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Welding History Goes Back Farther Than You Think

Jun 18, 2018 ·
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The process of welding as we know it today uses a variety of sophisticated methods, tools and energy sources. However, what we’re capable of today is the result of a long history of scientific discovery and innovation. In fact, there’s a good chance welding’s history is a lot longer than you imagined!

Let’s take a look at the use of welding throughout history and how the trade continues to evolve.

Welding History Timeline


Early history

Welding’s beginnings can be traced as far back as the Bronze Age. Softer metals like copper and bronze were joined using rudimentary tools. Some of the oldest artifacts known to man were constructed using welding, including small circular boxes with pressure-welded lap joints that date to sometime between 3000 and 2000 B.C.

Iron tools and weapons from ancient cultures like Egypt have been dated to around 1000 B.C. The furnaces and hammers used to create these artifacts actually set the stage for blacksmithing.

Middle Ages

Throughout the Middle Ages, blacksmiths started to master the process of forge welding. They would first heat the iron in a charcoal furnace and hammer out any imperfections. Then, increasing the heat, they would hammer overlapping metal ends until they bonded. Common items made by those blacksmiths included weapons, armor, chains and ornaments.

1836

English chemist Edmund Davy discovered the chemical compound acetylene in 1836. While acetylene wasn’t used in welding at the time, Davy’s discovery made oxy-fuel welding and cutting a possibility years later.

1881

Edmund’s cousin, Sir Humphry Davy, had discovered arc lighting at the beginning of the 19th century. Auguste De Meritens, a French electrical engineer, used that discovery to weld lead plates for storage batteries. Within the same year, both De Meritens and his student, Nikolai Bernardos, patented the process for carbon arc welding.

1890

As the 20th century neared, the implementation of metal electrodes improved arc welding. Russian inventor Nikolay Gavrilovich Slavyanov is credited with the idea of transferring melted metal through an arc. But it was Charles L. Coffin, an American, who patented the process we know today as shielded metal arc welding, or SMAW.

Early 20th Century and World War I

At the turn of the century, a torch suitable for using acetylene was developed, vastly improving gas welding and cutting processes. At the same time, the concept of the coated metal electrode was being developed in both Great Britain and Sweden.

These electrodes consisted of iron wire dipped in mixtures of carbonates and silicates and then left to dry to create the coating. Additionally, this time saw the development of resistance welding.

Part of the reason the beginning of the 20th century saw so many improvements in welding practices was the demand created by World War I. Many companies began producing commercial welding machines and electrodes to improve the reliability of weapons, ships, planes and tanks.

Once the war ended, the American Welding Society, a nonprofit organization, was created to continue improving welding processes in America.

Man welding metal

The 1920s

Several notable advancements were made during the 1920s. For instance, the General Electric Company introduced automatic welding, which allowed for a continuous feed of bare electrodes. Electrodes themselves were improved as well.

In an effort to diminish porous and brittle welds, techniques using different gases were developed. Irving Langmuir used hydrogen as a welding atmosphere, whereas H.M. Hobart and P.K. Devers used argon and helium.

The 1930s

Throughout the 1930s, welding grew more popular at construction sites and shipyards. This is largely due to the development of stud welding.

Similarly, submerged arc welding, which uses an electrode with a thick, granulated layer of flux made from calcium, magnesium, silicon and other compounds, become popular for a number of reasons:

  • It’s quicker.
  • It’s more cost-effective.
  • It doesn’t spatter the weld.

This welding method remains popular today for the same reasons!

The 1940s

Although Coffin, Hobart and Devers all contributed to the development of gas tungsten arc welding (or GTAW), it was Russell Meredith who perfected the process in 1941 by using a tungsten electrode arc and helium as a shielding gas.

In 1948, the tungsten electrode was replaced with a continuously fed electrode wire. This innovation was developed at the Battelle Memorial Institute in Columbus, Ohio, and is referred to as gas shielded metal arc welding, or GMAW.

Like submerged arc welding, GMAW became popular because it was much more cost-effective than GTAW.

The 1950s

K.V. Lyubavskii and N.M. Novozhilov made steel welding even more economical by using carbon dioxide as the shielding gas.

Five years later, in 1958, the size of the arc used in the GTAW process was diminished so welders could accomplish more refined work. Just a year later, an electrode that didn’t require external gas shielding, called the inside-outside electrode, was created.

The 1950s were full of welding innovations. Other novel processes included:

  • Electron-beam welding process: As its name implies, this method uses a focused beam of electrons as a heat source. It became popular in the American automotive and aircraft engine industries.
  • Friction welding: Developed in the former Soviet Union, the process generates heat using rotational speed and upset pressure.
  • Electroslag welding process: This method uses a consumable guide tube and allows for the welding of thick materials in a vertical position.

The 1960s

Similar to the previous decade, the 1960s witnessed a variety of innovations. Notables included:

  • Spray-type arc transfer: This method produces a vaporized spray of the electrode metal that makes for a high-quality finish.
  • Electrogas: A method for vertical welding similar to electroslag, only it uses a flux-cored electrode wire and a gas shield supplied externally.
  • Laser welding: The powerful heat source gives this process advantages like higher speeds, strong weld joints and a diminished likelihood of cracking. It’s used in robotic automotive and industrial manufacturing.

Man walking in locker room hallway

Future Welding Trends

Progress never stops, which means that there’s a good chance the process of welding will continue its dynamic history well into the future.

There is a trend where engineers are seeking to produce welding materials that require less energy in order to make them more environmentally friendly. And some are speculating that welded materials will be able to indicate where they are in their lifecycle by means of computer chips.

As the future of welding evolves, one thing is clear: It will get more and more complex. Getting a proper foundation by completing a formal welding course can help welders adapt to the changes more easily.

How to Become a Welder

Welding is a specialized career that requires proper training. For those who are creative and detail-oriented, this can be an exciting, fulfilling career.

A high school diploma or GED is typically required to become a welder, as well as some form of training, whether it’s on the job or through a technical school.

Attending a formal training program, like UTI’s Welding Technology program, can equip you with the knowledge and skills you’ll need to start your career in the field. It can also help you to stand out to employers when applying for jobs.1

Over the course of just 36 weeks, students in the program train to become combination welders by learning four different welding techniques:

Upon graduation, students will be well prepared to test for welding certifications from organizations like the industry standard American Welding Society. They can also take advantage of the resources offered by UTI’s Employment Assistance team, which works with national dealerships, distributors and employers across the country to identify potential jobs for graduates.

Curious about the different jobs available in the welding industry? Check out this Welding Career Guide.

In Review


What Is the Oldest Type of Welding?

Forge welding is considered to be the oldest type of welding. Blacksmiths used this type of welding to make weapons, armor, chains and ornaments. To do so, they would heat the iron in a charcoal furnace and hammer out imperfections. From there, they would increase the heat and hammer overlapping metal ends until they bonded.

When Was Welding First Discovered?

Welding as we know it today began in the 19th century. In 1836, English chemist Edmund Davy discovered the chemical compound acetylene. This discovery made oxy-fuel welding and cutting a possibility years later.

Who First Invented Welding?

Nikolay Gavrilovich Slavyanov is considered to be the inventor of welding, as he introduced arc welding with metal electrodes. However, the basic concept of welding was around before his time.

What Are the 4 Types of Welding?

The four types of welding are gas metal arc (GMAW), shielded metal arc (SMAW), flux-cored arc (FCAW) and gas tungsten arc (GTAW).

When Was MIG Welding Invented?

Metal inert gas (MIG) welding was patented for welding aluminum in 1949. In this type of welding, a continuous solid wire electrode travels through the welding gun (a shielding gas to shield the process from contaminants in the air) and into the weld pool. Today, it’s one of the most commonly used welding processes.

Read: How to Weld Aluminum: The Beginner’s Guide

What Is the History of TIG welding?

Charles L. Coffin, H.M. Hobart, and P.K. Devers all contributed to the development of tungsten inert gas (TIG) welding, but Russell Meredith perfected the process in 1941 by using a tungsten electrode arc and helium as a shielding gas. This transformed the welding industry, as welders were able to make products like airplanes and ships faster than ever.

When Did Stick Welding Start?

Coffin patented the process we know today as stick welding, or shielded metal arc welding (SMAW), in 1890.

Get Trained in Less Than 9 Months

Does a welding career sound exciting to you? UTI’s Welding Technology program is designed to equip you with the knowledge and skills needed to pursue a career in just 36 weeks. The program is offered at six campus locations:

The welding program starts every six weeks, so you can get going and start training for your career sooner. To learn more, visit our program page and request information to get in touch with an Admissions Representative today.

Updated on February 17, 2021

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By submitting this form, I further understand and agree that all information provided is subject to UTI's Privacy Policy available at uti.edu/privacy-policy

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