Welding for my life

I am welding for my life.

This is a butt weld between two relatively thin pieces of mild steel – the original hull and the new plate – cut to fit and bent to almost exactly match the curvature of the hull. The weld is built up rather heavily but great care has been taken to avoid undercutting and burning through both of which are a risk with thinner pieces like this. As long as the area is not permitted to unduly flex the extra thickness should not overly compromise the hull compared to undercutting. The original metal was corroded badly enough to be untrustworthy. Although I have added and am continuing to add a lot of “safety” to the vessel this particular section of weld is part of a major repair running for several metres. If it were to catastrophically fail in rough seas along the wrong portion of length it is quite possible that the vessel could founder within minutes – a total loss scenario.

The lives of all on board depend on this

The lives of all on board depend on this

Now this is where I get to scare off all my potential crew members. I am not a professional welder. I haven’t been on any courses or received any formal instruction. I’ve read a bit about welding, watched a professional work a bit and asked the same professional quite a few questions. I’ve otherwise just picked up the equipment and started doing it – cutting and welding more than halfway through approximately two tonnes of new steel so far. The learning project I set myself was to build a one tonne crane – firstly because I needed it for material handling and secondly because I figured if I could build that without disaster striking I could trust myself to ease into the work on the vessel itself. I’m not sure I’d exactly recommend it as an entirely safe project to start on – but my continued existence and progress is presumably some sort of admissible evidence in support of either incredible luck or the absence of incredible stupidity.

It isn’t quite as reckless as it sounds – I do ask a professional to quality check the most critical pieces of work.

Nonetheless, I really am welding for my life.

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5 thoughts on “Welding for my life

  1. Hi I like your writing so far!! This is about your welding. I don’t know if you are aware of tig welding but it is a muck cleaner weld. You can buy an old ac/dc welder for pretty cheap and hook up a tig torch and a bottle of argon to it and get some pretty nice welds. I weld stainless steel this way. I can send you some pics of the set up if you are interested. PS I just found out about all this methane problem a few weeks ago and don’t know what to do with it!!

    • Thanks for the comment. I think I do OK with stick – welds not always the prettiest looking but functional. I’ve got most of the stuff I’d need for TIG (except argon), but I’m only really working with mild steel.

      The methane is interesting – the worst case scenarios are unthinkably catastrophic (http://www.killerinourmidst.com/) but there is room to hope that it won’t get that bad. Provided the rate of methane release isn’t too high, it breaks down in the atmosphere fairly fast (8-12 years half life), and leaves us with additional carbon dioxide (and much higher short term warming ~105x as much as carbon dioxide for the first 20 years after release). Of course even milder releases are still pretty bad, especially on top of everything else. They just don’t look so bad compared to what happens if methane reaches a point of runaway positive feedback.

  2. I admit it is quite fun – like a typical murder mystery on TV – trying to work it out, but, there seems to be a large amount of assumed knowledge about what you are building (even if why you are building it can indeed be deduced form what you have actually said)…?

    • You’re right, I didn’t provide a lot of useful context. The piece primarily concerns repairs to the hull of a fairly large steel sailing vessel – but I’m well along on the process of building watertight bulkheads and adding watertight steel doors throughout (also good for security). I’m also using steel as framing for the rest of the internal structure (I’m doing a complete refit, or hoping to…) and (lighter) wood where I wouldn’t gain strength or security. The crane mentioned attaches to the vessel to raise or lower heavier loads and is of a very simple design (though it does swivel). Hull repairs are essentially completed now and overall welding I would estimate is perhaps 65% done now, with all required materials to hand to complete (I think!).

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