Dust, dirt, and more sparks

There are always sparks. The list of ¬†productive things that can be achieved in a metal shop without generating sparks is exceptionally short. In fact so far it consists of “sweeping the floor”.

My welding is improving, though to be fair its not like it could actually go the other direction. But I’m also learning a lot of other things. These things fall mainly into 2 categories, the first of which is “how to use this big/small/dangerous looking machine with the big saw/rollers/giant hammer/gun-like attachment” and the second of which is “what machine exactly is it that I use to make this thing into this thing”. Chances are that if you need to do something with a lump of metal, someone else has had to do it repeatedly ten thousand times for some arcane purpose lost in the mists of time. Or for a really obvious purpose like making cars, whichever. Either way the result is that there is a machine or a tool for absolutely bloody everything. If there isn’t one it probably isn’t because none exists but rather that we are too cheap to buy one.

Specifically, I have learned many different ways to cut things of varying types and thicknesses, many different ways to grind things, how to bend pipes and how to figure out when you have bent a pipe sufficiently for the purpose as opposed to way too fucking much. That’s actually quite a lot of things, before you get all unimpressed with me and my bending of pipes. I also very specifically learned how not to put things on a truck, but I won’t get into that. It involved the sacrifice of one windshield to the gods, and a couple of hair-raising moments.

Everything in the universe is boring if done enough times, even really cool things. In terms of the shop, chances are that if you aren’t bored of it yet you probably aren’t any good at it yet. Things that you may actually manage to be ok at before becoming deathly bored of them include cutting stuff with an oxy-acetylene torch, mostly because it takes a really long time for melting steel to get in any way old. It just looks amazing when molten steel drips in yellow globs through the cutting table and you know that you and your trusty blowtorch have made that metal heat to 5000 degrees fahrenheit just so that you can blast a hole in it. There is something immensely satisfying about that. (Yes, I know I have issues. But I am sure even emotionally well-balanced people think molten steel is awesome).

Things which do become swiftly boring include beveling a 45 degree angle on some mild steel shapes so that they can be welded together. This is surprisingly hard to do quickly and accurately, especially when said shapes are their exact measurements for a reason and if you fuck it up by taking too much metal off the first time you cannot simply cut the end off and start again. Not that boredom is in any way the main problem with this activity, in fact its kind of cool when you realize you might actually have gotten the hang of doing it properly. Sheer effort is definitely up for first place, with incredibly sore wrists in the aftermath of spending a day with an angle grinder coming in a close second. Another important piece of information – this work is really physically tiring. A nugget of trivia which falls into the bucket of things I knew to be factual but did not truly understand the meaning of before experiencing it. While we’re on that tack another thing that has really sunk in both literally and figuratively is the fucking dirt.

Dust, oil, dirt, metal shavings, metal dust, paint… Every type of grime or stain imaginable is on my hands, trousers, face every goddamn fucking day. It’s disgusting. I need two showers a day just to avoid having to wash my sheets every morning. I cannot count how many times I wash my hands a day, but its one more than the number of totally pointless times I wash my hands because they are just going to get covered in more crap in 2 minutes anyway. I was told by a friend lately that after a whole summer of this I will probably have burned out on the whole workshop thing, and he may have a point. ¬†There is a lot to be said for doing real physical work that you can see actual results from immediately. But there is also a lot to be said for not having to use a scrubbing brush to clean your arms every evening.

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