Session 3 – Project WEST

Education SKILLS training

Metal and Wood Coffee Table

Session 3 – Project WEST. This is the project I challenged myself to see if teaching what I love is for me. I just couldn’t get past the feeling that there HAS to be a way to create a project where the mentoring could do more good than just pass on a few welding tips. It could do good AND benefit everyone involved.

Project WEST is that creation. A way everyone involved can truly benefit.

Check out the build so far:

Session 3 – Project WEST Metal and Wood Coffee Table

Ryan had a great question today about the top for this metal and wood coffee table:

Is it going to have a top? Or is it just a very low table?

Today is Session 3 – Project WEST. I’ve shown Ryan this base picture. Got him to fill in the measurements on a blank drawing – an opportunity to practice some practical trade math. We’ve talked about material dimensions and how we are going to square the whole ‘cube’ three-dimensionally. About tools and clean-up. We’ve talked about welding machines, our families, and even our dogs.

Coffee Table Leg Base expanded

Oh my gosh!

I’ve been focusing on the metal welding portion of this build and been distracted by some setbacks and somehow forgot to explain or show Ryan the top. Forehead smack!

I do a quick search and pull up Jen Woodhouse’s plans and pictures that we are following then search again for other similar tables.

Inspiration table picture

Session 3 – Metal and Wood Coffee Table Progress

Repair the repair.

Because Ryan is in school currently doing his Level C Welding, I am naturally curious to hear where he’s at and how things are going for him. Our conversation today is about the SMAW welding process. Probably the most exciting time of the Level C curriculum. I think Oxy/Fuel welding (Great Video) happens first, so you’ve fused metal but transitioning to SMAW (stick welding) just feels like you are finally learning some faster more practical welding skills.

Naturally, he wants to try some SMAW welding. So, sure. I have no ego left at this point and I let him lead today. We used all the same steps from the Session 2 repair as far as lining up the tubing. We use some 3/32″ 7018 rods with my little Miller Inverter at about 92 amps. Doing a demo for Ryan and getting him to run some practice beads on some scrap steel is always a great warmup and machine check.

Wood and metal coffee table - large rectangles

At the end of Session 3, we have fabricated – tack welded and squared up – the large, front, and back rectangles. Again.

The fact that I do not have any pictures of this stage, even though I know I took some, is a testament to how I was feeling. I apologize because that’s the good stuff, right!?

ESAB quote image

Breaking down the shapes of an intricate project into the biggest or repeating shapes and focusing on tight tolerances of each piece will help as the project grows. This prevents small errors from compounding into big problems.

Since we do have a repair in one length, I explain to Ryan how I’m planning to strategically place that repair.

Here’s what I’m thinking:

wood and metal coffee table leg base sketch

Since the footprint of the table frame will be visible under the top, I think the repair will actually be better hidden just up underneath the wood top. I also want to strategically support that repair with the placement of the bracket we will later use to attach the wood top.

My personal takeaways from Session 3 Project WEST

I have to be honest, Session 1 was a slow start and Session 2 involved some personal growth. But after Session 3 – Project WEST? I almost gave up.

This is going to be hard to write and I know will give me some real “post button anxiety.” You know the feeling when you hit the send button on a hard text or email and then just put the device down and walk away pretending to be super busy with other things for like a week… yeah.

It’s also a time I get to practice a bit of humility and grace. Again.

Session 3 – Project WEST was hard, so here it goes:

I was rushing at the end of Session 2 to repair the piece that got cut too short and forgot to check that my machine was switched back to DCEP. Simple as that. When it snapped in Session 3, I was mortified. And even though it was just Ryan and me, I tried to pass off how crushed I felt, taking responsibility but also trying to keep the mood light so he wouldn’t feel like he did something wrong.

I knew I was going to have to write about my mistake – that’s part of the whole Project WEST plan – and writing means people are going to read it. People I respect, people who are much better welders and fabricators than I am. (so don’t be too harsh please, you guys)

A real way you can help with our build and ensure this project can continue in the future is to just read along. Then share it with someone you think would love it.

Yeah, I could have just pretended it never happened and just never mentioned a second repair, but the truth is I messed up because I was rushing. It happens and it’s easy to do.

I always feel like I should be accomplishing so much more in the time I give myself and have to learn to be satisfied with my efforts and prize that regardless of the markers I hit. The markers will get accomplished, and much faster when I take my time and trust myself the first time.

Slow is smooth. Smooth is fast.

Stay Awesome,


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