Leisurely Drives and Road Signs

Today we will talk about work driving. Something most of us do, whether we drive company cars or trucks for work or drive our own vehicles to accomplish work errands.

“But why does it say ‘leisurely’ in the title?” you may ask…”This is work after all, right? Aren’t you on the clock??”

Because, sometimes your drive is interrupted by unforeseen circumstances and said drive becomes a leisurely jaunt through the countryside (whether you wanted it to or not). Humor me for a few paragraphs as I relate the following story 😉 –

Out running errands one day, I made an uneventful trip into town – you’ll be happy to know that this is fairly typical. And then on my way back to the office, I was behind a Chevy truck.

Chevy truck

The driver of said truck was going well under the speed limit, so I adjusted my speed accordingly and waited patiently for the driver to get up to speed. After a bit, I realized with a sinking feeling that he had no intention of going any faster. He was doing 20 in a 40. And it’s a good 3 mile stretch or so to my turn off…

Most people would have just passed him at this point, but I didn’t for whatever reason. Maybe I was now intrigued and actually enjoying the slower pace?

He had white hair and would be what we out here in Wyoming call an “oldtimer”. Even oldtimers call fellow oldtimers ‘oldtimer’, so it’s okay for me to say this (Christmas with the Kranks, anyone?). He would glance at me in his rearview mirror every so often. Maybe it was his way of saying “Slow your roll, young’un. Always rushing around in a hurry!”. Mind you, I was by now a cautious two car lengths away – tailgating is the worst.

Speed limit 45

I gave him even more space. He moseyed on up to 25. Hope could not be restrained and it started to rise in my impatient little heart!! He gradually approached 30 at about a 1/2 mile in. Could it be?? Would he go the actual speed limit???!? I kept hoping against hope that we would pass a speed limit sign, so he would see it and maybe go faster!!

You know that he didn’t. But at that point, he had edged up to slightly over 30, so I could deal with it.

Once we hit the county part of the road and the speed limit changed to 45, he was actually doing a bit above 40. MORE HOPE!! I was actually elated and didn’t pass him once I hit the dotted lines.  

I see you, leisurely driver…I see what you did there. Very clever…

…the type of driver…

Mind you, I am the type of driver that drives pretty much exactly the speed limit. I am usually the one that people are passing like I’m standing still. So for me to encounter a slower driver than me is not super common. To those who have somewhere to be in a hurry, I get it. I just want to say the following in the most respectful way –

“PLEASE, for the love of all that is good – watch the road and not your phone, stay on your side of the line, and stop running reds!!”.

…because speaking of…

On the same day I was driving behind Leisurely Driver, I was at an intersection waiting to go and a company van barreled through a red light – our green. A few seconds later, myself and the driver in the turning lane next to me cautiously eeked out into the intersection, unsure if it was safe or not. We were safe, fortunately. This is someone’s auntie and daughter here…I wanna make it home intact each night.

And then just last night, a man who was apparently filming the incredible sunset with his phone – while driving – almost ended up in my lane and looked like he was heading right for my car! That was kind of dumb.

But I digress.

All of these driving adventures made me think of the old Burma Shave ads. You know the ones? The little red signs along the road that had little pieces of a saying. Theirs were always clever quips that basically said “Slow down and enjoy life”. Here are a few of my favorites –

  • Train approaching / Whistle squealing / Stop / Avoid that run-down feeling / Burma-Shave
  • Past / Schoolhouses / Take it slow / Let the little / Shavers grow / Burma-Shave
  • Don’t take / a curve / at 60 per / We hate to lose / a customer / Burma-Shave
  • The midnight ride / of Paul / for beer / led to a / warmer hemisphere / Burma-Shave
Burma-Shave sign

They had the wittiest and most memorable way to tell people to mind the road.

Anyways, I don’t mind the drive from work to town and from town to work each day. It’s quiet and mostly peaceful and I get to watch the scenery or see the wildlife or just enjoy the trip.

Maybe the oldtimer did have something to that very slow, easy pace after all.

So you get to work just a few minutes later than normal? You get to enjoy the scenery. Out here, you get to enjoy the nearly ever-present sunshine on a winter’s day and maybe roll the window down just a snip for a fresh breeze. In the spring, summer and fall, you get to enjoy the beautiful scenery! You get to slow down and give wildlife a chance to cross the road, unharmed. You don’t put your life or your fellow drivers (or passengers) lives at risk from driving too fast, or in a distracted manner. And you get to just savor an unrushed moment of life!

I see you, leisurely driver, I see what you did there. Clever. Thanks for that moment of chill in my work day.

GWInc.

Here are a few links if you want to look up more on the Burma-Shave signs –

A Land That Tries to Kill You

Australia has often been touted as the land with the most dangerous creatures, both quantity- and quality-wise. And from what I have read and the pictures I have seen, I do believe it!

And yet, many people love Australia and call it home. The danger factor doesn’t seem to sway them too much. That being said, we have a fair number of Aussies who have moved to America, where it’s supposedly less deadly. Things like the Sydney Funnel Web Spider, the Box Jellyfish, crocodiles, snakes and more snakes, and sharks can all kill you in the Land Down Under. Just to name a few things. There are more…

It got me to thinking…where I live has perhaps fewer deadly creatures than the Land of Oz. But we do have some!

Like the massive and majestic Grizzly bear. Each year we hear of people, often hunters or guides, who end up on the wrong side of a grizz and sadly, get killed. The equally massive and equally majestic bison, which unfortunately also maims people who insist on getting too close, usually in Yellowstone. There have been at least 3 deaths attributed to bison in Yellowstone, according to this document – Bison goring injuries. Need I mention the rattlesnake, the mountain lion, or the gray wolf?

And then there is the land itself. It seems to be a bit resistant to people living here…I think of Buffalo and Sheridan, Wyoming, with their gorgeous mountain views. Yet the land itself is full of rocks leftover from glaciers. Tiny rocks, big rocks. Makes it hard to do much farming or ranching, ya know?

With the high prairie covering much of Wyoming and parts of Montana and South Dakota, it was well suited particularly for grazing animals – cattle, sheep, bison, elk, deer, and pronghorn antelope.

Yet, here we are. We live in a state with the lowest population. The latest figures I could find were 578,759 (although the recent census numbers have us a bit more, but those are not official as of the time of publishing). For good reason, as you will see. That’s roughly the same population as Washington DC! Even remote Alaska has more people than we do!

We cling tenaciously to the basins, the mountains and the prairie. Forging our existence in a wild land. To live here, you have to cultivate an appreciation for the wild. Be a little wild – which means – be independent and self-sufficient. Not care that the world around you tries to wipe you off the map…repeatedly.

The Native Americans who lived here for many generations learned the rhythms of this land and used it to their advantage. In this region, the tribes were often mobile and roamed free, instead of living in one place as tribes in other places in America had done. The land, seasons and animal life here are well suited to this type of nomadic lifestyle.

And then after the Louisiana Purchase was completed, the expedition of Lewis and Clark finished a few years later (and long before that, the Spanish Conquistador’s exploration from Mexico clear up to Canada), then followed the many pioneers who traversed this continent heading West in covered wagons, in search of a better life. Some indeed found a better life here – relief from the overcrowded cities to the East. Here there was land and space. Some found disease, poverty, wars and untimely death. But those that survived and stayed learned to love this hard land and accept it for what it is. And in return the land yielded it’s wild and untamed beauty to those who would appreciate it.

In our region, which spans the corners of three states, we did name a lot of our monuments and landmarks names that denote the wild nature of the landscape: Devil’s Tower, Devil’s Bathtub, the Badlands are just a few. And I know we aren’t the only state or region to have these sorts of features. America definitely has parts that are more prone to dangerous living…and I’m not talking about crime. Though we have that, too.

No…I think more of our brutal winters and the threat of hypothermia. Or gingerly driving on black ice, even into April and May. Then when long-awaited summer finally comes, we deal with occasional bouts of huge hail, tornadoes, wind shears and flash flooding.

And now, due to a mild winter with less snowpack than was ideal, we are in fire season that started as early as June, as has been experienced in much of the US this year and past years.

Newbies who move here from other states often have really nice things to say about Wyoming: “The people are so friendly!” or “The mountains are so pretty!” But then we inevitably hear “BUT THAT WIND!!!” or “BUT NO SHOPPING!!” as they are packing their boxes to head back home, which is a place with traffic jams, skyscrapers and multitudes of rules. That’s okay…Imma keep my wind and no shopping and open roads and wilderness all to myself!

I can’t help but view Wyoming is a special gift that I give to the ones who will really love her well – flaws and all.

“Well, that’s nice and sentimental”, you may say. “But the real question is – why do you want to live in a place that is always trying to kill you?”

Let me count the reasons!

  • Less traffic
  • Clean air
  • Major energy producer
  • Fewer people
  • More wildlife to watch and enjoy
  • Sunsets that look like paintings
  • Stars so bright and close, it feels like you can touch them
  • Bright sunshine for days and days (I mean, we ARE several thousand feet closer to the sun, after all)
  • And in our particular state, friendlier laws and less restrictions
  • Mountains, lakes, rivers and trails for outdoor activities

Oh, and it’s pretty 😊

GWInc.

Links to check out if you are interested in more –

A video on the box jellyfish

How Deadly Are Australia’s Animals?

Bear Attack Story (Warning – Graphic pics)

Devil’s Tower Area video

Cutting With Pure Oxygen

(Note – this short little article was one I originally wrote back in February of 2019 for my Facebook friends. Thought I would add it here for you all to enjoy – E)

So I learned yet another new thing today and I am nerding out about it!! 🙂

I work for my Dad’s welding business and he brought a large equipment pin to the office that he had burned out using only pure oxygen. Well, pure oxygen and a thermal lance. The lance forces pressurized oxygen through a long tube. One end is lit with a torch and once the oxygen starts burning, you apply it to the metal you want to cut and voila…molten metal in mere seconds.

Pretty cool! I never knew such things existed. I thought metal cutting options were limited to shears, torches, cutting wheels, plasma cutters and chop saws. Obviously, there is not a shortage of options…

But I digress!

Here’s a YouTube video about a much larger application of a thermal lance…cutting rolls. Scrap yards can’t usually take the rolls at the size they are, so they have to be cut into smaller pieces. https://youtu.be/rSpXJJ-ris8

Cutting rolls with a thermal lance – YouTube

And yes, this is dangerous!
…which probably just excited a few of you adrenaline junkies. Welding/thermal lance cutting might just be the career you need.

Remember your chemistry class in school? Oxygen-rich environments are ripe grounds for explosive fire, if fuel is present and something like a spark sets it off. Of course, in the case of a thermal lance, the oxygen is being burned and safety measures are being followed to ensure that the cutting is done at a safe distance (hence the long lance part) – so the danger is lessened. But any time you work with pressurized gases, safety is key.

Which randomly reminds me of when I worked for the hospital and was setting up oxygen tanks and concentrators on patients who refused to give up smoking.

I was required to tell them that they could not smoke around the concentrator or while using oxygen tanks – I was required to tell them that smoking and oxygen were a dangerous combination. I was required to document if they were compliant or not. I was indeed an earnest advocate for them not accidentally dying by fiery trial.

But the patients would almost always roll their eyes and glaze over, nodding their head in agreement while taking a puff or two of their cigarette, for emphasis. I’m sure they had withstood lecture after lecture from their doctors and family or friends and were quite immune to the dictums of a recent college grad still wet behind the ears.

They sometimes said things like “Well, I’ve lived this long and I’ll be danged if I’m changing now” (that’s the toned-down, PG version, of course) or “If I’m gonna die anyway, I might as well go out with a bang”. Everything going up in super fast, super hot flames?? Eh, nothing to worry about here.

Reminds me vaguely of something Dickens once wrote about.

GWInc.

Can You Hear Me Now??

In a “normal” household, Dads tell their kids to turn their music down. We were always asking our Dad to turn the volume down…

Growing up in a household where one parent was partially deaf was fun and never, ever boring! We didn’t have to learn sign language, because Dad could always hear out of one ear since babyhood and he has learned to read lips well. But there were plenty of instances of “What?” and near shouting and always asking “Can you turn that down just a little bit? It’s too loud!!”…from the kids.

The TV volume was always at or near the highest possible decibel. Now, I don’t know about you, but this makes it so that surround sound is a very literal thing. We kids never pined for extra speakers, like some of our friends had. If we had grown up with the latest flatscreen, High-def TVs, we could have possibly given the local theaters a run for their money. But as it was, our TVs growing up still had tubes. However, even with the old-style television sets, our movie watching was a completely immersive experience.

On the flip side, when you are in a welding shop or other industrial setting, established hearing loss is actually not an entirely bad thing. Not that we encourage it at all – protect your hearing!! You will need it. But for the seasoned pros, they know that pieces of pipe and angle clanging to the floor, saws biting into metal, grinders whining, the crackle of welding, the whir of the welder…all of these things can take their toll. If you enter the shop with perfect hearing, you can probably expect to leave with it taken down a notch or two. This is why we advocate for good ear protection.

It’s not just in the shop, though. Have you ever been in close proximity to a welding truck that is running? Depending on the age of the machine and whether it drinks unleaded or diesel, one can lose a bit of hearing there, too. I would venture a guess that very few welders and metal fabricators actually have top notch hearing. And if they do, they are like 18 or 20 years old and just getting their toes wet.

Of course, this age range is also the prime time for loud concerts, where you walk away dazed and confused because your friend happened to want to be closer to the stage (which was of course closer to the speakers) and you aren’t sure if you will ever hear anything but ringing again…

Anyway, back to the adventures of growing up with a parent with partial deafness. Growing up, we never really thought anything of it. When we had company come over, we placed them at the table on the side of my Dad’s good ear, so he could hear them better. And we always explained to them that he had hearing in only one ear, which they were more than happy to accommodate. For phone conversations, fortunately Dad has pretty good hearing. Talking to customers on the phone or where he could read their lips was never too big of an issue. And now there is texting, which is ever so convenient when the ability to hear well is compromised. 

As I got a little older and we would go shopping, I would sometimes realize that store employees would think Dad was ignoring them. He would be at a counter looking down at the merchandise, and they would be talking to him – on the side where his bad ear is. And because he reads lips, if he’s not looking at you and you aren’t talking distinctly or loudly enough, he just won’t hear a word! I took to explaining to them that he was partially deaf so they wouldn’t feel like he was being rude. He is one of the nicest customers to deal with and a very gregarious guy, so if he was a regular, that usually wasn’t a problem.

Now that many people are wearing masks, this has become a bit of challenge. Dad had to go to the doctor’s office recently and the nurses and doctor were wearing masks. Being one who relies on seeing someone’s mouth when they talk, this was difficult for him. He caught part of what was said, but not all of it.

At some point, I realized that I probably wouldn’t have great hearing myself unless I started protecting my ears more. I started wearing ear protection more regularly when working at the shop. When I moved out and got my own apartment, I found that I liked listening to the TV below 10 decibels when there were no other ambient noises. I discovered the pleasure of watching TV & movies at a much lower volume. That’s right, folks – make those ear drums work for it!!

And lest I forget to mention it, we eventually found a happy alternative for when we watched movies all together…subtitles! What an ingenious little thing subtitles are!! With subtitles, we can keep the volume to a non-damaging level. He still has a little trouble hearing everything, but he can read it if he can’t hear it. If he watches something alone, the volume is up as high as it will go for the full experience 😊 It isn’t his fault, really. He was born that way. Also, new and improved hearing aids have helped some.

He learned to talk normally as a child, since he did have some natural hearing. March of Dimes helped provide him with hearing aids in his teen years. He also was fortunate to have had a speech therapist as a child. God bless speech therapists!

When he was 8, he was one of the first children to have tubes put in his ears – well, just his right ear. At that point in time, this was still an experimental procedure. The doctors couldn’t guarantee it would work, let alone stay in. His ear drained profusely for the next few days. A week later, the doctor checked his ears and there was a hole in the drum, but no tube. It had fallen out! Guess that’s why they call it experimental, right?

When Dad was 17, he noticed he was having more problems with his hearing. He couldn’t hear much at all out of his good ear. He went to the ear doc and was informed that his ear drum was almost completely gone. Not only that, but an infection had eaten away most of his inner ear. Without a drastic surgery, he would soon have zero hearing – out of the only ear that actually worked.

He had a mastoidectomy, in addition to the doctors rebuilding his inner ear with tiny pieces of bone carved into inner ear bone shapes and a new ear drum made out of skin.

Now the real test came…did it work?

After the surgery, he completely lost all of his hearing for several months. It seemed that this attempt to fix his inner ear had failed.

This was around the same time he had met and fallen in love with his future wife (my Mom!), who attended youth group. Even though he couldn’t hear what was being said at youth group, he still attended (mostly to make sure that no other guys tried to take his girl) and one day, someone gave him a Bible and pointed him to the book of John, chapter 1. He started reading it during the meetings and he decided to give his life to Jesus.

After his salvation experience, Dad experienced a sort of miracle with his hearing. By this time his youngest brother had also moved to Deer Lodge. They had a bunk bed…the youngest brother, Mark, slept on the top bunk and Dad slept on the bottom bunk. Whenever Mark would wake up in the morning and hop down, he would pop Dad on the chest with his fist to wake him up (that served as his alarm clock, since Dad still didn’t have hearing post-surgery). Mark then left for some months.

It was after he had left that one morning, Dad said he felt someone pound his chest the same way Mark used to, but when he woke up, he remembered that Mark was gone. Thinking it had been someone else, he looked around, but no one was there. But the miraculous part was that he could hear again! And hears to this day out of that ear, with the help of a hearing aid.

So, I guess in a way, we are all thankful for the loud TV and Dad is especially thankful for it. It means his ear is still working as it should. We are truly grateful for both that and for him.

GWInc.

Need Some Proper PPE?

We trust you are all staying safe during the resurgence of this pandemic. We have been working this whole time, wearing our carefully curated PPE…

We here at Gary’s Welding Inc. are firm believers in proper personal protective equipment (PPE). Without it, our work would be, ummm, pretty painful and downright dangerous.

Here are a few fun and maybe even newish PPE items we thought you might enjoy checking out! Thanks in part to The Fabricator and also the Industrial Safety & Hygiene News magazines for these suggestions. We are in no way paid, sponsored or reimbursed by these companies, either. Peruse at your own leisure.

**Important note** – I have provided the links for these items online, but you might be able to find them at your local welding supply store. If you can, support local first!

  • Well, if these aren’t the bees knees, I don’t know what is. These sort of remind me of licorice. The RigMasterFR glove, with back of hand impact protection. According to their website, these are designed for use in the oil and gas industry and have fingertip pinch point protection. Veeerrrry important right there. Don’t need no fingers pinched off! You need your digits. Find at www.banom.com
  • Bullard® Standard Series Vented 4-Point Ratchet Suspension Cap Hard Hat – wait a sec, a VENTED hard hat?? Sign me up!! If you have ever had to wear one outside in the summer under a blazing sun, you know this would be like heaven. Find at https://www.northernsafety.com/Product/23216
  • Black Stallion FR Cotton Knit Long-sleeve Henley – you still need to keep covered in warmer weather if you are going to be around sparks and torches. How about a Flame-resistant Henley?  These look nice and also come in brighter colors, to help with visibility on the job site. For use in:  
    • Welding
    • Construction
    • Industrial
    • Electrical Utility

Found at blackstallion.com. http://www.blackstallion.com/products/tf2520-gl-detail.html

  • 3M Virtua CSS Protective Eyewear with Foam Gasket

    Cost-effective! And safety glasses are essential if you are doing grinding, chipping, painting or a myriad of other could-get-in-your-eyes-type things.

    This set of safety glasses offers a comfortable, lightweight frame with Cord Control System (CCS) and a foam gasket attachment. CCS is designed to keep a corded earplug attached, untangled, and ready for use. The foam gasket helps limit eye exposure to nuisance dust while providing additional cushioning. The clear, anti-fog, polycarbonate lens absorbs 99.9% UV and meets the requirements of CSA Z94.3-07 and is Impact Rated to ANSI Z87.1-2010. Found at https://www.magidglove.com/3M-Virtua-CCS-Protective-Eyewear-with-Foam-Gasket-and-Reader-Lens-3MVC220AF
  • Men’s & Women’s Timberland Pro Direct Attach 6” steel toe boots

    Often in a shop, out in the field, at a mine or on a construction site, steel toed boots are a requirement. Much like hardhats. These are rugged and look like they will last awhile. They are also insulated, so are good for cooler weather or working in all weather. They also have an oil-resistant rubber lug outsole for traction.
    • Seam-sealed waterproof leather uppers for durability and dry, comfortable feet
    • Padded top collar
    • Mesh lining with antimicrobial treatment for odor control
    • Nylon shock diffusion plate for support and torsional rigidity
    • Single boot weight for size 9: 910 grams/2 pounds

Found at https://www.timberland.com/shop/pro-steel-toe/mens-timberland-pro-direct-attach-6in-steel-toe-boots-65016713

We hope this helps give you some good ideas for PPE around the shop, the mine or on a construction site. Remember to observe your specific country, state or place of employment regulations when it comes to personal protective equipment for your specific job. If you own your own business, be familiar with MSHA and OSHA regulations on the subject. Other than that, have fun with it!

Thanks for reading.

GWInc.

‘Adventures’ in Welding, Part 2

Yet More Cautionary Tales to Brighten Your Day

If you haven’t read the first post in this series, check it out here…https://garysweldinginc.com/2017/10/19/adventures-in-welding-and-other-cautionary-tales/

Just to recap, last time, we shared a few harrowing “adventures” that we have had in the welding biz. So, let’s get down to even more welding shrapnel (brass tacks??), shall we?

I was reminiscing the other day about the one time we had gone down to Casper to cut and join some pipe. It was my dad, Gary, my sisters and I. This would have been when I was in my late teens. The pipe was large diameter, 12-inch inside diameter pipe originally made in the 1920s for a water line project. There were over 30 miles of pipe in the yard – we cut and joined it in 40-foot sections for a total of 2 miles of it for the customer. The pipe ends were dresser sleeved, so before we could begin welding, we had to cut off those ends. This was where my job came in.

Once we got to the yard, we were given specific tasks to work on. My task was to use the pipe beveling machine with the cutting torch to bevel the pipe ends. My dad set up the beveler and showed me how to use it and once I tried my hand at it, easy peasy. This was my first time using a pipe beveler and it struck me as purely awesome! I love a good cutting torch. And it’s not because I use them a bunch, because I don’t. My main job for the welding company has always been in the office. No, rather my fascination with a cutting torch stems from the fact that it harnesses gases (oxygen & acetylene in this case) and a mere spark to cut through metal – think about that for a second: a gas you breathe can cut through metal.

Pipe beveler

If you aren’t familiar with a pipe beveler, imagine this (or see the pic to the right): The pipe beveler was set up on a ring gear that sits over the pipe like a saddle. The whole contraption moves slowly around the pipe, while the torch was held by an arm on the beveler so that it sits at an angle. My biggest job was to make sure the oxygen and acetylene hose was kept clear of the cutting area and to make sure the ground was clear for the section of pipe that was cut off.

I can’t remember exactly, but I was probably 3 or 4 pipe ends in when I forgot all about the hose. I think I was watching to make sure the sparks didn’t catch the long grass in the yard on fire  – also, there may have been a little ADHD going on. Not good. So this particular time when the pipe end fell off, it fell directly onto the oxy-acetylene hose – MOLTEN HOT SIDE DOWN, NATURALLY – and promptly burned through the hoses like a hot knife through butter. {palm to face} Well crap!!!!! I just stood there like a deer in the headlights, not knowing what to do. The hoses were hissing quite a bit and my dad came running over and was shouting something about causing an explosion while he was turning bottles off, grabbing hose and yelling for me to flip the pipe end out of the way. It was a moment or two of chaos, but lucky us, there was no explosion or fire.

I felt bad. That section of perfectly good hose – completely ruined. That was the day that I found out that hose could be cut and new ends made – good thing! But I could have caused a major catastrophe if Dad hadn’t caught it in time. I think that was the end of me being in charge of the pipe beveler…I was reassigned to another area. Probably a good thing for all of us 😉

Which brings me to another fond memory of working out in the field…

This was while I was working for Dad as a laborer one summer during my college years. We had been working on this particular project – an elevated walkway out at the customer’s location – all summer long. One of my co-workers and I had the job of painting the entire walkway and supporting pipes. That was hot, grueling work. The paint was so thick, we had to stop frequently to wash out the brushes (yes, hand painting with brushes and rollers! The paint was some special type and it was too thick to spray paint).

One day, I decided to walk the length up top and see the new drop-down walkouts our company had installed at various places along the walkway. Dad had showed me how they worked, and I was all admiration. They were like little draw bridges. Each one had a special wire winch with a crank handle on it to draw the walkout up and a locking mechanism to keep them locked and upright when not in use. Very safe and a cool feature.

For whatever reason, that probably has very little to do with actual reasoning (ADHD remember), I decided to try one myself, just to see how it worked again. Normally, I can be trusted with machinery and metal alone, but this time? Not this time. My older, wiser coworkers were working on various projects nowhere near me and the boss man had just left to head back into town for supplies. I was all alone with nothing but sheer {treacherous} curiosity to guide me. It’s at times like these that I wish my brain would project a flashing neon sign across my eyelids – TRAIN WRECK AHEAD – ABORT MISSION!

But hey what would be the fun in that? Experience is a much better teacher (or a cruel mistress, because let’s be honest – both work in this case). And you, dear reader, wouldn’t get to sit back and smile at my stupidity, would you?

What I didn’t realized until later was that, if you wanted to lower the walkout, you FIRST had to be firmly holding on to the crank handle to ease it down. Duh – that’s how those normally work. Dad had showed me that part, but I forgot. Those walkouts were heavy enough that gravity would just take over and they would drop fast once the latch was released.

But I had blissfully forgotten all of this in my 20-something haze of idealistic daydreaming.

So you all know what comes next…I reached over the edge and flipped the locking mechanism and boom!! That handle was spinning for all it was worth as the walkout fell open. Out of instinct, I reached out to grab the handle as I realized I was supposed to be holding it before releasing the latch. Ooops! It was too fast and I couldn’t grab it…instead, the spinning handle just smacked down my hand and arm in three places before I could get away from it. In hindsight, it was a good thing I wasn’t able to grab the handle, or I might have really gotten tangled up.

It had hit my hand and arm so hard, I was sure something was broken. The back of my hand and thumb were turning bluish purple and swelling rapidly. Everything from my forearm down alternately throbbed and felt numb. All I could think of was “Something is definitely broken and Dad left already!” I was still on the walkway when two of my co-workers were coming to find me and saw the look on my face. “What happened?” one of them asked and then he cracked a joke. I don’t even remember what, because by that point, I was crying a little, just wanted to go home and was probably as white as a sheet. He saw that it was serious and they walked with me into the customer’s break room. They called my dad for me and asked him to come back and pick me up.

In the meantime, they were asking if I could move my fingers and my hand at all. I could a little bit, so they didn’t think anything was truly broken, but I would still need to go to ER.

Dad came and got me and took me to the hospital. They did an xray and everything appeared fine – no breaks – but I would need to wear a brace and follow up with an orthopedic specialist in a few days to make sure there were no hairline fractures. And at my follow-up, my doctor said he couldn’t see any fractures. He thought it was just a series of contusions, probably deep enough to bruise the bone. I asked him about the indents in my arm – yep, I had nice actual dents. He said those would fill out again in time.

A long time…I had those things for years & still have a sort of scar on my arm from one. Not quite as bad as it was right at first, but they were definitely still there long after the accident. But at least I didn’t break anything. I now have profound respect for walkouts and winches (and gravity…).

Okay, enough telling on myself…

Time to tell on some of my co-workers. undefined

I remember one guy telling me to be very careful when using the wire brush wheel on the grinder. It had shot wires through his shirt like little arrows when he was using it before. Luckily, never piercing the skin. There is a right way and a wrong way to use a wire wheel. He did it the wrong way.

Once, while down in a ditch welding pipe, one of our welders was hit on the head & neck with a large pipe wrench that someone above (not with our company) had dropped on him out of sheer carelessness.

Another co-worker of mine started using the wire wheel on the grinder and was wearing a longer, baggier shirt. While buffing out some metal, the grinder kind of jumped up after hitting some irregularities in the metal and promptly wound itself up in her shirt (to see an example of this happening, see the YouTube video below from the BackYardScientist).

The same co-worker, when she was just new to the job, had taken an extention ladder and set it against the shop wall to access a storage area. She was alone. The ladder started to slip down the wall, since there was no one on the floor end to catch it. So she slide to the floor with the ladder. Luckily she wasn’t up too high.

I have seen the occasional worker stare at arc welds. Which, if you want to have relatively healthy vision long into your golden years, is just plain dumb. Don’t even look at the reflection of the arc weld…that can be just as bad. I have only accidently seen an arc and afterward, it felt like I had sand in my eyes. That’s not a fun feeling. Protect your vision with proper helmet and lenses, have a curtain around your weld area or look away when in the presence of welding.

Ever seen the “Cylinder Two-Step”? I’ve mentioned this in the blog before, but not having your bottles secured can be a real issue in a welding shop or in the back of the truck. I have seen people walk by unsecured bottles, accidently bumping them and causing them to wobble precariously. I like to call the ensuing scramble the “Cylinder Two-Step” as the person hugs the bottle, keeping it from falling over. It can be humorous to watch, but probably isn’t the safest thing to do…always secure those puppies & save the two-stepping for the real dance floor 😉

I have also witnessed workers wearing shorts, short-sleeved shirts, or improper shoes. Those workers are usually sent home to change before they can begin work. Sparks are going to fly and they will most definitely land on you. Having your arms and legs covered really helps! Wear cotton or wool. Wear layers. Wear shirts that have metal buttons or snaps. A fire-retardant shirt is helpful. Wearing a leather apron or jacket will save your clothes, too. Heavy leather welding gloves with long gauntlet cuffs will protect your hands and arms. These measures can really cut down on burns. Occasionally you will get a rogue spark down your socks, in your ear or somewhere else – it happens to all of us, so consider that your initiation rite. If you do your part and wear your protective gear, you can save yourself some hassle though.

GWInc.

Here are some curated and reviewed YouTube videos on what can happen when you aren’t being careful in the shop (or the field).

And just one more thing – don’t become an MSHA or OSHA cautionary tale. Wear your PPE, look both directions, always practice appropriate safety measures! Your family and friends will be thankful to have you a bit longer, and not having accidents is also less painful 😊

https://youtu.be/tEm3TH4huiA – ChuckE2009: funny guy. He is always willing to share his knowledge with the world (and a few of his faux pax as well). This one might be useful if you are newer to MIG guns.

https://youtu.be/aXmtHo5bJ88 – From the BackYardScientist – some safety tips and demonstrations on what not to do with common shop tools and equipment.

https://youtu.be/oJRSkBSb5S8 – A very informative video on grinder safety. Lots of good info. But beware, the end of the video is for the strong of stomach only. It has pics from people who have had grinder accidents…quite graphic, but effective in reminding one to have proper PPE and guards in place before using a grinder.

https://youtu.be/r7srRiQebq0 – Also a serious one – a warning not to clean your welding surfaces with chlorox or brake cleaner.

30!!!!!!!

Yes, that’s right…Gary’s Welding Inc. turns 30 years old this month!! Wayyyyy back in August of 1989, who would have known we would see 30? Check out our post here to see a little walk down memory lane (complete with some of our all-time favorite pictures)…

A huge THANK YOU all of our customers!! To us, you aren’t just a customer…you are our friends. We appreciate you and look forward to serving you in coming years.

Welding DIY, Part 2: Setting up Your First Welding Truck

Here Are 4 Truck-Must-Haves You Can Make Yourself

This is a continuation from our post on setting up your first welding shop (see that post here).

When you first start your own welding business, having a welding truck is a necessity if you are going to do any portable welding. Where we live in beautiful Wyoming, having a welding truck is an absolute necessity for a welder. Many projects are done “out in the field” – where we go to the customer’s location and work on their project. There’s a reason we call it the field – more often than not (especially here), the customer’s location is out in the sticks, many miles from the nearest town, shop or welding supply store. Having not only a welder, but tool boxes, gas cylinders, torches and safety gear on that truck really makes it more of a traveling mini-shop.

With that in mind, here are 4 must-haves for setting up your first welding truck (that you can also make yourself – in your newly furnished shop!).

#1 – Custom Welding Bed

When you find that really tough, durable truck that you want as your welding truck (usually a flatbed), you will naturally want to make your custom bed for it. I mean, some folks just have a regular pickup with the standard truck bed on it , with their portable welder in the back. But in my humble opinion, that is not nearly as effective or as easy to work with; however, in a pinch, it is another option. You can also buy welding beds for trucks, but why spend all that moolah on one when you need the experience of building one, anyhow? And it’s a great way to show off your skills to potential customers when you are sitting in traffic. You know that person in the car behind you will be super jealous at your sweet ride and that you know your way around a welder. Show off!!!

As for the truck itself:

  • In our experience, welding trucks usually have duallys for the rear wheels. Just remember that when planning. That will add much needed stability, as the bed and everything on it can be super heavy! It sort of feels like you are driving a tank – a much smoother tank, but a tank nonetheless. And expect to pay higher gas/diesel bills at the fuel pump. It’s just part of the trade.

For the bed of the truck:

  • The welder usually sits right behind the cab, safely ensconced by toolboxes, cylinders and hose reels. The monster welding machines that we put on these trucks usually have their fuel cap on top, in which case, you will be climbing up on the back of your truck to fuel up the welder. Having a little step at the back is nice for this, too.

If you make your own welding bed, you can do just about anything you want (taking into consideration your state’s vehicle regulations, of course. Check with your state’s Department of Transportation on this). I have seen so many different and unique designs for welding beds just driving around town. Check out the world wide web for ideas if you are wanting some extra inspiration (see links at the bottom of this post!). Let your imagination run wild. Keep costs low by using some scrap where you can. Have fun with it!

Here are some fun extras to think about:

  • Toolboxes embedded in the sides? Sure!
  • Round tail lights or square tail lights? Whatever you want!
  • Hitch for a trailer? Why not!
  • Custom license plate holder? Go for it!
  • Your company’s logo painted, stuck on or welded somewhere on your truck? You had better!
    • Side note about this, though: If you are going to have your company name emblazoned on your vehicle, drive like a sane person. You would not believe (or maybe you would?) how many company trucks cause near accidents just in my town alone. They drive like bats out of you-know-where. Wait til the boss finds out! And if you are the boss driving like that? I would say it’s time to grow up. Be professional when you drive. Drive like you want to keep doing business in your town. Drive like your potential customers are in the vehicle next to you, because they actually might be.

#2 – Spool for Hoses

We have both kinds of spools on our trucks

You will need to have a place just for your oxygen/acetylene hoses (this could work for your welding leads, also). You can buy spools that lock in place and are very handy in keeping things tidy and safe on your work site. You can also build spools yourself! We have both on our truck – a fancy spool or two from the store and a couple of different designs that we made ourselves.

You could place the hoses and leads in tool boxes as well. We have done this in the past before we had the spools in place – just keep in mind that this is more labor intensive and messy. Making a spool is not hard…like the one below that we made, all you really need to make the spool is a piece of plate and a piece of flat bar that is bent into a triangle. We attached this to the side of the toolbox, which works well for our extension cords, but could totally work for hoses and leads if you make them wide enough.

DIY stationary spool – don’t be afraid of paint scratches, either 🙂

If you just have a basic pickup truck and are really wanting a cool set up that I just found out about, check out this website – https://www.alumareel.net/. They have some really amazing configurations for the welder, the spools and a place for your bottles, all on a removable skid that sits in a regular pickup truck box.

#3 – Bottle Racks & Other Storage Options

We covered bottle racks and carts in the previous post, but having a special rack or spot on your welding truck bed for bottles/cylinders is crucial. You will need a way to secure the bottles as you travel. Under no circumstances do you want to just toss them in the back of your regular truck bed and let them roll around back there like a missile waiting to go off. That is a really bad idea!

One way to store oxygen and argon cylinders that seems to be pretty common for welding trucks is standing upright, directly behind the cab of the truck on one side, with the bottom of the bottle resting in a custom designed well that is open on one end for ease in changing out bottles. A long bolt and triangle piece of rubber or metal can be used to keep them secured in place; some folks also use chains to secure them. *Note, acetylene bottles can ONLY be stored upright, never lying on their sides, which is why you will often see welding trucks with both types of storage.

Oxygen and argon can be stored on their sides

As mentioned, another option for bottle storage is to lay the bottles on their side in a long box across the back, or in an open rack just for this purpose. I have seen this done very effectively and might just prefer this option. On one of our truck beds, we have the oxygen and argon laying in a box, so the valves and regulators on the bottles are protected. The hoses run up through the box and one of the spools sits atop that box for the hoses.

#4 – Headache Rack

I realize that not all welding trucks have headache racks. However, they can be a really important part of your welding truck and can have multiple benefits. A headache rack forms a framework of protection around your truck bed and equipment. I have seen them made from small square tube and some grating up to 2 1/2 inch pipe. In my opinion, beefier is better.

A headache rack does the following for your truck & equipment:

  • Similar to a roll cage, it can protect from vehicle accidents where the truck might roll.
  • It can also help protect from falling rock, material or equipment at the job site or during the drive. Some of our work is done on mine sites or construction sites, where there are heavy machines rumbling by. I’m not saying a headache rack will magically protect you in every case, but it certainly can’t hurt to have one.
  • It works as a great place to secure pipe, angle, tube or plate that you might be hauling from your local metal store. Just remember to observe your state DOT’s flagging requirements for anything that might stick out past the bumper of your truck.
  • Often, headache racks will include a plate or grating that covers the back window of the truck. This protects the driver and passenger from anything that could potentially come through the back window.

Headache racks come in a variety of designs. Pick one that will suit your taste, budget and most importantly, one that you can do yourself! This is also another place to show off your amazing welding skillz, so creativity is good!

Some other items to consider

A few smaller things to consider having on your truck bed –

  • A bench vise (you will want to secure this down to the bed – they can mysteriously “disappear” otherwise)
  • A large hammer. We store ours in a tube welded to the back of one of the tool boxes.
  • Spare tire, jack and tire iron. Really, all vehicles should have this, right?
  • Fire extinguisher & first aid kit (usually required by law – check OSHA and MSHA regs).
  • If you do any work on a mine or a large construction site, you may be required to have a buggy whip on your truck so larger vehicles can see you.
  • Backup alarm – usually also required by law for heavy duty work vehicles.
  • The list could go on for pages, but you get the idea. As you do more jobs out in the field, you will find items to add to your truck bed that you find a necessity.

In conclusion, whatever you decide to do for your first welding truck bed, have fun with it! Don’t want to build one from scratch? You can always buy an old welding truck or bed from someone and modify it to your liking. If you have an idea that hasn’t been mentioned here, do it! Just be the safe and law-abiding citizens I know you all to be. If you need ideas on where to start, this is where Pinterest, Google, or Facebook groups dedicated to welding might come in handy. Also, find out from veteran welders what is the easiest and most efficient setup and go from there. Below are some links to get you started:

GWInc.