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"Kevin's sculptures are quite striking. I love how he captures both geometric shapes and the fluidity and asymmetry of nature."
--Sara Adams, proprietor of Happy Folding, Oxford, U.K.

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Arc Welding Technique, Part 2

The Voice: Hey, Kevin. What are you doing now?

Kevin Caron: I'm going to show you a little more about arc welding here in the studio; how to start it, how to get the arc going, how to keep it the correct distance so you don't stick to the electrode or lose your arc.

I'm going to just do a little weld here and chip it off so you can see what the slag looks like as it comes off. You know about all that, right?

The Voice: I will in a minute.

Kevin Caron: I've got some eighth-inch metal plate here and we're going to set it up real quick. But first, let me show you this part of the arc welder: the electrode holder (this is the electrode); it's just a steel core with flux on the outside of it. As you're welding, the flux will melt and seal over your weld, just like the gas on the TIG and the MIG welders do. That's what this is for.

When you want to start your arc, there are two different ways you can do it. You can scratch it and get it going and then just get the correct distance away, and that distance is about an eighth of an inch; maybe a little more, little less, depending on what conditions you're working in. But about an eighth of an inch is about right.

Get it started. Get that little distance up above your weld, about that eighth of an inch to about a quarter of an inch, and then you just have to keep that distance as you're moving along, to keep your arc going.

But the thing you've got to remember is, as you're welding, this electrode gets shorter so you have to keep moving your hand in at the same time to maintain your distance and also keep moving down your weld at the same time.

It takes a little hand-eye coordination. You've got to remember: this thing's getting shorter all the time. The easy way to do it is to take your finger (this is how I used to practice with it), scratch your finger on the table, get your arc going, and you've just got to be able to hold that distance above the table. That's part of it.

Then remember, you just have to feed in. It's really easy once you get started.
Here, let me show you. See, you can just scratch the rod like this. (welding)

That's one way to get the arc started. Look over here on this other end. Let me show you the other way.

The Voice: So you're just putting some tacks on there?

Kevin Caron: Yes. I put a couple of little tacks on it just so I can get my fingers away from it while I'm welding. Now I'll show you how to just tap it. (welding)

Those are the two different ways: scratch it like a match, get your distance right so you can work it along and start your puddle going, or you just tap it. Either way will work.

Got your helmet on?

The Voice: Yep.

Kevin Caron: Here we go. (welding)

And that's arc welding. Or, more properly, shielded metal arc welding. It's a metal rod that's shielded with the flux. It's SMAW: shielded metal arc welding.

So, let that cool off for just a second and turn the welder off. Then get your chipping hammer and knock that slag off so you can see how your weld looks. It's kind of like Christmas every time you do it - you never know what you're going to get. (hammering)

Can you see all the little slag? That's the flux off the rod, and that's there just to help protect the molten weld until it cools, just like the gas does on the MIG welder or the TIG welder. The flux is there to protect the weld.

Come here; take a look. Not bad for somebody who hasn't done it in a long time.

Hope that answers your questions. We'll talk next time.

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