Thursday, November 10, 2011

Protective Goggles and Kinetics

I got a lot of strange looks today.  At the grocery, the teenager at the deli counter kept covertly pointing at her head.   I thought she liked my hair.  I made sure to say thank you.   It wasn’t until I got in the shower and was lathering oatmeal-lavender soap through my hands that I realized my protective goggles from welding class where still nestled into my taciturn locks.  This isn’t the first time this has happened this week.  My husband is beginning to believe I have added protective goggles to my wardrobe along with a regular dose of soot smear on my face.  The soot is never in a romantic-hardworking-damsel type of place, like accentuating a high cheekbone.  No.  It usually extends at an awkward angle from the corner of my mouth, or leads straight out of my nose towards the left side of my lip.  Despite my efforts to unknowingly match them to pairs of vintage heels, protective goggles have not caught on.  I’ve just gotten so used to wearing them.   
A few weeks ago, I wrote about the welding class I’m taking.   It’s at the Chicago Ave Fire Arts Center in Minneapolis.  And, I honestly think, welding might be the most enlightening process I have ever tried to learn.   I feel about welding like I did when I first started cooking.  It’s become an obsession that holds court in my psyche.  There’s something about taking a pile of cast away metal and using fire to transform it into that thing you’ve always wanted.  That great idea you had in 1997 that you thought was always out of reach.  That problem solving technique you used to use when you where seven that started with “You could make a …”
Not to say Oxy-acetylene welding doesn’t have its limits.  This week I learned what pot metal is.  It’s pretty much a bunch of zinc and other cheap, quick melting alloys used in inexpensive manufacturing.  I believe it has been used extensively since the 1940’s to make Slinkys.   If you can imagine what metal would look like if it turned into foam instead of melting into a puddle, that’s what it looks like when you hold a torch to pot metal.  No matter.  There are always bolts. 
So, my first project stemmed from a shovel off a cultivator I dug out of the ground in our old yard, a pile of nuts (the metal kind), and a solder pin.  Being a lover of contradictions, I added a folded bit of paper from an old book that had lost its cover long ago.  I love a challenge so I made it kinetic.  

The class is once a week, so I will lay awake now, mind trilling with rusted springs and steel cranks.   Saying, “You could make a …”
I should take a moment to thank my parents for teaching me not to be afraid of power tools.  All those days Dad asked me to steady a piece of wood while it was fed through the table saw and watching Mom wield farming implements has given me approachable access to any tool I might need to follow my whims.  

What should it be named?


  1. I can totally picture you with your goggles on your head and soot all over your face... Too funny!