Thursday, 2 April 2009

Tales from the Renovation Track: One Woman’s Experiences of Being a Renovator: Part 2

Collage: construction, occupations, people at work, welders, weldingCollage: construction, occupations, people at work, welders, welding
Credits: MS Office ClipArt - j0301248.wmf

Part 2 - Weld on Fire
A cold, wintry blast made me huddle further into my jacket as I climbed into my truck, but there was no chance of cooling the joy I felt just having completed my night school course in Welding.

Because of the season I was in-between jobs in unionized construction but still eager to try out my new welding skills. I landed a position with a self employed millwright as an assistant metal smith.

In addition to welding, I was able to hone additional metalworking skills using a plasma cutter. The plasma cutter is similar to a welder in that it employs an arc of electric current to the metal surface thereby melting it, but in addition, it has a compressed air line incorporated into it to blow the molten metal out of the way and hence makes a "cut" into the metal. And like welding, one has to wear a welder's helmet to protect the eyes.

One beautiful but cold sunny afternoon, I was working outside the shop on a large table maneuvering the plasma cutter tip around an image drawn onto a 1/8th inch thick piece of sheet metal.

As usual, this procedure creates certain odors during the process, some of which are not shall we say inviting by nature. This particular plasma cutter had a 40% duty rating which means one can only use it for 4 out of every 10 minutes. The reason this is so, is that as the plasma cutter heats up, and if used for longer periods than its rating, the tip of the plasma cutter overheats and melts. These types of consumable parts are expensive if replaced too often, so one bears frugality in mind.

Because of the duty rating, I had to go quickly and cut whatever I could in a 4-minute span, then go do something else for 6 minutes. During the second 4-minute span, I could smell something really bad, but didn't worry as that is what usually occurred.

As the egg timer signaled me to quit cutting, I flipped up my helmet with a quick jerk of my head to finally discover what stunk so bad.

Holy cow ... as looked down at my chest, I discovered my "girls" were on fire. I didn't feel the heat because I had been laden down with 4 layers of clothing to keep warm, and the plasma cutter had only burnt through the first two, but I hopped around like a Mexican jumping bean, flailing at my chest and trying to put out the smouldering material.

Now I know why welders wear leather jackets and aprons.

Sometimes people ask me if I have seen the movie Mrs. Doubtfire and I answer with a resounding YES! Been there, done that, burnt the T shirt!

Janice Bell
Bell Renovating
2009 © Janice Bell

Tales from the Renovation Track: One Woman’s Experiences of Being a Renovator
Part 1: All in All
Part 2: Weld on Fire
Part 3: They Were Nailed
Part 4: It Pays to Be Honest
Part 5: Rural Renos
Part 6: Messy Is Costly
Part 7: Door Hell
Part 8: Just Where Do I Stop?
Part 9: Dressing for the Trades

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