I used to be a welder. I was employed by Newport News Shipbuilding to build aircraft carriers and aircraft carrier parts. I did it for five years until 1992 and hated every minute of it.
The reason I am creating this page is mostly because you can’t find Home Pages on the internet that belong to Welders or people in the occupation of welding steel or other metals together. Well, if this page is not the first, perhaps it will be the most comprehensive, and most of all, honest. Why there are not any web pages dedicated to welders will be discussed below.
What it is like
If you have never tried welding, I must say, DON’T! It’s not fun. The best way to describe what it is like to weld for 8 hours a day: Imagine sitting in a very dark place, staring at a very bright puddle of light which is actually molten metal, watching it move slowly from point a to point b. Now repeat. Keep repeating for 8 hours. Sounds boring, right? Well, boredom is not even the half of it. If the pay is right, boredom can be handled and endured, for after all, work is not really supposed to be fun, is it? But work can be downright miserable when you factor in the perks that come with the job.
Welding is nothing more than playing with fire, albeit in a somewhat controlled environment. Fire, as its nature, produces heat. Fire hot enough to melt high tempered steel produces a lot of heat. Therefore welding is hot work.
Add to this the safety issue of protecting a person’s body against this heat, and the work becomes hotter. A welder must wear protective clothing to avoid pain and injury from flying sparks, slag and arc flash. This means being covered head to toe in thick cotton shirts and jeans. Thick gauntlet style gloves are worn to protect the hands. When welding overhead, a leather jacket weighing about 15 lbs. is added to the wardrobe to prevent hot slag from burning through the clothing on the arms. Additionally, a hard hat is worn to protect the top of the head from the same debris. Sounds like it sucks, huh?
- So imagine playing with fire, covered head to toe in thick clothes. It’s hot.
How hot is it? Your whole body perspires except for your hands which are too close to the welding arc. Your gloves begin to smolder.
- Now, imagine that it is summertime. It’s really hot.
How hot is it? Sweat rolls freely down your face and drips steadily into your welder’s face shield, pooling into a salty puddle at the bottom. All of your clothes begin to stick to your body. Your gloves are smoking now and the bottoms of your steel-toed boots begin to melt and stick to the deck. You begin to see mirages.
- Now imagine that it is summertime and the metal you are welding on must be preheated to 250 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent it from becoming too brittle. A torch or huge heating coils are used to do this. It’s really, really hot!
How hot is it? Your sweaty clothes dry out as fast as you can sweat, leaving gray and white streaks at the wrinkles due to the salt your body excretes. You occasionally have to remove your gloves when they burst into flame. Your feet are smoking because your boots are almost completely melted away. You ARE a mirage. You begin to see demons.
- Now imagine that it is summertime and the metal you are welding on must be preheated to 300 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent it from becoming too brittle. And you are welding overhead. Below the 6 inch thick steel flight deck on an aircraft carrier that has baked in the sun for 12 hours. It’s hot as hell!
How hot is it? Your welding face shield begins to distort and melt. Your hands burst into flames and burn right down to the elbows. You no longer have the exertion to sweat; your clothes are so heat dried that they suck the moisture out of your body like a sponge. A portal to Hades opens up in the very air before you and Satan begins to beckon your name.
- Now imagine that you have to do this for EIGHT hours! AIIIEEEEEEEE!!!
But wait, there’s more!
Welding is not only hot work, but its dirty work too. The process of welding produces almost as much waste as useful material. Most of the waste is turned into smoke, a gray sooty substance that smells like a mixture of dust and dirt together. This smoke settles on everything and leaves a brown residue. The rest of the waste byproduct becomes slag, an almost clay-like substance that cools onto the surface of fresh weld. This byproduct must be removed with a “pecking hammer” and the slag just gets everywhere.
Other processes in the course of welding produce even more dirt and grime, including cutting operations, surface grinding and “carbon arcing.” Carbon arcing is a process that instead of putting metal into a surface, you gouge it out with high voltage electricity and compressed air. Very dirty process.
So not only do you have the heat, you have the sweat and the dirt. Dirt gets stuck in sweat and turns to mud. This dirt also grinds into your clothing, breaking your cotton trousers down at an almost molecular level. The dirt also gets on your car seat on the way home, your sofa at home, etc. etc.
As mentioned above, you sweat constantly, even if it dries faster than you can produce it. Therefore you cannot get enough to drink.
Metal shavings are produced by grinding operations. If the weld doesn?t look right, you can grind it down a little until it looks better. But it produces thousands of metal splinters. Imagine sitting on them or accidentally putting your hand in them. Ouch. ‘Nuff said.
This stuff is nasty. It mixes with sweat, gets in your hair, tastes really bad, collects in your eyes and makes you look like you are wearing eyeliner. The smoke even mixes with your mucous membranes until you feel like you have half a box of Cocoa Crispies crammed up your nose. The smoke from carbon arcing is nothing but atomized steel and a respirator has to be worn to prevent some sort of mining disease.
Metal Fume Fever
I swear this is a real disease, as it is what eventually ended my welding career. Thank God!!! Exposure and inhalation of too many welding fumes cause this metal fume fever. It produces flu like symptoms, which last about 18 hours from the time of exposure, wearing off just in time to go back to the gulag of a welding job. Shivering fevers of 103 degrees are not uncommon, along with painful joints and a dry cough. I began to get metal fume fever every day and that?s when I knew it was time to file for Worker’s Compensation. 🙂
Sit on unyielding hard, hot steel for 5 days a week for a year and you tell me what happens to your ass! Many welders pack Preparation H in their lunch pails.
Sunburn and “ArcFlash”
Welding produces more light than heat if you can believe it. That is why they have to wear those face shields. With a good welding face shield, you can look at the sun and count sunspots. Really! Most of the light from welding processes is in the ultraviolet spectrum, which produces sunburn on exposed skin. It probably produces x-rays too, but I’m no physicist.
Anyway, another added bonus is arcflash, the “hot sand thrown in the eyes” feeling from watching someone weld without using adequate eye protection, or from having an asshole welding neighbor that neglects to erect a canvas shield to protect his coworkers from the harmful rays of his arc-light. Veteran welders swear that sliced potatoes placed on the eyes will alleviate the severe pain associated with arcflash, but I just think that is one more example why welders are such stupid people.
As people, welders only really come in one flavor, and that is DUMB. Face it. People that have a Bachelor’s degree just don’t weld, and if they do, it just proves my point even further. Why would anyone want to spend their time rolling around in the dirt, fire and smoke if they weren’t stupid? Sure, I did it for five years, but I was smart enough to get out with my life intact. The points below will justify my statement that all welders are inherently stupid.
Welders always tell each other that there is no such thing as an old welder. This is because, they claim, that welders have a shorter life expectancy because of their trade. Welders develop respiratory ailments, their knees go bad from the constant kneeling, their backs go bad lifting heavy steel plates or welding machines, their hearing goes bad due to loud environments, eyesight goes out due to arc-flash and loss of life due to industrial accidents. It is true about the unfortunate ailments that afflict welders. But if all welders know this, yet continue to do what they do, it must mean they are stupid!
Furthermore, you might not wish to believe the statistics about welders not living long. True, they may not, but it may be more attributed to their stupidity than their occupation. I mean, stupid people get hit by buses, forget to take medication, or partake in activities that are not healthy. And, stupid people also become welders.
It takes a special type of person to become a welder. As mentioned above, the prime requisite is a low IQ. But genetics aside, one other characteristic is common among welders: Lower Middle class family values. These include rednecks, trailer dwellers, welfare victims and the occasional lesbian.
You will never see a welder living in a Penthouse apartment or a Riverside three-story house. You won’t find welders making their fortunes on Wall Street. In fact, as welders like to say, they contribute weekly to their retirement fund by playing the State Lottery. It’s not that welders don’t make a decent hourly wage, but being stupid, they spend their wealth on Budweiser, Skoal Bandits, cigarettes and Colt 45.
Don’t get me wrong- welders are some of the hardest working Americans among us, but they are down there on the economic and social food chain. These are guys that hang out in topless bars, go hunting every November and fart audibly on elevators. A limited vocabulary forces welders to curse like a sailor. Many of them are proud that they can spit 15 feet.
As if breathing atomized steel particles weren’t bad enough, many welders indulge in tobacco use as well. That welders would indulge in an activity that would increase the odds of their dying prematurely is yet another example of limited intelligence.
The really tough smokers smoke Tiparillo cigars right under their face shields, and the chewers and spitters deposit their droppings directly onto their job sites and have no qualms about sitting in the brown chunky puddles. I used to know a welder that would spit directly onto the inside of his face shield while he was working. Every now and then he would lift up the shield and allow the run-offs to drain out along with his sweat, staining his coveralls brown. The guy always smelled like peppermint barf.
Why no Web Pages About Welders?
This is an easy answer. Again, welders are too stupid to create a web page. Many of them could easily afford a nice computer, but once they get it, their Netscape bookmarks consist of Nascar sites, Guns and Ammo, and Porn, Porn, Porn. Ever notice you can’t find a newsgroup called alt.welders?
If you do a search on welding on the Internet search engines, you will find a bunch of vendors and suppliers of welding machines and welding stock, but no personal web pages. Welders would not go into an IRC chatroom and brag about the fact that they are welders. Wherever they have an option to fill out a profile on-line, they list their occupation as “engineer” or “metallurgist.”
Welding War Stories
Every occupation has groups of people that gather around over drinks to discuss accomplishments of either themselves or others within their immediate circle. These are called “War Stories.” Accountants tell war stories about IRS audits or catching a client embezzling money, and computer technicians talk about their dumbest users or awesome Servers they have built.
Welders tell stories too. Most welding stories involve mutilation, death, and unsurprisingly, heat. Below are a few I have heard that have floated around the shipyard on more than one occasion.
The shipyard is famous for having hundreds of cranes for lifting heavy loads. Many of these cranes operate off a high voltage rail and track system like a city subway. The largest crane has its tracks and rail underground, and as this behemoth moves, steel plates rise up and allow the wheels to track forward.
Well, since the shipyard is contracted by the government to build Nuclear Warships, it is a secure facility, which means everyone always had to wear a badge. One welder accidentally dropped his badge down a hole between the steel plates that cover the high voltage rail of the large crane. The welder found a long piece of wire, fashioned it into a hook and stuck it down the hole to fish out his badge. Of course, it hit the rail. I?ve heard some people say that the voltage was so intense that his body exploded, and the only things left were his boots. Dead welder. Stupid welder.
Cutter Beneath an Overhead Plate
One welder was assigned the arduous task of cutting out a large section of a pre-fab unit for replacement. Cutting operations are of course, easiest cutting below yourself, and the welder thought he was finished, but the hole he had cut didn’t fall out of the bottom of the unit as planned. He climbed out of the unit and inspected it underneath to find where his blowtorch had missed. He found the spot and since he could see it better underneath the unit, he fired up his torch and took out the last section. He happened to be standing where the unit would fall. Twenty tons of metal hit the concrete with him pancaked between. Dead welder. Stupid welder.
Many welding operations require the use of inert gases as shielding agents. The most common is Argon. Argon is an inert, colorless, odorless gas that is about twice as heavy as air. It is almost like an invisible liquid the way it can fill up an unventilated room.
A welder did not check with the chemists to ensure that a hole he was about to crawl into was free of Argon gas. He went in, inhaled deeply, and suffocated. Dead welder. Stupid welder.
The remaining items are war stories of my own, and thankfully do not involve death and severe mutilation.
Being on Fire
Welders are combustible. I was no exception. The most fireproof clothing anyone could wear in welding operations was thick denim jeans. Blue jeans can be exposed to a direct flame and will not combust, provided that there are no holes in the jeans. But hot slag, sitting in the fold of denim can wear out the fireproof properties, and ground in dirt wears out the fabric too, so that after a few washings, frays in the material begin to appear. Unlike the rest of the denim, these frays of cotton are very combustible, and once ignited, the fire spreads quickly.
I have had many a hot spark set me ablaze, and being in the dark and unaware of your surroundings, you could be on fire for several moments until you smell the smoke. After the smoke comes the unmistakable sensation of heat spreading up your body, and flames actually “lick” your skin. These flames are not real hot against your skin, but it does feel like a dog licking you with a hot tongue, minus the slobber.
The pain does not come until you try to beat the flames out with your gloves, and grinding the smoldering clothing against your skin hurts. There is a safety rule in the shipyard that says that you are not allowed to blow dirt off of yourself with the oxygen from your blow torch for obvious reasons.
Oxygenated clothing ignites and burns like flash paper.
Scars and Slag
I still bear a few scars on my forearms and feet from slag burns. Slag, as mentioned above, is the clay like material that appears on fresh weld. Removing the slag sometimes sends glowing hot debris flying in many different directions. Sometimes the slag falls into shirt pockets where it sits and burns the skin, or into folds in the shirt sleeves. It falls into gloves too, and that hurts a bunch.
In fact, if you were to watch a welder for one shift, you would probably see him throw his gloves off at least once to shake out a piece of hot slag. Sometimes slag falls into the top of the boot. You cant shake a boot off your foot, but you can do this little dance and cause the slag to rattle around inside so it doesn’t burn one spot too much. Instead you try to make it burn a whole bunch of little spots.
I have heard welders that are smokers tell stories about how an ordinary Bic lighter, when ignited all at once, is like an eighth of a stick of dynamite. It seems that welders forget that a lighter is in their shirt pocket, and when hot slag hits it, it goes poof!
High and Tight Places
As if all of the above weren’t bad enough, welders work construction, which means they are often times placed in high or tight spaces. Most welders therefore, do not suffer from acrophobia or claustrophobia, mostly because they are too stupid to be afraid. I have welded hanging 80 feet above the bottom of an empty dry dock on rickety, shaking-in-the-breeze scaffolding. Likewise, I have crawled forty feet into a catapult system in spaces so tight you couldn’t turn around.
And welders often fall or are killed in explosions. Sometimes both!
This is how most stupid welders avoid collecting retirement checks-
Just because welders are stupid, it doesn’t mean that I hate all welders. True, I hated the occupation, but the fine Americans that comprise the steelworkers union are mostly good people that work hard. But they are still stupid. However, America needs its welders to put our ships together, to build our skyscrapers and our bridges. But I must say that if there is ever any occupation most deserving of replacing its workers with robots, it has to be welding.
If you are one of the smart welders that know how to work email, feel free to send comments or share a welding war story with me. I may even post it here! Or, you can register with the site and post a comment, but it will be moderated.