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Rejuvenating a 100-plus-year-old, 27,000-ton cornerstone of seafaring history back to her former glory is no small job, and neither is restoring the tight spaces of a 1,500-ton World War II submarine to mint 1945 condition. But Stanley® Engineered Fastening’s’ Nelson® stud welding brand is up to the challenge.

battleship texas
The U.S.S. Texas, America’s last remaining dreadnought, is still in existence.

Less than a few hundred US servicemen who fought on D-Day are still living today, but one of the ships that carried members of the Greatest Generation while shelling the western half of Omaha Beach, in addition to providing gunfire support at Iwo Jima and Okinawa, is currently waging the battle to stay alive. Thanks in part to Ted Nelson’s ingenious stud welding system, it’s a battle she can win.

Battleship Texas, America’s last remaining dreadnought and one of only seven remaining ships to have served in both World Wars, was commissioned in March of 1914 as the U.S.S. Texas

Our system gives them a great advantage in speed and efficiency, coupled with weld integrity. —Milton VereideField Sales Representative, Nelson®
Stanley® Engineered Fastening

“One of the staff was researching online and thought that our stud welding system would be much more efficient than the manual welding they were doing, which is extremely time-consuming and also requires a certified welder,” says Milton Vereide, Director of Sales for Nelson® stud welding at Stanley® Engineered Fastening. “After they got in contact, our team went down and did a demo, they purchased a used Nelson® Arc Charger, and we’ve been donating the studs on an ongoing basis.

“Our system gives them a great advantage in speed and efficiency, coupled with weld integrity, which we’re always happy for our customers to have. But of course, this is a particularly interesting project,” Vereide continues. “We’re always happy to be involved with our community, and of course, the Texas is a great throwback to Mr. Nelson and a continuance of his legacy.”

Ted Nelson, the brand’s founder, was a young Naval shipbuilder, who, like the Texas volunteer, was looking for faster, easier solutions to secure wooden decking to the steel frame of aircraft carriers when he invented stud welding back in 1939. The revolutionary invention that earned Nelson a Navy “E” citation for saving over 10 million man-hours has grown Nelson into the global leader in welded fasteners and equipment with virtually limitless applications and lowest in-place cost.

navy e citation with nelson stud gun patent drawing
Army-Navy E Citation Flag and Ted Nelson's stud welding gun drawing for patent submission.

The cost and time savings that Nelson stud welding lends to the restoration of the Texas are critically important to its ongoing restoration, says Andy Smith, Battleship Texas Ship Manager at Texas Parks and Wildlife. “Ever since the ship has been in dry dock, it has basically been deteriorating. This restoration is essentially an ongoing, circular process – you begin at one end and work to the other end, then it’s time to start over again at the beginning, so it’s vital that we take advantage of any efficiency we can find,” he says. “This ship would simply not be around without the support of many companies and people, and Nelson has really stepped up and provided that assistance.”

u.s.s. pampanito
The U.S.S. Pampanito was once the height of World War II submarine development.

Meanwhile, the U.S.S. Pampanito, also the beneficiary of Nelson’s eponymous technology, sits off the Embarcadero in San Francisco. Decades after running six patrols in the Pacific during World War II, when she sank six Imperial Japanese ships and damaged four others, she’s come home to rest off the California coast, and plays host to more than 100,000 visitors and 80,000 schoolchildren each year with the goal of teaching about the plight of soldiers during wartime. Repairs made possible by the Nelson equipment and materials have been essential to keeping the Pampanito safe and bringing her up to date, says Rich Pekelney, who serves on the Board of Trustees of the San Francisco Maritime National Park Association and oversees the restoration project.

“We’re adding some modern ground-fault indicators and other non-historic power equipment that will measurably improve the safety of every single visitor to the boat, and in order to do that, we’re mounting some equipment under the superstructure,” Pekelney says. “ Not only is using this stud weld system much, much less invasive - it means we’re not going to drill any holes - but it also means we can move the equipment very close to the work and use it in very small, awkward spaces. It’s going to take us longer to carry the equipment out there than it is to do the actual stud welding.”

Nelson® stud welding is much less invasive — We don't need to drill any holes and we can move the equipment very close to the work, in very small, awkward spaces. It takes longer to carry the equipment out there than it does to do the actual welding.—Rich PekelneyU.S.S. Pampanito
Board of Trustees of the San Francisco Maritime National Park Association

Like Pekelney, Smith values the Nelson® stud welding system’s versatility, saying that while its primary use is in bolting the 4 ½” wood veneer deck to the ship’s steel frame of the Texas, stud welding will actually be used throughout the ship.

“Since it runs off of household electricity, it’s very portable, and it doesn’t emit typical welding gases, so it’s easy to use in an enclosed space like those you encounter all over a ship,” says Mike Stovall, the Ship Supervisor for Maintenance and Preservation. “For our staff and volunteers to be able to work in a space like the Combat Information Center [the tactical center of a warship], that’s both extremely fun and very meaningful.”

nelson stud welding restoration work on battleship texas
Staff member preparing deck of U.S.S. Texas for Nelson® stud welding.

The Nelson system also allows staff and volunteers to weld with only a brief training session - only certified welders can make repairs using the original arc welding technique. Nelson provides this training, plus the studs and ongoing maintenance to both projects.

“I cannot emphasize how responsive Stanley® Engineered Fastening and Nelson® have been – to the extent that I’d almost characterize it as ‘tech support,’ helping us brainstorm ways to do things on an ongoing basis,” Smith notes. “They’re genuinely interested in helping us save this ship, and it’s not lost on us how important that kind of an involved partner is.”

Saving these ships is a cause that not only corporate America but also the general public should get behind, says Smith.

“Battleship Texas is unique in so many ways: She’s the only surviving dreadnought battleship, so she holds an important place in not only our nation’s history but also our world’s history,” he says. “She’s also really the Space Shuttle of her time – she represented the highest peak of technology in her era, where a sailor coming on board in 1914 who may not have had running water or electricity at home, he was boarding a floating city, and this would have seemed like a spaceship to him. For this reason, we keep her as a tribute to the ingenuity, hard work, and sacrifice of the thousands of men, not only sailors but also shipbuilders – and women, too – because in World War II, you had Rosie the Riveters – who were doing their part in the war effort.

“Most of all, though, she is a touchstone to history,” he continues. “This is where the soldiers who fought on D-Day stood. This was their battlefield. You can see where they slept, where they ate, where they were scared, where they celebrated victories, where they probably had the most stressful times of their lives.

This ship would simply not be around without the support of companies like Nelson and Stanley Engineered Fastening. They really stepped up and provided that assistance.—Andy SmithBattleship Texas Ship Manager at Texas Parks and Wildlife

“As such, it’s a tremendous teaching tool,” he adds, “because it’s really easy to sit in a classroom and talk about these concepts, but when you get a student out in the field and show them the bunks the men slept on, where they ate, where they worked, for months and months at a time, it really brings that history to life. It’s more than just a representative of the United States Navy. It’s a representative of liberty for all of us.”

With all the lessons it has to offer, there’s no question that preserving the U.S.S. Texas and the U.S.S. Pampanito both make important contributions to national and global history. Nelson stud welding’s unparalleled shipbuilding DNA and its dominant presence in the industry today plays a vital role in these restorations – one the company, and everyone at Stanley® Engineered Fastening, are proud to play.

Tagged:  Shipbuilding