From email@example.com Thu Dec 10 07:29:02 1998
Subject: Re: help! MIG welding Chrome Moly?
Date: Thu, 10 Dec 1998 10:29:02 -0600
> O-ring, Bruce, and HF,
> Bruce made the point that this is a subject that has been pounded into
> ground. IT NEEDS TO BE! Then it needs to be dug up and pounded again.
> important! What else is important is that there is always more than
> to achieve a satisfactory end to a need. Another thing that needs to
> brought out is that 4130 is nothing more or less than a lower grade of
> chrome-moly steel, and other than carbon content is no different from
> other 41XX steels. It does not harden as readily as 4140 or 4150,
> why it is used in aircraft, the other two would be far too brittle. It
> not a "magic" material, nor does it have any qualities that make it
> different from any other chrome-moly.
I agree, and that is why I continue to answer questions about welding on
aircraft tubing rather than referring folks to Deja-News or the FAQ.
I agree that 4130 is NOT anything special among the family of chrome
moly steels. It happens to be a good one for aircraft use. It is also
interesting to see how the strength increases when it is "normalized"
and instructive to see how the "normalization" temperature differs from
the recommended temperatures for "tempering."
In my experience, all steel with any significant amount of carbon in it
can easily embrittle next to a weld. I welded and re-welded many
structures before I realized that even a little bit of carbon made a
As with any higher carbon steel, heating past the transition temperature
and then quenching will "harden" the steel. The percentage and quality
of the grain level changes that cause the steel to harden depends a
great deal on the speed of the quench. An air quench is slowest and
generally gives less hardening than the more rapid quenches. A water
quench is probably the quickest because water pulls a LOT of heat out
quickly when it changes state. Water quench will harden any moderate to
high carbon steel quite effectively. Sometimes too effectively. The
faster the quench and the thinner the section the more likely warpage
will mess up your job. Oil quench is a nice intermediate quench. It is
faster than air and slower than water. It is used for many steels where
dimensional stability and lack of warpage is important, even though it
won't usually "harden" quite as much. With the hard comes also,
unavoidably "brittle." Hard steels will crack and chip before they bend
This "brittleness" can be alleviated by a "normalization" or a
"tempering" process. Both of these processes are similar, differing only
in degree and not in kind. This ability to bend or elongate before
breaking is called "toughness." Normalizing or tempering "draw down" the
hardness, increasing the toughness. Like everything in aviation, it is a
compromise. You give up hard for tough and vice versa. The normalized
state for 4130 alloys is a nice compromise. The remaining hardness
allows a significant increase in strength while easing almost all of the
brittle. It is several times as strong as the "annealed" or "soft"
state, but still will give and elongate a lot before it actually breaks.
Perfect for structural applications.
Welding thick sections would probably not cause a problem. However, a
quick weld on thin wall tubing is a different matter. Most aircraft are
constructed of tubing that is between .030 and .050 inches thick. This
is really quite thin. Thin sections lose heat more quickly than thicker
sections. When you weld metal you have to bring the metal in the joint
to the point where it melts and runs together. Since the transition
temperature required for hardening carbon steels is always less than the
melting temperature, there is always a region near the weld where the
"hardening" temperature was reached. A quick and precise weld, like TIG
or MIG, will heat a narrow zone quickly to the molten point. Since the
heated region is very small, it also cools quickly, by radiation, by
conduction to the air, and by conduction into steel a short ways away
from the weld that was NOT heated. This rapid cooling near the weld acts
line a quench and causes a narrow hardened region to form alongside the
actual weld. This region is quite brittle and will easily crack unless
the weld itself is "normalized." This can easily be done with an O/A
torch because the "normalizing" temperature range is fairly large and is
easily identified by the "red" glow of the steel when it reaches the
correct temperature range. This temperature is commonly referred to as
The welding process is totally independent of the means of heating the
metals at the joint. Anything that gets them hot enough to melt and flow
together will create a weld. The appropriate penetration is controlled
by controlling the depth of the molten puddle. In welding, ALL WELDING,
the control of the molten puddle is the key to strong and consistent
welding. When you learn to read and control the puddle you know how to
weld. I repeat, it does NOT matter where you heat comes from.
However, with moderate to high carbon steels in thin sections, the way
the heat is applied and removed and the rate of removal can be critical
to the quality of the weld. It is also quite easy to OVER heat the
puddle and literally burn the carbon out of the steel. Either burning
carbon out of the puddle, or using a smoky flame and ADDING carbon to
the puddle, can result in a change in the alloy when the puddle cools
and a resulting major change in the strength characteristics of the
metal within and near the weld.
O/A allows careful control of the puddle and the puddle temperature by
simple manipulation of the torch and the distance of the puddle from the
tip of the inner cone of the flame. The welding equipment is the least
expensive and the materials cost is quite low. It allows for easy
control of the rate of application of heat and, more importantly, the
rate of removal of heat after the weld. Aircraft welding requires a
little practice controlling the puddle, but is a skill that can be
easily learned by almost anyone with a little proper direction and a few
hours of practice.
TIG also allows careful control of the puddle and the puddle
temperature, by manipulation of either a foot control or a finger
control temperature adjustment. The welding equipment is relatively
expensive but the materials cost is quite low. It does allow for very
precise control of the heat and the puddle, but does not work well for
broad area heating or heat removal rates. Generally TIG welds should be
"normalized" after completion with an O/A torch or with an oven large
enough to heat the entire structure to the "normalizing" temperature of
"red hot." Aircraft quality welding with TIG is not too difficult for
anyone who has learned puddle control with an O/A torch. You have to
learn the temperature control by finger or foot, rather than by changing
the distance from torch to joint.
MIG allows the least control of the heat and the puddle. Temperature
control is usually varied by stopping the weld and changing the setting
on the box. The filler rod/wire feed rate is constant and you vary you
puddle size by varying your rate of movement along the weld. The puddle
size varies the penetration. Moving too slowly will blow holes through
the tubing. Moving too rapidly will lay a nice bead on top of the metal
without any strength that results from the depth of penetration. The
constant rate of heat application does not allow normalization at the
time of welding, and does require that the welds be heated to the
"normalizing" temperature either with an O/A torch or in an oven large
enough to hold the entire structure and bring it to a "red heat" for
THEREFORE, I SEE NO REASON for a HOMEBUILDER, who is going to weld up
ONE fuselage, to invest in BOTH O/A equipment for the required
normalization process and some other more expensive technology for doing
the actual welding itself. Since the O/A equipment is needed in any
case, and it is ALSO the easiest technique to learn and apply for the
actual welding, why spend the extra money unless you DO have a
production line and plan on welding many fuselages. Then the time
savings realized by the electrical welding processes can be beneficial.
If you, like most homebuilders, have more time than money, don't fool
around with the electrical stuff for welding up your airplane.
Back to FAQ's
Tips on Welding with
From firstname.lastname@example.org Tue Dec 15 06:57:48 1998
Subject: Re: Help for a beginning welder
Date: Tue, 15 Dec 1998 09:57:48 -0600
Alan Swanson wrote:
> I am just learning to weld, with the intention of welding the landing
> other metal parts on a Pietenpol.
> To practice, I am running beads on 16 ga steel, with Oxweld 32CMS rod,
> oxy-acetylene. When I add the rod, I get showers of fine sparks much
> get from a grinding wheel. The rod is new, and I cleaned it carefully
> acetone before using.
> What am I doing wrong?
You got some really good answers. I will try to summarize the important
1. Set pressures for both Acetylene and Oxygen to around 5 psig or a
little less. You can usually read such pressures easily on the acetylene
regulator. You may NOT be able to read the oxygen regulator easily at
those pressures. If not, set the acetylene pressure just under 5 psig.
Then crank the oxygen pressure down until you get NO oxygen. Light the
torch and open the red valve as far as you can without the flame blowing
away from the tip and going out. Then open the green valve halfway.
Start turning up the oxygen regulator until the orange in the flame
disappears and you see a hard blue cone in the middle. If the red valve
is not all the way open, you can now open it some more. If you get a
"soft" feather on the cone, turn up the oxygen pressure a bit more. When
the red valve is open as far as you can get it and the oxygen valve is
half way open and you just barely get the "cone" in the flame, then the
regulators are set for welding.
2. Filler rod. The best
rod for a beginner to use when welding 4130 is an E70S-6 rod. This rod
is slightly more expensive, but is much easier to weld with because it
helps keep the puddle quiet. The key to all welding is controlling the
little puddle of molten metal.
3. Tip to use. The flame, when
it is adjusted should make a relatively quiet roaring sound. If the
roaring gets hard or suddenly increases in volume, you have the gas
valve too far open. Close the oxygen, then close the acetylene down a
little and readjust the flame until the feather just goes away. If it
takes more than fifteen or twenty seconds to get the puddle started with
the flame just starting to get noisy, go to the next size larger tip. If
it melts a puddle in much less than ten seconds, go to the next size
smaller tip. That range gives you the best control over the puddle.
4. Flame adjustment. The perfect flame for welding 4130 or mild steel
is one where there is exactly enough oxygen to burn all of the acetylene
and NONE left over. Excess oxygen will quickly corrode the hot molten
iron in the puddle. The iron oxide will spark and jump out of the
puddle. If it doesn't get out of the puddle it will weaken the weld.
Excess acetylene will leave carbon in the molten puddle. This will
harden the steel where it was melted and make it excessively brittle.
This will cause the weld to fail in service. If you are welding
stainless steel use the same welding rod, but after you adjust your
flame, tweak the acetylene valve just enough to you barely start to see
a little feather at the tip of the cone. This is a "reducing" flame and
works better for stainless. Tweaking the gas a little to far DOWN so
that the feather disappears and then a little more, gives you an
oxidizing flame and will ruin your welds. You can see it because the
cone get harder edged and starts to shrink a little. What you want is a
relatively long soft blue inner cone right on the tip with the edges
just on the verge of starting the feather. That is the best welding
5. Testing your work. The old pipefitters test is a good
one. Take a short length of the largest tubing you can find. Cut four
pieces that are mitered to the center. You can do that by taking a piece
of tubing about an eighth of an inch longer than its diameter and then
cutting it diagonally to get six pieces of tubing with two forty five
degree cuts. Now you have two saddles and two HALF saddles. Arrange
these pieces to make a funky looking ball. Drill an eighth inch diameter
hole in the center of one of the full saddles. You have to drill the
hole BEFORE you start welding.
Now weld these pieces together
into a ball. Enlarge the hole and screw a fitting into it that will
accept a tire valve. Pressurize your ball to about 30 psig and dunk it
in a bucket of water. If you see bubbles, you flunk your pipefitters
Now comes the HARD part of the test. Without messing up
the air fitting, put the ball in the vise and flatten it as flat as you
can. Then pressurize it again to 30 psig and put it back into that
bucket of water. If you don't see any bubbles then, you passed the test!
Even when you flatten the joint in a vise, it should not break either
in the weld or next to it.
When you can pass this test easily
and automatically, then you are an aircraft welder! :-)
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Welding Rod Choice
From BAFRANK@**MailBlock«**.worldnet.att.net Tue Sep 29 19:48:06 1998
Subject: Re: BRUCE FRANKS!!!...may I have a word with you? :-)
From: "Bruce A. Frank"
Date: 30 Sep 1998 03:48:06 GMT
Has a friend in the Navy named Franks. They were always getting us mixed
up on the Shore Patrol roster. Lead to some nice nights off the ship
when the LTJG at the SP wouldn't let me pull the duty because the name
was wrong on the orders. Anyway....
I have posted my findings and opinions so many times that some might
want to put ZZZ's on my thread. First off, you do not want or need to
use anything but mild steel rod for welding 4130 whether it be with Oxy/Acet
or TIG. The usual filler wire for acetylene welding is E70S-2. Dash 3
can be used but it isn't as easy as -2. I like E70S-6 for both acetylene
and TIG work because it flows well and contains a very high level of di-oxidizers
to help keep the molten puddle quiet by eating up the contaminants.
There are those who use -2D. I tried it and found nothing ro recommend
it over -6. Some like the "vacuum melt" formulation but at $50+ a pound
it doesn't offer enough advantage for its high price. Several have said
that the only thing to use is 4130 filler wire--- an inexperienced
welder will usually run into problems with 4130 and there are no
benefits to its use for assembling tube fuselages, landing gear and
engine mounts. If something in your project needs to be assembled with
4130 filler your instructions will say so and that part will likely be
heat treated after welding.
The last choice is stainless. I have tried all the 300 series and some
of the 400 series stainless filler rod with TIG on 4130. Again I found
little advantage over E70S-6 and stainless filler has some
idiosyncrasies of its own when used on 4130 which in some cases can lead
to short fatigue life and cracking in the joints.
Mild steel has the "give" needed for the tougher 4130 to move as the
weld cools and reduces the opportunity for cracks to begin as the
shrinking filler metal tugs at the toe of the junction between the tube
and the fillet (that is not a French word).
If you have any more questions, just ask 'em.
Bruce A. Frank, Editor "Ford 3.8/4.2L Engine and V-6 STOL
BAFRANK@nospam.worldnet.att.net Homebuilt Aircraft Newsletter"
Back to FAQ's
welding aircraft together?
From email@example.com Wed Dec 02 08:43:16 1998
Subject: Re: help! MIG welding Chrome Moly?
Date: Wed, 02 Dec 1998 11:43:16 -0600
Richard Craig wrote:
> highflyer wrote:
> > The only useful application for a MIG box on aircraft structure is
> > perhaps in tacking the tubing together prior to welding. Even then,
> > the tacks should be kept small enough to weld over.
> > HF
> I wonder if anyone ever told this to the people building those fine
> certified production tube-and rag aircraft at American Champion
> home of the Citabria, Decathlon, and Scout. I had a chance to visit
> plant near Rochester, WI (an interesting experience if you're ever in
> area). The entire fuselage is MIG welded using, if I remember
> Lincoln SP125 wire feed mig welder (the street price is around $600).
> had sufficient experience with MIG that I'd have no qualms using MIG
> together a 4130 fuselage (but personally, I use TIG - a little more
> and more of an art). The Lincoln SP125 is a nice unit and is high on
> of items to get. My other unit (besides the OA torch) is a Lincoln 175
> Square Wave TIG (for the money it can't be beat).
> Dick Craig
And the American Champion has had serious problems in the field with
cracking next to the welds. Even though they were welded under very
carefully controlled conditions by expert MIG welders with much better
MIG equipment than the average homebuilder is attempting to use.
There is NO inexpensive MIG welder that has acceptable heat control for
welding thin wall steel tubing safely. They tend invariably to overheat
at both the start and end of the weld bead. Since most of the welds
placed are only a fraction of an inch long, this burning of the base
metal at the start and end of each weld is dangerous at best. Also the
consistency of technique requires a lot of experience to gain before
aircraft structures can be safely welded with MIG.
Even after you gain the experience, unless you go over the entire
structure and normalize all of the welds, you will have an area near
each weld where the strength characteristics of the steel have been
seriously impaired, making it prone to crack at that point.
I didn't believe that either, until I found myself re-welding a lot of
my welds. Normalized them properly and haven't had to re-weld one since!
Theory be damned, I KNOW what happened to ME.
The best way by far to learn how to weld to aircraft standards is to
start welding with an O/A torch. When you learn to do an acceptable weld
with that, it is a relatively easy step to doing acceptable welding with
a GOOD TIG rig. When you can do TIG well, you probably know enough about
the metal and how it welds and flows to learn to weld it acceptably with
It is ironic that it is easiest to learn how to lay a bead with MIG,
even a cheap one, but HARDEST to learn how to do consistent quality
aircraft standard welding with a MIG.
Incidentally, unless you have a VERY large oven available, you will need
the O/A rig handy with a rosebud to do the normalization after the
welding is complete with either TIG or MIG.
Since a top quality brand new O/A rig can be had, complete with a supply
of required gasses, anywhere in the country for something under $600,
and the CHEAPEST acceptable MIG or TIG outfit will come to at least $700
and likely more, one wonders why everyone wants to MIG their airplane!
Especially since the O/A rig is a LOT easier to use for aircraft
I will never understand it.
Back to FAQ's
welds in 4130
From: "Bruce A. Frank"
Date sent: Mon, 12 Feb 2001 00:18:10 -0800
Send reply to: Bearhawk@yahoogroups.com
Subject: Re: [Bearhawk] Re: Another rosebud question
> Had another question, re: rosebuds. For heating a cluster, I'm
>presuming the rosebud plays over the front and then backside while
>welding is in progress (I'd like to call a friend, Regis!). With tanks
>large enough to feed the rosebud I could run the welding tip off the
>small tanks, or I could put together a manifold to feed both rigs from
>larger tanks. Would this amount to just a pair of Y's? It seems simple
>enough, what should I expect it to cost?
The last question first, the rosebud is used sometimes to preheat, when
you have a large cluster, to help bring the metal to near welding temp
so that the small welding tip can be operated in its usual adjustment
range---not having to over drive it with excess flow which leads to
reduced control of the molten puddle.
Most use of the rosebud is to post heat a welded area. Since the welding
tip is relatively small, as one moves about a joint or cluster, welding
a bit here and a bit there, it is difficult to maintain temperature
uniformity. This uneven heating and cooling leads to strain in the
welded joint. That strain if left unmodified can lead to cracks in 4130
tubing. Regardless of what Finch says about post heating, post heating
can do two things for you that will result in possibly a longer lived
fuselage. And I have not found that post heating causes problems with
The first thing that post heating does is to bring the whole cluster
joint up to a plastic temperature point that allows the tubes to align
and relax relieving that welded-in strain. Another benefit is to move
the HAZ (heat affected zone) further away from the welded joint.
The HAZ is the area of the tube where the transition from the hot welded
area to the cold tube takes place. This area is going to have a higher
likelihood of hard or brittle areas due to the rapid removal of heat
(quenching) caused by the conductivity of the cold tube. If the HAZ is
close to the joint, in the area stressed by normal operational forces on
the fuselage, there is a greater chance of cracking.
This process is sometimes erroneously called "normalizing." Normalizing
is a process of taking 4130 tube up to a prescribed temp and cooling at
a precise rate. This removes all strain created in the tube
manufacturing process and allows the uniforming or homogenization of the
steel's grain structure (no HAZ). This process cannot be easily done on
a fuselage without an oven large enough for the whole structure.
Remember that 4130 tube was developed for oxy/acet welding. It was
formulated to provide ease of welding and the strength necessary for
aircraft construction. Unless you are welding in a 20║F hangar (I used
to) it is not likely that you'll really need to use that rosebud very
much. I incorporate post heating only when TIG welding critical highly
loaded structures such as engine mounts and some parts of the landing
You are not heating with a rosebud at the same time (simultaneously)
that you are welding. You cannot run two torches off the same regulator
with a "Y" connector. You are going to find those small cylinders
[Webmaster's note: Bruce is referring to the questioner's small
"burglar" portable tanks] expensive to operate. First they will run out
quickly (usually on a weekend when you really want to get something
done). Second they will cost as much to refill as a cylinder two to
three times larger (its the labor you are paying for, the gas in those
size cylinders is inconsequential). Third, it is not likely that your
welding supplier has that size cylinder in stock so that you could just
swap them (I may be wrong here, some re-fillers do maintain these size
customer owned cylinders in stock). If you have to actually have your
cylinders refilled then prepare to wait one to two weeks turn-around
I would upgrade to the next larger size cylinders. My next suggestion is
that you find a continuing education (tech school) facility and take a
welding course. I recommend a book called "Metals and How to Weld Them."
This is an old book, but has been used as a welding text for 50 years
and is still hard to beat. Finch's books can be some benefit, but a good
hands on instructor can better help you separate the wheat from the
If your cylinder cannot support the discharge rate necessary for your
rosebud you'll find out quickly. The rosebud will just not get hot
enough or will start to pop and sputter (getting too hot or acetone is
actually coming out of the cylinder---gas flow helps to cool the tip) If
problems show up then try running the rosebud with a smaller flame. If
that doesn't provide the heat needed then larger cylinders (particularly
the acetylene cylinder) are needed.
Hope this helps and I am sure that Kent and Budd will have additional
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