Musings from a Military Welding Manual Part 2

The old Military manual I retrieved from my father’s library on welding seems to pick up speed by introducing Oxy Acetylene in the second section after dealing with basic metal characteristics, metal production and safety.  Oxy-Acetylene has changed relatively little in the years since the second world war, though new Oxy fuels have been introduced such as propane, and propylene, have become reasonably priced heat source alternatives and Plasma cutters have cut into the market as a quicker, less costly method of cutting virtually any metal.  Then Acetylene generators were popular. These were devices (rather large to an extent) that would take calcium carbide, and water and generate acetylene.   I can’t help but think we’d be better off at keeping rapidly rising prices of Acetylene down, if we had a few of those stuffed in our garages, but then again, we may not have many garages left if things went wrong!  Of course they had acetylene cylinders then, but the things they used to fill them to hold the acetone to stabilize them are a little different from what the “honey comb” material is today.  According to the manual, “balsa wood, charcoal, finely shredded asbestos, infusorial earth, corn pith, and Portland cement” were common stabilizing agents that would soak up the acetone inside the cylinders that Acetylene is dissolved in.  I am sure that several of these would no longer be used. Rightly so, it tackles Oxy-Acetylene welding AND brazing.  Quite a few of you might be surprised to find that before TIG welders, Oxy-Acetylene was all the rage ( and really the only reliable method of welding certain metals and was extensively used to weld everything from ship hulls to airplane frames).  Still to this day, the best trained, and most capable welders I know were trained in the science of welding with an Oxy-Acetylene torch.  Personally, that is the way I started.  I don’t claim to be the world’s best welder and attach a moniker like “ SeÑor Welder” to myself, but it greatly helped me to easily master all other forms of welding.   Now, many debate the best way to start to learn to weld, but it seemed the War Department of the United States in 1943 felt that it had it figured out in the face of a world-wide war when training welders rapidly and proficiently was critical to the war effort.  You can still buy welding attachments for any oxy acetylene torch.   At some point, due to high prices, government restrictions, and constant shortages, Oxy-Acetylene will begin to fade away from use, but as of today, plenty of places still are using it every day and it will be around for some time.   I still recommend to customers that they consider buying an oxy fuel setup before tackling the purchase of a welder or a plasma cutter. Technology changes for sure, but the principles that can be learned from oxy acetylene welding and cutting transfer to any form of welding or cutting and equips you with the skills you need. No other single machine or tool a well-equipped shop has will give you that.

Look for part 3 of Musings from a military welding manual tomorrow.

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