Carbon arc welding is a process in which the joining of metals is produced by heating with an arc between a carbon electrode and the work. No shielding is used. Pressure and/or filler metal may or may not be used.

Carbon Arc Welding Equipment

Electrodes. Carbon arc welding electrodes range in size from 1/8 to 7/8 in. (3.2 to 22.2 mm) in diameter. Baked carbon electrodes last longer than graphite electrodes. Figure 10-42 shows typical air-cooled carbon electrode holders. Water-cooled holders are available for use with the larger size electrodes, or adapters can be fitted to regular holders to permit accommodation of the larger electrodes.

Carbon arc welding air cooled electrode holders.

 Machines. Direct current welding machines of either the rotating or rectifier type are power sources for the carbon arc welding process.

Welding circuit and welding current.

The welding circuit for carbon arc welding is the same as for shielded metal arc welding. The difference in the apparatus is a special type of electrode holder used only for holding carbon electrodes. This type of holder is used because the carbon electrodes become extremely hot in use, and the conventional electrode holder will not efficiently hold and transmit current to the carbon electrode. The power source is the conventional or constant current type with drooping volt-amp characteristics. Normally, a 60 percent duty cycle power source is utilized. The power source should have a voltage rating of 50 volts, since this voltage is used when welding copper with the carbon arc.

Single electrode carbon arc welding is always used with direct current electrode negative (DCEN), or straight polarity. In the carbon steel arc, the positive pole (anode) is the pole of maximum heat. If the electrode were positive, the carbon electrode would erode very rapidly because of the higher heat, and would cause black carbon smoke and excess carbon, which could be absorbed by the weld metal. Alternating current is not recommended for single-electrode carbon arc welding. The electrode should be adjusted often to compensate for the erosion of carbon. From 3.0 to 5.0 in. (76.2 to 127.0 mm) of the carbon electrode should protrude through the holder towards the arc.

Advantages and Major Uses.

The single electrode carbon arc welding process is no longer widely used. It is used for welding copper, since it can be used at high currents to develop the high heat usually required. It is also used for making bronze repairs on cast iron parts. When welding thinner materials, the process is used for making autogenous welds, or welds without added filler metal. Carbon arc welding is also used for joining galvanized steel. In this case, the bronze filler rod is added by placing it between the arc and the base metal.

The carbon arc welding process has been used almost entirely by the manual method of applying. It is an all-position welding process. Carbon arc welding is primarily used as a heat source to generate the weld puddle which can be carried in any position. Table 10-6 shows the normal method of applying carbon-arc welding. Table 10-7 shows the welding position capabilities.

Carbon arc welding methods.

Carbon arc welding positions

Weldable Metals. Since the carbon arc is used primarily as a heat source to generate a welding puddle, it can be used on metals that are not affected by carbon pickup or by the carbon monoxide or carbon dioxide arc atmosphere. It can be used for welding steels and nonferrous metals, and for surfacing.

Steels. The main use of carbon arc welding of steel is making edge welds without the addition of filler metal. This is done mainly in thin gauge sheet metal work, such as tanks, where the edges of the work are fitted closely together and fused using an appropriate flux. Galvanized steel can be braze welded with the carbon arc. A bronze welding rod is used. The arc is directed on the rod so that the galvanizing is not burned off the steel sheet. The arc should be started on the welding rod or a starting block. Low current, a short arc length, and. rapid travel speed should be used. The welding rod should melt and wet the galvanized steel.

Cast iron. Iron castings may be welded with the carbon arc and a cast iron welding rod. The casting should be preheated to about 1200°F (649°C) and slowly cooled if a machinable weld is desired.

Copper. Straight polarity should always be used for carbon arc welding of copper. Reverse polarity will produce carbon deposits on the work that inhibit fusion. The work should be preheated in the range of 300 to 1200°F (149 to 649°C) depending upon the thickness of the parts. If this is impractical, the arc should be used to locally preheat the weld area. The high thermal conductivity of copper causes heat to be conducted away from the point of welding so rapidly that it is difficult to maintain welding heat without preheating. A root opening of 1/8 in. (3.2 mm) is recommended. Best results are obtained at high travel speeds with the arc length directed on the welding rod. A long arc length should be used to permit carbon from the electrode to combine with oxygen to form carbon dioxide, which will provide some shielding of weld metal.

Principles of Operation.

Carbon arc welding, as shown in figure 10-43, uses a single electrode with the arc between it and the base metal. It is the oldest arc process, and is not popular today.

Carbon arc welding process diagram.

In carbon arc welding, the arc heat between the carbon electrode and the work melts the base metal and, when required, also melts the filler rod. As the molten metal solidifies, a weld is produced. The non-consumable graphite electrode erodes rapidly and, in disintegrating, produces a shielding atmosphere of carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide gas. These gases partially displace air from the arc atmosphere and prohibit the oxygen and nitrogen from coming in contact with molten metal. Filler metal, when used, is of the same composition as the base metal. Bronze filler metal can be used for brazing and braze welding.

The workpieces must be free from grease, oil, scale, paint, and other foreign matter. The two pieces should be clamped tightly together with no root opening. They may be tack welded together.

Carbon electrodes 1/8 to 5/16 in. (3.2 to 7.9 mm) in diameter may be used, depending upon the current required for welding. The end of the electrode should be prepared with a long taper to a point. The diameter of the point should be about half that of the electrode. For steel, the electrode should protrude about 4.0 to 5.0 in. (101.6 to 127.0 mm) from the electrode holder.

A carbon arc may be struck by bringing the tip of the electrode into contact with the work and immediately withdrawing it to the correct length for welding. In general, an arc length between 1/4 and 3/8 in. (6.4 and 9.5 mm) is best. If the arc length is too short, there is likely to be excessive carburization of the molten metal resulting in a brittle weld.

When the arc is broken for any reason, it should not be restarted directly upon the hot weld metal. This could cause a hard spot in the weld at the point of contact. The arc should be started on cold metal to one side of the joint, and then quickly returned to the point where welding is to be resumed.

When the joint requires filler metal, the welding rod is fed into the molten weld pool with one hand while the arc is manipulated with the other. The arc is directed on the surface of the work and gradually moved along the joint, constantly maintaining a molten pool into which the welding rod is added in the same manner as in gas tungsten arc welding. Progress along the weld joint and the addition of a welding rod must be timed to provide the size and shape of weld bead desired. Welding vertically or overhead with the carbon arc is difficult because carbon arc welding is essentially a puddling process. The weld joint should be backed up, especially in the case of thin sheets, to support the molten weld pools and prevent excessive melt-thru.

For outside corner welds in 14 to 18 gauge steel sheet, the carbon arc can be used to weld the two sheets together without a filler metal. Such welds are usually smother and more economical to make than shielded metal arc welds made under similar conditions.

Welding schedules. The welding schedule for carbon arc welding galvanized iron using silicon bronze filler metal is given in table 10-8. A short arc should be used to avoid damaging the galvanizing. The arc must be directed on the filler wire which will melt and flow on to the joint. For welding copper, use a high arc voltage and follow the schedule given in table 10-9. Table 10-10 shows the welding current to be used for each size of the two types of carbon electrodes.

Carbon arc welding procedure schedule : galvanized steel.

Carbon arc welding copper procedure schedule.

Carbon arc welding current for electrode types.

Variations of the Process.

There are two important variations of carbon arc welding. One is twin carbon arc welding. The other is carbon arc cutting and gouging.

Twin carbon arc welding is an arc welding process in which the joining of metals is produced, using a special electrode holder, by heating with an electric arc maintained between two carbon electrodes. Filler metal may or may not he used. The process can also be used for brazing.

The twin carbon electrode holder is designed so that one electrode is movable and can be touched against the other to initiate the arc. The carbon electrodes are held in the holder by means of set screws and are adjusted so they protrude equally from the clamping jaws. When the two carbon electrodes are brought together, the arc is struck and established between them. The angle of the electrodes provides an arc that forms in front of the apex angle and fans out as a soft source of concentrated heat or arc flame. It is softer than that of the single carbon arc. The temperature of this arc flame is between 8000 and 9000°F (4427 and 4982°C).

Alternating current is used for the twin carbon welding arc. With alternating current, the electrodes will burn off or disintegrate at equal rates. Direct current power can be used, but when it is, the electrode connected to the positive terminal should be one size larger than the electrode connected to the negative terminal to ensure even disintegration of the carbon electrodes. The arc gap or spacing between the two electrodes most be adjusted more or less continuously to provide the fan shape arc.

The twin carbon arc can be used for many applications in addition to welding, brazing, and soldering. It can be used as a heat source to bend or form metal. The welding current settings or schedules for different size of electrodes is shown in table 10-11.

The twin carbon electrode method is relatively slow and does not have much use as an industrial welding process.

Welding current for carbon electrodes.

Carbon arc cutting is an arc cutting process in which metals are severed by melting them with the heat of an arc between a carbon electrode and the base metal. The process depends upon the heat input of the carbon arc to melt the metal. Gravity causes the molten metal to fall away to produce the cut. The process is relatively slow, results in a ragged cut, and is used only when other cutting equipment is not available.