Tate B.

January 7th – January 14th (5.7 hours) –  I began welding. It was very exciting to get to the activity I have been anticipating this year and I was not disappointed. Manny, the new shop foreman, offered to show me to weld even before it was brought up from Randy or me which was all the more encouraging. Manny had me begin by practicing small motions around corners; the secret to welding, he says, is in the wrist. Casey offered to show me a few pointers when Manny went out to lunch, but when Manny saw me working at the other table, he made sure that I was sticking with his program. “Aye, that guy can barely weld. He’s right out of school. I’ll teach you right, I’ll have you welding sheet metal by the end here.” Manny’s enthusiasm to teach with diligence and depth makes me more enthusiastic to learn.

I have begun welding. I put in about a couple hours worth of practice, but I plan to stay after work when I get a little more independent in my practice and the machines are all open for use. I still have a long ways to progress, including the quality of my welds, welding different angles, welding different shaped materials, and welding sheet metal. Manny and a few of the other workers are happy to offer pointers, especially if I ask, but are also willing to let me work and learn on my own. As Manny said, the only way to improve is practice.

If my welds were to continue to drastically improve, I might have the opportunity to complete small or simple jobs. It will take some time for this skill to be anything strong enough to contribute to the shop or its welders. Welding may be decently lucrative career, but I do not plan on using it vocationally. The benefit of welding would be the home improvement or other projects that I would complete domestically.

flap disc – the accessory that is used for moderate grinding on the grinder. The grinder is a universal tool that is always right next to the welder. The grinder has several discs that may be used for different grinds or cuts, but a flap disc is the standard in the shop. This commonly is the disc used to grind down welds to look more aesthetically pleasing.

January 15th – January 28th (12.4 hours) –  Recently, I have noticed the dramatic variations of opinion that is held by each member of the shop. Discussing methods by which to solve problems or debating the meaning of instructions given by Randy or Manny, I am quick to believe the individual to whom I am listening. An example of such is demonstrated with the problem of a door in the shop that warped from excessive heat during welding. While I discussed the matter with one worker, he expressed that it was the lack of skill or knowledge of the welder. The welder responsible for the gate stated that the material was too thin for the amount of welds that were asked by the drafter of the door. The installers noted that the material thinness was required to limit the weight of the door to a manageable quantity. The balance of each job’s interest and responsibilities need to be carefully managed for the shop to function, and sometimes those interests get a little difficult for the other to work around, which perhaps is the reason for a foreman that knows how to fix warped doors.

A “stitch weld” is a method of welding to edges of metal together. Metal edges will often melt from the heat of welding, as I learned practicing my welds. I asked a coworker for advice and he demonstrated welding in short “stitches” of puddle instead of a full line across the seam.

January 29th – February 11th (10.5 hours) – It was probably within the first week that I picked up a grinder. It is an essential tool for a metal shop, and it was featured in one of my first “Industry Specific Vocabulary” responses. It has taken me the time from then until now to realize that I have been grinding completely wrong. If one looks down at the grinder from the side, he will be showered with hot sparks and pieces of irritating shrapnel that is flung from the fast-spinning wheel. This was my position when grinding any metal face perpendicular to the floor. I was enlightened today when I realized that to stay out of the line of fire, I needed to be directly in front of the side of the metal that is being grinded. Something I’m learning in the metal shop is that when a situation is greatly disruptive to relative ease, there’s probably a better angle of attack.

Entering into the shop, my lack of knowledge turned the heavy shop machines into cold, unmovable giants, far beyond my understanding and control. These movers and shearers of steel exercise power strong enough to bend beams and slice pipes as if they were butter, and the mischance an arm or toe stood in the way of these actions would result in a gory mess. Yet some machines will even spring towards the operator with malicious intent, such as the chop saw seated in the back of the shop. An Improperly placed beam is enough to bite the blade of the saw, binding it down then snapping it apart. Rough, black shrapnel may explode from the abused wheel, seeking revenge through embedding in an uncovered eye and face. So naturally, it was this machine that I set out to conquer. Randy wanted me to act as cutter in the shop to relieve the chore list of the fabricators, and learning to use the machines safely and accurately was critical, especially on the chop saw.

The day I set out to begin my training was when I walked up to Nathan and politely asked him to show me how to properly operate the chop saw. I watched him set a piece of metal, measure it out, and bite the pipe with the saw blade where he measured, then it was my turn. The task appeared simple, and I set to work cutting two inch blocks from an extended piece of scrap. It was not very difficult to make long pipes smaller, but later that week, Manny asked me to cut some pipes at a commonly used length in the shop to have on hand, and the whole game changed. I knew that I had to get these cuts right – these were the pipes going on to people’s doors and gates, the work that our customers would see every day of their lives walking in and out from their homes. I measured and cut, but to my dismay some pipes were over and some were under when closely inspected, and the motion I had thought was the exact same had produced an incoherent stack of disgrace. I tried again and moved with more exactness, but my pipes were still varying around ⅛ inch from the mark.

I explained my frustration to Nathan, who at first seemed concerned then laughed when he pulled out his tape measure, “Dude, we’re building gates not rocket ships. If it’s good enough, it’s good enough.” And that much was true enough, it was impossible to be exact on the saw, but it was required to be exact enough. This subtle niche of accuracy is a little tricky to slip into, because it requires attention and detail, but not too much attention and detail to the irrelevant. Understanding this place of practicality is a benefit to the shop and necessary to utilize machines of fabrication, but its application may be extended to almost all work. There is a job to complete and while accuracy is important, maybe even critical, it may itself become the obstacle to a job well done.

The “taper” of a drilled hole is what allows a screw to sit flush with a metal surface. A hole is drilled large enough for the bolt of the screw, but if the head has a gradual widening, a larger drill bit is used to make room for the wider head-end of the screw by drilling only partially down into the metal.

February 12th – February 25th (10.4 hours) – A door came in that needed to be remade, and Kasey challenged me to find three things wrong with it. I noticed that the welds at the bottom cross piece were showing on the outside view of the door, but that was the only thing I was certain. Manny pointed out that the incorrectly placed flat bar frame was in the way of the door handle, and explained that the color was wrong. Since the finish was powder coated, it would be easier to just build a new door than rebuild this one. I was pleased that I had actually seen one of the defects of the door and suspected the second, but I complained of the impossibility of the task given by Kasey. Kasey laughed, and I realized that even though I had developed into enough of a fabricator to notice what was wrong with a door, I was still just a ‘kid.’

miter cut – A non-90 degree cut along the width and length of a surface. A miter cut can allow for two pipes to be joined together at a corner without cutting one short. Manny had made miter cuts with the cold saw for a decorative piece for the purpose of making more aesthetic welds of the pipes.

February 26th – March 11th (8.8 hours) – I helped Kasey bend a flat bar around the circumference of a table. Manny suggested that we hammer the flat bar on the anvil slowly curving the bar into a circle, but the method would fill the bar with dents that would need to be ground out. Kasey decided to try his own method and tacked the end of the bar to the table and bent it with a handle, which worked surprisingly well. I am fully confident that Manny would have completed the same task with his method without any error, but I learned there are different methods that work with different advantages and disadvantages. However, when caught between two opinions, I think I will always stick with Manny’s.

It is a complicated process to place a brand-new, custom, steel door into a customer’s door frame. First, when a new job is requested, measurements need to be made. Someone meets with the client, discusses the door, determining the kind of door desired, makes sketches, then writes down the critical numbers used to translate hypothetical drafts into reality. These plans are written on statements that are handed to the shop foreman, and he decides to whom the jobs are delegated, depending on the required skill or workload of the job. The job lands on the table of a fabricator -where the magic happens- and an unshiny new door is eventually laid on the side of a worktable. The door is washed with dish soap and water, restoring the metal’s shine. The door is then taken out and fit into its prospective door frame to verify its been properly sized, and functions. If something was measured or cut wrong, a miscommunication occurred somewhere in the chain of workers, or the customer is unimpressed, the door may need to be taken back to the worktable to be redone, replaced, or redesigned. When the door matches both the customer’s door frame and frame of preference, it’s taken back for finishing. If the door’s finish is paint, its loaded into the garage and primed. Once the primer is dry, the door is painted, and the door dries some more. Finally, the installers load up the door into the truck, careful not to damage any of the finish, and drive out to the customer’s property. There they make the final details and alterations required for the door to be the perfect fit.

Working as an intern in the shop, I have become well acquainted with several links in this process, especially to the washing and sanding aspects, which I performed regularly for the first several weeks of my time at the shop. Later, I learned about some of the fabrication that actually creates the doors, working along Manny who explained as he planned out, cut, and welded the metal. I had seen everything that happened in the shop, but what happened outside was a mystery. To fully comprehend what the task of the shop is, I made it my goal to spend a day with the installers, to learn from them what I had learned from the workers in the shop.

The difficulty of accompanying the installers is the schedule they work. They leave early in the morning and most days, do not return until the end of the day. The jobs they schedule are only a few days in advance, and are dependent upon the progress of the shop fabricators. Finding a job in which I could participate was difficult, but scheduling to miss school or any other activities a day or two before was even more so, and the opportunity was never fully realized.

However, in attempting to schedule with the installers, I learned much about the work they do. Just as inside the shop, the installers work under the direction of the foreman. The jobs they take out need to first be complete, and without coordination, neither team of the shop is very successful. I would believe that most institutions run with a similar dependency on a coordinated effort, and its important to work under the coordinator of that effort. In a sense, everyone works under Manny, but Manny works under Randy, and Randy holds a partnership with the customer. Every person of the network has responsibility and each is rewarded by getting their part of the job done.

soapstone – Is used to precisely mark metal. The white, chalk like substance can be sharpened to create a chisel. Making an angled mark from the measurement on one side and then another on the other side leaves this impression /\ . Kasey showed me this method when he was demonstrating laying out a gate, but in the shop we always use permanent markers.

March 12th – March 25th (0 hours) –  Machinery is always dangerous, but that’s difficult to remember after using it safely for such a long time. Yet, that one slip-up can mean the difference between a hand and half a hand, or something much worse. I recently watched Manny break a drill bit as he was drilling. The event in itself wasn’t a major concern, but if one is leaning in a certain direction and the drill broke, the driller could be thrown into something or jerked towards something that could be a danger. It was significant to be, because in all my years of watching or using a drill, I have never seen a bit break – despite the warnings I have received. It’s important to recognize the unknowable accidents and remember to take the right precautions, before an unfixable accident comes along.

cold saw – an angular saw with a soft-steel or iron disk that doesn’t heat up metal as it cuts (unlike a shop saw). The cold saw is in the back and I have never used it, but it since it can be moved wither direction 45 degrees, it is often the saw that is used by Manny to make miter cuts on the pieces he works.

March 26th – April 8th (10 hours) – I am near the completion of my duck. It is about two feet tall and extremely top-heavy, and it is a wonder to behold. To an untrained eye, it may appear ugly and poorly crafted, but I am able to see passed its imperfections to witness what it really signifies. This duck is my duck, and I made it myself – a standing duck I stand by. If you had asked me to create anything before this job, I would have been a sitting duck. My success as a welder sure isn’t flying high in majesty, but it gets to where it’s going, as it waddles along.

In terms of personality, I think I could get along with just about anyone. As long as a co-worker does not harm my performance, I could manage working with people of whom I am not particularly fond.

I also learned that I am not as quick a learner as I thought. I require a lot of guidance, and ask many questions, and struggle to understand explanation. However, when I do comprehend something, there will not be a need for co-workers to repeat themselves.

Remember to set reminders, and don’t be afraid to set multiple. If an event is important enough, I will have a reminder a week before, two days before, the day before, and that day. You might be surprised and discouraged at how often deadlines or meeting times escape your memory. When you do miss something (and you’ll hear Mrs. Wahl say this), don’t delay communication – even if its minutes after the meeting ended. Honesty is more appreciated than explanation, but neither can replace punctuality.

“dual-shield” – is a type of welding wire used for industrial welds. There is flux within the wire which allows the metal to form a puddle easier, and gas emitted around the wire which prevents porosity. Kasey mentioned something about industrial welds and mentioned dual shield wire. It is very heavy duty – nothing we use in the shop.

April 9th – April 22nd (8.5 hours) –  At the conclusion of the internship, I was able to sit down with Mrs. Wahl and Mrs. Polivchak to interview the incoming juniors. Watching the mistakes of these early-stage, developing professionals was moving in the sense that I saw the same mistakes that I had made, but I recognized the development that had transpired in myself since that time. Recognition of who we were allows us to be humble enough to have at least a little patience for those still developing, and recognition of who we have become encourages us to keep moving forward. As I now am aware of the mistakes that I made coming in the program, I hope to become aware of the mistakes that I make now leaving the program, because our professional development -just as our personal development- should never stop.

When welding, the “arc” is a white light that you push the yellow “puddle” of molten liquid. I had heard these terms for most of my internship, but it was Eddy who one day described what they actually were when explaining the specific technique to weld a thick piece of material to a thinner side.

July 20th – August 13th (12.2 hours) – Sometime during work, I was told to organize the back cabinet. It was full of a random assortment of endless metal fixtures, knobs, tools, and screws. With such minimal direction, I was not at first altogether confident in my ability to get the job done correctly, but it was with a sigh and a sway, I decided to start anyways. As I sorted through the dusty and rusty odds and ends, I was overwhelmed, but as I continued, I started to see patterns and recognize the shapes I saw. It took a little bit of guessing and some thought and some trial and error, but eventually, the shelves were square and ordered before me. I realized that I didn’t need to understand how and why everything functioned, but just that I needed to start somewhere and get the job done.

I hope to be able to weld and have the ability to craft from metal. I understand it’s a lofty goal, but there is little more I would find being more beneficial to learn from a metal shop. I hope that I will be able to spend more time in this pursuit once I have some more time to spend. Organization is a tricky word. Although I may have my shelves clear and all my shirts hung straight, I am pretty scattered with remembering to contact people and deal with distant deadlines. The phone reminders have been a big help, but I hope I can continue to improve on this very critical business and personal skill.

I have learned that while I can be very personable, I can at a later time be very off-putting. Although I may still be polite, I sometimes lose the energy I often meet people with which sends mixed signals.In terms of being a student to my mentors, I’m learning that I pick up learning fast, but that I can’t assume so. While I often get most of what I’m told to do right, I still need to be cautious and slow down in my work.

August 14th – August 27th (8.5 hours) – I have begun to better utilize my digital calendar which has proven a great benefit to my professional life. When my reminder went off for my second reflection log, it had completely slipped my mind, and it was thanks to my reminder that I was able to meet this deadline. I suppose it is important to believe ourselves capable to do hard things, but not to make our lives harder than they need to be. With dive, government projects, calculus, and friendships, due dates can so easily remain undetected until that stomach sickening feeling of missing an assignment. It is better to plan ahead and casually swipe away an expected notification than to miss a deadline, because life is sometimes unexpected.

August 28th – September 10th (7.42 hours) – This week I had the opportunity of having my own project at the shop. A unique contract was made where an older lady wanted a metal planter to put a small rose garden in. The planter was cut and welded and looked something like a heavy, square tub. It was my responsibility to prep it for rusting and to lay down a HERCULINER finish inside of the planter. If you’re not familiar with this product, it’s the black sealer that is often used in truck beds. I was left to learn how to properly apply the sealer, to actually apply it, and to reap the rewards of Tito, Tommy, and Randy admiring its finish. It wasn’t a big job, but it was mine, and that’s exciting.

There isn’t too much expected as far as personality or professionalism at the work site. Loose language is used, often mixed with Spanish, and Sterling enjoys raising his voice in exclamation or enjoyment. However, everyone is expected to be working and everyone is expected to follow what Randy asks. There’s oftentimes disagreement between how and why things should be done; Tito is the go-to, but nothing gets passed without an okay from Randy. It’s also important to stay out of the way of everyone as they execute Tito’s orders. There’s not a lot of space, and everyone has there own work area. This is especially important for me as the intern to be extra mindful of the more important work around me. My job is to make there’s easier, not stand awkwardly by.

Considering I don’t understand how to use much of the equipment, it’s important that I am careful in finding or utilizing tools around the shop. It is a little embarrassing having to ask how to take off a grinding head or loosen a certain wrench, but I know its understood by the workers that I’m learning and that is my purpose for being there. This however makes it difficult to follow the expectation of doing your work without too much interference on others’, because I am more dependent on other’s knowledge than anyone else in the shop.

I learned what “12-mesh” was when Tommy asked me to wash some. It is a commonly used wire sheeting that is made of 12-gauge wire. 12-mesh is used for screens on doors or gates as a sturdy, but see-through cover.

September 11th – September 24th (9.7 hours) – I have been given the job recently of making cut-outs of cactus leaves and agave plants. Like everything, the plasma cutter takes a little bit of skill to successfully maneuver, and like anything, I have had to practice this skill. Seeing my first cut-outs compared to my later ones was uplifting; I was able to observe the change that I had taught myself, but I realized that I still could do better. I had to swallow my pride and ask for advice from Joseph, the most quiet of the metal workers that I have never really approached. It was simple, and I felt a little silly for asking, but his advice helped me realize what else I needed to change to get cleaner cuts. I could’ve eventually learned it by myself, but I saved a whole lot of time, metal, and frustration by asking someone who knew more than I did.

Xylene is a chemical solvent that is used to clean grease or other industrial waste that cannot be dissolved in soap or water. After applying a metal planter with a coating of truck bed liner, I used xylene to clean off the top edges of the basin where the Herculiner had rubbed on, because it didn’t contain a water-soluble base.

September 25th – October 8th (0 hours) – Last week, I broke my foot. I had to contact Mrs. Polivchak and my mentor about in inability to work for the next several weeks. Luckily, my condition was well accepted and both parties were understanding, but what would my news’s reception had been if I was a working 30 year old and not a teenager? As an intern, my place in the shop is easily undertaken by the other workers, but if I was a more valuable member to an organization, my inability to work could have much more profound effects. I’ve learned to think a little more before my actions, and not only think of the effects on my own life from my decisions, but also the effect it could have on others.

All communication at the metal shop is in person. Often, this communication relays secondary or tertiary information that is required for a job which can be slightly misinterpreted as it passes from person to person. The most frustrated I ever see Tito is when a gate is sent back into the shop because it is too long, wide, or thick. The importance of accurate communication in the shop is critical, and the most effective and practical method of communicating is face to face. The vision that the owner or customer holds of a gate can be very different from what the metal worker envisions, and it is very common for potential customers to meet with Randy in the shop and look around at some of the projects being currently worked on so that everyone is on the same page. Whenever I have a question or uncertainty about what is desired from my work, I ask someone directly, so that what needs to be done is done how it needs to be.

Since all communication is done orally at the shop, there is not too much need to spend time debating the most appropriate medium, but deciding who to communicate to can have more implications. The foreman is usually the most busy on the most valuable job, but he is also the one who is most knowledgeable about materials and the details of other jobs that need to be completed. It takes some experience to understand what you can figure out yourself, what another worker would know, and what only Tito would be able to help with, but after this time, I’m usually comfortable in making that decision.

I learned what a plasma cutter was. Air from the shop is blown through the small end of a torch which is lit to create an ionized and therefore conductive plasma. Reaching up to 40,000 degrees Fahrenheit, the plasma easily cuts into conductive metals and blows away the liquid metal.

October 9th – October 22nd (0 hours) – I still have a broken leg, so my ability to gain new and insightful experiences has been slightly hindered as mirrored in my inability to move at a pace faster than a mild jog. I was reminded about my hours requirement for this reflection log, and I have not meet that requirement. While I am somewhat excused for the time being, it’s important to realize the reality of deadlines, and that a lot can happen in the year never anticipated at an initial planning session. It’s important to have goals, dates, and plans, but it’s also important to be flexible and to understand that life doesn’t always make room for plans. We have to find a way to deal with it anyways. As I’ve learned, things that refuse to bend are often the things that painfully snap and break.

MIG welder – metal inert gas welder is used to bind metal materials together. A thin welding wire is feed through the welder that is instantly a puddle, the process is easier to use and faster than its cousin, TIG

October 23rd – November 5th (0 hours) – I really haven’t had any new experience – I’m sorry. As mentioned many times before, it is critical to the shop that each coworker communicates with each other. Everyday in the shop, I’m required to ask Tito or Tommy what assistance they require and run communications between the two. When I was in charge of prepping some bars for painting, I needed to ask Tito what bars he had completed and then bring them out to wash and dry. When the bars were cleaned I brought them to Tommy. The order in which the bars were painted was critical for the structure’s assembly and so I needed to confirm with both the order of which bars were sent through the process.

Tommy is really the only coworker with whom I discuss nonprofessional things. It is common for us to report on our weekend activities and complain about the heat. Our conversations are usually very simple, short, and initiated with a question of mine, but I’ve never really felt uncomfortable with Tommy. I’ve had short conversations with the two installers, but my most uncomfortable conversations are with Joseph and Tito with whom I never really discuss anything. As the shop workers, they are both quiet and involved, rarely with time to leisurely converse. I have never really understood what they do professionally, and I think that, coupled with their personality, creates a barrier that is very difficult to comfortably pass.

angle grinder – A handle with a rough spinning disk. It has different attachments that can either cut, grind, or polish metal surfaces, and is the most applied tool in metal work. Most angle grinders have a rotatable shield that protects from the shower of tiny metal fragments that spark off material as it is ground down.

November 6th – November 19th () –

November 20th – November 28th () –