Thursday, August 02, 2012

Learning how to Weld

Inside the metal-roofed barn, stale with hot air accumulated from the Sunday sun, stood ten participants of a welding workshop listening ardently to the information their instructor, Derek Newland, was giving to them. “There is more to welding than just knowing how to weld,” said Derek, a twenty-seven year old Bellaire local. Derek got his start when he moved to Canada six years ago and since has had experience from production to military welding. “For instance, you can use cardboard as a shield against flammable objects if you soak it in water first,” Derek continued.

The July 22nd event at Derek’s family home marked the second success for an ISLAND welding workshop. ISLAND is an arts and ecology institute in Bellaire dedicated to connecting people with skills and resources to help build a strong local community. “Today we are going to be working in two groups,” instructed Derek, “Those who want to use welding for farming purposes and the artsy folk.” The group looked around at each other heedfully; with some it was easy to tell which application they would choose, yet others were harder to place. Derek continued to explain that generally everybody would continue to work together in one group but there would be two separate focus projects. For those with a desire to work on farm equipment, the days project would be to build a broadfork, a sort of pitch fork that uses one’s body weight to dig into the ground and loosen soil; for those wanting to create art, well, the day would start by uncovering lost treasures in various piles of rusty scrap metal. 

As the group separated into individuals—some digging through and discovering old-turned-new pieces of scrap, others huddling around a large piece of paper telling tales of how to construct a simple yet valuable tool—Derek rolled out a small red Lincoln Electric welder. “Gather round please,” Derek was preparing to give the class a demo.“Today we are going to learn about MIG welding.” Derek proceeded to talk about some basic safety measures, metal preparation and handling, all the while preparing himself for the first weld of the day. He slipped on a worn yellow leather jacket to protect his arms from the heat and fly away sparks; on his head he wore a backwards baseball cap covered in american flags, “By wearing your hat backwards you are able to protect your head and your neck at the same time,” he advised.

With a slight breeze from the lone rickety fan in the corner, Derek bent over two pieces of metal and demonstrated how to make a tack weld. When he was finished, one by one each student was able to have a turn at making their own tack weld. Derek waited patiently beside each person as they made their attempt. He gave them each personal pointers and let them try as many times as they needed until they felt comfortable with the process. Throughout the next few hours this rotation continued between one-on-one instruction and group discussion. By the end of the day, though worn from heat, smiles sparked the air congratulating one another on the progress the group made together on their various projects. “Welding is the ultimate skill for a do-it-yourselfer,” exclaimed Brad Kik, co-director of ISLAND and workshop attendee, “I’ve been working with wood for a decade, but there are some projects that are just meant for metal-working.”

Join us for the 3rd ISLAND Welding Workshop with Derek Newland on Sunday September 30th. Preregistration is required. For more information call (231) 622-5252 or email

Art Schoolmaster welding part of a broadfork


Brad Kik welding part of a broadfork
Julie Martinson grinding scrap metal in preparation for welding  

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