Started the spring semester planning to take two classes: Drawing I and Japanese. I decided against taking the for-a-grade Japanese class that met every morning at 0830. Instead I decided to take a once-a-week evening class at a local adult-ed program, there’s no pressure for grades, it’s cheaper, etc. etc.
My Drawing I instructor is great. She’s a MFA painting candidate in her early 30s, likes teaching intro classes, and is really enthusiastic about art in general. I was nervous going to class today, but by the end of class, I was really into it and I’m looking forward to the rest of the semester.
The plan is still for me to get into a serious ID program, which means putting together a portfolio and not making an ass of myself when I go to my interview on 25 Feb. A fair chunk of my portfolio work is documenting previous projects, making sketches and SolidWorks models of new projects and a sketchbook full of ideas and brainstorming. I’m also finishing off one of my firewood racks as a present for some friends which means many hours in the garage with the TIG laying down butt-welds in carbon steel.
I want to stop talking about school for a few moments and talk about how much I love TIG welding. The cheapest and easiest types of welding, SMAW (stick) and GMAW (MIG) are great for all sorts of uses, but I really detest both of them.
Stick welding is great because you can weld rusted or dirty metal or in nasty environments or wierd positions. But with stick, sparks go everywhere, the welds are ugly, you have to hammer off the slag, and the welds are really ugly. If you’re driving by a road construction project and you see flashes of light and huge showers of sparks, that’s probably someone using a stick welder to put together steel girders or other huge chunks of metal. Stick is really easy to learn — I was able to put together a welding table with a stick welder as my first project. But trick things like filler-less welds are impossible with stick, and there’s no way to weld aluminum or exotic metals.
MIG welding is also easy. Imagine a hot glue gun that uses metal instead of plastic — just pull the trigger and you’re welding. But the welds, oh they are ugly. Ugly ugly ugly. And like stick welding, there are limits as to what you can weld based on the type of metal and the type of weld. If you’re making something like weightlifting equipment or ladder racks for trucks, MIG is definitely the way to go. A person without much training can crank out huge amounts of finished product at a really low cost.
But TIG, oh how I love the TIG. Weld together two pieces of stainless steel without using any filler? No problem. Weld together tube steel then grind the weld off leaving a smooth, polished surface that looks like it was made from a single piece of metal? Sure! How about welding together these bits of aluminum? I’ll get right on it. Dissimilar metals? Of course! Exotic metals? If you own a bicycle frame made of titanium, it was probably TIG welded and by a live human, not a robot.
TIG welding is at least as hard to learn as gas welding, requires levels of cleanliness not found in many home shops, and requires more expensive gear. While you’re learning you’ll probably spend more time grinding clean new TIG electrodes than you will be using them, but eventually you’ll get the hang of it and start cranking out beautiful welds. TIG welding requires a sort of meditative calm and you’ll find yourself in a near trance as you go thru the motions of laying down a bead. But like any skill that’s difficult to learn, the results are the payoff — beautiful welds.
For the really geeky people out there, Miller has a great bit on their site for choosing the right welding technology.
…back to school…
I see two outcomes from going back to school: an ID degree and a full-time job as a designer; or learning enough that I can open something like The Crucible. In my fantasy dream world, I have an ID firm that cranks out great work by day and teaches industrial arts and design skills by night.
In the really real world, I’d be happy with either one of those.
And as it’s now an hour past my bed-time, お休み！