I'll Make a Man Outta You Yet, Boy

There are many things that every man should know how to do. Among them are knowing how to:
  1. Drive a manual transmission
  2. Back up a trailer
  3. Weld
  4. Use an oxy-acetylene torch

If you have managed to worm your way through life without knowing these things, you have probably been living in the same type of fear as an illiterate person dreading the embarrassment of people finding out that he can’t read or write.  If you are unable to do any of these things, let’s take care of it right here, right now.
Driving a manual transmission
  1. First, select the right type of vehicle to learn in.  Do not even attempt to learn in a vehicle with an old, worn out “three on the tree”.  Choose a 4x4 with a low range transfer case.  It’s virtually impossible to kill one of these when you start out, and that will build your confidence.  After you have mastered starting out in low range, you can move up to high.  If you don’t have access to a 4x4, the next best thing is a truck with a “granny gear”.
  2. Choose an area free of traffic and other challenges.  Deserted roads are best.  Fields and large empty parking lots are good too.
  3. Don’t worry about “riding the Clutch”.  The clutch can handle it.  You will learn what you are doing, long before you put any significant wear on the clutch.  The most life you will be taking out of the clutch is one to two thousand miles.  Big deal.  Premature clutch failure comes from people who have never learned to drive properly, not from people who are learning how to drive properly.
  4. Be aware of how to panic stop before you even know how to make the vehicle go.  Remember: Panic stop equals stepping on both the clutch and brake at the same time.  Got it?  Try it.
  5. OK, now we’re ready to make the vehicle go.  Step on both the brake and the clutch, and start the vehicle.
  6. Put the transfer case into low four wheel drive and the transmission into first gear.
  7. Don’t touch the gas and let out the clutch.  What do you know?  The vehicle’s moving.  You will notice that nothing happens, the first few inches, you let out the clutch pedal. That’s the engagement point.  After you get good you will quickly let out the clutch until you hit that engagement point, and then slow down how quickly you release the clutch pedal.  Don’t worry about that now, just be aware of it.
  8. Now, panic stop!  The most important thing is knowing how to stop, much more important than knowing how to go.
  9. Repeat steps 6 - 8, several times.
  10. If you want to take a break now, go ahead, just make sure that the parking brake works on the vehicle you’re driving, if it doesn’t, shut the vehicle off while it is in low gear (reverse is good too), and while you’re still depressing the clutch.  Wait until the motor stops spinning, and then you can take your foot off of the clutch.
  11. Repeat steps 6 -8 several times, with second and third gears.  If you can take off in third gear in low range, you should be able to take off in first gear, in high range.  Now you know how the make the vehicle go and stop.  That’s over half the battle.
  12. Repeat steps 6 and 7, but this time, step on the clutch and shift the vehicle into second gear, if you’re feeling confident, go for third and fourth.
  13. Do the panic stop thing again, but not so hard you start to skid.
  14. Repeat steps 12 and 13 several times.  Now you should be confident that you can bring the vehicle to a stop at fairly high speeds. Now you’re ready for the finer points.
  15. Put the vehicles transfer case into high two wheel drive range.
  16. Repeat steps 7 and 8 several times.  This is where it gets tricky.  Particularly, if the vehicle you are driving is an old piece of shit, you may find that you can’t make it go without giving it some amount of gas.  Give it a little, and don’t worry about riding the clutch, and don’t worry about the vehicle bucking, shaking, or stalling.  It can handle it.
  17. Keep varying the amount of gas and how quickly you let out the clutch until you can get the vehicle to start moving smoothly.  Once you’re good at it, you will be able to let the clutch out quite rapidly, compared to when you first did it, and the vehicle will still start out quite smoothly.
  18. Repeat step 12.
  19. Repeat steps 17 and 18 several times.
  20. Now that you can make the vehicle move and stop, lets work at slowing down.  Get into high gear and imagine that you are coming to a stop sign.  Drive the vehicle exactly the same way you would drive an automatic. Step on the brake to slow down, until you feel the vehicle start to run rough and chuggy, then do a light version of the panic stop.
  21. Once you’ve mastered that, you can experiment with downshifting and see what situations you feel more comfortable downshifting and when you just want to slow down in high gear.
  22. Continue driving in areas with light traffic until you are totally comfortable with driving a manual transmission.
  23. At this point you can say that you can drive a stick shift.  One word of caution, beware of starting out on an incline, especially in traffic.  This even gives old pros some jitters.  You’re going to have to put your heel of your right foot on the brake and run the gas with your toe.  Ride the piss out of the clutch if you need to, it sure beats rolling back into the car behind you.  Practice this out in the middle of nowhere on increasingly steep inclines.  You don’t want to be caught in traffic having to do this, before you have mastered it.

Backing up a trailer The good thing about this method of learning is that it works for both two wheel trailers and four wheel wagons.  There are many expert truck drivers that are helpless backing up a farm wagon.  Here’s your chance to show them up.
  1. Forget everything anyone ever told you about backing up a trailer.
  2. I mean it.  Forget everything anyone ever told you.
  3. Go get a trailer for a garden tractor.
  4. Take the trailer tongue by your hands and back it up as you walk around curves in both directions.  Pay particular attention to what happens to the trailer tongue as you attempt to move the trailer left or right. Notice that when you want the trailer to go to the left, you must move the tongue to the right and vise versa.
  5. Put the trailer on a garden tractor and repeat step four.  Don’t even think of what the garden tractor is doing, just concentrate on moving that hitch point the same way you did with your hands to make the trailer go where you want it to go.
  6. Now you’re ready to use full size car or truck and trailer.  One thing to remember, the longer the trailer is, the easier it is to back up.  A 16 foot long, tandem axle trailer is much easier to back up than an eight foot snowmobile trailer.  If you’re using a pickup, take the tailgate off , or open it if you are confident that it won’t hit any part of the trailer during cornering.
  7. A car or truck does not turn near as tight as a garden tractor, so it is a little more difficult, plus you cannot see the hitch point.  Make sure you have mastered steps 1 - 5, before you go on to steps 6 and higher.  Remember, what you’re doing here is mostly, moving that hitch point to make the trailer go where you want it to go.
  8. Here’s the main reason backing up a trailer is difficult.  You have to worry about hitting things with both the trailer and the tow vehicle.  The front end of the tow vehicle is going to swing around a lot more than you may be aware of, and that is complicated by the fact that you are going to be focusing most of your attention on the trailer,
  9. Keeping track of what’s happening with both the trailer and the tow vehicle is almost more than your brain can handle, especially if you are just now learning how to back a trailer up. The next step is how you can simplify things in your mind.
  10. You don’t have to do the whole thing at once.  There’s nothing wrong with stopping and taking a look around.  You know that the front of the tow vehicle is going to swing out when you attempt to turn the trailer, so you need to get that out of your mind so you can concentrate on backing the trailer.  Here’s what you do.  Determine your plan of action. (What you have to do to make the trailer go where you want it to go) Then, just go three feet.  If you looked beforehand, and know what’s in your way, you’re not going to hit anything with the tow vehicle by going three feet.  After you’ve gone three feet, stop and reassess the situation.  Make sure you have enough room and go another three feet.
  11. Repeat step 10, until you get the trailer where you wanted it to go.
  12. After you’ve done it a while, many of these steps will become second nature and you will be able to back up much faster.
  13. For now, it’s not a race.  Take your time.  Going slowly is much less embarrassing and much less costly than hitting something.
  14. As you learn all of this, you will find that you need to make course corrections sooner, than you need to than you do, driving forward.  Don’t worry about that for now, it will come to you as you master steps 1 -13.

  1. Learn on an old stick welder.  If you can use one of these, you can use anything.
  2. Use an old style, dark lense helmet.  If you can weld using one these, you will not be helpless without a helmet with an auto-darkening lense.
  3. Take an old piece of scrap, at least 3/16 inch thick and about one foot square, or whatever you can find that’s closest to it.  Try to find a piece that’s not too rusty.  The cleaner, the better. You may want to consider cleaning it up with a sander or grinder.  The cleaner steel is, the easier it is to weld.  You’re just starting out here. You might as well give yourself every advantage you can get.  One other thing.  You only need one piece of scrap.  You’re not trying to join anything together here, not yet.
  4. Put your ground clamp on the piece you’re working on, or on the table, if it is a metal welding table.
  5. Set your amps to about 90 on AC mode mode with an E6013 electrode, or about 90 amps DC with and E6011 electrode.  These are the most likely electrodes to be lying around.
  6. Use an 1/8”, 5/32”, or whatever diameter electrode you have.  Bigger ones are going to need more amps than smaller ones.
  7. Put on your helmet, turn on your welder, flip down your helmet, and start welding - kind of.  All you’re doing here is learning how to start an arc.  That’s all that matters for now.  Don’t worry about exactly where you’re welding, if your arc is too long, (actually, knowing how to maintain a overly long arc is going to come in handy for you later.) how fast you are going, and for Christ sake, don’t worry about what your bead looks like.  All that will come in good time.
  8. It’s easiest to strike an arc, the same way you would strike a match.  Just scratch it across the piece you are working on and then back off just a bit after you start an arc.
  9. Now try running a few beads.  Don’t worry about what they look like.  Right now, you just want to be able to strike an arc each and every time, without having the electrode sticking to the piece or having your arc going out from being too long.
  10. Once you can do that, try to see if you can start an arc and run a bead in a specified area.  Here’s where knowing how to maintain a long arc comes in handy.  You can start your arc anywhere near where you actually want to weld, and then you can lengthen your arc and fairly quickly “drive” over to where you actually want to weld.  The light from the arc will allow you to see through the dark lense of the welding helmet. Once you’re where you want to be, shorten your arc to the proper length, and start running your bead.  When welding most heavier steel, this won’t hurt anything.  You’ll just have a small sooty trail, with some spatter that’s easily cleaned up with a wire brush.
  11. Once you can do that, now you can work on the quality of your weld.  Try to maintain an arc that is about the same diameter of the electrode you are using. You’re going to have to keep moving your hand down as the electrode gets consumed.  Here’s where it’s handy to have some who knows what they’re doing.  You can watch him run a few beads to see how fast you want to go.  If you don’t have anyone to help you, don’t worry about it.  Just keep adjusting your speed until you start getting a good looking bead.  Chances are the correct speed is slower than you have imagined.  Even if you are not a welder, you have seen what good welds look like.  They resemble good caulking jobs.
  12. Don’t worry about the moving your electrode in circles or doing the half moon thing, your shaking hand will take care of that.
  13. As long as I mentioned shaking hands, don’t be afraid to use two hands to hold your stinger (electrode holder).  You can even guide a new long electrode through your free hand if you want.  Make sure you’re wearing a good set of welding gloves. (I probably should have mentioned that back around step one)  On very precise work, I will hold on the to the electrode to get things started.  Don’t worry about shaky hands.  That’s just because you’re new to this and you’re nervous.  By the time you’re a competent welder, your hands will be steady as a rock.
  14. Now that you can run a fairly decent bead, try playing with the amperage a little bit.  Go one click either way on the welder setting and see if you get any better results.  Then try two clicks either way.  It’s all about getting a “feel” for it.
  15. Exactly what amperage setting you use depends upon the size and type of your electrode, the thickness of the piece you’re working on, the position you are welding in, and the current you are using.
  16. When you’re done running a bead, take a chipping hammer and/or wire brush to clean off the slag and inspect your weld.  Take note of what variables you changed (speed, arc length, amperage setting, etc.) so you can learn what works best.
  17. Keep practicing.  Once you can run a decent bead, you can try your hand at joining two pieces of metal together.  Your amperage should be just below the point where you are not burning the metal away.  You’re better off having a little bit of under cut than not having enough penetration.  Poor penetration is the reason why most amateurs welds fail.  Your bead should be just about even, or slightly above with the rest of the piece you are working on.  A half round lump that resembles a caterpillar laying on your work indicates poor penetration.  Turn your amperage up.
  18. What I have written here is just to get you going.  To make this as brief as possible, I skipped a lot of important safety precautions. Read a book, or look up information online about how to weld.  YouTube videos are good.  It might seem like I put the cart before the horse here, but I believe that you not only learn more by doing, what you read in a book or read online will make more sense to you, once you have a little bit of actual experience.  If at all possible, get a buddy that knows what their doing to help you along as you start out.  Nothing’s better than that, because you can ask questions, and have them answered the very moment they arise.

How to cut steel with an acetylene torch
  1. Turn your oxygen tank valve all the way on, and turn the acetylene tank valve on one quarter turn.
  2. Crack open the acetylene torch knob, and set the acetylene regulator at about 6 lbs, then shut off the acetylene knob.
  3. Do the same for the oxygen, but set the oxygen regulator at about 20 lbs.
  4. If someone who know what their doing tells you different, do what they say.  This shit isn’t written in stone.
  5. Make sure the oxygen knob for cutting (the one all by itself, at the base of the cutting tip, where it screws on to the torch handle) is turned all the way off.
  6. Turn the oxygen knob on the torch handle (the one near where the hoses meet the torch), all the way on.
  7. Crack open the acetylene knob on the torch handle, and light the torch with a striker.  You should always use a striker, not a match or a lighter, but I sure you won’t be able to find one, or the one you have has a worn out flint, and you can’t find any more flints, so you’re gonna do what what you’re gonna do.  Just be careful you don’t burn your hand.  When I was a structural welder, of course the striker was always missing or the flint was bad, so we would just scratch an arc with the welder to light the torch.  That always worked pretty good.
  8. Adjust your flame by turning the acetylene knob up, then turning it down, just to the point where it not smokey.
  9. Open the oxygen knob on the cutting tip, until you get a neutral flame.  It’s going to be a lot easier to know what I’m talking about by reading a book or watching a video, but basically what you want to do is adjust the oxygen knob to the point where there where the white flame disappears and there is only one small blue flame in the center of the yellow flame.
  10. When you try to do this, chances are the torch will go out, because no one ever cleans the tip.  If no one else does, why should you?  Let someone else do it.  Here’s what I do.  After you set a clean burning acetylene flame, you might notice that the flame doesn’t actually start at the tip of the torch.  There’s a fairly large gap before the flame starts.  If your flame is like this, your torch tip should be cleaned, because once you turn on the oxygen knob on the cutting tip, it’s just about guaranteed to either go out or be poor flame, but all you have to do is cut one piece of one inch flat stock.  Let the guy that’s going to cut a four foot sheet of steel, clean the torch tip.  He probably enjoys doing it anyway.  OK, so here’s what I do.  Get a clean burning acetylene flame, and if there is a fairly large gap between the flame and the torch tip, back off on the acetylene till it starts smoking just a bit, then turn the oxygen knob on the cutting tip, open just a little.  Turn the acetylene knob back to where it was when you had an clean burning acetylene flame, and then adjust your oxygen knob on your cutting tip for a neutral flame.
  11. Now, depress your oxygen lever and check your flame. You should be good to go.
  12. Now it’s time to cut.  Do not touch the oxygen lever.  Heat the metal you want to cut until it’s orange.  Remember that this is harder to notice in direct sunlight. Keep the torch tip so the blue part of the flame is just hitting the metal.
  13. Once the metal is bright orange, depress the oxygen lever.  Maintaining the proper speed and distance from the metal being cut is critical. Try not to let the torch tip hit the molten steel, that’s how it got dirty. That, and me running too rich a flame through it because I was too lazy to clean it.
  14. Chances are you will either cut too fast, and you will lose your puddle of molten steel, and you will no longer be able to cut without repeating steps 12 and 13, or you will go too slow and your pieces will rejoin together, behind your cut.  It’s just going to take some practice.
  15. When you’re done, shut off all of the knobs on your torch handle.  I have heard every possible order in which to do it from different sources.  Just turn them off.
  16. If you’re done for the day, turn off your tank valves and regulators.  If you got a buddy that’s going to use the torch right away, leave them on.  If some douchebag is going to use the torch next, turn them off, or better yet, turn the regulators just a bit, so you can laugh at him as he struggles to set a good flame.
  17. If all you need to do is heat some metal, you should use a rosebud torch tip, but the chances of one being around are small.  Using the cutting tip without depressing the oxygen lever, usually works just fine.
  18. Just like with my welding instructions, I wrote this mainly to show you, its not all that hard.  It’s a matter of practice, not intelligence. Once again, refer to a book, video, online instructions, or better yet, a buddy who knows what their doing.  My main objective here was to have you not be afraid to learn.

Now, I’m sure there are many people who might disagree with some of what I wrote here.  If I made a critical error, point it out, and I will correct it, but please understand that this was more a “get yourself familiar with it” type of story than a replacement for at tech school class.  I just wanted people to understand that becoming proficient at these things is well within their capabilities.  There’s also a lot more things that could be added to the list of what it takes to be a real man, but I just didn’t want to write any more.

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