Moving on


I have had a great career as a welder,  inspector,  and various other welding related positions.  The classes that I have been teaching at the local community college have been extremely satisfying for filling my urge to teach, however I just haven’t felt that I was doing as good a job as should be done.

The 2 nights a week limited the amount of time I could spend with students. Many of the ideas I had about developing curriculum, improving my teaching techniques, and evaluating student progress were constantly on my mind for a few hours before and after class however I never had the time to put any of these into practice.

The full time job as a maintenance welder at PCA was one of the most rewarding jobs I have ever had as a welder. The type of work, the people I worked with and those I worked for were perfect for my way of working. But the work often used a lot of my time because I sincerely enjoyed it.
The time used was not the result of the company forcing me to work but was the result of enjoying what I do and feeling the need to “pay back” the company for letting me come out an “play welder” at their mill.
However with all of my day hours and a few of my remaining hours being used on my full time job, little was being done on my part to develop the welding program. I was not contacting local companies to see if I could help, not developing one or two hour weekend classes for individuals just interested in learning to use the welder they bought at lowes etc.. Many of the ideas I had were just not being put into actions.

Start of a new class

The latest class started on the 6th of August. I started with 13 students and currently have about 8.

A couple have recently entered the Boikermakers Local 263 in Memphis and will be starting to see what construction work us about. They both seem to be made of sturdy stuff. Its great to see a young person pursue a career in the skilled trades.

A couple of others work at a local company that builds truck bodies. They don’t work as welders but hope to. One unfortunately recently broke his elbow and is out of commission. Hope to see him back soon.

Another of the students is currently a prisoner at the local jail and wanted to learn how to weld with FCAW. He had experience working on offshore oil platforms and seems to have a great desire to learn. He has been a pleasure to teach so far.

I also have two other students who are teenagers. These boys do a great job and progress well. They were in the previous years class. They are both home schooled and are a pleasure to teach.

With every new class I come across individuals who want to “Learn it all” when it comes to welding. Well I am pretty sure I am not the teacher for the job. Since I have only barely reached the tip of the iceberg when it come to welding. I hope as t he year progresses I will be able to at least get those who want to “learn it all” started off.

A little class finished up.

Our main class finished up near the end of June. It was a great class and I wasn’t looking forward to not being able to teach.
I contacted the local jail to see if they would be interested in providing a few students that were interested in learning to weld. The gentleman I spoke with was definitely all for it.

The people he sent were nothing short of great students. Some had welded before in school, some at work, some at both. Skill levels varied but they all seemed interested in learning more.

A few students that had actually worked in welding related industry showed some great skills. These guys actually came to class after working a full day at various jobs within our county. Some worked on the roads, some cleaning local buildings, and others maintaining equipment. But when they showed up at class they were eager to weld.

Though we all make various mistakes in our lives, we all can work to do better. Thankful for the blessing I received in working with these guys. Hopefully they can come back.
As is typical with the regular class, people don’t show up. Well I know a few that will come any time the door is open.

Welding Class completed

The 2012-2013 night welding class completed training on 18 June 2013.

The class was 2 nights a week from 4:00pm till 8:30.

All together we had 39 students. Some people just came to get ready for a welding test (Shipyard, Local Fabricators, or a local labor union) . Some came to increase the skills for a specific task (learn how to Tig weld, put a root in with 6010, or weld vertical with 7018). Some came not knowing what they wanted to learn.

Unless a student specifically told me what they wanted to learn, I made it a practice to start with SMAW. Though this process is not used much in the manufacturing world, it is still the mainstay of maintenance and repair work. It also a develops much of the hand eye coordination needed for other processes.

Though the training covered 9 mos, the overall number of hours was relatively low with only 9 hours of class per week. In addition there were a few weeks off due to fall and spring outages at the paper mill where I work.

Even with the limited number of hours, I think much was gained. Even if the only thing learned was “I don’t wanna be a welder” I think it was time we’ll spent.

The next open class starts on 6 Aug 2013. Classes will be on Tuesday and Thursday from 4:30 pm till 8:30 pm. There are 7 booths available and hours are flexible. If you only want to come to one class or just a certain time, we can make arrangements.

Contact me if you have any questions. 6626600162 call or text.

How much training is needed

Kinda long and part 1 of ??

One of the common questions I get from potential welding students is ” How much training does it take to be a welder.”

There is absolutely no way to answer that accurately based upon my knowledge. Sure, there are schools that tell you how long their course is and that they have job placement of xx percent. So I guess that’s one way to look at it. But I don’t think that fully tells the story.

As with anything, there are various levels of skill and ability. I’m only familiar with mine and some of the other welders I’ve been around. And even though I have been a welder for 30+ years I am NOT the authority on all things welding. Nor am I all that great of a welder. I just love it.

Here is some of my experience. This will explain how it (how much training) was for me.
I 1st welded in 9th grade metal shop in High School at Kickapoo High School. Filled a piece of 2” angle with 6013 and sawed it in two. I decided then I wanted to weld. We later moved to Memphis that school year and I signed up for Welding I at Kingsbury Vocational Center. From then through my senior year, I was in welding for 3 hours a day. I loved it. I stayed in the booth as much as I could. I read everything I could find about welding. I used to lust after the Jefferson’s Welding Encyclopedia that my Welding teacher and later close friend Ed Hemingway had. There is no telling what i would know if i had the internet back then.Point is, I put a good amount of time into welding. Even worked quite a few 30+ hours weeks at Coleman Engineering in Memphis MIG welding (GMAW) on portable lighting trailers.

But even after graduating, I still had more to learn. I joined the Navy as a Hull Maintenance technician. Their basic school was 11 weeks or so long. The metalworking portion was self paced and I finished quickly. I then went on to the ”Navy C-1 Welding School ” in San Diego. It was 30 weeks long for 8 hours a day. That’s 1200 more hours of just training.

I then spent another 5 years or so as a welder repairing nuclear powered submarine’s. I was able to do that job OK. Then I got out of the Navy. Figured I could handle anything the world of welding threw at me. Well, I was wrong. Worked at Lambs Machine Works where I learned to braze cast iron, build up shafts for machining using GMAW, weld overlay pump housings with stellite and other things. They taught me things I didn’t learn in all the training I had gone through. Sure I was able to do many of the tasks but the point is I was still learning.

I next decided I wanted to get back into pipe welding. Saw an ad for a company needing stainless tig welders. Well, I had done quite a bit of that in the Navy. So I went for a test. It was a 4 inch schedule 10 test welded with GTAW. And of course prior to the test I boasted how many xrayed welds I had done in the Navy and blah blah blah. I tacked it up and after the inspector looked at it I put a root pass in it. I had never taken an open root test before. Everything in the Navy was with a consumable insert. It looked OK I thought but the inspector indicated it looked a little rough. Hmmmm. I then capped it out and I thought it looked pretty good. The inspector came back and said ” ….. looks a little rough” . I got a little offended and asked him what it should look like. He showed me a sample and I told him ”That was done by a machine. ” He said it was not. He asked me how long I had been ”walking the cup ”. I indicated I didn’t know what he was talking about. Obviously I had not had enough training. I was an ex Navy nuclear welder with all kinds of training and experience and was about to fail a simple pipe test!

When he found out I did not ”walk the cup ” he said ”your hired” . I was blessed with making almost all the position welds while those who could ”Walk the cup ” took care of all the welds made in a jackstand.

I had more to learn… MUCH More.

A little dedication

We had a great class tonight. Though the number of students have gone down a bit, most of those that have remained are late starters as they didn’t start until April and May. Those that have went on are always welcome back to brush up on their skills. But what I want to talk about tonight is dedication.

One student has worked two jobs yet still made time to come to class. And regularly too. Always eager to learn something and hone his skills. Here he is on his 1st night of GTAW .

Image He has learned a great deal in in the 120ish hours he has in class. Though that is not much training time, his eagerness to learn has allowed him to gain a great deal of skill. Good Job Ian. Tonight he was welding fillet welds in tee joints in the vertical and overhead position on the floor and under the table. Never questioned me or complained. Just did it and it looked good. Dedication.

A lady I work with a few weeks ago asked me if I accepted students that were still high school age. I told her I would. My expectations were somewhat low for how they would perform. Not for any other reason than their being teenage boys. I would love to teach High School students how to weld but that’s another story.

I’ll start with Dave. Hes the older of the two. Tall, and very quiet. At 1st his quietness was perceived as a lack of interest. I WAS wrong. This young man has been to almost every class since starting and has progressed quickly. He pays close attention to everything I say when it comes to helping him weld better. Tonight he picked up the Mig gun to do a little GMAW practice after a brief introduction to it last night. Made some fine welds. Below is his 2nd or 3rd lap joint ever welded with GMAW. Pretty good. His vertical looked pretty good too.Image

Dave has been a pleasure to teach. When he got to class today his face was all dirty. I asked him what he had been doing. He said “Welding”. I asked him later what he was building. He indicated he was “Just Welding”. He has equipment at home and I am glad to see him using it.

The other young man  that started with Dave is Logan. Logan is a couple of years younger (I think) and I expected the similar interest out of a teenage young man but maybe a bit less. Well again I was wrong. While he is at class, Logan WORKS. He stays at it. Not taking a break every few rods to come out and talk. The dark spots you see on his sleeves is NOT from water being poured on him. It came from hard work in a hot trailer with the temp in the 90’s.


Tonight he was able to weld a satisfactory vertical fillet weld in a tee joint in the least amount of time of any student I have had. I then asked him to try one on the floor. This very often results in the weld looking VERY bad the 1st time. I briefly explained to him what to do and this is what came out.


The last student I want to talk about is PJ. He only started a few weeks ago. He is DRIVEN to learn to weld better. He came with some experience but wants to improve. You can tell how important is is to him to get better when things don’t come out right. It bothers him. He stays under the hood and doesn’t let a little warm weather stop him.


He stayed at it tonight and was successful in making some considerable improvements. The sweat you see would have caused quite a few to go home early.

What all of these have is dedication to learn. They may each have different ideas on what they want to do with welding in their lives but they and many others have really shown some dedication to learning. These (the dedicated) are the ones that make me love teaching. There are plenty that have already been through class and went on. Some to weld and some not to weld. But they CAME to learn.


I wanna be a welder because..

… they make lots of money.

I hear  that often as a welding instructor and as a welder. And often times I really don’t know what to say.

There are so many types of welders and in many cases,  welding is only one of the skills needed. 

There are so many misconceptions about the trade. Like everyone makes great money. That is incorrect. The amount of money you make can be directly related to your skills and abilites (sorry kids,  not everyone is getting a trophy).

It can also be related to the industry you work in. In some industries the pay is great as the skill they require is greater (constriction pipe welder)  or the industry itself is highly paid (medical industry). In some industries the guy driving the forklift makes the same as the guy mirror welding an open root Inconel butt weld.

Sometimes it’s just the company.  Some companies pay better than others.  This can be related to their performance or maybe a labor agreement with a Union.

Hours !!!!! In most cases when you work more hours you make more money. Or I always have.  On the years I made over 100k it was not because I was home every night at 5 and hanging out at the lake on weekends. I worked. 50-100 hours a week depending on what’s going on.  On construction jobs I wouldn’t go out of town for less that 70 hours a week. On more than a few I clocked well over 120 in a week while performing QC on boiler outages. Id clock out at 7 go to the room,  and come back at midnight to mark welds for repair and update weld maps. Finish at 5 am. Clock out. Sleep on a floor somewhere and getup at 7 and do it all again. I’d think “I’m beat, not gonna do this any more! ” Then I would get a check and think “you know,  I could rest up a few days and go to another one”. So I would drive home,  see my wife and kids for literally a few days,  and hit the road again.  NOT A GOOD WAY TO BE A HUSBAND OR FATHER.

So welders can make good money. But don’t think because you ran some 6010 and 7018 in a 8 week community college class that the big bucks are just out there looking for you. I will have another post about “how much training” in the future. If you want to weld and you enjoy it,  then learn to weld.  Take whatever jobs you can and continue learning. I love the job and I really believe that is the key to having a good job. Do NOT base what you want to do solely on how much it pays.

How much training does it take ? More on that later.

Student taking a test today

Well today one of my welding students is on his way to Memphis to take his FCAW plate test with the Boilermakers local 263. He has been training using SMAW and decided to give it a try after realizing Flux Core was pretty easy compared to stick.
The testing will be administered through the boilermakers CommonArc program. This will allow him to be qualified with multiple contractors taking only one test.

He has been a great student. Working two jobs and still coming to class.

Here are a couple of pics from his practice plates last night.



These are all horizontal.