Welding, The Good the Bad and the Ugly.


Since we have been looking at some nice welding in previous posts, let us look at the other side of the coin. Sometimes you can learn more by looking at the full range of work.



Above, This is 100% NOT-AIRWORTHY.  This weld actually looks better than it is, the tubing is completely oxidized around the welds. This came off a complete fuselage which a builder brought to my hangar for inspection. I cut it up as garbage.  He had a $3,000 tubing kit and near 400 hours in welding it. How did this happen? This is the fault of closed-minded idiots in his local EAA chapter, and headquarters needs to directly address the attitude that produced this.


The welder went to meetings, but told his EAA chapter president and tech counselor that he is using an automotive engine conversion on his plane. Because they are vermin who don’t understand the responsibility of their positions requires they share what they know with every builder, not just their friends assembling RV’s, They refused him any guidance and did their best to socially isolate him.  As a result of working in isolation, he missed that Gas welding is done this 5 psi pressure on both the O2 and  Aceteline. He mistakenly ran the O2 at 25 psi because that is the correct setting for a cutting head. It was a simple mistake that any qualified tech counselor would have seen in one minute….if he had been there instead of judging other builders choices. If you have found yourself in this situation, contact me early, I will be glad to offer all the assistance I can. To this builders great credit, he didn’t argue scrapping the fuselage at all. He just spent some time learning from Vern and myself, and is now doing good work.


BTW, I have actually seen worse welds flying in planes that were signed off by a DAR, which tells you the DAR is there to inspect the paperwork, not the plane. Never assume just because a homebuilt ‘passed’ inspection that it is airworthy nor safe to fly in.



OK, not all welds have to look like modern Tig welds to be good. I did the welds above with a gas welder, 22 years ago. This is a chunk of my Pietenpol mount.  If you look at the bent parts, you can see that none of the welds came anywhere near failing, even though the plane was completely destroyed from spinning in from 80′. Good welding is never brittle, and gas welds that look like the ones above will serve a lifetime in a plane, even if your friend makes a mistake close to the ground.



Welding is a great skill to have in your personal capablity list. If you think of getting welding equipment just because you want a plane with a welded fuselage, forget learning the skill, just buy a factory fuselage, even if it is $10K (never go to a ‘buddy’ to weld a fuselage because he promises to be cheaper, I have never seen that as a success story.) On the other hand, if it is a skill you have always wanted to have, then go for it, but take the learning very seriously and understand it might be a long time before you can make something airworthy.


Once you have the skill, you will suddenly see that since the industrial revolution, nearly everything in our world is made of steel, and you can now fuse it into nearly anything you like. The photo above is a mount for my Detroit engine. I made it last week. It is Tig welded.  The round tube is a section of a driveshaft and the 2×3 tube was laying in an outdoor pile. Clean them up in the blaster, fit them and weld, and you can have a structure which will mate a road grader engine to a pick up truck, something not for sale in stores. It’s liberating when your skills free you from the limited choices offered by the consumer world.



Art work in the living room of a Motorhead. This is the remains of my Pietenpol. Cleaning up the hangar on Christmas Day I came across a drum of old burnt steel parts, rusty from being flooded several times in the last 13 years. I spread it on the floor of the hangar and Mig welded it into the shape you see. I call it “Please use carb heat.” Blow it up and get a look,  you can see how mangled it was, but none of the welds failed. I cut it into pieces, but every bend is a result of the accident. The Goodyear Zeppelin in the background belonged to my father, he got it when he was five in 1930.


Happy building and flying,



About William Wynne
I have been continuously building, testing and flying Corvair engines since 1989. Information, parts and components that we developed and tested are now flying on several hundred Corvair powered aircraft. I earned a Bachelor of Science in Professional Aeronautics and an A&P license from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and have a proven 20 year track record of effectively teaching homebuilders how to create and fly their own Corvair powered planes. Much of this is chronicled at www.FlyCorvair.com and in more than 50 magazine articles.

3 Responses to Welding, The Good the Bad and the Ugly.

  1. Dan Branstrom says:

    As art, I can’t judge “Please use carb heat”, but as a reminder, it is superb.

    I heard someone say that they really like the way that welding glues things together and how rapidly it cures. Of course, it has to be done correctly.

  2. David says:

    HI William, As the owner of these bad welds I want to thank you for using them to show what a bad weld is and the results of making bad decisions. I did spend a lot of money and time on this tubing kit but I looked at it as an expensive lesson and thanks to your philosophy ( to which I subscribe) and articles I had the guidance to make the correct decisions in regard to the safety of me and anyone else that would ever fly in the plane. I remember when I left the fuselage with you I told you that I hoped that you could use it as a bad example in the hope that if it would save one life or prevent one injury it would be well worth the time and money I put into it. As you know I bought a factory fuselage again at your suggestion and as of today I am slightly ahead in the process of building then I was when I left the fuselage with you. I am still practicing my welding and have fabricated some parts for my plane but I am buying the parts from the factory I don’t feel comfortable welding myself. You know you never cease to amaze me, I had no idea you were and artist and true renaissance man. Thanks for all you do to protect people from themselves!!!

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