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Up Topic Welding Industry / General Welding Discussion / Question for Fabricators and Welders
- - By Costello Date 06-14-2008 17:47
Are Fabricators glorified welders?

The reason I ask is, my employer is accepting apprenticeship applications for Welders and Fabricators.
I'm new to welding world and I was wondering if there was a real difference between the two.
I know that they both weld and both need to know how to read blue prints.
Parent - - By texwelder (***) Date 06-14-2008 18:43
Oh yeah there is a difference, just because a man can read a set of prints does not make him a fabricator, a true fabricator will design something in his head, then build it, that the reason I say you can tell if a man is a fabricator or not by some of the custom truck beds you see on these rigs.
Parent - - By Joseph P. Kane (****) Date 06-14-2008 21:33

Your reply is full of passion, but as an answer to the man's question it is pure male bovine excrement!
Parent - By texwelder (***) Date 06-14-2008 21:40 Edited 06-14-2008 22:03
My old man told me one time that a lot of people can weld not anybody can fabricate. Its true I've seen welders that could run the slickist bead you ever seen, but could not fabricate a truck bumper. And yeah it didn't really answer his question. also i am speaking from a self employeed welder and fabricators stand point.  I see a lot of guys who think just they welded in high school shop class they are welder/fabricators
Parent - - By johnnyh (***) Date 06-15-2008 19:25
The original question is silly and Texwelder's responses are worse.
Parent - - By texwelder (***) Date 06-15-2008 19:30
Explain why it is silly, here in texas we have guys that can weld, but could not pour piss out of a boot with the directions on the hill.
Parent - By snuffman (***) Date 06-15-2008 21:32
Not just in Texas Ive met them all over the country.
Parent - - By johnnyh (***) Date 06-15-2008 21:53
Welding and fabricating are completely different.  Asking "are welders glorified fabricators" is like asking are golfers glorified tennis players.  Though they strike a ball, they are doing entirely different things.  The question is also somewhat stereotypical in that grouping everyone together like that can be tricky.  There are many different levels of skill for both fabricating and welding. 

You say "Explain why it is silly, here in texas we have guys that can weld, but could not pour piss out of a boot with the directions on the hill."

I am in Texas too and some of the best fabricators that I know can not pass a welding test to save their lives.  To group them together in such a broad statement is silly. 
Parent - By texwelder (***) Date 06-16-2008 01:23
You have to understand that most of the time if a man is self employed welder with a rig and a shop, I call my self a welder and fabricator and I am both. A lot of the rig welders as me call theirselves welders/fabricators, but are not one or the other or both.
Parent - By aevald (*****) Date 06-14-2008 19:13
Hello Costello, depending upon your geographical location and a lot of other considerations there can be many interpretations of the differences between welders or fabricators. In some cases welders are strictly what the term describes, they are responsible for welding parts that have already been fit-up and tacked together, their sole responsibility remains having the ability and skills to properly weld all of these parts together. Fabricators on the other hand, might be responsible for taking a drawing of an item, locating, cutting, processing all of the pieces prior to fitting them together and tacking them up for final weld-out and then welding them as well. In other words they possess the skills to handle the entire job from start to finish. If you throw a fitter into the mix, you might include this individual to possess the skills required to interpret prints and take the necessary steps to collect prepared parts(possibly already cut to length, mitered, punched, drilled, formed, or rolled) and fit and tack these parts so that a welder can finish the required welding. Pipe welding can have similar sorts of classifications regarding welders, fitters, fabricators, and those who do both, it just really depends upon the companies involved, whether the jobs are being done under a union jurisdiction and other variables. You will likely receive any number of responses that can vary tremendously based upon some of the variations that I have described above. A little bit to consider. Best regards, aevald
Parent - By sbcmweb (****) Date 06-14-2008 19:59
From my experience in smaller shops, a fabricator is an all around weldor, manual mill & lathe operator, skilled at reading prints & can do the job, design & build from start to finish. Of course, a union shop my classify different trades for certain procedures, but usually, a fabricator can do whatever is necessary to complete the job. Some places even use the same guys to metal finish & paint. It's hard to say, since so many places differ in job classification & duties.

At the same time, this does not mean the fabricator is more skilled than a weldor. The weldor my be used, as Allen eluded to, specifically for a certain procedure, or type of welding or job that the individual has been tested for & is competent to perform. A classic example is pipe welding. An all-around fabricator may possess many skills to build a variety of items, but a weldor qualified to weld on ASME or API pipe is highly skilled at a type of welding that is far beyond the scope & procedure of simple fabrication. Like was said earlier, it all depends on the place you work & how their job descriptions & job procedures have been defined. Hope that helps. S.W.

"Trust me..." (Indiana Jones to Marion Ravenwood, Raiders Of The Lost Ark.)
Parent - By texasrtp (*) Date 06-14-2008 20:50
Hi Costello
If it was me looking at a apprenticeship program with your employer I think that the fabrication side would be the way to go. You will learn more and earn more in the long run. It covers many more skills that you can get paid for than just welding. Always remember that your paycheck is not the only benifit you will receive, the fabrication skills that they will teach you will make you a skilled tradesman not just a skilled welder. My answer to your ? are Fabricators glorified Welders? I would say no because welding is not the only skill in a Fabricators bag of tricks. Bigger bag of tricks = bigger paycheck. Plus you have to figure out how much time you want to invest in either trade, welding dosen't take as long as fabricating. I gave my first company 5 years and they gave me a career for a lifetime,so any apprenticeship program that you can get into will benefit you in your future.

Parent - By yorkiepap (***) Date 06-15-2008 02:59
Hey Costello,
As you can see, you will get the gamut of interpretations from our members that they feel relate to your query. Personally, I feel Allan and S.W. probably provided you with the most sound response as to the definition of a fabricator. You must realize that these are 2 totally different arenas that are a meld of the ability to do a multitude of metal manipulations(fabricate) into a product that has to be fused(welded) into a functional item. In addition, another highly valuable quality is the ability to simply take an "idea" and create a tangible item. The individual who can provide the ability to both fabricate and weld with absolute precision and quality, will always be in much demand. The level of comprehension to read a drawing, interpret dimensional configurations, understand symbols, knowledgeable with metallurgy, and have the intuitive resource to interpret possible problems or provide a more sound method, will take years of learning & the hunger to excel in both arenas. Each is a separate are a fabricator, or you are a welder. The combination of both parameters with years of experience will allow you to carry the title of "Welder/Fabricator". That can be an impressive arsenal of qualities that most manufacturers really look for in an individual to enhance their companys' future economic & profitability to survive a merciless economy & business world. It took me 35 years to "earn" that title in addition to the tangent arena of production design that I also do for our company. I'm in my 45th year of manufacturing, semi-retired, and still look forward to going to work and any new challenge that presents itself. Once it gets in your blood & brain, you'll never regret the extra effort & satisfaction that comes. Do yourself a favor.... learn....everything. "The hungriest earn the most".........     Good Luck.......    Denny
Parent - - By DaveBoyer (*****) Date 06-15-2008 04:33
    A fabricator has an aditional set of skills including trigonometry & layout above what is expected of a welder, and as well should be familliar with all the equipment in a fab shop: saws, shears, brakes, presses, turret punches, ironworkers, bending rolls, drilling machinery, flame/plasma/lazer cutting machines to name some, and able to build the entire part, not just do the welding. This might not be a complete answer, but You can get an idea what We are trying to convey.
Parent - - By sbcmweb (****) Date 06-15-2008 20:04
Coming from a Journeyman Machinist's stand point Dave, I believe both you & Denny really expanded & rounded the definition of "Fabricator" classification out. As was said before, a great deal of how the classification of "Fabricator" is interpreted, is determined by the place of employment, as well as lines of demarcation drawn by an employer & or union representing Labor in said place of employment. In smaller shops I have worked, a fab guy may do everything on a job, requiring knowledge of many areas of shop trades. At GM, if you were a weldor, you did not touch sheet metal, operate drilling or fabrication machinery & so forth. I would venture out on a limb to say the term "Millwright" (at least in a union shop) probably would cover a somewhat "universal" definition to the classification of "Fabricator" since in many shops I have been in (including union), a Millwright would fabricate projects as well as weld them up.

However, a Millwright would not be used to pipe weld, or perform more precise types of welding, such as GTAW, open root critical SMAW or pressure vessel. An actual Weldor may likely be brought in to handle that, since the Millwright's skills were not applicable to that procedure of welding. (at least in the shop I worked in) On the other hand, a "Weldor" classification in some shops might mean pushing .052  GMAW in a booth all day, doing production! As far as getting into a trade defined by an employer, the Fabricator classification would give the best all-around opportunity to learn a variety of skills that will be beneficial in many lines of work. The fine details of the "Weldor" classification can always be brought into the mix in the future as more is learned. Some good info here! Lots of really experienced individuals to draw from. :-) S.W.
Parent - - By DaveBoyer (*****) Date 06-16-2008 04:16
   Steve, One of My friends was a Millwright for GM at St. Catharines, Ont. He told Me that at that plant they further divided the Millwrights into 2 catagories, construction & machinery. He was in the construction department, building assembly lines, etc. and had welders to do the welding.

    As You point out, the dividing lines are drawn by the Union or the Company in an open shop. Under the USWA at the frame plant I could use a torch, but not an air arc or electric welder. At a different [non union] job I was a tool & die maker, but anyone who knew how to weld & braze  was expected to, including setup men.

    I would expect a fabricator to be a "jack of all trades" welder, not necesarily a master in any process. In smaller shops a fabricator will likely have to be able to build a job from start to finish. A welder might be proficient with fab shop machinery, but in My opinion that would be in addition to being a capable welder, not a requirement of one.
Parent - - By sbcmweb (****) Date 06-16-2008 04:34
Hi Dave. Here, at GM Lansing plants, they have all but practically done away with weldors. The Millwrights are doing a lot of the non-critical welding & construction now. Most of them, however, are not very good weldors. The Company, in this case, is looking at consolidating trades & saving money. Not the greatest solution, but I see where they are coming from. Yeah, the term "Fabricator" is a mixed bag, for sure! Different everywhere you go. I'll get those pics of those anvils to you here when I can get to it! Have a good night. S.W.
Parent - By DaveBoyer (*****) Date 06-17-2008 05:04
   Steve, My friend retired from that GM plant at St. Cathrines in 1990, a lot may have changed since then. 
   At the Dana Corp. frame plant I worked in We did not have Millwrights, just maintainance mechanics. Some of them were clasified as 'machine tool rebuilders" but they weren't properly trained and weren't any good at it. They were luckey if they could fix thier Harleys well enough on lunch break to get home that night. We had amaintainance welding department, they did work on installing new lines when that took place.
Parent - - By jon20013 (*****) Date 06-16-2008 04:36
I like Dave Boyers answer the best.  At my former employer, there was a differentiation between welder's and fabricators and it was just about EXACTLY as defined by Dave.
Parent - - By Tommyjoking (****) Date 06-16-2008 13:21 Edited 06-16-2008 13:31
I like a lot of what was said here and its true.....

There are different levels of skill to all those definitions:  A guy who can run the brake and then weld it up.....he is fabricating and welding it out...but if it comes time to machine out a flange from a slab of steel and then weld it on a vessel,  maybe he can't do what is he?  He is welding and fabricating....but maybe at a low level.   All the trades have measured amounts of skill as someone progresses in that trade for the most part.

Millwright:  You can rig a machine and set it in place, wire it up, assemble any mechanics, fab anything needed for the install and weld it if necessary.  Adept at most trades but master (highly skilled) of none generally.  Being a (good) Millwright is a tough job that requires a lot of "thinking on your feet", you need to be fairly sharp and able to adapt quickly.

Fabricator: (Dave's definition)  You can take a blueprint, cut the metal from raw stock and make parts accurately (including doing the math and using the most effective and least waste full technique.  This includes using doing layouts and using punches,brakes,presses,shears,saws(all types),winches,cranes,plate rolls,drills etc.  This type of work can get you involved in using lathes and mills in some cases (but thats really for the machinists ain't it?).  It takes a lot of experience to become a top notch fabricator!

Welder:  (oh boy!)  There are welders that have never fit one part or ever had to cut a piece of metal...all they have ever done is weld out what was put in front of em.  There are VERY few of those that are very old.   Since fabrication is almost always going on at the same place the welding is getting done its a natural consequence for a welder to pick up some fabrication skills...especially in job shops or in do anything portable welding.  Almost all welders I have met have some fitting and fabrication skills....but the level of those skills varies wildly dependent upon their experiences.   Would I call some of them good fitters or fabricators.....some of them, most definitely.  But definitely not all or even most.

aside from all that...bear with me here

Its a good idea no matter what you do at a job to spend time where you can with other tradesmen out of your particular venue.   You can pick up a lot of ideas and skills from the right people.  This mindset has helped me develop myself as a "Metalworker" and made me much more useful and valuable to employers and has kept me employed when jobs were scarce.  Yes I am a professional WELDER and proud of what I can do and what I have learned....but while I may never be the best guy in the shop in any trade, I can walk in and hit the ground running in most of them and be profitable the first day in......thats not a bad place to be.  I owe all that to someone giving me a chance to strike my first arc. This is the one reason I dislike unions, in general they stifle this exchange of knowledge on the job (NO need to reply about how great your local is, thats great for you, that does not mean I have to dig it).
Always learning no matter what your doing, thats the best policy in my book.

My $.02 (ok its really $.05...but I had to get it out there lol)

Parent - By sbcmweb (****) Date 06-17-2008 12:41
I have to agree with you on that, Tommy. I learned more in the non union shops I worked at than I ever did at GM.  When I worked at Dart Container, the maintenance guys would build, weld (Sometimes) & run machines like lathes & mills if they needed to. Not necessarily a fabricator, but could do a little bit of everything.  I admittedly will always be pro union, but I absolutely agree that a union environment doesn't allow "any exchange of knowledge" because everyone's all worried about their job getting combined with another trade, or deleted all together. I've been in union shops where back in the day, if a Millwright touched a sheet metal guard on a machine, without calling a tinner, he/she was in a heap of trouble. Now, that's just ridiculous.

I worked at Dart Container for three years as a metal finisher & they would teach you just about anything you wanted to know if you asked the right person. I learned how to weld (kinda) there & got a basic machine tool instruction there as well. I was even playing with the CNC machines a little before I left. In a union shop, that NEVER would have happened. I would have had so many grievances written on me, it would not have been good at all. I know guys who worked in GM plants, right next to trades guys building stuff all day, & didn't know squat about anything. The union environment just doesn't really promote labor to learn anything about a trades job (unless of course, that individual joins the apprenticeship) Even if you just brought in a piece off your kid's bike to weld it up.

That said, you really got it with saying that one should spend as much time with different trades guys, learning all that person can. I have always said....The company may control how much money I make, or what shift I work, but whatever I learn there is mine...I take that with me when I leave. No can take that away from me, or make me unlearn it :-) S.W.
Up Topic Welding Industry / General Welding Discussion / Question for Fabricators and Welders

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