Biz Wave: Speciality Welds

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Speciality Welds manufactures many of its own products. What are some of the your most popular items?

We manufacture a wide range of underwater welding products and welding consumables, including Barracuda Gold and Hammerhead electrodes, Piranha safety isolation switches, welding stingers, Swordfish arc cutting and Scorpion blue exothermic cutting lances, flip-up housings and auto-darkening filters. They are all high selling items.

But I think it would have to be the Piranha 400 amp safety switch which is the biggest seller to the widest possible market place. We sell this product all over the world, and it all started on a blank sheet of paper. Industry wasn’t using this product at the time, but I though I could design a better product for no more money and its very satisfying to have been proved right, albeit it has taken some time.

What’s some of the most notable research that you and/or members of Speciality Welds have taken part in for the construction and/or maritime industry?

We have undertaken a lot of research in this field. I developed and patented the only wet-spot welding process in the world which was designed to allow for joining materials in zero visibility conditions and by non-welders. This process is called Hammerhead wet-spot.

However, more recently in cooperation with our Greek partners Marex, we have proved that underwater wet-welding can provide class A weld metal quality, as defined by AWS D3.6:2010. As far as we are aware, this is the first published evidence available in the public domain.

Speciality Welds fits into a unique niche in the industry, focusing primarily on underwater welding in its training, product line and services. How has this focus proved advantageous?

I can only speak for ourselves, but I feel it important to specialise and focus your skills in a specialist field. In that way, should industry require those skills, then you’ll be in demand. Of course if industry doesn’t require them, you’re in trouble! That’s perhaps why its taken so long to get an excellent name, as in the UK, wet welding was always seen as the poor brother to dry hyperbaric welding.

It’s true to say that the North Sea dictated what technologies were used, and hyperbaric welding in the seventies and eighties was what was required. Wet welding was not seen as a vital technology, due to poor weld quality but also grades of steels used and the poor metallurgy associated with wet-welding. This is not the case today. But it’s important to study and work on one’s education, because although you may in time specialise, you will need all the engineering skills of your core subject before you can specialise.

How many qualified underwater welders does Speciality Welds employ for their services?

We are a training and specialist welding consultancy provider. We do not employ divers for commercial welding projects. We like to make a clear separation between these two things, as nobody wants to see a training provider also tendering for a commercial welding project; can’t serve two markets!

What’s one of the most challenging projects you’ve ever worked on (welding/inspection or anything else), and how long did it take to complete it?

As a diver myself, I undertook one of the first coded wet-welding projects ever completed in the North Sea – welding on the Ninian Northern platform. As a company, we have done many, but I think you tend to always remember the first one, which was to write and develop a number of welding procedures for 11 offshore platform repairs in Nigeria, together with qualifying all the divers for the project.

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Your two-week underwater welding program doesn’t require previous experience, but have you noticed a significant difference of success between students with welding experience and those that come without it?

In actual fact, at least for the first 2 – 3 days wet training, non-welders perform better than welders.

This is not too surprising when you think about it, as experienced welders just can’t help themselves from constantly interfering with the process: adjusting angles, arc length travel speed, weaving, etc. It is true that after day three, a good welder will start to catch up and may overtake the non-welder, but that’s not always the case. We can take a non-welder and turn them into a wet welder because our programme teaches three basic wet techniques, which when mastered are all a diver will ever need.

Does your underwater welding training have an equal focus on dry and wet welding techniques and application?

The programme is split in the 3 compartments:

  1. Deals with dry welding
  2. Deals with all the theory as shown in the course syllabus
  3. Deals with wet welding

What are the advantages to dive schools (and their students) who use your accredited training?

That’s simple. We are the only training provider in the world that offers an independently accredited welding programme through what we call an ‘awarding-body’. It provides certification of both a diver’s knowledge and practical skills, following the European Welding Federation/International Institute of Welding syllabus for plate welder (fillet welds).

Your book, A Welder’s Mate, was originally published in 1990, but you introduced a revision of the book. What are some of the primary topics that you updated?

Yes, my first book was intended to be a simple, easy-to-read booklet for students currently studying the subject of underwater welding. It purposely kept things very simple and straight-forward and therefore, didn’t go into any details on steels, electrodes, basic metallurgy, etc.

So I wrote the second book to take the reader to the next level.


– David Keats, Managing Director of Speciality Welds and author of “A Welder’s Mate: Underwater Wet Welding

Speciality Welds offers a wide range of welding products, services and expertise. They perform on-site consulting and training in construction above and below water.