Friday, January 17, 2014

Big Iron



     Aha!!  I bet by now, you all had even forgotten about the "word" posts that I was supposed to be doing!  Uh-huh.  Well, that's okay.  I'll let it slide this time.  I can't blame you because I have been a terrible slacker.  But, I keep the list on my desk so I will get to them all at some point.  Well, anyway....the next word on the list is podger!!  And I would imagine that most of you, like myself, are like, Huh??  What the hell is that?  Leave it up to some smarty pants construction people to come up with something like that...heehee.  The tool of course, I knew, just not by that name.  Down here, we call this a spud wrench.  Podgers, or spud wrenches, are generally carried by ironworkers and used to help erect "red iron".  This is the term we use for the structural steel framework of a building that is usually coated with a red primer, although many times they will use grey.  Red iron just sounds better.  Red iron is welded in places but initially they bolt it together as the crane lifts each piece into place.  As you might can imagine, a 30 foot I-beam swinging from a crane is not incredibly easy to control by a person standing only on an 8 inch wide beam 60 feet in the air.  Suspended in such a manner, the beam actually swings quite easily, but getting the bolt holes to line up just right is time consuming and a good way to mash your fingers off (literally), thus the pointed end on this tool.  It's easy to ram that end through the misaligned holes, as long as they are somewhat together, and as the pointed end is pushed through, it draws the holes in line.  The bolts can then be placed in the other, now aligned holes, the podger removed and that hole bolted.  It's also a great pry bar.  A coordinated ironworker can move pretty fast with one of these.  This particular spud wrench is fairly large (for me) at about 20 inches and it has, as you can see, a fixed open end.  Many spud wrenches are adjustable just like a large Cresent wrench.  I honestly have no idea where I got this one and have rarely used it.  Tools like this were usually supplied to us on the job and as I was not a full-fledged, regular ironworker I did not keep my own.  Allen has an adjustable one that we use more often, as you might imagine.  So, there is your lesson for the day.  Haha!


     I haven't told ya'll a funny work story in some time so I thought this one kinda went with the post.  I don't think I've told this one but if I have just pretend you've never heard it.  In my construction career, I actually worked more as a carpenter probably but did do a fair amount of steel work on our jobs and the last job I did was solely as a welder.  I did hang a little "red iron" but mostly I was there to weld up the structural steel that held pre-cast concrete and stone panels.  As you might also imagine, this is some pretty hefty steel to be able to hold that much
weight.  The steel is also not bolted up but welded directly to steel plates embedded in the underside and edges of the concrete floor slabs.  The vertical pieces were only about 3-4 feet long, and I could handle those myself but the horizontals were very heavy and they would set those for me with a machine.  Well, this was a crap job.  I was supposed to have another welder helping me but that boy never could get his act together and ending up leaving because of an off the job injury.  Even with another welder there was no way I could hang all that steel by myself (also the elevators, handrails and much other misc.) in the time frame they wanted.  I was somewhat flattered in their confidence, or whatever, but no way, no how.  So, they ended up hiring a steel subcontractor to come in and help.  I had the pre-cast on the back of the building and this group of 5 men had the steel on the front.  To be fair, they did have more to hang than me. ha!  Now, for near 20 years, through chance or design, I had worked a great deal by myself.  When I truly needed help I could get it; I never moved a piece a steel that was too much, but if I could handle it myself I preferred it that way.  And, when you work by yourself (whether you're a man or woman), you learn how to move things and hold stuff the smart way because it's not physically possible to manhandle it.  The high art of wedging, cantilevering, prying and clamping come in handy.  So.  I was chugging along the back, hanging my steel like all get out.  I would put a heavy board across the handrails of my lift bucket and then wedge the vertical piece of steel between that board and the embed it welded to.  I had my layout marked on the embeds already so I just tapped the steel with a hammer to get it on spot and to plumb it up.  Magnetic levels are very handy too!  I'd tack that off and then move back, clamp the diagonal brace off to my first piece and just hold the other end until I tacked it.  Easy Peasy.  Double check my plumb and then hard weld everything.  I only needed help after I got all my vertical/ diagonals hung and one of the guys would hold the 30 foot or so horizontal angle up to them with a Lull.  I'd tack weld it on grade, he leave and then I'd finish.  Piece of cake.  So, the new steel crew came out and started on the front.  And this was no rookie crew.  You could tell by looking at them they were seasoned ironworkers.  Well, their first day I came through the building for lunch and I noticed that 3 of those men were crammed into the basket of one man-lift.  Now, that is highly illegal in OSHA's book and our foreman over the steel had a fit when he saw them.  "What in the world are ya'll doing??  Why do you need 3 men in that one spot??"  They stomped and fussed.  "Well, what do you expect??  Got to have one to hold, one to plumb it and one to weld!!!"  Now, Nick, one of our younger foreman at the time, usually goes into a battle of wits unarmed, but the construction gods were kind to him on that day.  An evil, joyous smile quickly spread over his face.   "Well, I'll tell ya'll what..." Nick drawled, barely able to control his glee but trying to feign a serious air. "I got a woman welder around back that's hanging all her steel by herself....I'll go get her to show ya'll how to do it."  Nick said a look of sheer horror came over that steel foreman.  "Hell no! No, no, no!!  Naw, we can figure it out!!  Nick insisted it would be no trouble, that I was a very nice lady and don'tcha know she won't mind a bit but they would have none of it.  Haha!  Imagine that.  I was in the trailer eating lunch with the other guys when Nick came running in to relay the story.  He was laughing so hard we almost couldn't understand him but eventually we all got a huge kick out of that.  He told me later that day he saw two of the welders peeking around the corner of the building to see just how I was doing it on my own.  Of course, every time I passed them after that I made sure to smile big and wave.

13 comments:

ErinFromIowa said...

I could listen to your stories for days Annie.

Sal in Maine said...

Thank you very much! We use podgers to line up peg (trunnel- "tree nail") holes in timberframes, or to line up any two holes that aren't in full cooperation mode, really. I do love your writing and humor and am happy to read whatever you have to write, on any subject. Keep hanging in there Annie- you've got a whole village rootin' for you!

Sissy said...

Good post today, Annie. Looks like you are back on track again with your "chockfull of information" writing. Hope so and that the physical issues are clearing away. Construction work -all I gotta say is "You are a wonder". I'd like to have seen those bucket men's reaction! ;) I'm falling over laughing.

Gin said...

Love it! And I can so relate after having farmed for 25 years. Where there's a will, there's a way, maybe not the way a man would do it, but there's a way. Good post, Annie!

edifice rex said...

Hey Erin! haha! thanks!

Hey Sal! thanks! I appreciate that. And I have not forgotten about your pottery...I'm still working on it when able.

Hey Sissy! well, I'm still having some issues but I think Dr. Nabors has a better idea what may be going on. I go back for another test this coming week.

Hey Gin! Oh yes, there is always a way! thanks!

woodysrockyridge said...

She's back!

HermitJim said...

Bet those boys kept a close eye on ya the whole time! Good story!

Sal in Maine said...

Annie- I'll be thrilled to have that pottery whenever you get to it- no worries, no hurry!

Beatrice P. Boyd said...

Vey interesting post, Annie and thanks for sharing some of your former working adventures and this is one I had not read before.
Just a suggestion here, but could you perhaps consider breaking a long narrative post into a few paragraphs. It would sure help make it easier to read for these eyes, and many other folks as well.

edifice rex said...

Hey Woody! well, I'm trying anyway..lol!

Hey Jim! thanks! yeah, but they never were very friendly. haha!

Hey Sal! thanks!

Hey Bea! well, I wanted to break that text up with the photos but Blogger was doing it's thing being a butt and would not let me put them anywhere else. I will keep that in mind for the future.

Island Rider said...

Love how you outsmarted them without even trying! Just doing your job, but someone noticed! Yeah for Annie! I bet if you go back to that building,your work is holding up better, too.

Ed said...

I have made my own spud wrench of sorts for building grain bins. It would be a royal pain without one.

Loved your story. It is amazing what one person can do when they put their mind to it. I used to follow the blog of a fellow building his home from scratch all by himself. He came up with some ingenious ways to hang trusses and such all by himself. Unfortunately he just stopped blogging about three years ago with no reason why. I've often wondered what became of him.

edifice rex said...

Hey IR! well, I'm sure it's all doing fine. thanks!

Hey Ed! Oh yeah, one person can do an amazing amount of work if you use your head. Think of the guy that built Coral Castle! Odd the guy stopped blogging suddenly. I hate it when people do that and you never hear from them again.