It’s cosmic that the more you are told you can’t have, can’t do, aren’t allowed, or are not invited, the more you want to go, do, and have. I know because I have for some time now wanted to learn how to run a cutting torch. Yes a cutting torch. The one piece of equipment in our machine shop that I have yet to feel the power of use. For those who do not know what this is let me tell you that it involves fire, hot fire. Sparks, lots of sparks. Could make you feel like superman by heating iron and bending it with your bare hands—well by grabbing the red hot iron with a pair of pliers since it will be hot enough to not only fry an egg, but fry you too. Ye-ouch!!
Carrying the Torch
Oh I have welded. I have cut with a power saw. Run a lathe. Sand blasted years of stuff off of things that are greasy, painted and just plain icky. I know where all the hand tools are and what about 99% of them do. I can hand pack a wheel bearing. And of course I have had the honor of being the one to run a broom. I am really good at running a broom. But that shiny brass torch… With all its levers and knobs? It is elusive still, after some 40 years.
I feel I am a reasonably safe person. I look both ways before crossing my fingers. I count to ten before I lift with my knees. I cross the inside of the windshield before I drive across the path of a black cat. Which is why it looks like I play tic-tac-toe on my windshield. With all these safety precautions taken why won’t my other half teach me how to cut metal with his cutting torch?
I mean years ago I stopped jumping out of my skin when he lit the thing and it popped and sent these little floating pieces of acetylene through the air. I quit being standoffish about the sparks being thrown in all directions when the steel gave way to the fire. I no longer worry about globs of hot molten iron dropping off the cut and falling onto my foot-because I quit wearing sandals out to the shop.
So what in the world do I have to do to be taught the magic of the cutting torch?
Well I think I have found the reason. I am what is known as “the ground crew.” This revelation came to me when I heard a man telling of his delight in seeing his wife hook up and unhook things he was moving with the aid of the front end loader of a tractor he borrowed. He was in the driver’s seat and she was on the ground doing all the grunt work and taking directions from him. He was very pleased with himself as to his new role in their relationship. They had never had the use of a tractor in doing lifting outside stuff and moving one heavy pot to that corner of the back yard and another large odd garden do hickey from the front to the back yard. He drove, gave instructions with hand signals and whistles, while she fell into the ground crew role before she knew what was happening. Just like yours truly did oh so many years ago.
Oh she is being groomed for this role and I am an old hand at it so I felt it was my duty to clue her in. I took her aside and explained to her just what was happening. See she is new to this phenomenon and unless she gets some intervention she will soon find herself owning her very own set of knee pads, one pair each of lined and unlined leather gloves to fit the season and be able to hook up a chain with one hand and ratchet a ratcheting nylon strap with the other, both at the same time. Oh we ground crew members are very versatile.
But back to that shiny Victor Journeyman cutting torch. With its mighty oxygen and acetylene tanks attached to the torch head by gauges and red and green hoses. (One of which is left hand thread as to not get the two mixed up when the ground crew changes out the empty tanks!) Will I ever be shown the ins and outs of getting the blue tip of fire just right? Will I ever have the opportunity to put on a rosebud tip and have more fire that you can shake a stick at? Heating up a piece of iron until it glows rosy red and eye popping orange?
Well the truth be told? Probably not. With beads of sweat on his forehead he says fire and I together are just not a good match. Get it match-fire! Oh well, I really have no need to bend some ole piece of steel into a “U” shape. Besides, I like wearing sandals.