Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Solder Me

This weekend, I was lucky enough to go to a plumbing workshop offered to grads of the NEW program I finished in February. With a joyful heart, I made my way to UA Local 1's education facility in Long Island City to learn some plumbing basics with a group of strong women.

Happiness, thy name is soldering. I can't explain what is it about pipes I find intriguing and wonderful- to me, they just are. For those of you who know me, my interest in plumbing may seem out of left field. I became interested in it about seven years ago when I worked at a school with old pipes. The complexity of joining new pipes with an older system fascinated me, and I was ready to jump in if I wasn't limited by my ignorance. Unlike some maintenance projects, plumbing is tough to navigate on your own through trial and error. So here I am, ready to take the mystery out of drains, heavy toolbelts and stereotyped buttcracks.

For my first plumbing project, I got to measure, cut and join copper pipe with fittings. And then learn to solder! I'm very comfortable with a blow torch- I knew my days as a pastry chef would shape me to be compatible in other areas.

Here's a close up of my joint- not gorgeous, I know, but I picked an ambitious fitting for my first try.

I loved prepping the pipe by cleaning, applying flux and joining the fittings. What can I say? I'm a crafty girl.

After soldering, we learned about the inner workings of toilets. Is it weird that I found this mesmerizing? I mean, plumbing has been around since ancient times! I was always the counselor at camp who could unclog any toilet. Okay, it is kind of weird.
Then we used snap cutters to cut 3" cast iron pipes. Aligning the chain tightly around the pipe was the trickiest part.

A good trick is putting a hammer inside the pipe to prevent it from shooting across the room. Here are two cutters lined up and ready to go.

This was tough, but as much fun as soldering.

The essence of my being is finding how things in life are randomly linked, be it through people or experiences. I was surprised to realize that so much of trade work lines up with similar traits from the food world. (For example, the repetition and use of blow torches and heat lamps.) On my way to the classroom, the hallways were decorated with student projects showcasing "rigging" and demonstrating the different knots for lifting pipes. I instantly linked this affinity with all the knots I've learned through rock climbing, and also my draw to sailing (one of the next hobbies on my list). I'm convinced that everything is connected and nothing is random.
Next weekend I'm attending an electrical workshop, since wiring was a major struggle for me in class. Can't wait, but I know I'll be dreaming about pipes the whole time, wishing I was back in Long Island City with a blow torch in my hand.

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