Metal Worker––Writer Anissa Stringer tries her hand at welding
With a metal inert-gas tool in hand, writer Anissa Stringer tries her hand at welding.
By Anissa Stringer
For this issue of North Valley Magazine, I tried something very different— took a welding class!
Since I had zero experience as a welder, I had no expectations for the class other than the vague notion that I’d be wielding fire in an astronaut suit. The reality was a little different. The instructor, Ceri Jones Salahadyn, is one of the artists who teaches classes at The Collaboratory. The studio is located in a small white house with kelly-green accents that’s been transformed into an artist’s playground. Ceri is a working artist, and her passion for metal art is clear when she talks about the sculptures that dot the yard.
After everyone arrived for class, Ceri gave us a brief but thorough lesson on welding and on the MIG (metal inert gas) welder we’d be using. We suited up in our protective gear, which included a welder’s hat, goggles, a jacket, gloves, and a welding helmet. I managed to create a shockingly good “stack of dimes” in my first attempt at welding two pieces of metal together. Basically, that just means that I created a very smooth bead that looks a little like a pile of dimes. Of course, as luck would have it, my first success was mostly just beginner’s luck: I managed to burn right through the metal on my next two attempts, creating a drippy-looking mess. Oops!
My fellow welders didn’t have much more luck than I did, since welding is as difficult as it looks. The closest thing I can compare it to is icing a cake. In the dark. While you’re wearing thick gloves. The problem is that there just isn’t much resistance when the trigger is on, and with an auto-darkening faceplate, it’s impossible to see much more than the white-hot light that the MIG produces. Even with your face a few inches from your work, it’s still hard to know what you’re doing, especially since getting that close to a machine that creates 2,000+ F degrees temperatures feels very counterintuitive!
After we welded our pieces together, we used the welder to create designs to give us a better feel for operating the MIG. I overreached a bit and attempted a desert scene. Big mistake. An abstract design like a couple of the others made would have been a much better choice! It’s hard to go wrong with abstract, after all.
It’s clear that an hour-long class isn’t going to turn anyone into an expert welder, but it does offer the perfect opportunity to learn the basics and try something new. And since The Collaboratory offers advanced welding classes, as well as classes for many other kinds of art, I know exactly where I’ll go when I’m ready to take my welding skills to the next level!
Location: The Collaboratory at 526 E University Dr., Mesa
Contact Info: Visit thecollaboratory.com to see a full list of classes.
Cost: $125 for an hour-long class, less with a Groupon or other deal.
Activity level: Mild—you’ll be standing and sitting. The handle for the welder is very light, and the trigger doesn’t require much hand strength, either.
Suitable for: Talk to Ceri at (303) 994-0649 about possible age restrictions. Otherwise, this experience is suitable for teens and older. This would make a unique and fun date, too!
What to wear: Wear close-toed shoes, long pants, and clothes that are not synthetic, since you’ll be creating a lot of flying sparks! All protective gear will be supplied.
The least you should know: Don’t expect to walk out of the class with a glorious piece of art, but you will have great time and learn a lot!
Look and sound like a pro
A good arc should sound like sizzling bacon—there shouldn’t be too much sizzle or pop to the noise. You should just hear a nice, even sizzling sound.
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