Monday, August 15, 2016

Weekend welder

In the last 20 years I bet James and I have said, "we should learn how to weld", at least 20 times.  Finally I had the chance to do that.  Charles Kirkpatrick (master log cabin expert) was doing some work on our cabin.  He told us his son was going to blacksmithing school at the VA Institute of Blacksmithing. As we talked somehow welding came up and he told me VIB offered weekend welding classes.    It sounded perfect.  Just one weekend of hands on training to learn the basics.  Sign me up.  Check out their website  They also have a Facebook page that has lots of good pictures.

Ask James how much I loved this class.  He's got to be tired of hearing about it.  In the picture above I'm holding the little stool/table I made yesterday.  Here's a closer look.  It sat out in the rain last night so now it has some pretty orange rust on it.
I had no idea I'd get one-on-one instruction.  It was just me and instructor Dave.  I had to quickly take this picture before he noticed because he doesn't like his picture taken.
Dave was a great teacher for me.  He was very patient and let me make mistakes without correcting me (nothing dangerous) so I had the chance to figure out what it was I was doing wrong on my own.  Instead of saying, "here, do it this way", he'd say, "is that how you want to do it?  Ok".  Then I'd have time to chew on it and see if, in fact, that was the way it should be done.  My first task, after learning about the welding equipment and safety, was to practice welding on a piece of metal.  I did that for about 20 minutes, practicing different techniques, seeing what worked best for me, getting used to the equipment and being able to see what I was doing and wrap my brain around it.
Not only did I like the welding part, I also enjoyed using the other tools and the whole idea of metal fabrication.  It's very much like wood working except for the fact that I couldn't just remove a screw quickly if I made a mistake.  Also, cutting metal takes longer than cutting wood.

After learning to weld together plate steel I cut some square tubing and joined it too.  I practiced different things I learned and joined pieces randomly which would bring up more questions and opportunities to learn.  Saturday was all about learning how things worked.  For me it was probably as enjoyable as a 12 year old going to an amusement park.
You can see in the front how I cut the metal with an acetylene torch.  I was a bit more nervous using the torch than using the welder.  While I was working on my stool there were blacksmith certification students on the other side of the room doing their thing.  I would have loved to watch them work if I had the time.

I had lunch with these young men and their instructor both days and listening to them talk made me want to learn blacksmithing too.  I think I need to wait on that.  One thing at a time.

We went to a party last night and I was talking to someone about building, welding, wood working, etc.  He said he thought more women didn't take classes like these because perhaps they would be intimidated being around men in fields that are traditionally male dominated.  One of the instructors at VIB said he thought that was one of the reasons they get very few women in the blacksmithing certification program.  That's too bad.  I have a feeling this will change in the next 10 years.   I probably would have felt that way 20 or 30 years ago.  Now I'm only intimidated by a big project, rarely by people.  I guess that comes with age and experience.  I was thinking about this today and realized part of it is I have a husband who encourages me to do anything I want.  He never seems to doubt I can do what I set my mind to.

I should finish here and get back to another project I'm working on which needs a little concentration since I've never done it before.  I'll tell you about it when it's done.


  1. Nice work, Karen. You remind me of someone else I know.

  2. Oh, is that where you were this weekend?

  3. Alec is excited now . . . me too . . . I want him to make some cool stuff!! He just wants to fix cars!!

  4. Karen, you truly are amazing!! You are my hero!!