Jan 24, 2013 - By Katie Roenigk, Staff WriterYouths forge metal animals after learning how to weld from parents and friends.
Having grown up watching her family work with metal, Mindy Russell, at the age of 10, decided it was time for her to learn to weld.
"My dad's welded all the time I've been alive," she said.
He may have taught her the basics of the trade, but Mindy's dad, Matt Russell, said he had nothing to do with the creative designs she came up with for her welding projects, beginning with the plan for a little, metal pig. Mindy said her first attempt came out a little differently than planned.
"I didn't exactly make a pig; I made a dog," she said.
No matter what breed of animal it was, Misty's friend Duane Ingalls, 12, said he was impressed with Misty's work.
"He saw what I made, and he wanted to start welding too, so we taught him," Mindy said.
Ingalls's parents, Misti and Randy Ingalls, own Wyofab, where Mindy's dad works along with his brother Aaron Russell and friend Derek Randolph. The men made time on Fridays, when Mindy and Duane don't have school, to help the kids with their projects.
"Matt, Derek and Aaron actually taught us how to do the correct welds from tacking to straight-on welds," Duane said. "They help us cut the metal and show us fun ideas."
He said they call Friday "funday" at the welding shop. Misti said the grown-ups seem to enjoy the creative outlet.
"I think the guys have as much fun as (the kids) do with it," she said.
The crewstuck with Mindy's canine prototype for a while, eventually expanding to tackle other animals likepigs and horses.
"We went toa craft fair and sold a few," Mindy said. "We sold all of them I guess. There were eight animals."
Word spread about the kids' creations, and Duane and Mindy started calling themselves the "Wacky Welders."
"It's grown a lot," Mindy said.
One local group already commissioned the duo to create a rabbit sculpture that was raffled off last week during a fundraiser. Mindy said it was a little stressful to work under a deadline.
"We had to get it done by Jan. 11, so we were in a hurry, but we couldn't figure out what to do," she said. "So we sat in here and brainstormed, then me and my uncle drew this."
She pulled out a sketch that closely resembled the finished product they delivered to their customer on time. They used chains for toes and pieces of scrap metal to form the body and snout.
"It was different than any one we've done," Mindy said. "The legs were just straight pieces of metal."
This week, the welders are working on a statue of a horse for another customer, complete with a saddle and reins.
"(The customer) just told us a size," Duane said of the parameters of the project.
Though they stay busy with outside work, Mindy said she and Duane still find time for personal projects.
"We made that chair over there for fun one day," Mindy said, pointing to a small seat made of metal grates.
Duane said they didn't think about selling their products when they started welding.
"I thought these would be cool lawn ornaments," Mindy agreed.
Misti said they have learned a lot through the process. For example, the kids said they have to agree on a plan for their sculptures, which sometimes is a struggle.
"We get into fights sometimes about how the animal will look," Mindy said. "I'll say I want the toes like this, and he'll say he wants them like this."
In the end, the close friends work together to determine the best course of action.
"We both put our plans together and hear them out," Duane said.
By the time they finish a project, Duane said they are always in a good mood.
"We have a bunch of laughs about it because of how funny it looks," he said. "Then we say it's done, now on to the next project."
To contact the Wacky Welders, call 857-7001.
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