As welder for Dartmouth College, Jimmy Martel often finds himself in pretty tight spots. Among any number of labor-intensive tasks, he repairs the pipework for the enormous underground steam system that supplies heat to the campus. “Yesterday I spent six hours in a spot no bigger than a cardboard box, ten feet underground,” he says.
Martel has been welding for 35 years, most of those running his own business near his home in Wilmot, NH, and the last six years with the College. “I cut my teeth on construction welding, and that became my niche.”
This fall, Martel begins as an instructor for AVA’s introductory welding classes, an opportunity that sort of fell into his lap. An acquaintance on campus who knew about his work suggested he apply for the position. “She kept telling me, ‘AVA needs you!’” he recalls. “A couple weeks later, she came back and told me she went in already and gave them my name.”
If a little unexpected, the opportunity lets Martel scratch a longtime itch. “I’ve had a yearning to teach for some time,” he says.
Except, he insists, “I’m no artist.” His primary objective is to introduce the basic, critical techniques of welding—to be learned before self-expression and improvisation can factor into any trade or craft. “And it takes time. The first thing I’ll say to my students is that you have to make a conscious decision to be patient enough to learn all aspects of welding. It can be physically demanding, and there’s no instant gratification.”
If not instant, Martel knows that gratification, when it comes, is long-lasting. “One of the greatest rewards for me,” he says, “is when I see old customers of mine, and they say, ‘Remember that truck body you built years ago? I’m still using it! It’s still going strong!’”
By committing to learning the techniques, students also stand to gain a new appreciation for welding in everyday life. “Think of all the things surrounding you that you use. Cars, buildings, furniture. Welders built most of those things.”
And Martel hopes it inspires students to create their own functional, durable, and beautiful objects. “To be able to share this skill and expertise—it’s a treat after all these years.”
CLICK HERE to explore and sign up for welding and metalworking classes offered at AVA this fall!