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Piece Work & Plasma

My days at the shop were starting to run together – in a good way. I was recognizing more faces and more folks knew my name. I felt comfortable around all the tools and flying sparks. I was given odd jobs to do in larger quantities – cut 10 pieces of pipe, grind down the edges of as many metal discs as you can. We were

"Grind down the edges on as many of these metal discs as you can."

entering the “production” phase following all the prototyping,
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meaning we had to now churn out all the components for ~60 brollies (English term for umbrellas). ~40 would be fabric, but would still need a metal frame, and ~20 would be all metal – for flame effects. One particularly nice Saturday afternoon, I looked around and was struck by the fact that I would spend the entirety of my sunny day inside a loud, dirty warehouse. And? I wouldn’t have it any other way. I imagined some alternatives. My uncles in the Midwest might be cleaning out their garages or watching football. My friends and colleagues were probably at their kids’ birthday parties. If I weren’t here at the shop I’d probably be piddling around my apartment not really doing anything at all. Bah! Instead I was surrounded by amazing people all volunteering their time and energy to build a crazy, beautiful piece of art – just because. Frankly, there was no other place I’d rather be.

Jen and her Plasma Cutter (Photo by Jess Hobbs)

The highlight of those few shop days was the plasma cutter. Oh yes, it is as exciting as it sounds. A plasma cutter allows you to cut shapes out of sheets of metal. It works by blowing inert gas or compressed air at high speed out of a nozzle, while at the same time forming an electrical arc, which turns some of the gas into plasma. The plasma melts the metal and blows it away from the cut. You need suped up special glasses to use it, but thankfully you can see what you’re going to do with them on. Again the spark and whoosh is a bit startling, and the slag, sprayed molten metal, has to be carefully considered. This sucker is H-O-T! It sliced through 1/8 inch metal like it’s warm butter. And, the bragging rights are superb. My Facebook status that day: “I used a plasma cutter today. What did you do?”

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