Julian Wandsworth is an artist blacksmith based in Huddersfield, designing and making pieces that can enrich both the visual and physical aspects of the environment.
He has enjoyed working on large public and private commissions, such as gates, staircases and community art pieces, and is also a skilled welder, having worked in industry and on a range of private projects for over 20 years. He has lots of experience which he is always keen to share and so, in 2017, Julian started offering introductory courses to blacksmithing and welding. I came across Julian’s workshops when I was searching for welding courses, and when I saw that he was an independent craftsman with great reviews, I decided I wanted to learn from him.
I booked onto an Introduction to Welding course (priced at £250 for 1 person or £350 for 2), and on Wednesday 23d March, my boyfriend and I headed to Huddersfield to take part in a full day course in welding with Julian. Neither of us had welded before but were both interested to learn how to weld in order to build and/or repair metal pieces. I’m keen to learn how to weld so that I can bring my dream of building a home out of a shipping container to life.
We drove to Huddersfield bright and early on a Wednesday morning and found Julian’s workshop in a yard between the river and the canal. Julian’s space is at the bottom of the mill area and it’s rustic, with large, bright green doors, metal beams and a stone floor. It wasn’t heated, which meant that the space was a bit chilly, but we both liked how the space had not been made clinically clean and tidy just because of the workshop, but instead it was clearly a working space, with pieces on the go and well-used equipment all around.
The course was due to start at 9:30am. We arrived a few minutes early and had a chance to chat with Julian about his previous work and interests in metal work. I liked hearing about his community commissions, and particularly liked the craft gates that he’d made for a house in North Yorkshire. Whilst Julian got everything set up, we were also offered a cup of tea or coffee to give us a boost before we got started. When we were all ready to go, Julian gave us each hardy cotton boiler suits, gloves, glasses and a protective helmet. Not only was all this gear essential to keep us safe from sparks and the bright light when welding, but it also helped us feel the part. My suit was very big, but it didn’t hinder me during the welding sessions, and it also gave me an extra layer of warmth – which I appreciated as added insulation against the cool temperature.
The workshop started with Julian telling us about how welding works, the different types of welds that can be done, how the choice of weld varies for each piece and where to purchase all the materials and equipment needed to get started with welding at home. After an hour or so of talking, Julian demonstrated some welding techniques, and then finally, we were able to have a go.
We went over the different welding joints that you can do, learning how to join pieces when they have a gap between them or when they are to be joined at angles. I really enjoyed the challenge of holding a steady hand and making a tight joint. It was quite hard to see what you were doing when wearing the mask as it adjusts the light, but after a few welds, we both felt like we had the gist of it and our technique improved.
We had an hour for lunch, which gave us time to warm up, refuel and ask any questions we had about the morning’s session. It felt like a long time, but when we thought that we still had another 4-5 hours of the course to go, we both appreciated the time to sit down.
In the afternoon, we went over all of the welding joints that we had touched on in the morning. We also practised them all in different positions, welding pieces of metal ‘in plane’ (on the worktop), ‘vertical’ and ‘horizontal’, preparing us with the skills needed to weld in all positions. During the afternoon, we chatted through what challenges you can face when welding, and how Julian first got involved. As we’re both interested in using welding on more delicate pieces, we finished the day off with welding sheet metal, which is thinner and so a little harder to weld without damage.
The course was comprehensive – we covered all the basic skills needed, and whilst I’m sure that I would need a lot more practice to become a ‘good’ welder, I do feel well equipped to weld small pieces of metal or to make minor repairs at home. I enjoyed the day and thought that Julian was a brilliant teacher. A lot of time was dedicated to lecture and discussion, but I can imagine that for some people who are keen to hear about all the intricacies of welding, the full day is not even enough.
We left the workshop with bag of welded metal that Julian said we could use as our welding notebook, to see how we improve over time. I’m sure I’ll make use of the welded pieces, but I would also have liked to have been able to take away something that we could have used, like a welded container for a plant, or something like that.
Overall, we had a great day with Julian. We learned a lot and both agreed that it was something very different from our usual day to day. I’d recommend the course to others wanting to learn how to weld so that they can find out how it’s done and complete projects of their own.