The art of welding iron is probably as old as the earliest production of that metal by man; in fact, the reduction of iron in the primitive forges demanded the union by welding of the reduced particles, for no true fusion could have resulted, the percentage of carbon present being too low. Until the closing years of the last century iron was the only weldable metal, if we except gold and platinum, - -too expensive for common application.
The fact that nearly pure iron, so difficult to melt, becomes quite plastic at high temperatures, while the oxide or black scale melts long before the metal itself becomes fluid, thus providing a liquid flux which is squeezed out during the process of union, accounts for the unique position which iron held until recent years. When, however, the heating effects of electric current energy, so perfectly under control, were applied to weld metals, a metal or alloy which would not weld became the exception, instead of the rule, as before. Much of the former work of the smithy fire is now accomplished by the electric welding transformer, and although many metals are easily manipulated by the electric process, iron, of course, still occupies, as ever, the principal place.
The electric weld is becoming a more and more important factor in many industries. During recent years the extension of its application has been steady, and each year has witnessed its entrance into new fields. Sometimes, indeed, new manufactures, or new ways of obtaining results have been based upon its use. The electric welds under consideration are the results of that operation of uniting two pieces of metal by what is known as the Thomson process, first brought out by the writer and rendered available in commercial practice a considerable number of years ago. The rapidity, flexibility, cleanliness, neatness, accuracy, and economy of the electric process has won for it such an important standing in the arts that many future extensions in its application are assured.
Note: This article by Prof. Elihu Thomson, the inventor of the system of Electric Welding, first appeared in Cassiera' Magazine, and is here reprinted by special permission.
The uniformity of the work, the control of the operation, the extreme localisation of the heat to the particular parts to be united, and the fact that the process is not limited to iron and steel, but can deal equally well with other metals, such as copper, brass, bronzes, and even lead, are characteristics of the electric welding operation.
In its simplest form, an electric welder consists of a special transformer, the primary circuit of which receives current from an electric station or dynamo gener. ator, at a voltage usually from one hundred to five hundred times that required to make a weld. The copper secondary circuit of the transformer is generally only a single turn of very large section, so that it may develop an extremely heavy current at from two to four volts, - an electric pressure so low that it cannot give the least effect of shock, and one for which there is no difficulty in securing perfect insulation. The work pieces are held in clamps or vises, attached to or carried upon the terminals of the single-turn secondary circuit. The control of the clamping devices and the current switch is either manual, or, in some cases, entirely automatic. Without attempting to enumerate the many applies-tions of electric welding in the arts, we may refer to a few examples.
ELECTRIC WELDING MACHINE FOR IRON AND STEEL PIPE.
ELECTRIC TIRE-WELDING MACHINE.
In the waggon and carriage industry the process is applied in the production of tires of all sections, axles, hub, spoke and sand bands, fifth wheels, shifting rails, steps, shaft iron, etc., while it has found a large use in the welding into continuous strips or bands of the wires inclosed in rubber tires for holding them in place. The larger part of the dash-frames used in car-riagea in the United States are now probably made by electric welding, while iron and steel agricultural wheels are built up, or have their parts united, by electric welds.
To euumerate the many applications to the bicycle industry would be almost to catalogue most of the metal parts of this useful machine. It must be borne in mind, too, that a welding machine, slightly modified, is equally applicable for locally heating parts in electric brazing or hard soldering, for upsetting, and for bending or shaping. Bicycle crank hangers, pedals, seat-posts, fork and fork ends, frames and brake parts thus become products in which the welding transformer has its part. It has found a useful field also in tool manufacture, such as drills, reamers, taps, band and circular saws, drawing knives, carpenter's squares, printer's chases, etc., etc., and electric welding has a closely related use in the production of machine parts. Cam shafts and crank-shafts are made from drop forgings welded together, teeth are inserted into gear wheels, and teeth are welded to saw bodies, including stone saws. Such things as inking rolls in printing machines and fallers for looms are additional examples.
In the wire industry the part played by electric welding is already quite important, and becomes steadily more so. Besides the mere simple joining of wires of iron, steel or copper into long lengths, the welding of wire or strip into hoops for barrels, tubs, pails, etc., is supplanting the older forms. Numerous machines are in operation turning out electrically-welded wire fence, much as a loom turns out cloth. In pipe bending and coiling, as in uniting ordinary lengths of pipe into very long lengths without screw joints, the electric weld has a special adaptability. Hun-dreds of miles of street railway rails have been welded into continuous lengths and now exist in many cities. Where rails are bonded only, the electric welder assists in the production of brazed or welded bonds.