I took a TIG welding class at Jimmy Diresta’s farm June 14-16, 2019. Here’s what it was like…
Jimmy put up a notice about the workshops on Instagram, and on his web site early in 2019. I signed up right away, even though the TIG course was on Father’s Day – really, what better way to spend Father’s Day, really! The course looked great – with great instructors: Jody Collier (@weldmonger) and JD Brewer (@apexish), and of course Jimmy Diresta himself (@jimmydiresta)! Taylor did an amazing job of arranging everything, and Brett (@skullandspade13) was helping out, and working on some cool projects.
I left Friday morning for the 6-7 hour drive from Ottawa, Canada to Jimmy’s farm. It’s a terrific drive – through the rolling hills of up-state New York. Though Google usually directs you to take major highways, the recommended route was on small two-lane roads, past dozens of very small towns. I stopped at a mom & pop style diner for lunch.
I arrived around supper time, found a place to park – most people seemed to have arrived in big pickup trucks – and wandered down to the big shop. It was amazing to see the building I had watched RR Buildings build over many episodes on their YouTube channel
There were a couple of large welding trucks parked in front of the shop – trucks from some of the instructors and Jimmy’s friends that were helping with the course.
Most of my classmates were there already, milling around and sort of awkwardly talking and introducing one-another. Some of the people who had been to previous classes, were already at work, having picked a workstation, and simply starting to weld stuff. I found myself a place, and did the same – just started putting down some beads and getting accustomed to the machines.
Most of the welding stations had Lincoln Electric welders – a range of machines from smaller 140 Amp MIG machines, up to bigger TIG machines like the Square Wave TIG 200. There were some Miller machines as well. The MIG machines were configured with the optional equipment needed to do TIG welding – most (not all) had a peddle, and a TIG torch of course. I ended up with a Power MIG 140 MP – which doesn’t have the high-frequency start capability – you have to lift-start. This was interesting to learn. I later tried a Square Wave TIG 200 (like I have at home) and it was SO EASY to weld with compared to the Power MIG 140 MP.
Each workstation had a sheet metal surface, and a piece of 1/2″ aluminum plate on top of that to weld on. We sat on stools that Jimmy made on his CNC Router.
Jimmy showed up after a while, and welcomed us all, making us all comfortable, and let us know that dinner would be in an hour or so.
You quickly realized that you should just treat the shop as your own – sharing with some friends. You don’t have to ask to use tools or try something – just go ahead. There were boxes of metal pieces about 2″x6″ and you could just grab whatever you wanted to weld with. There were bins with pieces of angle iron, aluminum angle, rod, square tubing, etc. I recommend trying out all types of metal, in many thicknesses, and welding in different orientations.
Everyone was super helpful and friendly, and interested in what you were working on. The course is as much about sharing among the attendees as learning from the instructors.
Dinner was up at the farmhouse. There’s a large table on the porch, and everyone gathers here for supper. We had burgers the first night – not sure if they were BBQ’d up on Jimmy’s fancy new grill…
The meals are a big part of the experience. Lots of fun conversations among people with common interests. There was one chap who worked on the Mythbusters show, another setting up an educational Makerspace in Boston, a guy who was building hot-rods. Very cool people. One other Canadian from Toronto. We went around the table, introducing ourselves in a few sentences.
Later they fired up the fire-pit, and people gathered around there as well. Lots of opportunity to get to know people.
Accommodations were in the farmhouse, or in a B&B down the road. Everyone had nice comfortable rooms for the night.
The course started in earnest Saturday morning after a nice breakfast out on the porch.
We all gathered in the shop, and were welcomed by Jimmy as well as Jody and JD. There was another instructor, Andy, there for part of the day as well. The four of them went over some of the basics of TIG welding, with Jimmy acting as the MC – and asking lots of good questions to guide the conversation. The students had a lot of questions as well. The talk took about an hour.
Jody had built a special web page on his site with videos specifically for this class, as well as some great information. It would have been nice to see this before the class – maybe it was sent earlier.
The rest of the weekend had very little structure – basically, just start welding stuff. Jody, JD and Jimmy would wander around, looking at what you were working on, offering advice and helping with your welding.
There were a lot of materials provided – billets of steel, aluminum, tubes, square tubing, etc. As well, there was some patterns that Jimmy cut on the CNC plasma cutter for making triangles, dice, etc. All this stuff was available for students to use.
The instructors just wander around, and are also working on projects themselves. JD was showing us how to weld on a rotary table, and also doing some stick projects. They also were welding with their big commercial welding equipment inside and outside the shop. It was very interesting to watch and try the larger stuff.
Also, during the day there are various interesting folk just hanging out at Jimmy’s place, hanging out in the shop. Jimmy’s electrician, who sired up the shop, was very interesting to talk to, as well as https://www.youtube.com/ijessup and Taylor of course.
Lunches were great each day – tasty filling sandwiches. No soda pop was provided (they’re very healthy at Jimmy’s), but it was a short walk over to a nearby gas station for drinks and snacks.
The welding carried on into the evening, maybe till 7 or 8pm, then we made our way back up to the farmhouse for supper. Another great evening of conversation and stories. And Jimmy and others were asking for advice on some projects – nice to share.
At breakfast Sunday we discussed heading out to a local flea market, but there was a light rain that made that idea less than ideal. Instead we drove over to Jimmy’s larger workshop, which is a nice 50×100 shop a few minutes down the road. There’s a lot of cool stuff in that shop – lots of bandsaws, lathes, CNC Router, etc. This is where Jimmy’s main work gets done. It was nice to wander around the shop with Jimmy – he’s got a ton of stories in every corner of the shop.
Back at the farm, Sunday was similar to Saturday, but everyone is a bit more comfortable now. People were encouraged to come up with a project of some sort, and many people were welding up some pretty cool designs. The instructors were continuing to wander around, very helpful and supportive all day.
It would be a good idea to come up with a design before heading to the course. Easy to cut it out on the Plasma Cutter, and then weld it up. I cut out my logo, which came out really cool looking!
Later in the day on Sunday, people started drifting off, to head back home. I ended up leaving at about 6pm for the drive home, across the New York countryside.
There’s no pressure to leave Sunday night. Many attendees leave Monday morning if they have a flight, or just want to stay till Monday. This would be a great time to continue to get to know Jimmy and the instructors.
The weekend was just terrific. We all had a great time and certainly came away better welders, and with a new circle of friends. Thanks to Jody Collier (@weldmonger) and JD Brewer (@apexish), and of course Jimmy Diresta himself (@jimmydiresta)! for a great experience!