Farming is a sweaty job, and welding an equally sweaty profession. When a piece of machinery breaks down on your farm and needs to be welded, you're looking at a double whammy of perspiration-producing labor. What's the big deal with sweat, besides the fact that it stings your eyes and adds to the number of stains on your worn old farm clothes? The answer is it creates terrible weld jobs and can boost your chances of suffering an accident.
How Moisture Affects Welds
Have you ever noticed the thin, barely noticeable seam running down the entire length of the flux-cored wire you use with your arc welder? This seam has a purpose, and that's to allow moisture to enter the mix of metal powders, deoxidizers, and fluxing agents that the wire is made of.
Instead of entering the stream of molten material as water, though, the intense heat and electrical arc of your welder break the moisture down into hydrogen and oxygen. From there, the oxygen dissipates into the air and the hydrogen goes directly into your weld to fill in structural voids.
However, the reason the seam in your flux-cored wire is so tiny is because only a tiny bit of moisture is needed for this process to happen. If too much moisture is absorbed by the wire, then your welder won't be able to keep up with breaking it down into its molecular components and you'll end up with moisture in the form of water in your weld. That excess moisture can come from any source, be it morning dew, rain, snow, or... you guessed it -- sweaty hands.
So what does moisture do to your weld? It makes the metals crack and splatter and you end up with your electrode wire splattered all over your base metal instead of in a nice neat line like it should be.
How Perspiration Poses Safety Hazards When Welding
Whenever your arc welder is turned on, its electrode is charged with an active electrical current. The electrical current is necessary in turning the wire into a liquid, workable substance.
Any electrical current will look for the path of least resistance to the ground. Your body has a natural resistance to electrical currents, 99 percent of which is located in your skin. Your internal body has a lesser resistance due to the fluids within it.
When your skin has water on it, though, you negate your body's resistance to electrical currents and become more susceptible to electrocution.
Should your hands (or any other part of your body) become saturated in perspiration and then brush up against your electrode, you risk getting seriously burned or even losing your life.
Both farming and welding are hot, sweaty jobs, and perspiration can interfere with the stability of your weld and make you more susceptible to electrocution. If you're about to weld a piece of farm machinery, protect yourself and your work by wearing certified welding personal protection equipment. Your gloves should be made of a moisture-wicking material and your boots should have rubber soles to give your body more resistance against electricity. You should also wear a helmet with a built-in sweat band to capture rolling sweat droplets from your head.
If you become damp with perspiration at any time during your job, stop immediately and change into dry clothes before continuing.
If you don't have the necessary gear to keep your body dry and your weld moisture-free, contact a welding professional to do the job for you. It may cost a bit more, but you'll end up with a stronger weld and won't run the risk of obtaining a serious injury.