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The weekend of May 21st was
going to take me out of town. Not only was I already missing the time I would be out of the shop, but I was feeling incredibly guilty for not being there to help. “I’ll come during the week” I promised Catie.
Wednesday, 5/18, Catie and I arrived at about 6:30. Only a few
gals were there, including Rebecca as always. By now my friend crush on her was undeniable. This chick can do ANYTHING and
EVERYTHING with metal. And though I want to yank the ever-present cigarette out of her mouth (for my sake) and life (for her sake), I love her “way”. She has so much positive energy and is always wonderfully encouraging in an effortless manner.
“Put me to work” I told her. She explained that she had started working on the structural elements of the brolly handles (see 3D model). We would make 57 (57, really?) steel circles, creating the frame for the tubes for the handles. Tonight we’d build a jig and figure out what would work for circle production.
Gary had already used a special roller tool to bend stainless ½” square steel strips into circles – but both ends were straight, a necessary end-result of the rolling machine. We had to chop off those bits and weld the ends together, creating as-near-as-perfect-as-possible 19” diameter circles.
First, we’d need a “jig”. When welding more than about 4 or 5 of the same pieces, it makes sense to build yourself a custom frame in which to work. Ours would be a completed circle, framed with 6 pieces of 1” pipe, creating a frame in which to drop a 2nd circle in to work on. She tack-welded the first 3 pieces of pipe into place, then handed me the torch. “Huh? Me?” “Yep, you’re up.” (Oh boy.)
The first one was shaky, the second one better, the third one better still. We
had ourselves a jig!
The next several circles took some doing – we didn’t want to cut off too much, leaving a gap, but leaving too much meant it simply would not fit in the jig. After
a number of tries, we got comfortable with an exact 5 ft. circumference cut. AND, best of all, I got comfortable welding the ends together. Both Rebecca and Robin, another seasoned welder who’d joined us later on, happily approved of my work.
Special Treat: mid way through the night I heard a loud, strange sound coming from another part of the warehouse. Everyone’s faces lit up. “Jen, you should go check it out, seriously. Bay 5.” I wasn’t the only curious one…a few others had gathered as well. “Give us a minute” the guys said, as they fussed with not one but two Tesla coils. Then, they pushed a button – Flight of the Bumblebee began to play, and the Tesla coils fired – with the fingers of the lightening moving precisely with every note. One showed the bass line, the other the treble. It was easily one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen, and I got a private show. Life, dear kittens, is grand.