What inspires a guy to leave the relative comfort of a cushy desk job and pick up a MIG welder? Maybe a hobby turned Into a full-time passion? Or perhaps an unexpected arrival of a Hobart MIG welder for my birthday-thanks hon!
The best projects start with the proper know-how so the hunt was on for a proper instructional program. An assortment of local institutions offered wide-ranging programs and if I wished to learn to weld high-pressure natural gas pipelines they would probably have been very helpful. Although community colleges are inexpensive, none seemed to fit my needs or busy schedule and short timeline. That's when I came across The Fab School in Riverside, California. A few clicks later and I had reviewed all of their programs as well as scheduled a tour of the facility. My hopes were up and the race truck drawings my son presented each night at dinner helped keep me focused.
Courses at The Fab School range from basic to advanced and present a unique opportunity to learn countless aspects of motorsports fabrication. My head was swimming with the possibilities and I could already see my garage converted into a full race shop. Family and career obligations were certain to impair that fleeting dream, but the final listing on The Fab School curriculum made it completely doable. Dubiously named the "Crash Course", a four-week program that met twice a week, looked to provide a nice balance between learning and earning.
Required helmet and tools in hand, I hit day one with an unprecedented level of enthusiasm. The Crash Course program was intimate by design, with only a handful of students in each class, taught by a primary instructor as well as intermittent support from other teachers within the program. Day one began with a safety review and thirty minutes of orientation and then went right into hands-on MIG welding. By lunch, I had already learned the basics of two separate welding techniques and was well aware of why they called this the Crash Course. Day two offered the same full-throttle pace, opening up with the basics of measuring techniques as they related to tube fabrication and then back to the MIG welders. By midday, I had easily burned through a hundred feet of wire and could lay down a passable bead. Thanks to relentless firsthand attention, my work was getting better by the hour. Tube notching came next, beginning with a rudimentary fence post notcher which allowed crude but quick cuts. I spent the following weekend garage bound and inspired to practice.
The MIG seat time payed off as week two began with an evaluation of our work and I was able to pass with a respectable joining of metals. Feeling cocky with my initial success, I moved onto TIG welding and immediately hit a wall. Seems the utilization of two hands and one foot was more than my brain could handle and I was clearly struggling. Once again, course instructor Dan Moore came to my rescue and spent the time to walk me through the fundamentals. By day's end, my work and understanding of another welding discipline had increased a thousand fold. Week two ended with an attention-grabbing discussion of suspension theory, including bumpsteer, three- and four-link designs, caster, camber, and motion ratios amongst other aspects. Like each of the previous segments, we were required to pass a written test of our newly acquired knowledge.