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  1. #1
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    Default Cutting with a gas torch

    As I was saying my o/a welding was coming along pretty well, and honestly now it's just a matter of practice and a few tips as I learn what other metals than steel and cast iron I can weld with a flame. According to Harrison gas is the most versatile welding process, he says everything from aluminum to steel and stainless and carbon steel can be done as well as some hardfacing. Like I say, just a matter of practice from now on.

    The next logical step in the learning according to Harrison is flame burning steel which is what he calls cutting with the O/A torch. He has this end of his bench set up for burning with a top on it that sort of looks like the stairplate on a fireescape, bunch of slats standing up. Being a man of skill his burning bench is about as set up as one can be, and every spring and fall gets cleaned out. I tell you that bench has more bells and whistles than anything I ever came across. I'm going to do my best to describe what I can recall, but I might miss something. Underneath of the slat part is a pan about 6" deep with a stainless pan inside of the first one. The stainless pan always has about an inch of water in it so when you cut instead of the stuff that normally falls on the floor falling onthe floor it lands in the water and chills off right away to minimize fire potential. The water pan has a drain pretty much like a bathroom sink drain that just sticks out through the wall so you can change the water, or leave the pan dry till you want to use it. When you let the water out there's this sort of metal catbox shovel you can pick up all them little round gobs of what Harrison calls carmel out and toss them in the scrap.

    Them slats that look like a fire escape stair ain't really. You could use that kind of slat, but as you cut across a slat with a torch or plazma you'd nick the heck out of the slat. That ain't a good thing cause you'd have to replace the slats sooner. Harrison made his up with pieces of half inch angle iron on top of 1" x 1/4" strap steel and he has these square ceramic rods that sit inthe groove. When you cut across the ceramic instead of the torch popping back or nicking the slat, it just goes smooth as silk. So you don't bust up the ceramic dragging material across it them slats travel up and down with a lever so they ain't touching the steel when you slide it, and are when you go to cutting. When the slats are down there are these ball bearing caster balls that ride the steel across the table. If that ain't complecated enough, there's an exhaust blower that carrys off all the smoke from cutting. The blower ain't all that big, sort of about the size of the blower in the heater of a Ford truck. I tell you Harrison thought of about everything a man could think of when he built that baby.

    Well, it being spring here, I got to help clean out the whole dang cutting table. Just ike the rest the cleaning was thought out in advance, and set up right. That ductpipe that goes outside from the blower outlet slips off the blower by just undoing a spring by flipping the spring over a lug on the pipe. Then you can look at the inside of the pipe and see if it needs to be pulled out for a brushing with a mineature chimneysweep brush. Then the blower comes undone from the big box with a couple springlatches like on old Jeeps, and you take that out and give it a good shaking and blow the wheel out with compressed air so there ain't anything clinging to the wheel that would drop efficiency. When everything's clean the whole setup snaps back together quicker than I typed this. We got everything all cleaned up and back together, and I got to learning to cut steel with a torch.

    Like I was saying before they call it burning steel cause once you get a little puddle of molten steel there you just hit the lever and add a large amount of pure oxygen, and the molten steel becomes a fuel. It's a little hard to wrap your mind around till you see it up close and watch it happen. You change the tip part of the torch from a welding tip to a cutting head, and then you open the green valve that adjusts the welding oxygen all the way. Then you open up the tanks just like when youre welding, and get to lighting the cutting head tip. Thats pretty much like lighting the welding tip except now you adjust the oxygen on a green valve onthe side of the cutting head. It sounds a lot trickeir than it is. On the cutter instead of 1 flame like yo have onthe welding tip you've got about half a dozen small flames around the big hole in the middle of the tip. They all light off together, but no flame comes out the middle hole. Once you get it all adjusted so it looks about like you got 6 welding flames, you hit the lever for just a second to make sure the little flames called preheat flames don't blow out. If you got it right them 6 flames shrink back toward the tip when the lever is pushed. Right about here I'm feeling pretty dang proud, and think I'm good to go.

    Well not so quick I wasn't. Harrison has me shut the torch off and we have a rehersal of what I'll be trying to do. First thing I learned was BOTH HANDS while youre learning. You need to hold that torch real steady and move it along at just the right speed or you make yourself one nice mess. You also need to hold it just the right distance from the steel just like when youre welding or you pop that sucker and generally blow the flame out. We went over the holding and moving for a while, and I got to feeling pretty comfortable with my left hand balancing the torch and my right hand working the trigger. Then I lit it back up and had at making my first cut. I think I said before this ain't a craft you get taught, its one you learn, and I learned real quick I had plenty to learn. Hot as that big flame is it's got a spot where it's really hot and a whole bunch of spots where its only hot. I caught onto thehottest part being just about the end of them little flames. Then I learned how the steel ain't ready to cut till it's ready, very similar to how it works with the welding puddle. Once I got that down and hit the trigger she cut about a quarter of an inch and quit cutting. Seems that was caused by me being just a bit too fast in my forward speed, or getting the torch just a bit too far from the steel. I got that worked out and probably in about 5 minutes I was making cuts all on my own.

    Almost let myself get proud at that moment, but Harrison had me stop and flip the plate over so I could see the backside of my cut. Dang good thing I wasn't proud cause when I saw that bunch of grapes hanging onthe back I knew I wasn't doing the job right. I got to sit back and watch the master for a few minutes, and I quick learned what I thought was smooth was flat jerky. His cut didn't have hardly any of what he callss dross on the back, and what was there you could just knock off with an old file. Again it's practice, practice and more practice. Lord I may get to Carnagee Hall yet with all my practicing.

    Next thing he showed me how to cut right across the grid strips with no problem at all. You gotta sort of anticipate that strip as you cut along, and rock your torch just a bit to the point the stream of the cut is almost behind the cut, then you reach the center of the gridbar and rock the torch right over that bar and you don't get any blowback. You also don't damage the bar much enough to see when you move the plate and look. That takes a little getting used to. I asked how you know where the bar is if you can't see it over past the edge, and he told me you chalk it out ahead of cutting with soap. I filed that away in the old onboard brain to sort out later. I'd say in about 15 minuted of practicing I got to the point where I could make an acceptable cut with that torch.

    That's when ol Harrison went to trying to trip me up again. He whips this square piece of stone out of his pocket and draws a circle on the plate I'm cutting, and tells me to have at it, and stay on the line. Rather than just jump in, I went to asking questions. What kind of stone was that he used? Well now I know what soap is. Do I use soap to chalk out where the gridbars are? BINGO. He hands me the soap and I grab the short straightedge and draw myself 2 lines where I'll be crossing the grid, and I'm ready to go. WRONG! Not 5 seconds after I put that flame to the line the dang line starts disappearing. I shut the torch off and flip my faceshield up and take myself a close look. Sure as shooting, that soap just either burned up or disappeared somehow. Ol Harrison's got himself a grin like the cat that swallowed the bird. OK, explain this to me. He draws the lines back and takes the torch and shows me how to bake the soap onto the steel so it will stay. Down goes the faceshield and back at it I go. Danged if he didn't trick me again. It takes one long time to heat the steel up and get the first hole through that plate when you ain't starting at the edge. OK Harrison, how do I get around this? Seems there are a couple ways to do it, you can either drill yorself a starting hole, or you can work your way in from the edge. Either one will save you alot of time and gas. Now that makes a lot of sense when you think it through, you go trying to heat in the middle of a piece and you gotta heat the whole dang thing because the heat conducts away by way of the steel.

    When that sheet of steel I was burning on cooled off a bit we hit the lever on the bench and rolled the sheet back onto the welding part of the bench, and he showed me how little damage the ceramic had taken. Then he pulled the one ceramic strip out of the groove and put a piece of steel bar in there so I could see what happened when I cut across the steel strip for myself. That torch took one heck of a chunk out of the steel strip, and the dern flame popped a little too. He said that's cause the aceteyelene don't like cutting multiple layers. He also says cutting with propane like he uses on the big heating torch will cut multiple layers, but he don't really like it and you need a special tip for the torch to use propane. I ain't sure if he even has the special tip or if we gonna try the cutting with propane. Then he tells me even though the iron itself becomes the heating fuel in o/a cutting you can't cut cast iron with the o/a. He said that's because of the structure of the cast. I don't understand that but my head was about full for the day so I didn't go to asking.

    Since it was getting on toward supper time we knocked off the cutting for the day, and had some coffee. Harrison had me explain all I had learned, and went over some points with me that I had only sort of learned. Seems there is a whole lot of chemistry and physics involved in this welding. Good thing is it ain't classroom work cause that ain't my strongsuit. The hands on thing seems to serve me best, and I got my little notebook too. I even write up these posts on the computer box and save em so I can look at them later on. Since my puter crashed I print em off too. Harrison was saying that most people got no idea how many things can be done with a o/a torch, and once I figure I got the hang he's gonna show me a trick or 2.

    When I got back to cutting my circle was still waiting for me to tackle so I fired the torch up and went at it from the edge. That soap line hangs right on there till you cut it but when you get to going around the circle the stuff from where you cut gets hung up sometimes. I noticed that right quick and asked Harrison about it. He chalked a few more lines running from the circle out and told me to cut them. As I was aboutto start cutting again he grabs a coldchisel and whacks sort of a little notch at the end of one line and tells me to see which cut starts quicker and easier. Danged if that little notch didn't get going a whole lot better. That's because you get your cut going on a tiny piece of metal the chisel stuck up there and you got less of what's called preheating to do. Once you get the steel itself burning there really isn't much stopping you. This torch cutting is pretty dang neat, and now I got the hang of it I can cut up dang near any hunk of steel I come across.

  2. #2
    Elite Member gwdixon's Avatar
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    Default Re: Cutting with a gas torch

    OK, that does it. This guy is a knowlegible welder and is doing a college creative writing project.

    We will see what happens when the semester comes to an end. He should get an "A+" for his writing skills.

    Come clean Ferdd!!!

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Cutting with a gas torch

    Cliff Notes Please!!!

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Cutting with a gas torch

    Well there GW and ET I have no dang idea what you fellows are up to, but I got a hunch whatever ails the both of you is dang hard to pronounce. Best I can recall I've been to college only one time, delivered a rebuilt transformer to a college in boston back around 54 or 55. Never in my life did I meet such a bunch of downright snotty people like I came across at that place. Wasn't just the college either that whole dang Boston area was full of strange folks.

    I'm all good to go at 5 in the morning with a couple trucks from the electric company and their crews and wouldn't you know the police department shows up with their chests all puffed out. Whole dang show got riled up because the one policeman didn't want me to move an inch untill 8 in the morning. Didn't make much nevermind to me, I just stretched out across the cab pulled a blanket over me and took myself a nap. I was real good at taking naps in the truck cab by then. Trouble was seemed about every half hour or so some fool just had to bang on the door of my tractor and wake me up for some silliness. Only intelligent person there was from the electric company, when he woke me up he at least had the good sense to have a cup of coffee in his hand and a nice cheese pastry too. By then I was pretty well aware of how these arguments went, and dang good at staying out of them since nobody ever bothered to listen to me anyhow. Well things went as I figured they was going to go, and I didn't pull my wheel chocks till after 8:30 that morning.

    Funny thing was one cop on a motorcycle thought he was a real charger, told me he was going to give me a parking ticket because I had them chocks inbetween the trailer wheels. He figured with them there between the wheels I wasn't ready to drive so I was parked, and half of the rig was in a no parking zone. I looked that boy right in the eye and asked him just how he expected me to move a rig that was over 80 feet long and close to 13 foot wide when 2 trucks and half a dozen cop cars were parked right there in front of my tractor? Would he like me to back the rig up? I'd be more than happy to do whatever he wanted done. Tell yo that boy went all hostile like them Boston folk do. He was standing there holelring at me and I'm just standing there waiting for him to run short of air so I can answer his fool question. Seems all his hollering brought his boss over to see what the boy was up to, and that fellow got himself told to get on his motorcycle and go chase speeders.

    When we finally did get moving it was right square in the middle of morning rush hour, and a trip that should have taken 15 minutes took 2 hours. Seems around the college there parking is real hard to come by and everybody just parks all over the streets. Now that might be fine most time, but when you're pulling 13 feet wide on a doubledrop with a jeep and a jo a city street full of parked cars just ain't happening. Next thing I know them cops are writing parking tickets like they passing out tickets to the policeman's ball and tow trucks are hauling cars off to the pound. Must have towed 40 or 50 cars that morning they did. Last half a mile or so was the real fun. Them electric company fellows were sure I'd have to deop the jeep and jo and back the doubledrop in where they wanted it. They even had riggers and a crane there to make the disconnects easy and eat time. Well, once I got her straightened up and walked the path I had to back down, them Boston fellows learned a thing or two about how a man from the swamps can back a rig. Big foreman there walked up and told me he ain't never seen a rig like that backed up and he wasn't real sure he believed what he just saw. I just told him I was borned feet first and left handed and been better at going backwards than forwards all my life.

    Of course you gotta be real careful doing things like that because you can forsure back a trailer into places you ain't going to pull it out of, and I don't mean because the trailer sunk.

    So if it makes you fellows happy I have been to college once. Didn't do no creative writing in my log book though, best I recall I got close to 14 hours that day to move about 5 miles, and break down and stack her so I could get back on the road. I was sure glad to get out of that town full of snooty people I tell you.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Cutting with a gas torch

    Ferdd, I bet your a riot at the bar !!!

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Cutting with a gas torch

    Reminisent of those pain in the posteria Christmas letters.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Cutting with a gas torch

    Nope I forsure ain't a riot at no bar. Quit going into them bars years back because my knuckles hurt like heck next day when I wrapped em around the steering wheel. Darned if I know why but them bars just seemed to be full of people who couldn't enjoy a beer or 10 without getting up in somebody's face and needing their face rearranged. When you drive truck for a living you just can't be going to bars every night.

    Fellow I drove for a good number of years had himself 2 boys he wanted to bring into the business. They was nice enough boys till he did that, but once they came to work for the company they figured they knew everything. On top of that they had the bar habit. Thing was it was right about the place in time when bars all got themselves that air conditioning so they attracted alot more people who hung out there to stay cool in summer instead of being home where they belonged raising their kids and such. A lot of girls even took to hanging out in the bars too. Instead of learning to cook and keep a decent house them girls was at the bar looking to find themself a husband. Best I calculate that seemed to be about the place things went to going downhill real fast. How in the heck does a woman think she's going to find herself a good man in a barroom full of mouthy drunks who can't hold their beer?

    Another thing I noticed about then was how them air conditioned bars kept people there drinking too much till they left thinking they was a race car driver. I seen more than one wreck towed in where they had to cut off the steering wheel to get the drunk unskewered from the steering colum. Instead of getting good sense the government up and makes the car company put in collapsing steering wheels to keep the drunks alive. Now that makes sense don't it. We sure weren't loosing a lot of military generals and scientists when people was skewering themselves on steering wheels.

    Them young boys my boss brought in just had to have brand new tractors too, daddy's pride you know. In less than 3 months both of them tractors looked like they was washboards. Well it wasn't long till daddy went and bought 2 more new tractors and parked em right there by the office. At the time I was driving a Autocar that had seen better days but she got the load where it was going. I pull in and see the new tractors, and truth to tell they didn't impress me one bit. I come in the office and boss wants to see me and my partner Mushmouth. They always had us driving coloads mostly cause I was about the only fellow there who could understand Mush when he talked. I'm thinking this gonna be good, probly going to get chewed out for not teachin the boss's son how to drive or such cause the boy rode with me for a few months. We get inthat office and them boys are sitting there all sure how important they are. Boss asks me how long I been driving for him and how many dents I put in the truck. I tell him I ain't got no dents. He ask why, and I say cause you pay me to drive not to put dents in the truck. He asks Mush same thing, and get pretty much same answer. Mush was the kind of fellow who wiped his cab down every time he was waiting someplace with a clean rag and a few drops of fuel. Well them boys wasn't getting the hint, so boss hands me and Mush a set of keys each and tells us to go figure out who driving which new tractor. We wasn't 5 feet outside that office when that man started going up one side them boys of his and down the other. Next few months they both worked as mechanic helpers and believe me boss made sure they worked. When they got back on the road they drove the rigs me and Mush had swapped out of. Not real sure if they ever learned to stay out the bars though.

    When boss had a heart attack and had to stay to home them boys took over. Wasn't a month I'm at the fuel island at a truckstop and the pump fellow tells me I can't have no fuel cause the bill ain't paid. I call the office and kid hanfs up on me so I call my cousin over to the oil company and he gets em fueled up and headed down to homecountry. Time I got there my cousin had worked up a deal to buy that whole company and start it in a new name with a few fellows he knew. Didn't make a lick of difference to me what name painted on the door. I made more money and got a better choice of loads too. Never did hear what happened to them boys but cousin told me he skinned em on the deal to buy all the heavy rigs. Took me better part of 6 months to relocate my pickup and stuff back to home.

  8. #8
    Platinum Member FredH's Avatar
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    Default Re: Cutting with a gas torch

    Ferdd : Does your teacher have a plasma cutter ?

    Years ago , I could O/A weld , even seen my dad weld a complete rear quarter panel on a old ford using a O/A torch and bailing wire . Welds still looked great 30+ years later when we sold the car . Could also braze , but that was a little trickier . Since that time , I switched to Arc and now Mig and Plasma for cutting . Still use a O/A torch but that is used only for heating and bending , other wise it just collects cobwebs .

    The only problem with Plasma is portability compared to O/A cutting , but having used both a lot , Plasma is by far cleaner and quicker . Cleaner in that there is far less clean up of cuts , ( less slag ) and by the time one sets up a O/A torch , I have already plug in the plasma cutter to air and power , connected ground clamp and cut .

    Do hope you get a chance to try plasma , Honestly believe you will be hooked .

    Fred H.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Cutting with a gas torch

    Tell you Fred Harrison has just about every useful tool there is in the shop, both for wood and metal. When he built the house he made the basement about 1 1/2 times bigger than the house and put a walk out deck on top to make the wife happy. That deck is a whole story all by iteslf and one of the biggest burrs under his saddle I tell you.

    He got the plazma cutter, got 2 of them one he got when the university sold it surplus that ran on 2 or 3 kinds of gas, and one newer one that always run on compressed air. The gas one he converted to a new gun that uses compressed air, and he hooked that up to a thing called a pantigraph. It's a collection of bars that you adjust up to whatever multiple of the pattern you want the part to be, then you run the tracing pencil thing on the pattern on the table and the machine cuts the part. He told me he thought about making it computer driven for a while but changed his mind when he figured it was only another retirement toy.

    I ran the other one a couple times, just ain't really had enough experience to write about it yet. Like you say it's neat as heck and makes a little finer cut, but the way I see things Harrison is the master and I am the student. He told me right out that he will only teach his way any more, and I could do the learning his way or find another teacher. I went with his way.

    Harrison figures you got to crawl before you walk and walk before you run, and as I go along the more I think he is dead right. I learned a whole lot about welding just with the gas welding torch than I ever heard of, and I'm sure there is more I ain't learned yet. Shoot I never heard of gas welding aluminum together but I now seen it done, and hope to get the hang of it. Did you know they build airplane frames that way still?

    Like you say, that plazma is fast too, fact is it took a bit of getting used to when I tried it first time. I was sitting there with the button pushed and the dang cut was already made and waiting for me to move. With the gas torch I still would have been making the first little puddle so I could get the cut going.

    Right now I am in the beginningpart of stick welding. Now Harrison says he can train a chimp to run a welding machine in 10 minutes, but it will take the chimp another 5 years to learn to weld. From what I'm seeing he just might have something there. He also says a half taught man is just a bomb waiting to go off. I pretty much figure his meaning is that a man who don't know what he's doing will overreach and get himself in trouble. Most of this welding stuff seems to be experience and you can't get that overnight or out of some dang video.

    He's got me going on this Lincoln IdeelArc, and set the switch on AC. I been learning to burn some 1/8 6013 rod and I say learning cause I really don't have the proper word for sticking rods to the practice piece so it looks like a porcupine. I got myself a whole lot of learning to do befire I move that switch to DC according to Harrison. He can weld upside down with them rods on AC, and he tells me when I master that I'll be on my way. I can make a dang nice porcupine welding right side up.

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