OK, I have been in Alaska for the last 6 weeks working as an independent welder on the salmon boat fleet on Kodiak. I know, I know, what the hell right? I should have posted about my decision to come here and how I prepared for it as it happened, but as anyone who works whit their hands for a living can tell you, posting about your works sometimes takes a backseat to the actually doing the work. I apologize for my aloofness.
I first considered coming here several months ago when a friend returned from a trip to the island and told me about the potential opportunities for a welder here during the fishing season.
In the months to follow the prospect became more appealing for many reasons and I decided to go. As it turns out, my friend was correct about the opportunities for welders, but he was slightly off about the timing of it all. Fishing is the major industry here and it operates in seasons. The busy time for the several, smaller, satellite industries such as electrical, mechanical and welding happen just before these seasons begin.
I have landed a few jobs so far that have paid pretty well, but most of the fleet is out fishing. So, to make up for the lack of work on the fishing boats, I have been putting in some hrs with a local boat builder.
Above are a few shots of a custom, aluminum landing craft that I had a hand in building.
Way back in 2007 a group of random folks came together and built the Steam Punk Tree House in Oakland. Those folks remained friends and later evolved into what is now the collaborative group, 5 Ton Crane, makers of other, similar projects such at the Ray Gun Gothic Rocket, The Nautilus and the Sub-Sonarium.
The tree House now lives at the Dogfish Head Brewery in Delaware, where it is occasionally featured in their marketing bits.
Here is the latest, and in my opinion, the best one so far.
Note the curly metal work on the front door handle and the interior railing. That was me.
I bought this post vice years ago from an old blacksmith in Massachusetts and tragically it has sat in my dad’s garage ever since. On recent trip to visit my folks, I finally decided to ship all the heavy tooling that I amassed in my college days to myself in Oakland. I built a big crate and packed it with my anvil, this vice and an assortment of hand tools that were too big to bring with me when I drove across the country 12 years ago.
Now the crate has arrived and I can finally use the tools I was so excited to get when I was first learning the fundamentals of metalwork.
Post vices are meant to stand upright and provide excellent support for anything that needs to simultaneously held firmly and struck. They need to be anchored to something however and so I built this frame to secure it to the floor.
The work that I do is uncommon, exciting and rewarding, not to mention lots of fun. Metalwork however, is not without its downsides, which include the very dirty messes created from it.
Frustrated with this, my shop mates have requested that I take the most obnoxious parts of my work outside to be done in our small courtyard.
Fair is fair, but the courtyard does not have any usable surfaces to work on. Luckily, the previous tenants had left a large rack of various materials and I was able to find enough stuff on it to scab this table together. Now I have a solid work surface, plenty of ventilation and my shop mates are happy.
Here is a progress shot of my latest piece, “Interminable”. I found this large spiral years ago while mining a local scrap yard for materials to build the set for an “industrially” themed theatrical performance. I think the spiral was some kind of large earth drill bit, something that one might find on an excavator. In any case, I had to anneal the hell out of it before I could do anything because it was harder than the blades I tried to use to cut it.
Now it sits in this little pod and spins slowly, tediously and endlessly. Come and see the completed piece in the new Lost & Foundry Gallery. It will be up for another couple of weeks.
I built this vice extension in preparation for a large camp knife that I will begin making soon. The knife will be mostly hand-made, including lots of filing, which requires a lot of close visual inspection. This is difficult to do while mounted in a vice that is too low.
My primary vices are mounted at waist height, which is good for general work but uncomfortable when something has to be closely and frequently inspected. The extension brings this small vice closer to my eyes making the work much easier.
I took this vice from my grandfather’s garage after he passed away. For my entire childhood it was mounted to the corner of his dirty, oil-soaked work bench. I had always thought the vice was brown, but once I began to refurbish it, I found its original color. I think its a lovely shade.