exploding concrete

August 29th, 2002 • 2 min read #Journal #BestOf

I'm getting ready to go to my art welding class at 7:40.

The instructor is a firecracker (no pun intended). She is extremely energetic and obviously LOVES staring at melted, liquid scrap metal reflecting the sun-like flame eminating from her welding tip... bits of cars, refrigerators, and for sale signs which she coaxes into works of art.

She understood completely what the situation was: us 5 students (2 girls) were taking this course not to become code welders working on oil rigs, but simply to play with fire. We share a very large workshop with multiple other classes. It's clear that there is a big difference between the art welders and the code welders. We were dressed like punks- one guy was wearing uber-hip clothes, multiple earings, a shaved head, goatee, and boxy shoes. One of the girls, I kid you not, was wearing a black dress and sandals. I, thinking I was being prudent, wore old khaki shorts, some dirty tennis shoes, and a ratty T-shirt.

It turns out we were all very inappropriately dressed. The burly men learning exact welding specifications, not quite grasping why someone would waste time welding "art," were obviously not too impressed with these 5 sissies.

So I had to go round up some appropriate attire.

Jeans, Pigskin, gauntlet gloves. Safety glasses with .5 uv shading. 100% cotton long-sleeve shirt. boots (waiting on my Army surplus boots from home), needlenose pliers (Must have the pliers... must be prepared to ruin the pliers), and the welder's cap.

The welder's caps, strangely enough, are very girly- flowers and purples and pinks. I didn't understand this. It's a weird bit of the welding subculture which I need to figure out.

Our instructor also understood that what we needed was instruction and guidence so that we don't kill ourselves. She spent 20 minutes telling us horror stories of things she's seen, or worse, things she heard about in the workshop: heads of hair engulfed in flames, mangled fingers in the sheers, plasma torches sunburning eyes, and jewelry burning flesh to the bone because of radiant heat.

However, the thing she told us that scared me the most was that there was a reason we didn't want to weld on the concrete floor. Apparently, after exposed to just a little bit of the welding torch's heat, concrete will explode and the molten, toxic material sticks and fuses onto flesh.

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