Welding opens opportunities for artistic expression at Highlands College

Welding student with dinosaur

When people envision a welder, images of workers on pipelines or in manufacturing factories might come to mind. “Most people immediately think of welding as industrial,” Highlands College welding instructor Dennis Noel said. “They don’t think of it as artistic.”

Welding student at the forge

A long line of projects created by Noel’s students showcase the artistic possibilities within the welding field. Noel and his former students created an ironwork fence, and two mining headframes with moveable pieces that blow in the wind to greet visitors to the Highlands campus. In 2018, students created a metal signage for the Ringing Rocks outside Whitehall. This semester, students are creating Smashburger presses that can be customized with Charlie Oredigger and Montana Tech emblems, Damascus steel knives, and metal tyrannosaurus rex skeletons.

Welding student at forge

Ryder Taplin is a first-year student in Noel’s class who spent a day putting together a tyrannosaurus skeleton before helping with a larger one that hangs overhead in the welding shop. Taplin said his favorite assignment so far was making the Damascus steel knives.

Damascus steel knife

Damascus steel is forged in fire. The welding students heat the metal and work it so it has between 300 and 1,000 layers, creating a beautiful pattern on the blade. He opted to try a folding knife, while all the others were fixed blades. It was a bit more challenging, but worth the work.

Welded dinosaur

“I want to give them assignments to be creative, but also allow them to hone their craftsmanship,” Noel said.

Welded dinosaur