I woke up at 3:30 in the morning to shower and start my day. Once I was ready I got my tools and my hardhat jumped in my car and headed to the column yard. I got there early to prepare myself for a hard day at work. Around 4:30 I went inside and everyone looked at me like who is this kid? We stretched out and right after we went outside and started building columns. I had no idea what I had to do but I also knew that I had to try my best to learn as much as I can quickly so I wouldn’t be lost while everyone was working their ass off.
Diego is one of the journeymen that was working with me and he guided me as much as he could because he knew it was my first day and he tried helping me showing me different ties and types of bars. I felt lost honestly in felt like an idiot but I didn’t let it get to me. Everyone at first tried to make me quit, they would all tell me how people think they can do this job but on our first break will leave and never show up again. Ironworkers push you really hard your first few days just to see if you will actually work hard and I had to prove myself and show these guys that I know what hard work is and that I wasn’t just some kid that would quit at the end of the day.
I got through the first week and I’m not going to lie it was tough. I knew what I was getting myself into so there was no way I was going to complain. after the first few days I got tons of respect from the other workers because they just seen some 18-year-old kid at first but then later on they knew that I could work and carry my own weight around. I still wasn’t great at tying or building columns but I still found a way to get it done. I finally started getting a hang of things and knowing what bars I needed or what kind of ties I needed to do in certain places. As days went on I learned more and more and now I wouldn’t say I’m an expert but I know what I’m doing when I go to work. Not to toot my own horn but I will work with other journeymen and they see my work ethic and they even ask me how long I have been doing this, I tell them only a few months. Their reaction is the best because they will say ‘oh damn I thought you were a journeyman. Overall for me now these columns are so easy to build.
These columns start off as only cages and rebar on the side they become columns after they are tied together and ready to be sent out to the field. The cages have a tag the tells you exactly how many bars go inside this cage and also what size bars go in. if you are a novice to this you have to learn the sizes but if you don’t know the bars also have a tag and the tag on the cage and the bars will match if those are the ones you need so it is pretty hard to get it wrong. At first, I was scared to get the wrong bars so I would always check the tag just to be sure but with time the sizes came easy.
After you identify what bars go in what cage then you need to take bars and place them inside the cage. Throughout the time you are carrying bars the journeyman is painting dots on the cage so you know exactly where every bar goes and how high. Once you have all the bars in then you need to tie them with tie wire so they can stay in place and not move no matter what. This is why ironworkers need to know what types of ties go on any column. It varies from a snap, double snap, column tie, figure eight, and many more that you need to memorize.
Once you start to tie them together first you tie the templates. The templates are pretty much where the most weight will be on the column so you need to put a column tie and make sure its tight and is strong enough to hold the weight. After those are tied it really easy usually the rest of the ties are either U ties or double snaps. At the corners you need to tie it 100. That just means every bar needs to be tied on every corner, it depends on the column that you are building. More towards the end you will need to add rack braces and these are only to make sure the columns stay intact when they are shipped out once these are on and tied 3 times on each side with sug ties the column is done and ready to be sent to the field.
After you have done this for a while it becomes fairly easy, but what never gets easy is having to carry all the rebar to where it needs to be. Over all building a column is not a tough task. After you understand the concept of where the rebar goes on the cage and what kind of ties you need it is actually very easy. I won’t lie to you and say it was always easy because in the beginning I did struggle. In this trade all you need to be is a very quick learner and be willing to learn and work hard. If you are willing to learn and work hard then I am sure that you too would be able to take on the task to build a column or any other job the Forman needs you to do