There are so many opportunities to embrace lifelong learning, but we can easily get stuck in our own little box. We can all benefit from the words of wisdom that Spencer Johnson offered in Who Moved My Cheese?: “What would you do if you were not afraid?” Therefore, I Start Wondering… periodically features some examples of people who are following their curiosity in order to live their fullest life.
Some of Rick Bentley’s recent wonderings have focused on enhancing his skills in welding so he could tackle home improvement projects that his wife cooks up for him. Rick retired in 2011 after a long career working in public school districts in Texas and Virginia. He now serves as the CEO of Bentley Educational Services Team, LLC.
What piqued your interest in learning how to weld?
When I was about 15 years old, I had a job with a construction company that was building an ice skating rink. I was a member of a crew of kids who helped lay the rebar on the pad and tied off each of the connections. Then we hauled and placed joints of 1-inch pipe. The rest of the kids were laid off when that part of the job was done. I stayed on and assisted the welders who were joining and fitting the pipe. Later, I was a theatre student at the University of Texas and worked in the scene shop. This is where I initially learned to “stick” weld, which was used on occasion to fabricate scenery.
What avenues did you take to learn this?
Steve Parks, the scene shop foreman, was a master welder. He taught me how to stick or arc weld in 1977. In 2012, I took a welding class at Austin Community College.
What surprises did you encounter in learning this skill?
The initial surprise was how far the technology had improved since 1977. The safety equipment had greatly improved especially, the glass on the welding helmet. Also, the ability to use a MIG welder with 110v current was a new development.
What have you done with this skill?
After I somewhat mastered the skill (I hardly consider myself a “master” welder) I purchased a simple MIG welding unit for home use. My first big project was a table constructed from ¾” square tubing. My first effort was focused on learning how to fit the joints and ensure all the pieces were square. This first attempt currently serves as a workbench in the garage. My goal was to build a table/desk for use in our home office, which I accomplished successfully.
What other plans do you have for using your learning?
Home repairs and other jobs, which my wife cooks up for me to do. She is often the initiator and I get to figure out how to make it work. For instance, she wants me to build a new mantle for our fireplace. This may involve some welding as I engineer and construct a suitable solution.
Has this learning sparked other interests that you plan to pursue?
After learning how to weld and work metal, I successfully tackled a project using zinc sheets to cover a cabinet we have on our lanai. This project required purchasing the zinc in a size large enough to completely cover the top and facings of the cabinet and then cutting and forming the sheet. Finally I attached the zinc with contact cement and screws. My wife, Debbie, soldered the corners. The project turned out quite nice.
I don’t think I will use these relearned and newly learned skills to make money but I do anticipate making a few bottle trees for friends in the future.
You can connect with Rick through Twitter.