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techdirections February 2017 : Page 16

Lighting the Torch School Uses Blacksmithing and Oxy-Acetylene Processes to Attract Students to Metalworking Program By John Henderson S ECONDARY schools that want to attract more stu-dents to their metalwork-ing, welding, fabrication, or ag mechanics program can learn from the success of the metalworking program at Assabet Valley Regional Technical High School in Marlboro, MA. The program con-sistently attracts a full compliment of 64 students to its four-year program. Students in the vocational program alternate between traditional aca-demics one week and then spend 30 hours the next week in the shop working with three instructors pass-ing on their wisdom: lead instruc-tor Neil Mansfield, and instructors George Aziz and Chris Wittmier. The school follows the Ameri-can Welding Society’s (AWS) SENSE program (Schools Excelling through National Skills Education), which establishes guidelines for the level of knowledge and skills required for success in the welding workplace. Students learn different welding processes, including Stick, MIG, TIG, and manual, and mechanized plasma cutting. However, as a hook to attract students, especially those with an artistic side, the program leverages Mansfield’s love for blacksmithing and the oxy-acetylene cutting, heat-ing and welding process. The chance to express themselves with hot metal not only appeals to their creativity, it forms a strong foundation for the other cutting and welding processes John Henderson is director, Product Development, Global Gas Equipment, ESAB used in a skilled trade or engineering career (see story on Lauren Quinn on page 18). “The oxy-acetylene torch is in the DNA of a welder. It’s seeped into our bone marrow,” says Mansfield, a for-mer Navy Seabee, a third generation Ironworker from New York City, and active blacksmith (Photo 1). Mans-field himself took up blacksmithing 16 years ago, and today he creates ornamental gates, railings, fences and decorative home items. You can view the personal and volunteer work of this master craftsman at www. mansfieldmetalart.com. When the Navy sent him to welding school, he saw rows of oxy-acetylene weld-ing torches and questioned why they were teaching an archaic process. “I realized that the oxy-acetylene weld puddle slows everything down,” says Man-sfield. “It gave me a chance to learn how to manipulate the weld puddle. All con-cepts of puddle manipulation, wheth-er from gas or an arc welder, stem from the skills I learned while gas welding.” Carrying this realization forward, students at Assabet learn to gas weld before they arc weld. “Bar stock as it comes from the steel mill has no life in it. The ham-mer, anvil, and torch’s heat bring life to a dead piece of metal,” he says. “We bring life by twisting, scrolling, and making it decorative. You need a Photo 1 (above)—Neil Mansfield says “the oxy-acetylene torch is in the DNA of a welder.” Photo 2 (left)—Using a vice to hold the torch handle. 16 tech directions X FEBRUARY 2017

Lighting The Torch

John Henderson


School Uses Blacksmithing and Oxy-Acetylene Processes to Attract Students to Metalworking Program

SECONDARY schools that want to attract more students to their metalworking, welding, fabrication, or ag mechanics program can learn from the success of the metalworking program at Assabet Valley Regional Technical High School in Marlboro, MA. The program consistently attracts a full compliment of 64 students to its four-year program. Students in the vocational program alternate between traditional academics one week and then spend 30 hours the next week in the shop working with three instructors passing on their wisdom: lead instructor Neil Mansfield, and instructors George Aziz and Chris Wittmier.

The school follows the American Welding Society’s (AWS) SENSE program (Schools Excelling through National Skills Education), which establishes guidelines for the level of knowledge and skills required for success in the welding workplace. Students learn different welding processes, including Stick, MIG, TIG, and manual, and mechanized plasma cutting.

However, as a hook to attract students, especially those with an artistic side, the program leverages Mansfield’s love for blacksmithing and the oxy-acetylene cutting, heating and welding process. The chance to express themselves with hot metal not only appeals to their creativity, it forms a strong foundation for the other cutting and welding processes used in a skilled trade or engineering career (see story on Lauren Quinn on page 18).

“The oxy-acetylene torch is in the DNA of a welder. It’s seeped into our bone marrow,” says Mansfield, a former Navy Seabee, a third generation Ironworker from New York City, and active blacksmith (Photo 1). Mansfield himself took up blacksmithing 16 years ago, and today he creates ornamental gates, railings, fences and decorative home items. You can view the personal and volunteer work of this master craftsman at www.mansfieldmetalart.com.

When the Navy sent him to welding school, he saw rows of oxy-acetylene welding torches and questioned why they were teaching an archaic process.

“I realized that the oxy-acetylene weld puddle slows everything down,” says Mansfield. “It gave me a chance to learn how to manipulate the weld puddle. All concepts of puddle manipulation, whether from gas or an arc welder, stem from the skills I learned while gas welding.” Carrying this realization forward, students at Assabet learn to gas weld before they arc weld.

“Bar stock as it comes from the steel mill has no life in it. The hammer, anvil, and torch’s heat bring life to a dead piece of metal,” he says. “We bring life by twisting, scrolling, and making it decorative. You need a railing for safety, but a railing is kind of like a Christmas tree—you make it decorative to add eye appeal.”

Mansfield believes that blacksmiths feel a connection between their eyes and the hammer, the metal and their brain. They use the connection to add “radius lines” to the metal, keeping the lines smooth and undulating—and never flat. To add lines to metal, blacksmiths use three fundamental techniques: drawing, scrolling and twisting.

Basic Ornamental Techniques

Before trying the blacksmithing techniques and related tips outlined below, clean and organize your work area. Place tools within easy reach, as you’ll only have about 30 seconds to work the metal before it cools. To free your hands, clamp the barrel of the torch handle in a vice (Photo 2).

Using a torch, forge, or combination of the two, heat the steel to a “forging yellow,” or a temperature of about 2,000–2,500° F (Photo 3). When the steel has reached the right temperature, bring it over to the anvil. To give the metal a place to go, work on the edge of the anvil, not the center. When the hammer blow compresses the metal, it squeezes forward. Drawing out is the technical term for this process.

Make hammer blows at 90 degrees to each other to start, and develop a consistent rhythm. Hammer 1-2-3-4, turn the metal 90 degrees and hammer 1-2-3-4, turn back to your starting point and repeat. Once the metal gets drawn to a spear point, hit the corners to turn a square into an octagon; hit the corners of the octagon to create 16 sides, working until you have a round point that flows back into the square bar stock.

To “protect” the unheated area of the metal from being overworked, direct the heat to specific areas of metal using a large welding tip (the same type of tip used for brazing). Note that a larger welding tip such as this can also heat a large area if needed, but a multiflame attachment (Photo 4) will heat a part more quickly, or heat a larger work area because it allows for a much greater gas flow.

To turn a point into a scroll, heat the point and hammer it over the edge of the anvil. Then, turn the point upright and, working from the far side, hammer it toward you (Photo 5). After starting the scroll, use scrolling tongs to bend the metal. Move the tongs about 1/4” at a time to prevent flat spots. Isolate the bends by directing pinpoint heat with a torch, as well as by holding the bar stock with a pair of wolf jaw pliers—these tongs have indentations to firmly grip square stock on the diamond, not the flat (Photo 6).

Decorative twists are another essential element, and you’ll need stock with square edges to obtain the desired eye appeal. To provide even twisting power and obtain better leverage, Mansfield cut out a “twisting wrench” on an automatic plasma cutting machine. The wrench slots match common bar stock sizes (Photo 7). Use a vice to straighten out imperfections. Sometimes blacksmiths straighten stock with a rawhide mallet to avoid damaging the edges of a twist.

You’ll make lots of mistakes while learning, but don’t worry. Just straighten out an ugly scroll…or put on the cutting attachment, remove the offending piece and start over.

Safety and Basics First

With the ability to weld, heat and cut, an oxy-acetylene torch outfit is one of the most fundamental tools a metalworking student can learn to use. However, before venturing into the lab the instructors at Assabet provide students with written and video instructions relating to the safe operation of the equipment they plan to use.

To support curriculums such as this, consider the comprehensive Oxy-Fuel Safety DVD from Victor, an ESAB brand. At the heart of this DVD is 36-minute video that anyone can view online (http://training.victortechnologies.com/index.php?p=asset&asset_id=73). In addition, the DVD provides written material for teachers and students to support an educational program for instructors and industry.

John Henderson is director, Product Development, Global Gas Equipment, ESAB

Read the full article at http://www.omagdigital.com/article/Lighting+The+Torch/2702156/380947/article.html.

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