fueled by the impossible

To do the unthinkable — to meld metal underwater — it takes a hero’s suit constructed of highly specialized synthetic material, some truly impressive power tools and talent. 

Some people are distinctively fascinated by fire. Others feel compelled by the vastness and beauty of open water. Then, there is a rare third kind of human that, against all odds, wants both at the same time. Not only can it be done, but if those very unique individuals are looking for a new career path, they’re in luck.

Right now, there’s a nationwide need for all kinds of skilled tradesmen. We at Valero believe one of the most interesting and most incomparable skilled trades out there — and one that’s definitely in high demand on both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, as well as across the Gulf of Mexico — is that of underwater welder.

The best thing about hyperbaric welding is that if a person already has formal diving experience, they’re well on their way to getting certified. Similarly, for tradesmen who know how to weld but want a little more adventure in their job, they’re also well on their way. What’s more, if you’re neither a welder or diver, there are companies that are ready and willing to train the right candidates.

To do this highly specialized job, you need highly specialized gear:

Diving Helmet

Welders working on dry land wear welding hoods to protect their eyes and face. Underwater welding helmets serve this purpose, but they also control the breathing capability for the welder-diver. Workers can use the same diving helmet they would normally wear on a regular dive, with the addition of a polarized and tinted plastic welding screen that attaches to the front of their mask. 

Diving Suit

Underwater welders don’t wear wetsuits. They actually wear drysuits, which offer more protection as well as climate control. These suits are constructed from neoprene or rubber. For hand protection, welder-divers wear a few pairs of latex gloves then put a pair of thick, rubber linemen’s gloves over them. Finally, a thick rubber band goes over the wrist to help hold it all together. 

Power supply

Unlike those welders who strictly work above ground, water welders must work in concert with a team on a boat that helps control how many amps — or how hot — the machine gets. A contiguous flow of energy is most ideal. No fluctuations in amps makes for a stronger weld. Also, because they’re working in water, welding equipment is powered via direct current (D/C), never alternating current (A/C).

Electrodes 

Electrodes provide the material for welders to actually make the weld between two metal objects, so water welders use electrodes that are incredibly water-resistant, wrapped in a sealing coating and covered with wax to fortify the seal. 

Stinger

The electrodes that make the weld possible are loaded into a lightweight plastic stinger that gets the job done while reducing muscular fatigue. Saltwater is a powerful electricity conductor, but if the stinger is well insulated, welder-divers should be protected from feeling the current of electricity.

Other Accessories

Diving knife: Used for cutting into material, wedging doors open and cutting entangled rope. 

Umbilical cord: This is how gas gets pumped to and from the surface to the diver.

Harness: A good harness helps keep the diver stationary and buoyant.

Bailout gas: Carried by the diver as a secondary gas supply for emergency use. 

Knife Switch: This doesn’t even have a blade! It’s a simple lever that controls the flow of electricity that powers welding tools.

It’s hard work, and certainly not for everybody, but underwater welding is a skilled trade that’s in demand because so many structures and watercrafts are in constant need of inspection, repair, removal or equipment installation.

Not only can it be quite an adventurous gig, but underwater welders make some pretty good scratch too! 

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