Grinding metal is annoying, loud, toxic and, if done for long periods, painful. Sadly, it is also an inevitable aspect in most fabrication jobs. Luckily, our shop has a small back yard where this kind of work has a smaller impact on everyone in the shop. The only problem is that we don’t have a reliable surface to work on.
Fortunately, the previous tenants of the space left behind a rack of random materials that we have been slowly mining for usable items. This past week I yanked a large plate, a long channel and some pipes out from their precarious locations on the rack and scabbed them together to make this table.
Angle grinders are an essential work horse in any shop, but they are not without their dangers. This particular attachment failed at high speed, sending chunks of hard rubber all over the shop. That’s right kids. Wear proper protective clothing and equipment when you do dangerous work. I’m just going to sit down for a minute now.
Over the years that I have spent as a fabricator, I have picked up some odd working habits. For example, whenever I put my ear muffs on for loud work, I clap the muffs together 3 times. Why do I do this? I have no idea. Does the clapping action create a vacuum that clears the dust from the muffs? Maybe, but I have never really checked. Is it more akin to the superstitions that blacksmiths of the past believed in as they tried to appease the gods? I really don’t have an answer.
Another shop habit of mine came into acute focus this past week. Each time I use my gloves in the shop, I first twist them in a similar fashion to wringing out a towel. Again, this is goes back to the beginning of my career and remains rather inexplicable.
Nevertheless, this habit paid off in full. Just before grinding a few welds on the Zeppelin, I grabbed my gloves and gave them their ritualized squeeze. As I opened them to put my hand inside, this guy fell out. I am sorry that he had to die, but I am sure glad that I didn’t find him the hard way.
So are my habits somehow connected to a mysterious and innate understanding of the dangers of my environment, or are they just random and weird?
This is a section of a small fence located in the Brooklyn neighborhood where I stayed during my residency last Dec. It was probably forged 75 -100 years ago and its still hanging in there. It’s hard to beat solid craftsmanship.
My shop mate does quite a bit of brazing in his bicycle rack business. One element of that process is something called flux. Flux is a chemical that, when heated, first crystallizes then turns to a gas that displaces oxygen (the enemy of any good brazed or welded connection). He likes to use a liquid flux and keeps a small stock of it on a shelf.
Yesterday he noticed that one of his cans has sprung a small leak and this is what happened. With the exception of the waste, the result was pretty cool.
The zeppelin chandelier that I have been working is starting to come together. Now I have to pull the front end together, button up all these seams and grind them back to appear seamless and chop the top so I the internal light can escape.
I finished up 2013 with a brief residency in Brooklyn. The experience was positive and really fired me up to return to Oakland and get back to work in my shop. Before I could do that however, I had to make a few changes to my space to make it more accommodating for the projects that I have on the horizon.
I inherited this table when I moved into my current work space. In the years before I moved in, the space had been a foundry, and all the tables were low to the ground to accommodate that kind of work. Unfortunately, this table was just too low to be practical for me and so I decided to chop the legs and fabricate some longer ones.
Now its the perfect height for a variety of purposes and a great secondary fab table.