Cool old can of welding rods
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  1. #1
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    Default Cool old can of welding rods

    I was at an auction today. I helped a guy carry out his purchases I was admiring some welding rod he brought. He gave me a can for helping him. Papers were inside the can. Can’t find a date anywhere.


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    Much more colorful than Lincoln's 50lb square cans.

    Which actual variety of Eutectic brand rod did you get?

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    Not sure, the rod type was on a sticker that fell off long ago. The rods are 1/8”
    The tube the rods are in are cardboard with brass threads on end.

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    Might be stainless rods.....Ive got similar tins of eutectic rods that are 310 type stainless..........although .with such a fancy closure,I might suspect aluminium rods............which soak up moisture like a sponge..........You should be able to get a good idea from the exposed metal of the rods....The white powder suggests moisture has already been present...................mainly they arent the old Lincoln cellulose rods.......using cellulose rods is like sitting in the middle of a firework.........I once gave a guy half a ton of cellulose rods..........he used them to fill holes in driveway........I sold tons of them for scrap,the scrappies rescued them,next time I was at the scrapyard,the tins were all back on the scrap pile.

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    check them with a magnet at least, the can is really cool, but i think the rods, not so much...

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    I agree: the rod container and the printed information in it are quite a little "time capsule". Eutectic is still in business, as "Eutectic Castolin" if I am not mistaken. Like so many firms, they are probably a part of some mega merged entity. I was surprised when I looked up several of the older "specialty" welding filler metal manufacturers to find they are either part of ESAB or some of the other bigger names.

    I remember when I started my career, we used to get 50 lb cans of Lincoln electrode that were "real cans"- having a crimped seam around the ends. I remember the pipefitters and boilermakers would often open the cans by grinding thru the crimped seam and peeling back a portion of the end of the cans. Now, the 50 lb cans come with a "pop top"- a round section in one end that opens as you'd open a can (or tin) or some soups or foods.

    Funny thing is recalling the matter of keeping the stick electrodes nice and dry- particularly the low hydrogen electrodes. On the regular jobs, we had the round "rod ovens"- usually painted a light green. The crafts took "rod cans" with them, each can holding enough electrode to see them through the day's work, and having its own heating element. In the everyday shops such as repair shops and town highway garages, the rod ovens were another matter. In winter, the cans of electrode would often be stacked on top of the wood stoves or waste-oil heaters. In many shops, the "rod ovens" were old home refrigerators with a 100 watt lightbulb hung inside. While not getting as warm as a regular rod oven, it kept the electrodes above the dew point of the ambient air.

    I follow the oldtime backwoods approach to electrode storage: in winter, I stack my cans of electrode like cordwood on top of the smokebox of the coal fired heating boiler. The rod taken from the cans is usually so hot I have to wear gloves to handle it. Come spring and the heating boilers are cold. If I have Low Hydrogen electrode laying around in an opened can for any length of time (weeks or more), before getting out to a job, I will bake it in the kitchen oven for a couple of hours. Best to do this when my wife is not in the house as she might take exception to the idea of baking welding electrode in the same range that we cook our food in.

    I was on one job at a nuke powerplant construction site. Babcock and Wilcox was on site, having supplied the reactor and steam generator. They had their own central "store" for welding filler metals, all of which were supplied with the usual documentation needed for nuke work. Instead of regular rod ovens, B & W had installed something like 8 or 10 electric "built in" ovens as would be used in home kitchens. The site carpenters had made a framework out of lumber and form plywood, and the ovens were set into it. Looked like an appliance showroom. There were calibration stickers on each oven attesting to the accuracy of the temperature controls. Each oven was packed with welding electrodes. On the day before Christmas, the tradition was for those jobsites to erupt into parties given by various contractors, various crews, unions, and departments. Rules as to alcohol on the jobsites were disregarded. Food of all sorts was brought onto the sites. Men cut oil drums in half and made grills, using rosebuds to start the charcoal fires. Other men took propane construction heaters and various things like pipe and plate and made ovens or stoves to heat up food. Food ranged from pans of lasagna and similar to venison, wursts, roasts, and anything that the men liked or thought their buddies would like. Warming up the food took priority, and partying was the order of the day. No work was expected to be done, and the jobsites were usually knocked off before lunch with everyone getting the day's pay. It was necessary to knock the job off before lunch as if management waited any longer, the site would have a large number of drunken people with some risk to themselves and others, let alone driving home. The warming of the food predictably resulted in the ovens used to keep the welding electrodes warm and dry being emptied or re-arranged so pans and pots of food could be put into them. Supposedly, the wall ovens in the B & W welding metals storage area were loaded with pans of food and this attracted the attention of an inspector or two. The result was that all the welding electrode in those ovens had to be destroyed so it could not be used. The inspectors feared contamination of the flux from the food being warmed in the ovens. As the story went, several guys were detailed to bend each piece of electrode into a "U" to render it useless and break off the flux. The amount of electrode lost was at least several hundred pounds, and the worst part was it was all electrode with the documentation, heat numbers and all else needed for use on nuclear work. No one was ever taken to task for putting food in those rod ovens.

    On another job, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, in winter, we used to put pasties (Cornish "turnovers"- dough crust pockets filled with chunks of beef, potato, rutabaga, carrots, and similar) in the rod ovens each morning to be nice and hot for our lunch. We figured the pasties, wrapped in foil, were pretty innocuous and we never heard anything about it. The only time there was a problem with food in the rod ovens on that job was when some guy put in a can of pork and beans. He forgot to vent the can with a small hole. He went out on the site to work and come lunch time, when the rod oven was opened, the pork and beans had exploded and blasted over the welding rod in that oven. The pork and beans and gravy it was in all soaked into the flux on the electrode and baked dry and hard. That was a load of electrode that went into the junk heap. Once again, no one was taken to task, not that anyone was 'fessing up or throwing anyone in the bag for it.

    I was offered a load of "mystery" welding electrode last year. There must have been 100 lbs or so, and it was all 5/32" diameter. The electrodes had been out in the ambient atmosphere for so many years that the flux was crumbling and it was impossible to determine what alloy or designation the electrodes were. That load went in the dumpster.

    I buy my stick electrode in 10 lb cans, and they have the "pop top" end. I burn my way through a few cans a month on various jobs. The empty 10 lb rod cans come in handy for holding things like bearing scrapers or fusees (railroad flares or road flares). The 50 lb rod cans used to be cut up for shim stock on some jobs overseas, and I knew some men took the old 50 lb rod cans (the kind the ends had to be opened at the seams) and deep fried breaded shrimp and breaded fish fillets in them on a jobsite. Those were the days when the big powerplants were being built in the USA and the jobsites were populated by a whole subculture of heavy construction people who were clannish and proud. It was a wilder time, and we had a lot more freedom and were not constantly being subjected to "corporate procedures", "mission statements", and being told about "political correctness" and told how corporate had merged with some other outfit or hired some more political whores as VP's. We were out on the jobsites and building powerplants and went where the jobs took us, a people apart from the regular population in the towns where the plants were being built. I was a part of it, and I look back on those times with fondness and the realization that the corporate button-down environment and the lack of any big powerplant projects in the USA has pretty much wiped out that era. I still have the stainless steel thermos with a handle made of stainless steel instrument tubing from my first job in 1972, and still wear a belt buckle made of stainless steel pipe and instrument tubing, TIG'd together in a welding test booth on a nuke job in 1973. Back "in the day", the handle on the thermos and the belt buckle were like wearing a lodge button, and even now, older men see my belt buckle and will ask me what jobs I worked on. As a Certified Welding Inspector, as well as a Professional Engineer, I still keep a hand in the work and still enjoy my profession. The electrode cans are stacked on top of the boiler down in our basement, awaiting another job or project. Not so classy as that old Eutectic container, and the new molded plastic electrode containers certainly do not have the class of that old Eutectic container either.

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    Joe,

    I really enjoyed your tales of the old days.
    I started in the nuclear industry just over 15 years ago, and have heard these stories from the older guys still around.

    Even in the relatively short time I've been in the industry, the rate of change seems to be getting exponentially faster.

    We're completely overwhelmed with stupid rules, usually written by some idiot who's never actually done the job, to the point that it often takes three times the time and frustration just to get something done.

    The answer to every problem is another form, to the point that we're often documenting the same info on three or more forms during an evolution.

    They set quotas for number of "observations" everyone needs to submit, so there's always someone wandering around trying to "catch" someone who overlooked some insignificant rule so they can write it up.

    I'll be so happy when I can retire in a few more years, as it's just not much fun anymore.

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  11. #8
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    When I get to feeling a little bit better I will burn a couple to see how they behave.

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    I've been out or the Nuclear Industry for 20+ years, but still keep in touch with the younger guys (now not so young). I hear the same stories, gone are the days of "Big Science" when everyone just wanted to successfully do the impossible. I was lucky enough to have experienced some of that!

    Catching someone in something was not the mindset. Bootstrapping everyone in the team to success was expected... lots of peer pressure to make it so!

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    I was fortune in that I worked, however briefly, on the construction and startup of two nuke powerplants in 1973-76. In those days, it was the old Atomic Energy Commission, rather than the NRC, and times were vastly different. As Cyclotronguy has noted, people helped each other, not just to bring a project on line, but off site and also brought green and cocky kids like me into line and along. I was also quite fortunate to be brought into line and taught by men who had been civilian engineers working for Admiral Hyman Rickover on the reactor prototypes in Idaho Falls and on actual submarine nuclear plants. Those guys were "engineer's engineers" and saw through the cockiness of a young engineer (me), and set me straight and taught me not just engineering but how to think, reason, keep my head and carry myself on the job. As if those guys were not tough enough, there was a whole contingent who worked with us who were ex nuke Navy chiefs. They were great. They taught me to weigh every word, as it would be turned into some humorous remark, usually turned agains me. If one comment summed up all of these guys, it was the answer to any question I had about the plant and its systems: "You have eyes in your head, don't you ?"- meaning: go out and study the systems and equipment, study the drawings, and when you hit a wall trying to figure it out, THEN come to me with a REAL question. They were some of the greatest teachers and as I got older, I remember them with nothing but respect and fondness, despite their riding me hard (or so it seemed to a green and cocky kid). They were up for tomfoolery and pranks and telling sea stories, but they also pulled together and ALWAYS got the work done and then some. Off site, the teaching often continues in such unlikely places as barrooms and restaurants, where some seemingly unrelated common thing could bring on a lesson about some principals related to plant systems and equipment. Government jobs (jobs for home) were done at the nuke construction sites in those days, and those engineers and ex-chiefs designated me as their "dog robber" or some other sea going term. I learned a lot of practical skills from the crafts on those jobs- the boilermakers, pipefitters, and millwrights all taking the time to teach and interested kid and let him try his hand. The engineers and ex CPO's encouraged this as well. It was the BEST postgraduate school imaginable, let academia be damned. I ran figures for anything I designed and the ex-Rickover engineers checked them and reviewed the jobs, and eventually turned me loose to design temporary piping systems and rigging on my own. I miss those guys and often wonder what became of them. They had a few years on me, but would not be so old as to no longer be with us.

    The client at Millstone Nuclear Powerplant had one of their own engineers with some unique credentials. I still remember his name, which is Warren Richter. Warren Richter had been the Second Assistant Engineer on the N/S (nuclear ship) Savannah- the world's only nuclear powered merchant vessel. Richter may well have had one of the few US marine engineer's licenses for nuclear powerplants.

    There was no friction between the client's people and our group. We were all on the same team, and the goal was to get a powerplant built and make it the best of its class. People were friendly, kidded around, and took the time to help and teach. I found the same environment in the hydroelectric plants, and wound up making my formal working career in the hydroelectric plants. I come to realize I was working in something of a throwback or "bubble", where things were laid back, not so tightly controlled as to be buried under endless procedures and paperwork to do the simplest things, and where you could grab a length of pipe or other material and send a crew off to do a job with it without having a ton of documentation beforehand. I heard tales of the changes in the nuke industry, and we had a few men at our hydro plant who had come from the nuclear side of the house and ex nuke navy. They were first class guys all around, and I know they enjoyed the relative freedom and degree of trust placed in us at the hydro plants to work more on our own.

    If I ever had a chance to meet up with the engineers and ex CPO's from my days on the nuke construction sites, the first words out of my mouth would be those of thanks and appreciation.

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