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Pile Buck, Thinking of joining the Pile Drivers

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  • Pile Buck, Thinking of joining the Pile Drivers

    First let me tell you a little bit about myself. Im 19 years old and I've been welding for about 2-3 years. The welding training in British Columbia consists of 3 different levels: C, B, and then A. For each level you need to complete the in school hours combined with a certain amount of work hours to reach a years worh of experience before you complete the level, and can move on to the next. Theres no aprentiship for welding though, and you can stop your training whenever you want or take as long as you want to advance to the next level. A year ago I started my level C which was 7 months long and also completed half of the level B because I finished level C early. After that I got a job working for a Tug and Barge company and spent 5 months there. I went back to school and finished the 2nd half of level B in 8 weeks. It was right around christmas time when I finished level B, and Ive been somewhat looking for a job since then.

    A few days ago a friend told me that the Pile Drivers Union were looking for welders so I went down there to see what they had to offer. They told me that to get started I would need to get certified for CWB (Canadian Welding Bureau) flux core - self sheilding, and stick. Once I have that, and take there hazerdous materials and safety course I would be able to sign on with them. However its a 3 year aprentiship, the first and second year have 6 weeks of carpentry, and the 3rd year has a 8 week course on Pile Driving / Bridge Building. So its not all welding that I would be doing, I would have to do other types of construction work as well. The starting wage is $23.40/hour and that is 70% of journyman wage.

    Pile Buck, or anyones whos been in the Pile Drivers what would you be able to tell me about this industry. What did you like, or dislike about it? What percentage of your time would you be welding, and how often would you be doing something else? What advice would you have for someone getting into this trade?

    Here is a link to the union: http://local2404.org/index.htm

  • #2
    Well you can specialize if you want or do it all, I recommend you learn it all. At least have a basic knowledge of it all. Myself I would rather stick something sharp in my eye than do carpentry work. I went through the Millwright apprenticeship in CA, but when I moved up here the Millwrights and Carpenters were dispatched out of the same hall. Being a certified weldor I got sent out on pile driving projects. One day I got sent out on a derrick to build or repair something. After being out there for a day or two, one of the members of the pile driving crew didn’t show up. The foreman had me help out, until this guy returned. If you don’t know it now you will soon find out, construction is survival of the fittest. When the absent pile driver came back to work the foreman fired him, and I took his place. That right there pretty much ended my welding career. From that point on when it came to welding I basically only did repair work, or when there were no piling being driven and a welding project was going on I would be sent to that project. If it was slow through out the company I was sent back to the yard to built things, hard face buckets, or what ever to keep me on the payroll. As time went on I was trained how to drive concrete piles, and once I was giving the green light by the company’s pile driving superintendent, I was made a pile driving foreman. I didn’t hardly step off a derrick for years, did a few highway projects, but mostly water pile driving. You’ll find that very few members of any Pile Drivers local know how to drive pile. I know guys who worked 40-years in the pile drivers, and never drove one pile. It is a very close-knit group! You have to look at it from the owner’s eyes. They have a multi-million dollar derrick, every pile you touch could cost thousands of dollars just laying on the barge before you touch it, you don’t think they just turn that over to anybody out of the hall do you? It’s that same ol story, “Don’t go near the water until you learn how to swim”. Well sooner or later someone has to teach you how to do it. Don’t kid your self. YOU WILL NOT LEARN HOW TO DRIVE PILE IN THE APPRENTICESHIP!!!!!!!!!!!!! You will only learn how to do that on the job. If some how you learn to drive concrete pile on the water, and can weld, and fab things, you’ll never miss a paycheck. I went over 20-years with out missing one.

    If you’re smart you’ll find another way to make a living, but if you think this is for you, I’ll help you if I can.
    Dynasty 300 DX Tig Runner

    Survey says!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Blue is prettier than purple or yeller

    Comment


    • #3
      Thanks for the advice Pile Buck. Obviuosly what I really like to do is welding, especially stick welding. I wouldnt mind if I had to do other work here and there if it was nessecary to keep myself working. It sounds like from your post that you really didn't do that much welding though. Would you say that this isn't a very good industry to get into if the main thing I would like to do is welding? Do you think its worth it to atleast try it out for a while and see if I like it?

      Comment


      • #4
        Just a few words by another ex-steel carpenter. I'm quickly approaching 52 and haven't been on a carpentry jobsite since I was 24. Half my life ago I blew my ankles and knees out not realizing what those jobs were doing to me. As Carl says, "...if you're smart you'll find another way to make a living." That said...those years working construction were some of the best times in my life and even if old bones hurt in the morning I'd do it all over again.

        As for the welding. You would be better served if you are looking to just do welding by going into straight construction as a welder. The profession has its own set of hazards and rewards as well, but you'll quickly find out if you want to stick with it or not.
        Miller 251, Lincoln PrecisionTig 275, Miller DialArc 250 AC/DC, Hypertherm 900, Bridgeport J-head, Jet 14" lathe, South Bend 9" lathe, Hossfeld bender with a collection of dies driving me to the poorhouse, Logan shaper, Ellis 3000 bandsaw, Royersford drill press and a Victor Journeyman O/A.

        Comment


        • #5
          Oh I did nothing but weld for years. I can think of at least 50-guys right now, that all they do is weld. But I only know of 3 or 4 that work day in and day out welding. You have to be locked into a company to expect 2080 + hours a year as a weldor in the Pile Drivers. If you’re just a hall rat who depends on the union to get you your jobs you will see a lot of unemployment. The more you know, and the better you are at it, the more valuable you are to the companies. If all you want to do is weld, consider yourself a tool. When your not needed, back to the shed you go. Shed being the union hall. In my opinion you want to find a nitch, and get better at it than anybody else. It’s a long hard road to be one of the best weldors, the ones who never see unemployment! I got bored with welding, I love to build things, but those jobs of running 70-pounds of wire a day, 5 and 6 days week were getting old real quick. But to be honest driving pile is just as boring, but at least your not stuck behind a mask breathing smoke all day. True you’ll be pulling on rigging until you think you’re going to break your own wrist. And you run the risk of being a cripple like me. There is no part of the Pile Drivers that isn’t hard *** work. I was the only one of the actual pile driver (people who drove pile) that came from a true welding background. Every one of these guys are convinced that weldors are the biggest dead beats, **** all they do is set there and weld right? I use to tell them until you run 70-pounds of wire through a gun I don’t want to hear about it! See that only has merit with those guys when they know I could put footprints on their back. A weldor in the Pile Drivers doesn’t get the respect he deserves, but then again most of them are hacks.
          Dynasty 300 DX Tig Runner

          Survey says!!!!!!!!!!!!

          Blue is prettier than purple or yeller

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by gwmotorsports
            Thanks for the advice Pile Buck. Obviuosly what I really like to do is welding, especially stick welding. I wouldnt mind if I had to do other work here and there if it was nessecary to keep myself working. It sounds like from your post that you really didn't do that much welding though. Would you say that this isn't a very good industry to get into if the main thing I would like to do is welding? Do you think its worth it to atleast try it out for a while and see if I like it?

            Come to Alberta young man, you can find a welding job pretty quick here, if you are NOT a crack head and reasonably sober you'll do well here.If you follow Pile Buck's formula, IE show up for work everyday, do what needs to be done, after all this is constuction too, inside of 12 months you will be driving a new pickup and have men under you, I've seen it many times.

            We need fabricators and pipeliners, but most of all need good reliable people.

            Comment


            • #7
              You gotta love rain pants and mud boots though.
              http://www.facebook.com/cary.urka.urkafarms

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Sberry27
                You gotta love rain pants and mud boots though.

                LOL!! oh yeah! If you are afraid of dirt don't bother, But I kinda think a pile driver isn't.

                Comment


                • #9
                  The big guys where you live are Vancouver Pile Driving and FRPD ( Fraser River Pile and Dredge ) followed by Griffith and West Coast

                  They are all screaming busy with all the civil construction . If you want to be welding I assure you that all the welders at these places spend 90 to 100% of their time welding simply because there is so much welding but not enough qualified welders . BTW the 90% time is for lunch...the 100% comes from the fully auto sub arc in their yards

                  You need to know welding with NR212 , NR232 / NR 233 in the 3o' clock ( splicing in the field ) with these companies , and if you want to be stuck in the yard its all submerged arc now

                  Great job security in Vancouver because there is a huge lack of qualified welders, especially in the piling industry .

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Sberry27
                    You gotta love rain pants and mud boots though.
                    Well if you really want to do this, you might as well get prepared for it.
                    Drag all your crap in the bathroom. Throw the welding leads through the bathroom window. Place your practice plates in the bottom on the bathtub. Put on your muck boots, pull on your rain pants, then your raincoat. Stand in the tub, and turn on the shower, ONLY COLD WATER! Bend down, and make sure the shower hits you right in the back of the neck, so it runs down your back, and down the crack of your ***. Then stay there for 8 to 10-hours. Do this for a couple days! Then get back to me, and I’ll give you some more fun stuff to do.
                    Dynasty 300 DX Tig Runner

                    Survey says!!!!!!!!!!!!

                    Blue is prettier than purple or yeller

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Pile Buck
                      Well if you really want to do this, you might as well get prepared for it.
                      Drag all your crap in the bathroom. Throw the welding leads through the bathroom window. Place your practice plates in the bottom on the bathtub. Put on your muck boots, pull on your rain pants, then your raincoat. Stand in the tub, and turn on the shower, ONLY COLD WATER! Bend down, and make sure the shower hits you right in the back of the neck, so it runs down your back, and down the crack of your ***. Then stay there for 8 to 10-hours. Do this for a couple days! Then get back to me, and I’ll give you some more fun stuff to do.

                      <shiver>...

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Yup, I can remember some of those quality moments thinking to myself,,, if I would have just listened to my mother I would be slaving away under a hot secretary in a warm office instead of outside the office hanging by your toenails trying to get circulation back in your fingers. Sometimes I forget why I quit my job in one of those reminicing moments,, it only takes a few days, 2 weeks back at it to come back to me though.
                        Last edited by Sberry; 01-13-2006, 10:40 PM.
                        http://www.facebook.com/cary.urka.urkafarms

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          gwm my 2 cents

                          i was also a pile buck for about 2 yrs as a cert welder. this is my 44th year as a carpenter, that welds plumbs, wires. ect.
                          while reading your post i was reading you. good attitude, probable a good welder
                          ect. my take is you're too valuable as a welder to do much pile driving. go for it! join the p. drvs.
                          it doesn't matter where you go ,you'll do well good luck-tool

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Pile Buck
                            Well if you really want to do this, you might as well get prepared for it.
                            Drag all your crap in the bathroom. Throw the welding leads through the bathroom window. Place your practice plates in the bottom on the bathtub. Put on your muck boots, pull on your rain pants, then your raincoat. Stand in the tub, and turn on the shower, ONLY COLD WATER! Bend down, and make sure the shower hits you right in the back of the neck, so it runs down your back, and down the crack of your ***. Then stay there for 8 to 10-hours. Do this for a couple days! Then get back to me, and I’ll give you some more fun stuff to do.
                            don't forget the part about making sure you are part of the weld circuit so you can get constantly re-energized during the day. Saves on coffee . . .
                            *** Disclaimer ***

                            As I have no wish to toy with anybody's life, I suggest you take this and all other posts with a certain amount of skepticism. Carefully evaluate, and if necessary, research on your own any suggestions or advice you might pick up here, especially those from my posts, as I obviously haven't the skill and experience exhibited by some of the more illustrious and more successful members of this forum. I'm not responsible for anything I say, as I drank toxic water when young.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Was It That Bad Carl? You Missed A Couple

                              cutting off concrete pile sideways with a jack hammer[urban logger] TIMBER
                              trying to outrun 5000 lbs of concrete BUT WHERE?
                              in pancake mud up up to your chest welding a bottom splice on a wide flange
                              getting raps through your wet gloves[fun changing rods] the good ol days

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