Having the Right Tools Means Never Turning Down an Equipment Repair Job
Oxy-fuel, gouging and exothermic cutting system help Welding Repair Services put broken down iron back in the field.
"You can't afford to take shortcuts with equipment repair. If you take a shortcut, the equipment can bust apart and potentially hurt someone," says Isaac Carrion, owner of Welding Repair Services, Austin, Texas. "People who take shortcuts to get equipment up and running or to save a buck end up calling us anyway when the equipment fails again. They know we'll fix it right the first time."
Welding Repair Services works in a 200-mile radius around Austin, serving contractors, foundation drillers, rental houses and anyone who needs light- to heavy-duty equipment repaired.
Carrion got hooked on welding when he watched his dad build a trailer. Between the immediate satisfaction of seeing the sparks and the thought of creating something that could last a lifetime, he was hooked. He joined his high school FFA program and took Ag Mechanics. After high school, he worked his way through technical school to perfect his craft, then landed a job with an equipment repair firm.
"When I worked for other folks, I was the guy they sent out in the field. I saw what was needed on construction sites and paid attention to the skills and tooling required," he says.
Over a period of years, he invested his personal money in building up the right tools for the job. When he decided to strike out on his own, he was well prepared. Today, Carrion's work truck includes a 1-ton crane, a welder/generator and a compressor. Newer additions include a Climax BB3000 line boring machine and a Bortech semi automatic bore welding machine.
"You don't ever skimp on tooling. It will bite you bad," says Carrion. "It may cost a little more to buy quality, but in the long run, you'll be ahead. I invest heavily in tooling and get the best product for the job. It helps me get the job done faster and better."
Torching and Gouging
The hard, rocky ground around Austin really beats up equipment, and Carrion uses three key cutting tools to keep equipment running: Victor® oxy-fuel cutting torches, an Arcair® air carbon-arc gouging system and an Arcair SLICE exothermic cutting system.
On the day we visited Carrion, a contractor preparing ground for a new subdivision dropped off the rear bucket for a loader backhoe. In this case, as in many instances, Carrion's first repair step is to fire up his Victor oxy-fuel cutting torch to remove the torn metal (view video of Isaac in action).
"I do a lot of cutting, and I need it in the field. That's where a torch serves me best," states Carrion.
Next, he uses an Arcair K4000 gouging torch to remove torn or worn metal. When it comes to metal removal, no other method offers the combination of simplicity, speed and portability of air carbon-arc gouging (an oxy-fuel torch and plasma cutter can scarf, but not as efficiently). The process uses a torch and cable, copper-coated carbon electrode connected to a welding power source and a constant blast of compressed air to remove the molten metal. By far the most popular carbon diameter in the U.S. is the 1/4"-diameter carbon, which requires 300 and 400 amps of power. The torch & cable requires a compressor with a recommended output of at least 80 PSI at 22 CFM.
"An Arcair air carbon-arc gouging set up was one of the first tools that I purchased when I started out on my own because you can't fix or repair anything any other way…to last, at least," says Carrion. "By gouging, you can remove all the worn metal to reach into the good parent metal. It's the only way you can ensure a weld with 100 percent penetration."
Carrion used these same two cutting tools to repair an excavator boom that failed. As the operator swung the boom, it cracked open on three sides. He swung the boom back to close up the cracks and, by necessity, left the machine where it was…in the bottom of a trench. Working one section at time, Carrion torched out the torn metal, used the torch to cut a new plate of steel to the correct size and welded it back in place.
"It was quite the job, but if you've got the right tools, it works out great," he says.
Frozen pins can be the bane of construction, rental, agricultural, mining and other equipment. For example, one of Carrion's customers with a telescoping material handler had been working on a frozen 3"-diameter pin on and off for a month, heating it with a torch and using an electric jackhammer in an attempt to pound it out.
"All he did was mushroom the end. Meantime, he didn't have access to his lift and was now in dire straights," says Carrion. "Using my Arcair SLICE exothermic cutting system, I removed the pin in about 90 minutes."
The SLICE cutting system uses a sheet of mild steel that is formed to a tubular rod that is 18 to 44 inches long and 3/8- or 1/4"-diameter. A special torch holds the rod and connects it to a cylinder that delivers pure oxygen at 80 PSI; Carrion uses his oxy-fuel cutting cylinder. Carrion ignites the oxygen with a standard 12V battery and a special striker bar that creates sparks. The oxygen acts as an exciter and continuously burns the steel rod at a temperature of 8,000 to 10,000 degrees F. The resulting exothermic reaction cuts through almost anything — steel (all grades, including the rustiest metal), aluminum, stainless and even concrete and brick (view video).
Commonly used in scrap operations, SLICE cutting systems also excel at pin removal. Carrion says he normally pierces the center of the pin and first cuts a hole all the way through.
"Then I work toward the edge of the pin to make a seam that looks like a Pac-Man face," he says. "After the cut cools, the pin shrinks a couple thousandths of an inch and it comes right out with a light hammer."
In the case of the telescoping handler, the pin connected the hydraulic cylinder to the end of the boom, and it was located directly over the engine. To protect the engine from sparks and slag, Carrion covered it with a sheet of tin roofing cut to shape. The customer was so happy to have his machine back in service, he told Carrion he was, "going to love me for the rest of my life."
Results such as this are a big part of the reason Carrion loves working for himself.
"Being a one-man show can be tough, but I wouldn't trade it for anything. I love the challenge," he says. "When I show up on a site, I never know what I'm going to expect, so I have to be prepared for everything. I carry a tremendous amount of tools, and customers will call because they know I have those tools. As a result, there are very few jobs I've ever turned down."
If you're within a 200-mile radius of Austin and need cutting, welding and boring services, visit Welding Repair Services or call Isaac Carrion at 512-797-5833.
CuttingBucket Isaac Carrion begins the bucket repair process by cutting off the torn portion
of this bucket with a Victor ST 400C oxy-fuel torch.
(Click images for larger view.)
Exothermic This operator demonstrates the ability of an Arcair SLICE
exothermic cutting system to cut through almost anything, including
firebrick (refractory brick).
(Click images for larger view.)
Pin Removal Just one of the many pins
Isaac Carrion has removed using his SLICE
(Click image for larger view.)
Gouging The air-carbon arc gouging process
removes worn and torn metal faster than any
other process. Carrion considers an Arcair K4000
torch an essential tool for good weld preparation.
(Click image for larger view.)