Joining a straight edge.
Ages ago (I think ATV?) I mooted the idea that I’d like to learn to weld. This exercise seems the obvious place to learn to do so. I have never held any tool more wieldy than a hammer or screwdriver. I’ve never used a power tool. There’s nothing like a huge leap of faith!
This afternoon the time had come.
So 2 pieces of steel. One very brave Mr Man and (nervous-but-not-on-your-nelly-going-to-show-it) me. One ARC welder, visor, and 5 mins watch and learn.
How to explain… it was like the first time I crocheted and the instructions talked about going under the loop when I couldn’t see a loop for yarn going every which direction and as for holding gauge I recall feeling like I had lost all dexterity. With ARC welding: hands enshrined in welder’s gloves (really big and clumsy) and the helmet (my head suddenly weighed four times as much) and so many layers of clothes (against the cold) under my boiler suit, I felt so ill-educated. My brain is swimming with earthing and voltage and welding rod and rod holder and as for watching the ‘pooling’ of the metal… pooling? I looked and looked but all I could see was a mesmerising tip like the end of a sparkler. I had to learn to hold the rod upright as I held it too penlike, and to move it in as it burnt down (too far, too close, too far) and trace a ‘c’ or ‘o’ or ‘u’ or ‘j’. Yup. OK. I don’t know what I was tracing but it was like I had lost all fine-motor control. What I could do not too badly was to strike the arc – that is until a bit later when it stuck.
However, the result of my first ever weld – just making a weld – not yet seaming:
Apparently, I had done alright due to the scorch mark.
After this I experimented with trying to have some control of the direction and worked out which hand had most control and which direction of welding suited me the most. It would appear holding the rod with my right hand, working from right to left, then striking off the slag with the chipping hammer in my left hand.
Next step: to weld along the edge (I couldn’t see the edge for the life of me, so I just tried to be steady):
Time for the exercise- joining 2 straight edges. Mr Man tacked the ends so I could just experiment with the weld (interesting how the language of textiles creeps up even here). Some bits were better than others. The general feedback was ‘slow down’ and ‘work closer’. No great surprises there!! But I did it. I welded together 2 lengths of steel! I am more proud of this than anything to date.
I had to surmount so many inner voices without letting on even to the person who is closest to me in the whole world. I had to feign insouciance. I must admit that having a little cry inside a welding helmet is fine because no-one can see! It was the sheer frustration at realising the experiences I have missed out on in life because of my own fear. It was also the panic of looking an absolute incompetent idiot in front of Mr Man. There was also the anxiety of dealing with really Real Tools. There was also the awkwardness I felt with my own body.
But, after I had my little hidden cry I welded: Sample 7 ex. 1!
The bottom right picture is apparently a sign of success as the scorch mark indicates the weld has gone into the steel. I welded in short bursts which can clearly be seen as I tried working left to right, right to left, left hand, right hand…
Before we had to get back and do tea and Sunday evening stuff I had a go at welding for exercise 5: Forming corners and angles.
This involved learning how to do a filler weld. This was really really hard. I was abysmal at this. But it wasn’t failure to me (it was a failure as an effective and neat weld I hasten to add).
For my first half hour ever welding, it doesn’t really matter the outcome, because to fail would have been to talk myself out of the risk of learning this skill and process. The greatest risk was of looking a complete fool and being revealed as truly incompetent. I may have looked a fool and been truly incompetent, but I don’t feel one because I feel brave and proud of myself for having had a go.
Sample 1 Ex. 5: