I am in my third week of the welding class I have been taking at College of DuPage and we just moved into the hands on portion of the semester. The first two weeks we just lectures, reading homework and workbook exercises. All of that was very important, especially the chapter on safety, but now we get to the part that puts the theory into practice.
Today we were given the task of creating a uniform bead on a 1/16 thick coupon of sheet metal. The metal piece is called a coupon because it is about the same size as a store coupon (4x4inches or 2×4 inches). We used the Oxy Acetylene torch as our tool for this task and were allowed to practice until we were comfortable and confident that we could run a straight uniform bead 6 or 7 times on the same coupon.
The hardest part was getting comfortable with my positioning so that I could keep a steady hand as I moved the torch over the work. Positioning was a challenge because of the stools we were working with. They are OSHA compliant so they were a bit too tall for the work bench they were paired with and it made for an uncomfortable top down perspective. If you are not comfortable all kinds of negative things things can happen:
- Torch to far from work – metal won’t melt (pool)
- Torch too close – metal melts too much and you burn through
- Too shallow of an angle – molten metal can blow out of the pool and leave gaps.
- Move too fast – pool is not consistent
- Your angle fades up or down – the line is not straight
This is one of my 7 good beads on the work piece. Not bad for my first day.
The other challenge for me was concentration. I found I was getting mesmerized by the glow of the molten metal and it caused my mind to wander off to other places and non related thoughts. I found it very relaxing and an almost therapeutic exercise to move from bead to bead bathed in the hot glow of the torch light. I really had to stay in the moment so that I did not move too far from the work or drift off the straight line I was trying to keep.
After today’s exercise, I see why the fabricators who have been at this for years can earn the title of Master Craftsman. It takes a great deal of skill to do what they do on a day to day basis. I have a long way to go but I think I am off to a great start.