Roadside Blind Welding - Mulanje Malawi
Next to an intersection with the main road to Mulanje works a group of men with basic tools. One of them was actively welding with a scratch built arc welder.
Wire was wrapped around a group of metal plates, and the whole thing was housed in a basic wooden frame.
To turn it on, the power wires to the transformer were connected to the AC electric supply coming out of the store room.
There was one guy doing the welding, and he was also alternating between bashing away at a brake disk from a toyota, trying to remove a part of the wheel hub. The banging was what originally caught my attention. He was beating away at it with a hunk of steel, fatiguing the metal of the hub for removal.
While I was there, he repaired two bikes, one by welding the pedal post back on to the crank.
The welder used no goggles. I didn't realize it until later, but his technique was to do 'blind welding' He would attach the ground to the bike, close his eyes, and scratch at the point he wanted to work with the electrode. When the current flowed and the electrode melted, he worked it until it was close, then would stop, open his eyes, check his work, and continue on or finish up.
Since most Malawians have little or no access to the energy of fossil fuels, people get around by either walking or using bicycles. These bikes are used for everything, carrying heavy loads, personal transportation and serving as taxis. They almost all have sturdy steel racks on the back. The bikes are made in China or India, Humber was a common brand name.
While I was there, I interviewed one of the guys about the welding being done. At some point I will edit and post the audio.
Photos - Flickr set