Retrotechtacular: So You Want to Be a Weldor

Welding is one of those things that takes minutes to learn and years to master. It requires coordination, strength, and a good pair of eyes. This vocational guidance video from the early 1940s touches on these points and more for those considering careers in welding. The narrator jumps right in, discussing welding types, equipment operation, and employment opportunities in both the welding field itself and other fields that use welding techniques.

Oxy-acetylene welding is one of the oldest methods of fusing metal. A flame fueled by a specific mixture of pure oxygen and acetylene gas heats the metal welding rod and the work piece to plasticity, which allows them to join together. An oxy-acetylene setup can also be used to cut metal, though a special cutting torch with a kind of oxygen turbo boost lever is required. The work piece is heated to red-hot at the point along the edge where the cut will start. The oxygen-rich flame will cut right through the piece.

Spot welding is an electrical method for joining thinner sheets of metal. The pieces are slid between two copper electrodes. When current is applied to the electrodes, the sheet metal’s resistance makes the metal heat up to a fusible temperature. Depressing the foot pedal brings the electrodes together, and the two sheets are joined.

Arc welding is another kind of electrical technique. The work piece is grounded to the generator, and current is applied through a welding rod. Touching the rod to the work piece closes the circuit and creates an arc. The heat melts the metal of the joint and the welding rod, fusing them together. Higher-quality welds can be achieved by using a specially coated rod, which shields the joint from environmental impurities.

Believe it or not, they actually take one or two safety precautions in this film. Hardly anybody operates a torch without goggles or a full mask, and most of the weldors are wearing leather aprons and gloves. There’s even a special uniform for pipeline weld inspectors that can double as a barbershop quartet getup.

Retrotechtacular is a weekly column featuring hacks, technology, and kitsch from ages of yore. Help keep it fresh by sending in your ideas for future installments.

27 thoughts on “Retrotechtacular: So You Want to Be a Weldor

  1. Actually, if you’d done your homework you’d know that arc welding pre-dates oxy/acet welding by several decades.
    I’m sure that most people would guess fire (oxy/acet) is older than electricity (arc welding), but they’d be wrong.
    1888 is the magic year for arc welding (invention of electrodes for welding steel) and 1901 is one for oxy/acetylyene welding (invention of the mixing chamber/welding torch).
    http://victortechnologies.com/index.php/news/672-a-historic-review-of-the-oxy-acetylene-and-plasma-cutting-processes
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arc_welding#History

    1. “Oxy-acetylene welding is one of the oldest methods of fusing metal.” This sentence doesn’t claim it to be the oldest, or older than any one thing in particular.

      By your own math: 1901 – 1888 = 13

      TIL 13 years is “several decades”.

        1. if wikipedia says putting 2 pieces of cheese in the microwave, the exact is welded, then i wildly presume having a campfire or bbq compliments the theory, in that case i nominate cavemen of BC to dibz welding

  2. I’d rather be a weldor rather than a welder. A welder is the thing a weldor uses to weld. Look for “The Oxy-Acetylene Weldor’s Handbook”. Be persistent, Google and other search engines will attempt to incorrect it to Welder’s.

    To be a welder, a person would need to be some kind of mutant, able to shoot high temperature flames or electric arcs from their fingertips.

    1. Faster than a run-on sentence, more powerful than an overused semicolon, able to leap a dangling participle in a single bound, look! Down on the page! It’s a noun, it’s a gerund, It’s PEDANTIC MAN!

      In all seriousness, this is not consensus and “welder” for the human operator is found in works from the 1920’s. There are a couple of references that suggest the distinction was made when electric welding was invented but it’s never been a matter of settled language use. Act-er and act-or are both legitimate suffixes for “one who acts” and in practical use both are acceptable for act == weld.

    2. “To be a welder, a person would need to be some kind of mutant, able to shoot high temperature flames or electric arcs from their fingertips.”
      “I’d rather be a weldor rather than a welder.”

      I bet you’re the type of person who makes a lunch of low-sodium saltines and tap water.

    3. I can see them make a movie character from that, a person with the ability to weld with his fingers, it would make a lot of mcgyver type stuff possible as he fights evil (or creates evil) with impromptu stuff.
      And being a movie character we can ignore the missing welding sticks and the oxidation issues :)

    4. > To be a welder, a person would need to be some kind of mutant, able to shoot high temperature flames or electric arcs from their fingertips.

      Cool! Well in that case – yes, I’d rather be a welder than a weldor… :-D

  3. You don’t -need- a special head to make a cut. I’m sure heads exist that optimize it but you can cut just fine with a regular torch head as long as the flame is lean and you’ve got enough heat/Oxygen for a given thickness.
    With a big enough work piece you don’t even need a gas fuel once the work is up to the right temperature, the oxidation puts out enough heat on it’s own to keep the heat going. That’s basically the operating theory of a thermal lance: Use the work piece as the fuel.

  4. Saw ‘weldor’ in the headline and knew it would be on like Donkey Kong. It is not in current use (most people think you’re misspelling the word) but I approve, being a useful distinction to make between machine and technician. One and another company tried to make “weldor” as a term stick at different times–Lincoln and Hobart come to mind.

    1. Although laser welders have come along way in the past few years, I’d say that Electron Beam Welding is still the strongest welding technique we currently have and is excellent for small intricate welds and large welds.

      Though, I am a design engineer for a company that makes EB Welders so my opinion is prehaps a little bias :)

        1. “Pretty much everyone”. So, not everyone then.

          I think what you are seeing is the evolution of English. Nobody confuses “welder” (the person) with “welder” (the equipment). “weldor” is archaic, and nobody uses it (check Google if you like).

          What do you call an oxy-acetylene torch? Is it a welder, or is it a torch?

          I suppose words like “weaver”, “spinner”, “cooper” and “writer” are also wrong?

    1. i would say i learned to weld at age 10 ..with a coat hanger and a oxy propane torch ,,on my bike frame..and ill agree it takes a lifetime to master…but i did weld the frame….ie while doing it i was a “welder”..

      you want hard to learn….try glass blowing.. that you cant learn in ten mins

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