Amongst mountainous pine forests and some of the most stunning scenery you’ll find on Earth, Brock Palasty spends his day's pipe welding in the mountains of Northern Atlanta, just 5 hours from the Northwest Territories of Canada.
“Up here, we don’t get much darkness in the summer. Even in the middle of the night it’s not pitch black. But in the winter it’s only daylight from about 9.30 am to 4.30 pm, so we can only work between that time. You can’t weld in the dark!” he grins. “We don’t have to work the same set hours like you would in a facility or a shop.”
Whether the weather is fine...
If you’re not familiar with pipe welding, it is tough. You’re out in the elements, bracing temperatures from -50c to 30c. You face the brunt of the wind, snow, and sun. It’s unpredictable too - Brock is rained out of his current job in British Columbia.
“We’re working in a farmer’s field at the minute and it’s raining really hard. We can’t weld in the rain and the farmer made us leave for now. The vehicles mess up the fields and if they get stuck, we could end up spilling dangerous material into the environment. So it’s best for everyone if we wait it out.”
Don’t mind the mountain lions...
It’s not just the weather you need to worry about either - there’s the wildlife.
“Up in the mountains, there are grizzlies and cougars. A laborer got attacked by a mountain lion a few years ago, it was all in the papers. He had part of his ear amputated and was pretty cut up. The conservation officer had to go out and shoot a few to prevent any more attacks.”
From gold mines to pipelines
Brock has been welding since he was 19 years old. “I just turned 30 so I’ve been welding a few years now! I started out welding in gold mines, then I went on to plywood and logging facilities for a while. I really wanted to get into pipe welding so I had to get into the oil industry. My next step from logging was working on big expansions for grain silos. After that, I broke into the oil industry and finally started pipe welding! The welding we do is down hand procedure with 6010 bead rod and then usually 7010 or 8010 rods for hot pass fill and cap.”
So...why pipe welding?
Brock’s not a fan of the more ‘conventional’ welding environment. “I don’t like all the health and safety,” he laughs. “I like being out in the woods! You get to see new scenery every day. You don’t know what’s around the corner. I’ve traveled and worked all over Western Canada, from BC to Yukon. I’ll never get bored of seeing this beautiful country. It’s an honor to live and work here.”
So between the weather and the wildlife, what’s the biggest challenge of pipe welding?
“You can’t take yourself too seriously in this type of work,” Brock replies, after thinking on it for a moment. “You never know what’s gonna happen - a cut cable or malfunctioning equipment really makes you think on your feet. You’ve gotta find a way to fix it or you’re outta there!”
Take a look at Brock’s Instagram and you’ll see pictures of Eddie, the dapper Doberman that accompanies him on all his jobs.
“Eddie always comes to work with me. He used to be able to roam around but they tightened the rules. They’re taking the fun away,” he laughs. “I do sometimes push it and say he’s on bear watch - it’s more like raven watch though - and some employers will let you get away with it. But he usually stays in the truck and comes out for a run when we’re on break. I’m cool with that as long as he doesn’t sit in the driver's seat!”
Not only does Eddie rock a pair of Pit Vipers, but he’s also a purebred from Germany with a famous father and all the papers to boot. “I picked Eddie up when he was 6 weeks old. He’ll be 6 on the 4th of July.” Happy birthday Eddie!
Keep up with Brock’s pipe welding experiences and Eddie’s adventures on Brock’s Instagram@brock.radwelding.