Monday, April 11, 2016

Welding Classes For Hobbyists

For quite some time I've been wishing I could carry a little more of the critical welding on own personal projects.  I've done a little stick welding & oxyacetylene welding in the past but have never even touched a MIG or TIG. I've always done as much of the work as I could possibly do myself and outsourcing the majority of the welding has been starting to get to me.
Nearly 3 years ago I started hunting for welding courses at the various community colleges in the area. I thought welding classes for hobbyist's would be fairly common and popular given the overall prevalence of the custom car/motorcycle trend. All the courses I found were intended for trade welders working toward a professional certification. I'm not sure my current employer would be too stoked if I missed work to attend a multi-week 9AM-5PM welding program so that wasn't really an option.

A couple of weeks ago I received an email from The Factory Metal Works offering a welding course targeted for motorcycle builders. Cool concept but Salisbury, NC is a long haul for one day welding class. Still, it got me hunting for something local again.

This time I eventually stumbled across the Hazard Factory. Folks online were saying great things about both the primary instructor and the various programs they offer. The website recommended taking the MIG course before the TIG course and it was reasonably priced so I set off about convincing Flathead Rob to take it with me. Little brothers are expertly manipulative so that wasn't hard.

We registered for a Sunday morning class that same week. When we initially showed up for the class I was slightly disappointed Rusty Oliver wasn't teaching our class as several Internet discussions really raved about him as an instructor. Our instructor was Mckenzie Smith. Mckenzie was awesome. She was smart, witty and quite entertaining. More importantly she is also a very capable welder and a fantastic teacher. 5 hours is not a lot of time to teach a complex technical discipline to mostly clueless newbies. Teaching set-in-their-ways adults is even more difficult.  Mckenzie is clearly passionate about teaching and was very motivated to send every student home a successful welder. Our class had three students of varying experience levels and perhaps more importantly three drastically different learning styles. Mckenzie identified those differences and effortlessly altered her teaching style to suit the individual. Having taught technical courses myself I can't overemphasize how difficult this can be. I think it's a skill some are just born with.

I was very satisfied with the course content and it's objectives. The instructor spent maybe 90 minutes discussing theory, demonstrating skills and pinpointing the variables that need to be considered to dial in that optimal weld. The reset of our course time was spent welding, the exact reason we were all there. A hobbyist welder can learn a lot from watching the hours and hours of instructional videos on Youtube. Those videos however can't watch you and point out the one or two minute variables you need to alter to get a really good weld.

I hoped to learn enough in a welding course that I could confidentially lay down a structurally effective weld and visually confirm I actually got one. I defiantly got that. I hoped to build a base upon which I could invest some individual practice time and learn to produce welds I was truly proud of. I think I got that too (I guess time will tell). Perhaps equally important for a hobbyist class is it was actually fun too. Taking a class or two is something you could do for the sheer fun of it and HazardFactory knows it. They offer welding classes especially especially tailored to women,  introductory classes for newbies, fabrication projects for all ages and even welding related Team Building "retreats" for you and your officemates.

 Given Mckenzie spent the day putting three wannabe welder motorcyclists through our paces we concluded turnabout was fair play. After class we walked her through kickstarting an 80 year old big twin flathead and even started on her introductory Seattle Cossacks stunt repertoire.

Long and short of it, the HazardFactory classes are excellent and ours was really fun. You can't go wrong taking one, the value for the money is outstanding and I'd strongly recommend requesting Mckenzieas an instructor. I will almost certainly take another. I'd really like to get some TIG time...

1 comment:

HarleyWidow said...

Fun post! Glad you and your bro had a great time!