Bucket List Item #4: Take A Welding Class

Luke and the elephant table

When we learned that our sons’ small, specialized high school had a welding shop and a ceramics studio, we were excited. I had long wanted to learn how to weld. I figured that until I could get my hands on a MIG welder, maybe the boys could take classes and learn. And they did. They took welding in summer sessions and made some really awesome items that are now our treasures. One summer, Luke fabricated this cool, elephant table for our outdoor space.

When we went to our gala fundraiser at Denver Academy and they auctioned off a four-hour welding class with the school’s material arts teacher, we knew we would have to bid on and win that item some time in the six years we would be at the school. After several years of being severely outbid, in 2019 we finally did it. We won a lesson. Life got in the way, however, and our gift certificate (with a one year expiration) did not get used. Thanks, Covid-19. This year, out of curiosity, I messaged the teacher and inquired if he might still be willing to let us have our lesson. He enthusiastically replied that he would love to do it. We were thrilled. So, yesterday morning we had our class.

Never looked better

We arrived at 9 a.m. with a huge Americano for our teacher because an apple will only get you so far at that time on a Saturday morning. He geared us up with safety goggles, ear plugs, gloves, and welding jackets, and we started with the plasma cutter. Loved that. I’m not sure there is anything more satisfying than watching the sparks fly as you rip through metal like it’s butter. After we’d liberated some small shapes with the plasma cutter, he taught us about the MIG welder and we worked on our welding skills. It was difficult for me to get the right speed, but I did eventually figure it out. We practiced welding random, found-pieces of metal from his shop. Then we went on to learn how to use the angle grinder to polish our metal pieces. That was pretty damn satisfying. Not gonna lie.

After learning the tools, we had about two hours to figure out what we wanted to build to take home. We had to design it, cut the metal, weld it, polish it, and determine how to hang in our limited time frame. Kris, the teacher, had a metal frame in his shop that someone had already created. He told us we were welcome to use it if we wanted. We decided to design a mountain scene that we could put inside the open frame. We did some planning drawings and got right to work. Steve cut the pieces with the plasma cutter while I used the angle grinder to polish the pieces he cut. With his job finished, Steve started welding our mountains to the frame. About that time, our son, Luke, showed up and he helped me speed up the grinding process. I had a lot of pieces to work on.

In the end, Kris helped us put a couple rubber stops on the back of the frame so the art piece would not cause damage to any surface it is mounted on. I have to say the whole process was a blast. It’s important to keep trying new things, to keep creating and taking risks, and to keep reaching for things you think might be your thing. And it’s best to do these things with people you love and work well with, so you can end up with something like this:

Not too bad for first time metal fabricators – Moonrise Over Mountains

Ever so grateful to Denver Academy and Kris Fritzsche for everything!

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