I finished my metalshop class at 3rd ward and I couldn’t be happier with the result. After 3 weeks I can make basic, if ugly, Mig welds.
After the first metalshop class, we got to use the machines. In the second class, welding was introduced. In the third class we were shown the plasma cutter and given a quick overview of the other tools, and we were then turned loose on our project.
In the second class at 3rd ward, we were introduced to the mig welder. Carlos spent time describing the basic safety and operation of the welder and then demonstrated sample welds. Then we took turns making welds on scrap. Each student rotated through and made a weld, then Carlos would give them feedback in front of the whole class. By showing us the other students’ welds, he helped us learn to avoid mistakes we had yet to make.
We were taught four types of welds: the tack and three types of seam welds. The tack is for point welds that loosely hold pieces together while allowing for further position tweaking. The three types of seam welds are the cursive e, the back track, and the close stitch. Carlos heavily favored the close stitch, because he thought it gives good heat control and was the easiest technique for beginners to produce quality welds. Carlos explained common welding problems (slow wire feed rate, high wire feed rate, voltage too high, voltage too low, poor or non-existent ground, no shielding gas). After explaining these potential problems, he went around and caused one of the error conditions while we were making welds to see how long it took us to notice.
By the end of the class sessions I had a better understanding of the welding I have been watching on youtube. I was and still am nowhere near proficient, but I had things to work on. Sadly I had no additional practice time to work on them. Unlike the first class, when I was able to stay after class and watch others work for a few hours, after the second class we cleaned up the shop and everyone went home.
The objective of the third class was to build a square tube frame with sheet backing plate for a clock. After going over the tools we had already seen, we learned how to use the plasma cutter, drill press, and the sand blasting booth (although that was out of media).
We technically had 90 minutes left to build our project. The horizontal band saw and the plasma cutter were the two major bottlenecks, and I don’t think anyone started welding before 10pm (the class was scheduled to end at 10pm). Carlos stayed with the class to make sure that everyone could finish their project.
When we started welding, there was a little bit of difficulty with the machines. Of the three available mig welders, only two were properly functioning at the same time.
I was the last to finish at 11:45 (maybe 10 – 15 minutes behind the others). I don’t think that I was slower than the others, I just think I took my time. I was also happy to enjoy my time in the shop. I helped Carlos clean up the shop and left at midnight with my clock.
What’s next for me and welding? Now that I’ve tried it and I know I can do it, I’m even more eager to begin making myself a desk and some furniture. In fact, I’ve been getting ideas for furniture from looking at what’s on sale in major retail outlets, and I’ll be blogging about that soon.
In the meantime, I’m seriously considering a 3rd Ward membership so that I can continue working. Their memberships are expensive; but if I can have open access to the metal shop, it might be worth it. I’ve also considered the (much cheaper) Madagascar Institute, and if anyone has
experience or knowledge of how the two studios compare, I’d love the feedback.