Like most men, I like a good fire – an explosion or two. There’s just something primal about fires. Until they happen to your property or endanger your life – then it’s serious.
Recently I’ve been working on a new race car chassis after work and on the weekends. In and of itself, that’s not unusual for grass roots racers or race teams. It’s the daily grind if you’re one of those people that likes working with your hands and really want to get back out on the race track. Put in a full day of work at your “real” job, then grab a quick bite to eat and start your second job – race car fabricator.
Doing your own metal fabrication tends to make you more aware of the laws of physics. Primarily, Murphy’s law and all of the subsequent corollaries. Y’know what I’m talking about… the science law that states “if something can go wrong, it will.”
Kimbrough’s Law states; When fabricating metal, If you get complacent, you get blown up.
Simply put, Kimbrough’s Law states; “When fabricating metal, If you get complacent, you get blown up.”
Complacency is defined as “an instance of usually unaware or uninformed self-satisfaction. That’s Webster’s definition, not mine. I’m a pretty simple guy with a very simple vocabulary, so I would have just written Kimbrough’s Law as; “If you get lazy, you get blown up,” but adding a five dollar word like complacent in there adds to the formality and future acceptance of this law.
Every scientific law written is backed by some kind of empirical evidence to support the concept. Kimbrough’s Law, like the other scientific laws, does have its own years of experience to support the conceptual principal. Another piece of factual evidence took place recently during the fabrication of a new race car chassis.
Performing the routine tasks associated with metal fabrication, consumables are used. Murphy’s law applies to the use of consumables and inevitably the supply will be depleted at the most inopportune time. Such was the case on Sunday when my supply of shielding gas for welding ran out. With all of the welding supply stores closed, there was no possible means of replenishing the supply until Monday.
Knowing that the Old Timer’s Law of forgetting the most important details would probably come into play, I immediately unhooked the shielding gas tank and stored it in my truck so that it would not be forgotten the following morning in the Monday morning rush to get to work on time.
Lunchtime on Monday is the best time to hit local vendors so I took the empty gas tank to the welding supply shop and exchanged it for a full tank of “Argon” gas, paying my 30 dollar refill fee. Returning back to the office to finish the rest of the day, eager to get the shielding gas attached to the welder and back to sticking two pieces of metal together with electricity.
The first attempt at TIG welding a joint on the chassis that evening resulted in an arc that was extremely difficult to control. Brown residue – a lot of brown residue – around the weld indicated there was a problem with the process. Thinking that the tungsten tip may have been contaminated, I changed the tip. The second attempt was no better than the first; a wild arc with brown smoke billowing from the weld puddle.
Turning off the welder and shutting off the welding gas provided the answer as the tank’s neck label caught my eye. There it was, plain as day for anyone to see, the words “Compressed Nitrogen” was staring at me from the label.
Once again I unhooked the shielding gas tank and stored it in my truck for the following morning rush to work. As I thought about the situation it was clear that I should have known to double check the tank’s neck label. Then the thought hit me; if the tank would have been filled with a flammable gas, this could have been a disaster. Admittedly, I was in a rush and got lazy about double checking the label. This incident fully supports Kimbrough’s Law in its entirety. Things turned out alright this time, but the potential for a home-made combination TIG and gas cutting torch, or worse, was there.
Needless to say, the tank was returned to the welding supply store the next day with an explanation and warning.