Thursday, January 5, 2012


Nine ferry captains participated in a week long training course
in welding and cutting.  NWTC instructor Scott Massey (L) observes progress.
Washington Island, Wisconsin -

With acknowledged difficulty in getting students from Washington Island to the technical college campus in Sturgeon Bay, NWTC has partnered with Washington Island Ferry Line to offer several employee classes here.

Rich Ellefson and Hoyt Purinton arranged with NWTC for instruction in welding, hydraulics and basic diesel mechanics. Nine ferry captains were signed up for the unit on welding.  This week-long course began shortly after welding instructor Scott Massey stepped off the ferry Monday morning.  Various styles of welding and cutting equipment, steel plate and gas bottles, had been transported to the island in advance, augmenting equipment already available at the ferry work shop.

Instructor Massey demonstrating technique.
Students began by learning safety equipment, cutting and grinding equipment, then using those methods to create small steel blanks, or coupons.  These would later serve as materials for a variety of welding exercises.  Course work moved quickly from cutting to welding, where both stick and wire methods were employed.

Like many skills, almost anyone can call themselves a welder, but an objective is to create a strong, flawless weld, consistently.  It helps to know what  good weld production looks like.  For several students, this was their first time handling welding equipment, but even for those with hours of welding experience behind them, they said the course had greatly improved their skills.

Although it wasn't the intent in offering basic welding to enable a crew member to repair critical vessel components (we preferring to leave that to real welding professionals).  But for a variety of lesser-scale repairs such as on shore ramps, platforms or bollards, basic welding skills can be applied.  Gaining appreciation for the many stresses placed upon properly welded plates, and efforts required to remedy failed welds, gives an operator greater appreciation for the well-built vessel with thousands of feet of welds.

Pete Nikolai gets advice from Rich Ellefson.
Nearing the end of the course students used the various skills learned to complete steps required for welding certification, with a sample cut of their weld bent in a "U" shape in a press, then examined. This would be the requirement if an individual was seeking official certification.

Aside from the challenge to pass the grade, students commented that the processes of cutting, grinding, welding and assembling steel pieces is just plain fun, a good thing to know.

-  Dick Purinton  

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