The last few weeks has been a great learning experience for me. For years, I have been interested in learning how to weld. This Network Learning Project finally gave me the push I needed to purchase a welder and start learning how to fabricate utilizing steel. I’ll tell you one thing, it is not easy work, but it is terribly satisfying once you’ve finished a project, to step back and think that you just created something functional out of what use to just be a pile of metal.
Like anything, learning how to weld is largely a trial and error process. My learning experience was full of mistakes and failures, but as they say, “A failure is only a failure if you don’t learn anything from your mistakes.” I am a big believer in authentic learning experiences. I like to dive right into something, so I can learn from doing in the appropriate context. By using my project motorcycle as my platform for learning to weld, I cared deeply about what I was doing, which was a strong source of motivation for me to persevere through the challenges that I encountered along the way.
Although I am a firm believer in learning by doing, a little guidance is certainly welcome. For this project, Youtube was my main source of initial information to get me started (mainly ChuckE2009, King Metals, and Eastwood). Even after watching videos, the things I learned were still subject to trial and error, as every welder and welding project is slightly different. The videos did serve, however, to give me a starting point, and I could problem solve from there.
With welding, I’ve found that the main obstacle to overcome is simply learning the ins and outs of your welder. Getting your settings dialed in correctly for the job and metals you are working with is the key to getting nice clean welds. This takes experience. You need to learn what a good weld looks like and sounds like, as well as what bad welds look like and sound like. Once you have that figured out, you can start tweaking your settings to get the nice, clean, penetrating welds that you are looking for.
When it comes to metalworking, I certainly still have a lot to learn. I will continue to work on my motorcycle, but I would also like to branch out and try some metal sculpting, and possibly fabricating some functional pieces for my home. Youtube will continue to be my main source of information, but I also have some great resources in colleagues who have experience welding. Great videos and personnel resources aside, the majority of my learning will always be done on the fly as I am problem solving in the authentic contexts of creating, reflecting deeply on those experiences, and applying that knowledge to new projects as I aspire to hone my skills.