  • Oxyacetylene welding is not used too much any more, particularly because arc welding is much more efficient.
    Having said that, Hobart still teaches it because it forces the welder to use some skills, such as feeding a rod with the less-dominant hand, that can be carried over to GTAW. Dialing in that oxygen and acetylene mixtures is an art to itself, however.

  • I learned why SMAW is called stick welding. Many, many electrodes ended up being stuck to small pieces of steel.
    Man, for a welding technology that"s been around a century, it might take another century for me to be proficient at this.

  • The sticking doesn"t end with SMAW. Who would think that I could stick the tungsten electrode to the metal as
    many times as I"m doing it in GTAW?

  • The instructor said I was going to love GMAW, but it"s frustrating at first. When that trigger is pressed on the MIG gun, you"ve got to be ready to move or you are going to end up with a big glob of melted wire.

I talked with my dad on Sunday about the experience. He laughed and asked if I was ready to go take up the trade. He had worked for several years in the Louisiana petrochemical plants as a pipe fitter because he didn"t do too well welding as a industrial technology student when he was younger. I guess some things run in the family.

Tim Heston

Tim Heston

Senior Editor
FMA Communications Inc.
2135 Point Blvd
Elgin, IL 60123
Phone: 815-381-1314