Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Fire and Steel and Explosive Gases, Oh My!

This last term at school was a little different - my last required class was online (and boringly easy), and the other two classes had nothing to do with horticulture and were pretty much as opposite to each other as they could be: dancing and welding. 

You already know how much I love dancing, so I don't need to go into detail about that (except to say that swing dancing is my favorite thing ever). But welding... That world was (and still is) completely foreign and unlike anything I had ever done before. 

I picked up the textbook which reads more like a manual than anything else. If you want a dull horror story, you can read this. It will tell you everything that can go wrong while welding and say it in such a matter of fact way that you have to do a double-take to make sure that you read it right.

Between sparks, slag, extreme heat (to the tune of 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit), exploding concrete, scorching hot metal, equipment that costs more than my car is worth, gas that is highly combustible and at high pressures... it was all rather intense to say the least. My brain wasn't sure how to process all of that. 
This handy chart would have been useful for the first day of class. I had no idea what the instructor was talking about when he was throwing out all these acronyms in the lecture. 
Exploding concrete? Oy. 
I had to psych myself up for each class. I had already been up early for work, and then to drive across town to school for a late evening class was exhausting. Thankfully, my dad was taking the class with me. We'd stop for Chipotle on the way to class, eat dinner, then start welding. 
The welding booths were hot (I couldn't imagine doing this class during warmer weather), sparks were flying everywhere, you can only see through the tiny window in your helmet, picking up welding sticks with bulky gloves took some serious patience with yourself. 

At the beginning of the term, we were all handed a check-off list of the different welds that we were to work on during class. Once I got over my initial terror of holding the welding torch, things went rather smoothly, and, for me, quickly. I practically flew through the list while others were still trying to bead a straight line. My dad thinks that it's because of all my sewing that I have a steady hand. I have no idea why. 
I just want to add this before going any further: welders have quite the fashion sense. :P Heavy, rough leather jackets, hats in the strangest fabric prints, stiff canvas pants, leather boots, and you can't forget the safety glasses and welding mask. Actually, you're not even allowed in the machine shop without safety glasses on - I'm sure it's an insurance thing, but seriously, there's the possibility for heavy flying things hitting you in the head. At least protect your eyes, kid. 
We started with stick welding, then moved to wire feed, and the graduated to bigger wire feed. That's about as far as most the class got through their lists. Since I finished early, I got to play with oxyfuel welding (the chunkier cousin of TIG welding), oxyfuel torch, and a plasma torch (which was super cool because you can cut a lot of metal really fast and there's sparks everywhere, and I was covered in steel flecks). 

We had the option to do a project in class if we so desired. I had no idea what to make. So to pinterest I went. I narrowed it down to two possibilities: a necklace hanging tree or cattails for the kidney bean of a pond in my herb garden. I headed to the repurposing store to see what I could find. I honestly had no idea what I was looking for, but the owner was super helpful, and I found some steel leaves that someone had hammered out. With that, I knew that I would be doing the tree. I then wandered through the aisles of Home Depot (now I know how my dad and brother feel in the craft store) until I found metal rods. 

Because the metal rods were thin enough, I was able to cut and lay everything out at home with the tools that we have. This is what I came up with
And I used all the pieces within 45 minutes of starting. We had from 6:30-9:50 to weld. My tree looked rather poorly pruned, so the next week, I brought in more branches and leaves.
The finished result:
The log round is from a maple tree that fell on the fence during one of the storms this winter. How nice of the tree to get to a level that we can reach it. :P 

Because I finished the tree much faster than anticipated, I also figure out how to do the cattails since the instructor showed me how to use the cutting torch. My cutting lines are rather jagged, but I didn't feel inclined to smooth them out - it's just going out in the garden... 
They look like I stuck swords in the ground.Now to just figure out how to get in in a stone... Hmm... 
The class certainly felt over my head at the beginning, now I feel like I could pick up a welder and melt metal whenever I need to. I guess the class did what it was supposed to. ;) Do I feel inclined to pursue more classes in this field? Not really. It's not a world that I'm necessarily drawn to, but it is good to know how to wield a welder. 

Until next time!

No comments:

Post a Comment