Thursday 9th September 2021 – Vol 001 Edition 0014
by Jim Campbell
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A Welder is a skilled tradesperson who joins metal pieces together or fills and repairs holes on metal construction using intense heat and gas.
Welders are responsible for designing, cutting, and permanently joining metal parts by applying the appropriate welding techniques. Their job description entails combining metal materials with high heat equipment and welding processes such as MIG, TIG, and electric arc welding.
Welders work with a range of materials and equipment in fitting and assembling metal components to form structures. They operate hand-welding and flame-cutting equipment such as an oxyacetylene torch, electric arc machine, and robotic welding cells. They also handle metal materials such as steel, iron, titanium, and composite materials such as plastics.
Sumerians created swords using a process called hard soldering
Back in 3000 B.C., there are examples of welding being employed by various civilisations. Firstly, the Sumerians created swords using a process called hard soldering.
Next, the Egyptians utilised heat generated by charcoal to make sponge iron from iron ore. This process resulted in produced particles being hammered together (the first instance of pressure welding).
4000 B.C. is reputed to be where welding history began. Civilisations were said to have gradually progressed from copper to iron.
Welders work on all types of Industrial, manufacturing, and construction applications; some welders work underwater to repair oil rig foundations, ship hulls, and other types of subaquatic structures. Due to the universal need for the skills, welders are in high demand worldwide.
70 years of age and enjoying his work
Edition 14 of my series ‘A Day in the life of’ is about 70 years of age Kevin Waters from Ramsgrange in County Wexford. Kevin Waters, now in his 51st year as a Welder, is employed at Kent Stainless. Before 1982, Kevin worked on the same site which was then John Jackman’s Engineering.
Since 1982, Kent Stainless has been manufacturing engineering products customised to suit projects designed by architects and consulting engineers. They started in Wexford, Ireland. Kent Stainless now exports fifty percent of their products to the United Kingdom, the Middle East, Europe, and the USA.
I sat opposite Kevin in the boardroom on the upper floor of the Kent Stainless Office Block. Also in attendance was the Human Resources Manager, Ms. Michelle Busher. Kevin shared his many stories over his fifty-one years as a tradesman.
Kevin’s dream was to work as a tractor driver on a farm
It was a joy to listen to a man who spent his whole life working in a trade that he enjoyed so much. Listening to some great stories and relating them to today’s students is what makes this blog such a worthwhile enterprise and very enjoyable. One could write a book on the information given to me by Kevin Waters – a fascinating book at that.
When he was at school in the village in the southwest of County Wexford, Kevin’s dream was to work as a tractor driver on a farm. It wasn’t until he was a teenager that he realised that his future was in the welding trade. “Back then, the wages for a welder was outstanding; it was a great job, and the work was plentiful.”
Following his school years, Kevin proceeded to do an apprenticeship as a welder with Anco in Waterford, Whessoe and the Barge Factory (also known as the Ross Company) in New Ross.
Anco was a training institution where trainees learn in engineering, construction, and technology. In 1973 during his time with the Barge Factory, Kevin completed a City and Guilds course in Shipbuilding.
*On the RTE programme, ‘Learning for Life’ in 1974, RTE reporter John Bowman once described the Anco Training Centres as a ‘workplace simulator where trainees clock in and out, are treated like workers and get paid a training allowance.’ Anco went on to become FAS, which is now renamed as Solas.
Yours truly, as a seventeen-year-old, completed a six-week welding course with Anco in Wexford town. Working in such extreme heat and fumes just wasn’t for me. I chose a much cleaner career.
Kevin commences work at eight in the morning. After clocking in, he climbs into his work overalls, gathers his special welding gloves and shield from his locker, and heads to his work bay. Kevin works in a very spacious bay, with plenty of room to manoeuvre.
Blueprints and drawings to identify welding measurements and positions
Before he commences his morning work, he may report to his supervisor Eamon Donovan. He would only report to his supervisor if he had completed an order the day before and was waiting to begin a new one.
In performing his duty, Kevin reads blueprints and drawings to identify welding measurements and positions. The materials arrive from the cutting area ‘Laser’ ready cut for the welders. Kevin then checks the plans/blueprint and the materials he has received, ensuring that all the parts are provided.
The Ramsgrange native uses a precise application of heat to melt, mingle and join pieces of metal together. He also has to monitor the welding process to prevent overheating and to examine the welds for flaws. Working using either the MIG or the TIG welding process, he is about to begin a project or continue from the previous day, depending on the size of the order.
Sound of the weld’s crackling combined with the continuous flashing light as the weld glides across the metal surface
His role also involves conducting assessments to determine appropriate welding methods and equipment. Depending on the day, Kevin works on projects of different magnitude. Some days he is working on several small projects, while on other days, he would be working on a bigger job.
As Kevin is working in the intense heat, the sound of the weld’s crackling combined with the continuous flashing light as the weld glides across the metal surface; he would get through four or five units during the morning. He would clean metal materials before welding to remove rust, grease, scale or other contaminants.
During the day, Kevin would also use an angle grinder whenever it is needed. An angle grinder is a handheld power tool with a rotating disc used primarily for grinding, cutting and polishing. It can be used before or after welding. ” An Angle Grinder is essential, and I use an angle grinder for cutting or polishing.”
After his lunch, Kevin returns to his work-station. Throughout the afternoon, the welder is swapping the welding machine with the angle grinder. Once the order is completed, it is then sent to the ‘Dipping Area.’ Following this, the welder reports to his supervisor for a new one job.
“Working with the younger people makes me feel younger.”
The Ramsgrange man enjoys his work. Even though he is part of a team, he likes the idea of working on his own initiative. “I enjoy working on my own. I also enjoy having a chat with the lads when we get the opportunity. Working with the younger people makes me feel younger.”
Kevin’s advice to students who would like to pursue a career as a welder: “If you want to do welding – go for it. There are so many levels in welding that you can achieve.”
Welding is sometimes described more as an art than a craft. To become a welder is to commit to a profession with many faces and levels, requiring considerable training and often multiple certifications. “The higher you go, the more money you can make. With the qualifications as a welder, you can travel the world, work on oil rigs. The demand for welders is great. Because of the heat and fumes, it may not be for everyone. ” says Kevin.
My sincere thanks to Managing Director Ms Ann O’Brien, Human Resources Manager Ms Michelle Busher, Welder Mr Kevin Waters, Receptionist Ms Noeleen Wilson, Rev Conor O’Reilly for their contribution to this blog. Very much appreciated.
All Images and Original Text © All Rights Reserved-Jim Campbell 2021
About the author
Jim Campbell is an Irish photographer, freelancer and photojournalist. Campbell has being contemporary photographer for more than two decades.
A native of Wexford town in the south-east of Ireland, Campbell studied photography in the Dublin Institute of Technology before going to work with a newspaper.
Since 1998 he has been working with local and national papers in Ireland and the UK. His work has appeared in publications globally including newspapers, magazines and online publications.
In 2013 Campbell made his first of what would become many trips to the conflict areas of the world. To observe more on Jim’s work vist the link to his website below.