Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Careful, that's hot

I want to take a moment to ponder on welding and how much it's improved in recent years. This sounds like a dull subject at first, but bear with me.

Dad has a welder. It's of the stick variety. With this you have a welding rod that you stick in something that is basically a glorified alligator clip. You make sure the object you're welding is grounded. When the stick gets close to the object an arc jumps from the stick to the metal, the stick melts, and two bits of metal you were pointing the stick at are now one. This is the theory anyway.

The arc is so bright that it'll damage your eyes if you watch someone weld. You may not notice it at the time, but in a few hours you'll regret it. So you have to wear a mask. These masks are dark enough that you can stare straight at the sun while wearing them. Yes, I've used them to watch an eclipse and look at sunspots. It should be no surprise then that when you wear the mask indoors you tend to run in to things. Being completely blind makes welding at challenge as well. You have to put up your mask, memorize the scene, nod just enough to make the mask fall in front of your face, and use the mental image of the scene to strike an arc. Once the arc has formed you have enough light to see with and can get some work done. As the stick melts you have to keep adjusting your proximity to what you're working on.

All that that I just said? Yummy didn't have to do any of that. A couple of weekends ago we went to a welding class. Well, it was welding and stuff, really. We went mostly for the welding. Yummy wanted to learn and I thought my skills were getting a bit rusty. We also got to play with a plasma cutter, a horizontal bandsaw, a drill press, and a few different kinds of grinders.

They did have an arc welder, but we didn't try it out. It's just too much of a pain. We used a MIG welder instead. MIG stands for Muttermutter Inert Gas. It's a type of automatic wire feed welder. A thin wire feeds out of the welding gun. CO2, the inert gas in question, flows out around the wire so your weld doesn't react with oxygen to sputter and cough and screw up your weld. Since the wire feeds itself you can pretty much get comfortable and stay a constant distance from the object to weld.

They also had the automatic helmets. I love these things. Dad has one now, but hasn't always. You can see through the mask right up to the moment you strike your arc. It detects the welding light and goes dark. But the arc is bright enough that you can still see.

Anyway. There are pictures.
DC GlassWorks [link] is located just outside Washington, DC in a nice little warehouse district. This group of guys has a shop and they teach classes and sell shop time to students in order to afford it. This isn't their day job.
Most of their classes are different kinds of glass work. But in the hottest part of the summer they have a different kind of class. Something that isn't quite as hot and miserable to work with. Welding and aluminum casting and nice cool activities like that.

Yummy and I. More Yummy than me.

Here I examine a weld that doesn't suck.

We had to come up with project ideas. Yummy wanted to do an Eiffel Tower, but the second day was warmer and muggier and we were getting snippy. So she decided on a simpler project. So I went ahead and made one for her. Not what she had in mind at all, but nifty anyway. It was cut out of the metal using the plasma cutter.

Our main project. It's a perch for birdies and it's lawn art. It has the house numbers, a place that holds a bowl for food or water, a couple of perches, a spiral birdie staircase, and two clamps to hold branches just as soon as we find some.

Yummy grinds.

Yummy welds on the spiral staircase.

Scrap metal from cutting out the house numbers.

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