Last year, I was working in Juarez, Mexico on a training job for ESAB with a great group of TIG welders. I made some good friends, had some great food...But the thing that really left an impression on me was how well we all understood each other.
None of the trainees spoke English, and I don’t speak Spanish. Yet, despite the language barrier, for the whole week, we just went on with it - welding together, learning, and figuring out procedure.
Trying to pronounce their names with this Ozark accent was an embarrassing endeavor, so I gave them all nicknames. I wrote them on duct tape and stuck it to their helmets – names that fit each personality like Joker and Tugboat. It was fun because they couldn't say my name either, so by the second day I had a new Spanish name they all seemed satisfied with while we worked.
I had help in the teaching by a local man who knew the business of welding like the back of his hand. Not only could he weld with the best of them, but he knew the metallurgy and everything else. He spoke English in bits and pieces and we spent a good deal of time demonstrating techniques to the others. The men called him “Professor,” and the more I watched him with the trainees, I could see they respected him completely.
I found out through an ESAB colleague (who is bilingual in Spanish and English) that the Professor had been a welding instructor before taking on his present job.
What an amazing teacher! Throughout the week, we bonded over the particulars of welding, but even more the shared understanding that, for us, welding is not just a career, it’s a passion, one we both love to pass on to others.
The TIG welding lessons that the Professor and I taught in our time working together are just another example of the universal language of welding...
We may not understand each other's words, we may come from completely different cultures, but when it comes to welding, the language is universal.
Five Back to Basics TIG Welding Tips (from our training in Juarez)
1) When pulsing isn’t enough, or you don’t have access to pulse, it’s important to use chill blocks made of copper to pull heat out of the back of the weld so you don’t cause sugaring. I have one toolbox just for all the copper backings that I’ve created or used, some with back purge and some not, through the years of my career.Photo courtesy of http://www.weldingtipsandtricks.com/welding-stainless-tip.html.
2) Use back purge when possible to make an x-ray quality weld. Even when you’re not x-raying, it’s a beautiful thing when you look at the back side of the weld and it looks just like the front. Back purging is simply a second line of argon to provide shielding gas on the backside of your weld.
Photo courtesy of https://gordsgarage.wordpress.com/tag/2-into-1/.
3) How to determine the correct bead width – the professor and I worked with the guys on performing a more perfect bead (A universal goal for all welders if there ever was one! I think we can all agree, as welders, each time we run a bead we want it to be better than the last.), and teaching them how to recognize what the bead’s face height and width should be. Of course it’s all related to the thickness of the metal you’re welding, and understanding the difference in these three welding symbols: — (flush/flat), ∩ (convex), and ∪ (concave). (Look for more on welding symbols in a future blog.)
Photo courtesy of http://constructionmanuals.tpub.com/14250/css/14250_68.htm.
4) Avoid "fish eyes" (the improper termination of welds), which will propagate cracking. The best explanation I’ve seen addressing this common problem was one I found on an American Welding Society forum by a user named "Seldom," which can be found here.A "fish eye." Photo courtesy of http://www.pirate4x4.com/forum/shop-tools/951503-lift-arc-tig-crater-fill.html.
5) Remain diligent in keeping your tungsten sharp and free from contaminant. After a long day of welding, it’s easy to become complacent in sharpening your tungsten. We taught the guys how to make the repair if you dip your tungsten in the weld pool by grinding the tungsten out of the weld and making a repair weld. (For more on tungsten check out my previous blog, TIG tips and tungsten love.)
It was my privilege and pleasure to work with the guys in Juarez, and a special thanks to the Professor who helped me translate the universal language of welding. Hats off to you Professor, you’re my welding hero!
*(Sparky Sommer is a TCP Trainer and Application Engineer for ESAB.)
Have you found welding to be a universal language? Share your experience in the comments below.