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Maximum width of weld bead

“To weave or not to weave… that is the question…”

Gentlemen, I have been listening to the conversations regarding this topic, and the questions being
asked of me regarding it… First by Tom, then indirectly from Matt (whilst talking to students). The
differences of opinion regarding this matter are of some concern to me. So, I thought I’d waste some
time and justify the matter, according to the codes, not hearsay… not general practices… the actual
welding codes that we are supposed to be working to. Now there is always the caveat that we can, if we
choose exceed the code, that is always there… and its always our prerogative. I would suggest though
that whatever we decide, we present a uniform front and opinion on this matter for the sake of the
students (and maybe my sanity), maybe we need to make a vote on it between ourselves if after you
read through this sheet and we still find ourselves disagreeing, but whatever the outcome I’m sure you
can see the benefit of presenting a “CWI way” that we all work to.. So first things first, let’s examine the
facts from the codes…

Q1: Is there, or is there not a definition in D1.1 or API 1104 or any other Spec regarding the maximum
width of bead allowable under the appropriate code.

A: Yes and No,


No… there is no definition on the maximum bead width in either of those codes for stick (SMAW) with
the possible exception that I will cover later regarding welding on PWHT material.
Yes, there is a “maximum single pass layer width” in D1.1 for SAW. FCAW and GMAW… see Table 3.6
attached. Please also note that on this Table SMAW is blanked out, so for SMAW, this does not apply.
Bottom line, it is process dependent.
In Table 3.6 it states: if the root opening is > ½” then you must split the layers in GMAW and FCAW.
Or, if the root opening is < ½” then in the F, H, or OH positions for non-tubular weldments, you must
split the layers when the layer width is >5/8”. In the Vertical position for non-tubulars or the Flat,
Horizontal, Vertical, and Overhead positions for tubulars, you must split the layers when the width (w)
of the layer is >1”. There is also a Width/Depth pass limitation in 3.7.2 which references Fig 3.1.

Please note also that before anyone says that this section is for the prequalification of WPS’s (Section 3)
and not for Inspection (Section 4) that it governs the prequalified joints in both D1.1 and B2.1 (The
SWPS’s), so all of section 3 is relevant as it deals with all the prequalified welds we use.

For the definition of what a “split layer technique” is, please refer to AWS B3.0 (Terms and Definitions)
where it states… I quote “Split Layer Technique. A welding technique resulting in layers having more
than one weld bead, See Figure B23(D)” which is shown at the top of the next page. Please also note
that B23(E) is a weave sequence and is allowable under code, that is… both stringers and weaves are
allowable given the afore mentioned limitations listed.
Figure 1 Fis B23(D) and B23(E) from AWS B3.0 Terms and Definitions

Q2. OK, so there is a definition for SAW, FCAW and GMAW, So what of stick (SMAW)

A: Well, as I said and show in Table 3.6, there is no width limitation in D1.1, or at least, shielded metal
arc welding (SMAW) with E7018, you will not find many restrictions on weave/oscillation width in AWS
D1.1, but there are some. Table 4.6 in Clause 4—"Qualification" limits weave/oscillation width in Charpy
V-notch (CVN) testing applications by restricting heat input and weld metal volume (see: Electrical
Characteristics 9). Travel speed plays a key role in both those calculations, and weave width has a direct
impact on travel speed (the wider the weave, the slower the weld progression, or travel). So there in no
direct figure quoted, but you could argue stringers over weaves in this case. We could calculate the heat
input given the weld formulae in each test but that would mean timing the rate of travel, and that would
be painful if we have to time students when performing a prequalified test. Or, we could trust AWS (I
know… silly right?) and accept that the rigor they apply with making rulings on both prequalified joints
and the SWPS’s means that they have taken both techniques into consideration when compiling the
standards. I state this, as all of the prequalified joints in both D1.1 and the SWPS’s have PQR’s, they just
don’t give us them.

There is nothing further in any other code to my knowledge with one exception and even that is a long
shot, but it only applies to Lo Hy electrodes (7018), and then only after the PWHT, so repair work. This is
also the only note I know of that states a factor justified by the core wire diameter of the electrode, in
this case its 4x the core wire diameter. Please see the attached ASME Section VIII Article UCS 56 section
(4) (-a).

Long story short, what you're looking for most likely will not come from a code book. Information may
be available from the electrode manufacturer or found in the electrode specification (Example: A5.XX),
but for the most part, determining maximum weave width comes from years of testing and trying and
personal or company preferences.

Yes, we’ve probably all heard the 3x core diameter argument, but that is a “General Rule of Thumb” as
there aren’t any codes outside of what I have listed above that state it… period. Limits placed on the
width of a weave when using low hydrogen covered electrodes is not a code restriction and it is rarely
imposed by the welding standard. There are no such limits imposed by NAVSEA S9074-AR-GIB-278 or
NAVSEA S9074-AQ-GIB-010/248. You can go back to the NAVSEA and Mil-Spec standards and look until
Hell freezes over, it isn't in there and it isn't in the D1.5 Bridge Code or D1.1 Structural Welding
Code/Steel or ASME or API 1104 and it only applies to the B&PV Codes if you are doing a repair on a
PWHT'd vessel and do not plan on performing the PWHT after the repair! Most such restrictions are
imposed by the employer or the welding engineer, not the applicable welding standard.

As mentioned previously, there are times when heat input is limited to control grain growth and to
improve toughness when low temperature applications are involved, but that isn't the case with the
majority of the structural steel that is welded. When toughness is required, the WPS has to be qualified
with notch toughness testing. There are additional variables that are categorized as essential (or
supplementary essential) variables imposed to account for the effects of heat input. Heat input is one
control used to control the cooling rates and subsequent grain size that is important for low
temperature application. The flip side of the argument is that if the application is for higher
temperatures where creep is a concern, large grains "Rule," so heat input isn't limited. Heat input by
itself does not destroy steel unless you are going to heat the entire structure up to the melting point,
in which case you will have a molten pool of steel alloy and then who give a rat's ass whether the grain is
coarse, fine, or somewhere in between, just grab a ladle and start scooping.

Summary: IMHO Table 6 is our go-to document, it doesn’t cover SMAW, but why couldn’t we apply it
taking heat travel calculations into account, that is the only controlling factor and we only have a few
processes and thicknesses we certify in.

And last but not least, something tells me that both Tom and Matt have years more experience in
welding pipe against industry standards than most of us that haven’t worked in that industry or been
taught by people that have. Personally, I have done a fair bit of pipe across multiple industry sectors,
and if Tom or Matt told me something that I’d never heard of before… I would at least look into it,
instead of insisting on a 3/8” maximum bead width, that’s like me trying to tell the motive guys here
how to build a loco lol. Trust in your colleagues’ skills and experience, it’s why we hired them isn’t it?.

Bottom line as welding Inspectors, work to the code. If it isn’t in the code, then work to what the
welding engineer tells you or the company states… In that order. In this case for FCAW and GMAW at
least the code is pretty clear, in the case for SMAW or TIG, not so much, unless you apply a SWPS which
we do, which means that as a prequalified procedure its covered by Table 3.6 and any PQR’s that were
used to justify it. What that does state though is that in SMAW and/or GTAW there are no limitations.