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Little information was published during the War years.  No doubt some of this is due to security.  The picture and comments below it are typical of what the Submerged Arc process was able to accomplish in shipbuilding.


In a June 1999 Welding Journal article entitled, Welding's Vital Part in Major American Historical Events” written by Bob Irving, he quotes an interesting anecdote about the Submerged Arc process:

The importance of welding was emphasized early in the war when President Roosevelt sent a letter to Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who is said to have read it aloud to the members of Britain's House of Commons. The letter read in part, "Here there had been developed a welding technique which enables us to construct standard merchant ships with a speed unequaled in the history of merchant shipping."

The technique the President was referring to was undoubtedly Submerged Arc welding, which was capable of joining steel plate as much as 20 times faster than any other welding process at that time.

An interesting statistic is presented in a 200 page 1947 report prepared by the US Surgeon Generals Office evaluating WW II shipyard welders health issues (Reference 15.)  They examined over 3000 welders.  They provided some statistics regarding welding methods.  It was stated that a Liberty Ship required 37.5 miles of welds.  Stick welding was employed for 30 miles  and 7.5 miles (20%) was made with submerged arc welding (which they referred to as Unionmelt, the Linde Divisions Trade Name for the process.)  Although not a direct correlation to the Liberty Ship statistic,  they also defined the percentage of welders who performed arc welding versus as they stated "Unionmelt" welding in shipyards.  Stick welders constituted 80%  while Unionmelt welders were listed at  6.2%. 

The discrepancy between the footage of welds made (20%) and the number of welders (6.2%) is understandable.  Unionmelt (submerged arc) welds were often very heavy and used for butt welding deck plates,  hull plates in shop, etc.  It was common to weld at very high currents.  One fused flux widely used in WW II, Unionmelt Grade 20, employed a manufacturing QA test using straight length 3/8 inch diameter rods welding at 2000 amps! (Of note, that Grade 20 flux production QA test was employed though the early 2000's!  It was interesting to see the hole in the QA Lab where the 3/8 inch rod protruded through the ceiling!)  Weld deposition rate was  4 to 5  times higher than stick welding.  Its likely the 7.5 miles of submerged arc welds were at least twice as heavy as stick welds.  It would not be surprising if the amount of deposited weld metal with submerged arc was about 30% of the total deposited in a ship.  One of the few remaining uses of heavy welding is Diesel Electric traction motor cases where 2 inch thick material is welded with two passes, one from each side.  That weld is made with a single electrode operating at about 1500 amps.

An interesting anecdote relates to a discussion with a shipyard welding engineer in the late 1960's.  He was working at Sun Ship in Philadelphia Pennsylvania and had worked there during WW II.  I asked why they were not using submerged arc welding to weld deck plates when it was widely used in WW II.  He said; "During WW II when we asked the fitting crew to fit the deck plates so you could not fit a business card in the gap, it was done.  Today if I ask for that to be done they would laugh!"  Shows the "will do" attitude during that war time environment.  He also said; "The shipyard management periodically swapped the welding supervision with the fitting supervision.  The fitting crews soon learned what poor fit-up meant to the welders!"


The process was used by many industries so it would be unrealistic to try to list them all.  These few pictures provide a view of some early applications:



An old friend and colleague Clarence Jackson was Associate Manager of the Linde Laboratories when I joined. He was an expert in Submerged Arc welding, the Department where I worked. He was a wealth of knowledge about the technical aspects and science of Submerged Arc welding.  Since unlike the other young  engineers in the Laboratory who  all worked  in the MIG/TIG (GMAW/GTAW) Department I could not see the arc and weld puddle!  Clarence and an oscilloscope were my “eyes” into what was occurring under all that “powder!”  Clarence was AWS President 1963-64.  He then went to Ohio Sate where he was a Professor in the Welding Department.  Clarence remained a good friend and every year I provided his laboratory with fluxes, flux raw materials etc. 

Clarence presented the American Welding Societies Adams Lecture in 1959.  Entitled The Science of Arc Welding it is a wealth of information and a summary of the science of the time.  I urge all students of welding to read this 30 page document, published in the Welding Journal (See Below).  There are 80 references listed and equations presented not only for Submerged Arc but for other arc processes as well.

When you review Clarence’s technical work such as his work on Submerged Arc Weld penetration you are overwhelmed by the number of laboratory tests conducted.  A fellow who worked with me for many years, Jim Newman, had worked for Clarence and would discuss the many months spent making welds in an Edisonian fashion to assure all parameters were evaluated.

In the Closure statement in his Adams Lecture he states his philosophy of research: “Engineering knowledge starts with the accumulation of empirical data, which to begin with, can only be qualitative.  As new approaches are used, and especially when new methods of measurement and techniques for studying the phenomena become available, these qualitative data gradually develop into quantitative data which serve as a basis for the theoretical analysis of the phenomena which we are studying.” 

When you review his published work you’ll agree he was very through and developed simple to understand and easy to use models and methods. All of the 80 references in that publication but suggest for those interested in understanding what is occurring under the Submerged Arc flux read the following Jackson published papers:

  1. C. E Jackson, "The Science of Arc Welding," The Welding Journal, (39) (Three Parts) 129-s to 140-s;177-s to 190-s; and 225-s to 230-s
  2. C. E. Jackson and A. E. Shrubsall, “Energy Distribution in Electric Welding,” The Welding Journal, 29 (10) Research Supplement 520-a to 521a (1959).
  3.  C. E. Jackson and A. E. Shrubsall, “Control of Penetration and Melting Ratio with Welding Technique,” The Welding Journal, 32 (4) Research Supplement 172-s to 178-s (1953).
  4. "The Effect of I2RHeating on Electrode Melting Rate," by Wilson, Claussen and Jackson, The Welding Journal, 1956, 35(1), pp 1-s


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