The welder’s art

I’m still blown away by the technology I witnessed last night. My friend Sam is a professional welder and machinist who volunteered his time, tools and skills to help set me straight after I accidentally broke off the aluminum fuel cap on my BMW motorcycle. It turns out welding aluminum is no easy feat, and attempts to do with with a regular welding kit will literally destroy the piece being worked on. Sam has the right gear, and the apparatus he showed me was truly amazing. His Tig welding system includes a tungsten stylus with a ceramic hood for blowing a special gas mixture onto the work. The gas displaces the atmosphere at the business end of the welder to create the perfect conditions for joining aluminum. Cold water is pumped through the pen to prevent the tool from melting. The electric welder must be dialed in to precise frequency and wattage, and the work requires two hands and one foot operating in perfect coordination to deliver the right bead with deep joint penetration. Sam made it look easy. And explained the whole process while we carefully cleaned the parts to be joined to ensure no vaporized impurities might ruin the work. I love watching (and helping) pros do their work. And relish the chance to see such specialized tools deployed in the hands of a master. I guess it’s no surprise that our talk soon turned from modern welding to the art of Japanese sword making, which surely represent different apexes of two fascinating artistic vocations.


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