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Basic Weld Inspection - Part 1

John Hoh
Senior Staff Engineer
National Board

Category: Design/Fabrication

Summary: This article was originally published in the Fall 2009 National Board BULLETIN as
the first of a two-part series. Please see Basic Weld Inspection - Part 2 for the conclusion of this

Note: The purpose of this article is to provide inspectors with a general knowledge of weld
inspection. It is by no means intended to compare with the Certified Welding Inspector (CWI)
requirements of the American Welding Society (AWS).

Weld inspection begins long before the first welding arc is struck. The inspector must review the
job package to become familiar with the:

 welding processes to be used;

 materials and any special properties;
 joint configurations and preparation;
 welding procedure specifications to be used and any limitations;
 qualifications of welders to be used and any limitations;
 heat treatment (pre-heat or post weld), if any;
 nondestructive examination (NDE), if any; and
 specific ASME Code or NBIC requirements (for example, Section VIII, Div. 1, lethal

While not imperative, the inspector should learn to read common weld symbols such as the
AWS symbols. At the very least, the inspector should always carry a reference guide to interpret
weld symbols. Having reviewed all this information in advance, the inspector will be prepared to
recognize any problems as they develop rather than after-the-fact.

The following examples and tips are practical applications the inspector can use as a guide.

1. The manufacturer or repair organization (certificate holder) has indicated on the job
drawing that a weld joint is to be prepared with a 60-degree bevel and root gap of 1/16
inch. Unless the bevels are milled on precision machinery, it is doubtful they will achieve
an exact 60-degree bevel as indicated. The easiest solution for the certificate holder is
to allow a range of plus or minus a few degrees of the target value. The same holds true
for a root gap dimension with no plus or minus tolerance. Even the best welder will have
difficulty maintaining an exact root gap dimension. Providing a plus or minus tolerance
will make the welder’s job much easier.
2. The inspector can use scraps of weld filler wire or rods as a gauge to quickly identify
root gaps that are beyond the tolerance range. For example, if the target root gap is
3/32 inch plus or minus 1/32 inch, the inspector should be able to insert a 1/16-inch wire
into the gap with little or no resistance. Likewise a 1/8-inch wire should exhibit no side-
to-side movement across the gap. Real world situations are rarely this convenient, but
the inspector can develop a sense of “too tight” or “too loose” with experience.
3. The certificate holder has designed a simple nozzle to be welded to a flat head (Fig. 1).
The nozzle axis is 90° to the flat head, and the attachment weld includes a 3/8-inch fillet
weld. The inspector can easily measure the fillet weld to ensure compliance. Now, let’s
install the same nozzle in a small diameter vessel shell (Fig. 2). The fillet weld will tend
to spread or flatten on opposite sides of the nozzle due to the curvature of the shell. The
inspector will need to ensure that the certificate holder has deposited enough weld to
meet the design criteria. This example becomes even more critical if the nozzle is
installed at an angle other than 90° (Fig. 3).

4. Using the same nozzle attachment example as described above, let’s look at the weld
joint preparation. The certificate holder has specified a 45-degree bevel around the
circumference of the hole in the flat head and the vessel shell. Again, the flat head will
be very easy to measure, since there is a single plane of reference (Fig. 4). The curved
shell will present more of a challenge. The inspector will have to determine if the
certificate holder is referencing the bevel from the vertical axis of the nozzle (Fig. 5) or
from the variable reference plane of the curved shell (Fig. 6).

5. When bevels are prepared with a cutting torch and finished with a grinder, it is very
difficult to maintain an exact angle. This is why allowing a plus or minus tolerance is so
important. Even obtaining a perfectly circular hole when using a torch and grinder is
difficult. Fixtures are available which attach to the torch to aid in cutting circular holes
and bevels, but the setup is sometimes inconvenient.
6. A certificate holder is preparing to weld several hundred circumferential joints in power
boiler tubes. ASME Section I requires these welds to be full penetration, but due to the
diameter, thickness, and location in the boiler, radiography of the welds is not required
(PW-41, Table PW-11). How does the inspector ensure compliance with the code?
Inspectors are trained to believe only what their eyes tell them; but when the inspector
cannot see the inner surface of the tube, it becomes difficult to accept that situation.
This is when the inspector must take what some would call a “leap of faith.” If the tube
ends are properly prepared (beveled) and a qualified welder is using a qualified welding
procedure, the odds are very good that the welds will be full penetration. Does this
mean the inspector should just accept all this at face value and walk away? Absolutely
not! If the inspector is unfamiliar with this certificate holder’s welding procedures and
welders, the inspector has the right – and duty – to witness a few of the welds being
made to ensure code compliance. One “red flag” to a potential problem would be if the
inspector observes that the tube ends have not been beveled. The inspector should
immediately ask the certificate holder about this situation. It could be as simple as the
certificate holder having just not performed that step in the process yet, or it could be as
bad as his or her having tried to save time and money by not beveling the ends. From a
practical standpoint, it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to obtain a full penetration
weld when the tube ends are not beveled. The welder would need to start with a large
root gap and then be very careful not to “push through” excess filler metal to cause weld
build-up on the inside of the tube.
Basic Weld Inspection - Part 2

John Hoh
Senior Staff Engineer
National Board

Category: Design/Fabrication

Summary: This article was originally published in the Winter 2010 National Board BULLETIN as
the second of a two-part series. This is a continuation of the article Basic Weld Inspection - Part
1 originally published in the Fall 2009 edition of the BULLETIN, with more examples and tips the
inspector can use as a guide. Some of the items in Part 2 may seem to be outside the realm of
weld inspection but, when taken in context with the overall objective, they are relevant.

Note: Items 1 through 6 were included in the article Basic Weld Inspection – Part 1.

7. A pressure vessel manufacturer is manufacturing a lethal service vessel. ASME Section

VIII, Div. 1, paragraph UW-2 (a)(1)(d) states that all Category D joints shall be full
penetration welds. That means the weld metal must extend completely from one face of
the joint to the opposing face of the joint. Without watching the entire welding process,
how does the inspector ensure the manufacturer has complied with Code
requirements? A review of the welding procedure and any supplementary instructions
combined with a verification of the joint preparation will tell the inspector much of the
story. If the full penetration weld is to be accomplished by welding from both sides, the
inspector should make a point of observing how the root of the first weld is prepared for
incorporating the weld on the opposing face. This is usually done by mechanical means
(such as grinding or chipping) or thermal gouging.
8. When welding in areas with limited access to move, welders will sometimes shorten
SMAW welding rods and GTAW filler wire. To shorten the SMAW rod, the welder will
grip the rod in the electrode holder a few inches from the bare end and crumble the flux
until he or she is able to grip a bare portion of the rod. When this is done, the rod
identification is usually destroyed since it is normally printed on the flux close to the
bare end. GTAW filler wire normally comes in 36-inch lengths with identification on one
or both ends of the wire in the form of a flag-type label or embossing. A welder will
seldom attempt to use a full length of wire because the free end may hit an obstruction
or in some way impede the welder’s manipulation of the wire in the weld puddle. A
welder may cut the length of filler wire in two or more pieces to make it easier to handle.
Depending upon how the filler wire is marked, there could be one or more pieces
without identification. If the certificate holder is using only one type and size of SMAW
rod or GTAW wire (such as 3/32 in. E7018 or ER70S-6), the inspector may feel more
comfortable if rods or wire with missing identification are found at the welder’s station.
However, most certificate holders use more than one type and size of rod or wire, and
the inspector must always ensure there are adequate controls in place to maintain rod
or wire identification.
9. SMAW welding rod storage seems to always stir up a lively debate. The rod
manufacturer’s recommendations should always be followed or, at the very least, the
rods should be stored in compliance with the information found in ASME Section II, Part
C. As an example, SFA-5.1, Annex 6.11 and SFA-5.5, Annex 6.12 discuss moisture
content and conditioning for carbon steel and low-alloy steel electrodes (rods). One
interesting point found in these references deals with rods such as E6010 with cellulosic
coverings (flux). They actually need a moisture level of approximately 3 to 7 percent to
operate properly. That means if these rods are stored in a heated oven, they may be
too dry to use. I have personally seen E6010 rods taken from an oven, and the flux
crumbles and falls off with the slightest touch. To the other extreme, I have seen a
welder quickly dip an E6010 rod in a bucket of water immediately before striking an arc.
This was on plate steel in a non-pressure boundary application so there were no ASME
or NBIC violation concerns, but I am sure it exceeded the rod manufacturer’s
recommended moisture content. This is definitely not condoned or recommended.
10. Holding ovens for welding rods are commercially available in many sizes. Human
resourcefulness has also converted derelict refrigerators into makeshift holding ovens
by installing light bulbs as the heat source. Is that permitted? As far as I know, it is not
prohibited. The key, in my opinion, is the ability to achieve and maintain the
recommended temperature. For example, SFA-5.1, Annex Table A3 shows a
temperature range of 50°F – 250°F above ambient temperature for E7018 rods. It
should not be difficult to obtain 50°F above ambient temperature during the winter in a
shop where the temperature is 60°F. But, go to a shop in Louisiana or Florida in the
summer, and the ambient temperature may easily be over 100°F. Can a simple light
bulb in an old refrigerator achieve the necessary temperature in those conditions?
There are variables such as the wattage and number of light bulbs in addition to how
well the old refrigerator is insulated and sealed. As part of their normal monitoring
duties, inspectors should be verifying the rod storage conditions no matter if a
commercial oven is used or if a homemade alternative is in place.
11. While we are on the subject of welding rod storage, it seems that there are always a few
people who mistake holding ovens with drying or rebaking. Looking at the table below,
we find E7018 should be held or stored at 50°F – 250°F above ambient temperature. If
the rod flux may have absorbed excess moisture, then it may be reconditioned by
drying or rebaking. That requires a temperature of 500°F – 800°F for 1-2 hours for
E7018. Looking at the specifications for one manufacturer of electrode ovens, their
holding ovens are capable of 550°F plus or minus 25°. That would just barely meet the
minimum rebaking temperature specified in Table A3. The same manufacturer offers
another purpose-built oven capable of reaching 800°F. The two big differences in their
construction are the electric heating elements and the insulation thickness.

As you can see, weld inspection includes much more than just looking at the finished product.
The best advice for an inspector is to stop for a moment and think about every element which
goes into making a weld. That can become the inspector’s checklist for review, inspection, and
Typical Storage and Drying Conditions for Covered Arc Welding Electrodes

AWS Classification Storage Conditions(1,2)

A5.1 A5.1M Ambient Air Holding Ovens

E6010, E4310, Ambient Not Not

E6011 E4311 temperature recommended recommended

E6012, E4312, 80ºF ± 20ºF 20ºF to 40ºF 275ºF ± 25ºF

E6013 E4313 [30ºC ± 10ºC] [10ºC to 20ºC] [135ºC ± 15ºC]
E6019, E4319, 50% max. above ambient 1 hr at
E6020, E4320, relative humidity temperature temperature
E6022, E4322,
E6027, E4327,
E7014, E4914,
E7024, E4924,
E7027 E4927

E6018, E4318, Not 50ºF to 250ºF 500ºF to 800ºF

E7015 E4915 recommended [30ºC to 140ºC] [260ºC to 425ºC]
E7016, E4916, above ambient 1-2 hr at
E7018, E4918, temperature temperature
E7028, E4928,
E7018M, E4918M,
E7048 E4948


(1) After removal from manufacturer's packaging.

(2) Some of these electrode classifications may be designated as meeting low moisture
absorbing requirements.
(3) Because of inherent differences in covering composition, the manufacturers should be
consulted for the exact drying conditions.

Table and Notes reprinted from ASME 2007 BPVC, Section II-Part C, by permission of the
American Society of Mechanical Engineers. All rights reserved.