Extra Credit

When you teach high school shop, you work with cars, motorcycles, wood, and metal. When I was asked to host an after school welding class, I jumped at the chance. My school considers welding dangerous and they allow only limited students to learn this skill. I enjoy welding as it is one of the most practical aspects of the construction industry. There are so many applications the kids can do at home. Not that I expect little welding studios in every garage, but I do envision working with dad on at least some minor repairs. I know that some work on cars. That is what shop is all about—tools for life. The students don’t necessarily go into the trade. I know I appreciated the experience as a teen. It’s too bad that many schools are discontinuing shop due to budget cuts and are replacing it with computer training.

I find that those who do come to my shop course like to make art objects in the form of assembled sculptures. Some are pretty primitive while others are rather remarkable. There is a long history of metal as a medium in the history of modern art. I throw in some art history while they are at it, so they learn two things at once. I guess you call it killing two birds with one stone as horrible as that is as an image.

Some students attend just for the extra credit, but most truly love the alternative to their heavy studies such as history, science, and math. I agree. Shop is an elective and I don’t need to recruit very hard. I even get plenty of girls. They love wearing the protective visor and gloves. The first item of business is to learn beginning skills and the best welder for novices, based on the models on Rate My Welder. We go over all the parts and safety features before ever turning it on. There aren’t enough welders for every attendee so they have to learn to wait patiently for their turn. When it comes, they are raring to go. They know that if they pay attention and learn their craft, they will advance to a more complicated welder—the kind the pros use.

I go over the differences in various brands and models and cover types such as MIG and TIG. They can tell you by looking if it is a wire feed welder, stick or arc welder. They can spot a gasless machine from a mile away. They understand the meaning of time delayed fuse, overload, and thermal protection. They could teach you about amps and volts, a flux core gun and ground clamps. This rattles of their young tongues mighty fast. Welding mild steel gage is not gibberish to them. The smallest girls can carry these welders around by the carry handle with no problem. It looks amusing and so out of context.

A real perk was the field trip at the end of the course to a construction site nearby. They all donned their face shields and gloves, hoping they might get a chance to work on a real project. Now this is a good life lesson.

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