Duane McGuire Blog

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I Don't Weld

Category: Projects
Date: 2023-09-29

For years and years, I have said, "I don't weld." And for years, when Terri found a need for welding of yard art, she'd find a welder to do the work.

In July, Terri put a couple of steel butterflies in the truck. They were a sorry sight, each with a detached wing. She told me to leave them there because she was taking them to a welder. In August, I took them out of the truck and stashed them in the garage. A couple weeks ago Terri brought home the rusty bed of little red wagon and let me know that she was looking for the right stand for it so she could make a planter. With her thrift store magic, the "just right" stand followed her home a week later.

My "advice" was sought about attaching the wagon bed to the steel stand she had found. After explaining how it could be attached with a system of bolts and angle iron, I just let some words slip out.

"Well," I said, "why don't we just weld it on? That would make it right."

"But you don't weld."

"Yeah. Why don't we just go to Harbor Freight and get a $150 welder."

"Whoa!" she said.

For all the manual crafts that we have learned over the years, it is almost perplexing that neither of us welds. Ha! As of this morning one of us does. Except of course, if you know what a weld should look like, you know that I suck.

Actually I have training in welding.

My initial training was in 1957. Yes. I was five at the time, so I didn't get much hands-on. But I observed a lot! My dad had acquired a broken TV that he repaired, and we were going to become a house with television. I've implied something here about Dad. He was a multi-talented, practical man whose fundamental principal was: there's no sense hiring someone to do something that you can do yourself. And we needed a TV signal from Portland, some 100 miles away. So in the back yard, he welded up a 35 foot antenna tower from scrap water pipe and cleverness.

1957: Dad's tower. It served in 3 different locations on the property for 25 years or more.

My subsequent training in welding was at the College of Architecture at the University of Washington in 1974. Students in my steel structures class departed from the theoretical for one class period. We went down to the shop and tried our hand at drawing a weld bead on a hunk of steel and cut some steel with an acetylene torch. And that was it. What a hoot!

In the subsequent 38 years, I didn't gain experience in welding, because "I don't weld!" But in 2012 I saw an offering for a community education basic welding class, and I signed up with a friend! But before the class began I had an unfortunate experience with gravity and broke my left wrist. Once again, my hands-on experience was quite limited. I did strike a few arcs, but welding is not a one-handed art for the novice; especially when the other hand is wrapped up, in pain, and in a sling.

So this morning, I put all that experience to work. I welded that wagon bed to its stand, and mended the wings of butterflies.

Project completion. Don't look too closely!
This was my best weld. Probably not good enough for a C grade, but a big improvement over the first one on the wagon. My best is yet to come!
Fly butterflies!

The butterflies are flying again, and all is bliss in the House of McGuire. Some things don't happen right away. But I'm happy this thing happened. Dad would be 110 this year, and I totally connected with him while doing this work. I savored the experience of his presence among the familiar aroma of arc welding.

I may have spent $250 on the welder and gear, but really: There's no sense paying someone to do something that you can do yourself!

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