The Quality of the Weld

Being a former submariner, I have long had an interest in welding and the quality of welds. When you are riding a ship designed to sink that was built by the lowest bidder, proper and secure welds seem to be pretty important. The hulls of nuclear submarines are made out of a special steel which requiresvery demanding quality requirements. Plus, the internal welds throughout the boat are critical for not only structural integrity but for sound control as well. Nothing like a pipe run failing at just the wrong time to transmit sound into the enemy’s ears.

Ohio from the air

Submarines were not always welded of course. Early boats were riveted which allowed for them to achieve a mostly water tight condition but that came at a price of depth limitations. I can only imagine being in one of the dozens of boats built before 1934 that were riveted. In 1934 the Cuttlefish, the first submarine ordered by the U.S. Navy since 1918, is delivered. Cuttlefish is also the first welded submarine and the first submarine built in Groton for the Navy. (According to Electric Boat’s history log.)

USS Cuttlefish

I found a pretty good website about submarines that goes into some pretty lengthy details about assembling the hull.  I am going to assume the Chinese actually already found this web site and I am sure enough details have been left out to make it merely entertaining for the average submarine enthusiast. For me, it looks pretty cool.

Needless to say, the quality of the welds are pretty important. The boat must be strong enough to withstand any challenge that the engineers can calculate. The safety of the crew plus the unintended consequences from a nuke boat  coming apart at the wrong time is nothing short of catastrophic. From the article:

“When the steel plates are cut and rolled to form the hull, they are inspected to ensure that all dimensions are accurate to within one sixteenth of an inch (0.16 cm); smaller parts may need to be accurate to within one ten-thousandth of an inch (0.00025 cm) or less. Proper welding of all steel components is inspected with x rays. Pipes are inspected by filling them with helium and checking for leaks. Every instrument is tested to ensure it works properly. In particular, the nuclear reactor undergoes stringent tests to ensure that it is safe. As a result of these precautions, the Naval Reactors program is considered to have the best safety record of any nuclear power program.”

Ohio on the surface

Probably most notable in the annals of sub building were the early problems exhibited on the Ohio. From an article in Time magazine in 1981:

“The Ohio’s construction is a seven-year ordeal of mismanagement. Certain components were made from understrength steel, and the replacement cost was nearly $1 million. The sub contains 117,000 especially important welds; 2,772 were botched. Rewelding cost $2.6 million.”
Read more:,9171,949215,00.html#ixzz1Zft9pT7V

Ohio LPO 2

I wish I had known that before begging for orders on board the first Trident.

Many things can influence the strength of welds and the material around them: the welding method, the amount and concentration of energy input, the weldability of the base material, filler material, and flux material, the design of the joint, and the interactions between all these factors. Even the environment around the welders can play a role. If the metal is too cold, unexpected failures can and probably will occur.

Our country is in need of a good welder these days. It’s a pretty tough job to bind together such diverse materials in such a way that they can stand the stresses and strains of being a part of a very complex world.

I pledge allegiance to the flag… of the United States of America…

You have to create the right conditions, search for the correct way to bond them as well as use the right methods. The different materials require special attention and that can be complex when you are joining them together.

and to the Republic for which it stands,

Failing to recognize their unique needs will only lead to failure. But in all cases, you need something really strong to bind them together

one nation under God,

The welder must have the right skills and a keen eye. If he only looks at one side of things all the time, his weld job will fail. He must see all sides and find a way to create the right bead in order for his work to withstand the test of time. The ultimate goal is to create a strong enough bond that will surpass the individual strength of the materials being bonded without destroying the materials in the process.

indivisible, with liberty, and justice for all.

I was sent to weld class once when I was very new to submarines. It was probably just a place to keep me busy during off crew but I gave it my best shot. Maybe it was my lack of experience or just my inability to see all of the complexities required to be successful. Who knows, maybe I just wasn’t mature enough to see the importance of the work I was being trained to do (Waikiki was not that far away and as soon as you finished, off you went to the boat that would take you to freedom). I will freely admit here and now that they gave me a passing grade just to get rid of me. I really sucked at it. For the rest of my career, I let the people who knew what they were doing weld.

 Too many lives depend on having someone

who knows what they were doing.

Sunrise Blvd July 4 003

Our country is cracked wide open right now. We need someone who has the right “welding” skills to try and bring it back together. Too many lives both here and around the world depend on it

Anybody know a really good welder?


Mister Mac

3 thoughts on “The Quality of the Weld

  1. Here is an impressive resume, in my opinion one of the most impressive in years:

    Bio on Herman Cain:

    Herman Cain is running for president. Hes not a career politician (in fact he has never held political office). Hes known as a pizza guy, but theres a lot more to him. Hes also a computer guy, a banker guy, and a rocket scientist guy. Here’s his bio:

    Bachelors degree in Mathematics.

    Masters degree in Computer Science.

    Mathematician for the Navy, where he worked on missile ballistics
    (making him a rocket scientist).

    Computer systems analyst for Coca-Cola.

    VP of Corporate Data Systems and Services for Pillsbury (this is the top of the ladder in the computer world, being in charge of information systems for a major corporation).

    All achieved before reaching the age of 35. Since he reached the top of the information systems world, he changed careers! Business Manager. Took charge of Pillsbury’s 400 Burger King restaurants in the Philadelphia area, which were the company’s poorest performers in the country. Spent the first nine months learning the business from the ground up, cooking hamburger and yes, cleaning toilets. After three years he had turned them into the company’s best performers.

    Godfathers Pizza CEO. Was asked by Pillsbury to take charge of their Godfathers pizza chain (which was on the verge of bankruptcy). He made it profitable in 14 months. In 1988 he led a buyout of the Godfathers Pizza chain from Pillsbury. He was now the owner of a restaurant chain. Again he reached the top of the ladder of another industry.

    He was also chairman of the National Restaurant Association during this time. This is a group that interacts with government on behalf of the restaurant industry, and it gave him political experience from the non-politician side.

    Having reached the top of a second industry, he changed careers again!

    Adviser to the Federal Reserve System. Herman Cain went to work for the federal Reserve Banking System advising them on how monetary policy changes would affect American businesses. Chairman of the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank. He worked his way up to the chairmanship of a regional Federal Reserve bank. This is only one step below the chairmanship of the entire Federal Reserve

    System (the top banking position in the country). This position allowed him to see how monetary policy is made from the inside, and understand the political forces that impact the monetary system.

    After reaching the top of the banking industry, he changed careers for a fourth time!

    Writer and public speaker. He then started to write and speak on leadership. His books include Speak as a Leader, CEO of Self, Leadership is Common Sense, and They Think You’re Stupid.

    Radio Host. Around 2007—after a remarkable 40 year career—he started hosting a radio show on WSB in Atlanta (the largest talk radio station in the country). He did all this starting from rock bottom (his father was a chauffeur and his mother was a maid). When you add up his accomplishments in his life—including reaching the top of three unrelated industries: information systems, business management, and banking.

    —Herman Cain may have the most impressive resume of anyone that has run for the presidency in the last half century.

    1. I like Mr. Cain. I am looking forward to seeing more about him as the weeks turn into months. Just a quick comment, his leadership skills seem to exceed the masterful use of a teleprompter (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Watching the country slowly being destroyed over the past three years has made me thirsty for a drink of leadership that’s actually commited to serving America and not one’s own ego.

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