Not The Usual Week

Jeff Powell
3 min readJan 21, 2023

Hi all. As I mentioned last time, this past week I have been “working” at the college, filling in as the shop coordinator while the regular guy is out.

It’s been loads of fun, but I have been away from the keyboard and all my projects. There is little to share except that I’ve been busy. Even worse, the students are working on sculptures but have not yet finished them, so photos of student work weren’t really possible.

I did take this photo of “my” domain:

In that photo you can potentially see:

  • a metal cutting shear (and — off camera to the left) a Beverly shear
  • two slip rollers (one small, one large)
  • a large box bender
  • oxygen-acetylene, MIG and TIG welding gear
  • two spot welders
  • an anvil
  • a spray booth
  • two wood band saws and two metal band saws
  • a metal lathe
  • two wood lathes
  • a disk and belt sander
  • a bench grinder
  • a chop/miter saw
  • a table saw
  • a planer
  • a routing table
  • many hand tools and a few more power tools that are squirreled away out of sight
  • supplies for all of the above

Mostly my job involves helping students figure out how to accomplish what they want to do, along with a bit of keeping them from injuring themselves. But if this was a full time gig I’d need a side project to work on. It’s not unusual to go four hours without seeing a single student if no class that requires the shop is in session. But when it gets busy, it can be crazy.

There are three introductory sculpture classes this term and the students are all working on their first project, a metal sculpture. They’re given a 16" x 16" chunk of 11 gauge sheet steel and told they must create a sculpture using all of it, along with a few pieces of welding rod. They can cut, bend, distort, and otherwise hack at it. Spot welding and a few simple joinery techniques are fine but other kinds of welding are not allowed and some of the other tools are off limits at this point. Surfaces can be treated with a rusting agent, flame patinated, sanded or buffed, and a few other things. I think they get three weeks to create their sculptures, then critique happens. After that they go on to the wood project which is much more complicated and takes far longer.

The previous shop coordinator described the workload as either “Maytag repairman or ER in Beirut,” and that is a pretty accurate summation.

So that was my entire week. Five days of get up at 6 am, take transit to the school (90 minutes), work eight hours, take transit home (another 90 minutes if all goes well, but if I am running even slightly late it becomes 120 minutes), eat dinner, wash dishes, collapse in a heap, sleep.

I am exhausted, but as I said, it has been fun. The students are good, and they are coming to grips with how much work is involved.

That’s it for this week. Next time, who knows. Cheers!

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Jeff Powell

Sculptor/Artist. Former programmer. Former volunteer firefighter. Former fencer. Weirdest resume on the planet, I suspect.