Last night I joined about fifteen other guys in a cinderblock room and sat through my first welding class. The training facility is on the other side of town on Pulaski Highway, surrounded by commercial printers, auto shops, machinists, small factories, and cheap motels. I got there early and found I was one of three men over the age of 30; as we went around the room for the getting-to-know-you part, I learned I was taking the course with a farmhand, two young men who were learning a trade to get out of their houses, a father and his two sons, and another kid who was being put through the course by his company, among others.
My instructor is a year older than me and became a welder the same year I started college. He’s a bit gruff but approachable, has a sense of humor I haven’t cracked yet, and seems to really know his shit. Don’t judge a book: when a guy in frayed Dickies starts explaining the different molecular reactions behind different welding processes, I lean forward. We sat through the standard safety and basic background presentations, got some books, and did some light Q&A before calling it a night. Tomorrow night is nothing but theory, and we’re starting with oxy-acetylene for the first hands on practice. From there we do TIG, then stick, then MIG, and some quick demos of cutting with torch and plasma. I have a giant binder of reading material to go through and a test to take at the end of the course. I can’t wait.