The Welder From Hell

Crappy pic, but the welding is really well done...

Finding bolt grip length with welding rod...


I have spent literally months tweaking the wing rigging with the sole objective of achieving a perfect a fit as possible for the I-struts since these will dictate the angle of incidence. So, you can imagine my bitter disappointment when someone you are paying a fair wage to comes into your little hangar world like a recently castrated (like..10 minutes earlier) bull in a china shop.

I am still in my early learning days of gas welding, and I really didn’t want to venture around my hard-earned-sweat-built wooden wings with a torch, so I decided to get in a mobile TIG welder guy, who had come recommended.

The plan was to tack weld everywhere I told him to, then while everything was in situ, finish weld what he could, remove the struts, then finish them up on the bench…yeah right...

I knew things were not going to go to plan as soon as he arrived 90 minutes late, and immediately told me “I hate working on darn airplanes”, and “this is a new/different TIG machine than I am used to, I have no foot pedal with me, so I will tack them and take them back to the factory to finish them”.

He then proceeded to huff and puff and whine like I’ve never heard anyone whine before, comments like:

“I am never coming out to this airport for my boss ever again!”

“There is no room, my helmet keeps clashing on everything”

“I can’t tack that side, there’s no room”

He cursed every time his welding rod clashed with a rib, so I told him to bend the damn thing half or cut it, but he preferred a ‘full rod’ :-| . This all happened in the first 5 minutes! I told him to STOP, and explained to him in no uncertain terms that if he wasn’t happy doing his job on my airplane, then he can get out of there. This seemed to calm him a little, and he then carried on. However, he soon got back into rush-job-whiny-mode, and insisted that the second I-strut needed tacks only on one side of all the tubes because the steel was “special aircraft steel, very stable, and will not move during finish welding”! At this point, I knew he was ‘done’, I know I certainly was, so I just calmly watched him pack up and go. His parting comment was “bring them down to the shop tomorrow and I will finish them- see ya”. Of course at this point I was already mulling over plans to rectify this cluster f***, and he most definitely would never see my I-struts again.

Seth to the rescue

I removed the struts from the wing, and of course, one of the tacks broke. Now that I had lightly tacked I-struts, my biggest concern was movement during finish welding. I took them to a local multi time plane builder called Seth who I have used for bits and bobs before. He told me he would weld the opposite tacks before finishing welding, and he would finish weld by welding opposite sides a little at a time to minimize the movement as best he could. Over the few days I was waiting for the work to be done I was of course, anxious.

When the day came to fit them, the lucky silver lining in all of this is that the darn things fitted perfectly! :-o :-)

No persuading of the steel was necessary, so I clamped them in place, drilled-marked through the spars into the steel box sections, removed the struts, drilled the bolt holes with a weak ¼ inch bit, clamped back into place, then sent a ¼ inch reamer through the spars and through the steel - no stress relieving necessary, so I promptly pressed my new Easy button (see pic), this plays an audio clip “that was easy!” when pushed. While I had all this going on, I figured I would establish the exact lengths of bolts required so I could buy them and store away. I used a marked welding rod for establishing bolt grip length.

With all that completed, I realized I had just passed a huge milestone…I could now dismantle the wings and finally move forward with something else. Now the wings are off, my hangar has grown 70% overnight :-)

This cheers me up whether a task was easy or difficult...