May 23, 2013 1:18 PM by Dan Shadwell
Righetti High School has quite the welding team. In fact, they just won the state championship.. and as anyone can tell you who's ever worked with a super-hot, finicky substance, that's as much an art, and that's today's Local Spotlight...
You can almost think of the team members as performers, working under a different kind of bright lights.
"You have to have a lot of patience to weld," explains Tanner Tuttle, Righetti high senior and winner of the "First High Individual" prize. "You have to have a steady hand or you won't be able to control the different torches or the different guns in order to get the weld done."
I watch as Tuttle and his team members bore down on a piece of searing hot metal, dragging a brilliant, firey torch over a corner they're connecting to another slab of steel. They wear heavy leather protection over their bodies and colorful helmets with filtered windows to protect their eyes against the blinding blue-white flame.
"There's many different damaging rays that are coming from that arc," says welding instructor, Jim English, as we look on. "It can range from six to nine-thousand degrees, so it's very intense."
But apparently, Tanner Tuttle and the rest of the Righetti Ag Welding Team stayed cool as the sparks flew at the state competition.
They beat 18 other schools and brought home the hardware. English says he knew they had a good shot at the title.
"They were going to be a good team. They were going to be good this year. The idea was to become great."
By all measures, the crew accomplished that, winning all sorts of swag in the process.
Tanner rifles full through his tool box, pointing out various items he's won in competition,... pliers and clamps, as well as some of that clothing. He's wearing a brightly colored coat embroidered with FFA logos and patches from welding supply companies that he earned. He holds up a custom-painted helmet that protects his eyes from the flames. It more closely resembles an NHL goalie's headgear than something you'd expect to see in a metal shop. "This is just one of the many helmets I've won," Tuttle says, with a slight smile.
English says the industry is great about supporting programs that lead to a future among the ranks of professional welders.
He says that's one of many good reasons to learn the craft.
For example,Tanner knocked out an industrial strength, custom barbeque in about 8 hours. He points out the custom welds on the sturdy metal bin that looks ready for a pile of smoldering mesquite and a healthy piece of tri-tip.
The piece just sold for $425. Subtracting supply costs, that's almost $30 an hour for his time.
Jim English says he has lots of students who've taken the next step from hobby welding.
"They're making a living. They're raising families,.. they've bought homes. So whatever they're making is good stuff. Welding is really hot right now as far as employment opportunities. No pun intended," he says with a smile.
Tanner Tuttle plans to attend Cal Poly in the fall and use his skills with molten metal to pay for some of his books.
Congratulations to him and the rest of the team.
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