The right tools for the right job

Author: David Mulders

Having a kit of tools at your disposal as an inspector is an imperative part of your job.  From the specialized tools and equipment for UT/RT/ET, to the diverse range of tools used in Quality Control and visual inspection, there is an ever expanding number of items to make our jobs easier.

The flashlight, possibly the most ubiquitous tool in our arsenal, but not without its subtleties and issues. I try to keep a range of flashlights with me including a large flood lamp for confined spaces and night conditions, a standard trouble light for large scale inspections, a high lumen hand held flash light for general work and a two power penlight for close up and intricate inspection. Many inspectors strive to have the largest most powerful flashlight possible to perform their work, but in my experience it has shown that brighter is not always better, some flashlights leading to obscuring or washing out defects through the inspection. One of the key ways in which a flashlight helps in our inspection process is by casting a shadow through indications, this will highlight cracks and irregularities in the materials surface. Ensure that when you use a light source, it is appropriate for the level of inspection, manipulate the angle of light source throughout the inspection to produce the telltale shadows of a defect.

The ruler, once we have identified the location or existence of a defect or discontinuity we will need to report on its size and evaluate the extent of the indication.  I carry with me a 100’, 50’, 35’ measuring tape with metric and imperial measurements, a 12” steel machinists ruler and a 6” pocket ruler with holes ranging from 1/16” to ¼” for the assessment of indications.  I also carry a 12” flexible magnetic ruler, this helps as a reference when photographing and documenting defects for future considerations.

The mirror, the harder it is to see, the more likely there will be indications. Our mirror can be the difference between an educated guess and a clear view of the condition of a part or component, they let us see around corners and behind walls and can make all of the difference in an inspection.  I include a 12-30” extendable 2X3 rectangular mirror with lights as my go-to mirror, a 12-30” extendable 1” diameter mirror for smaller nozzles and openings, and a ½” dental mirror for small openings.  I also carry a 24” flexible camera that attaches to my cell phone for tube inspections and to verify the installation of internal parts.

Gauges, every visual inspector should have a set of gauges with them, the following include what I carry in my kit.  The fillet gauge is used to measure the toe/throat of a fillet weld to determine the effective weld size, a bridge cam can also be used to measure fillet weld sizes, as well as reinforcement, misalignment, depth or height of discontinuities and more! A versatile tool, but bulky and not optimal for all situations. Pit gauges or the commonly called V-WAC single weld gauge is excellent for determining underfill, oversized welds, depths of indications and more. A weld reinforcement gauge is designed to straddle butt welds and measure the reinforcement off of the parent material, these can also be used to measure fillet welds, but are very useful on piping and vessels to measure reinforcement. A High low gauge is used to measure the alignment of parent materials, and finally a socket weld gauge is used to determine the schedule of materials, and throat dimensions on socket welds. These gauges are optimal for the visual inspector, but have been very useful in the past to make clear reports when performing UT, RT, MT, PT and other NDE processes, they can help us to size defects, size weld thicknesses and materials and report on the welds we inspect.

Specialized equipment.

There is a myriad of specialized equipment that can come up for use during an inspection, and along with those items listed above I try to keep an inventory of any equipment that may come in handy on future inspections through my experience on previous jobs and throughout my career. The following are items that I keep handy when inspecting. An infrared thermometer is essential for monitoring preheat, interpass temperature, PWHT and consumable storage. A volt/amp meter is needed for checking adherence to weld procedures, verifying the output on a welding machine, and for performance qualification testing. A psychrometer or dewpoint meter can be used for drying and cleaning processes on pipelines, and determining relative humidity when welding is taking place to reduce hydrogen interference. An anemometer can be used to determine wind speeds when welding outdoors to ensure shielding gas coverage as many clients now have specifications for wind speed allowance using gas shielding processes. Micrometers, digital pit gauges and Calipers are irreplaceable for accurate measurement of  material thicknesses, part dimensions and sizing indications. Digital levels are an excellent way to give tangible data for plumb and level measurements. A magnetic field or Gaussmeter can be useful for determining sources of arc blow, and previous NDT testing.

Being prepared and having the right tools for the right job can make or break your process. Always be prepared and you will never be surprised.