3700° – December 2018

With a little queasy feeling I open the door to Edgar Baur’s steel and metal construction company in Radolfzell shortly before Christmas this Thursday. The environment, the tools, the material, the people … everything will be different here than in the Martin shipyard.
A slight nervousness is also noticeable among the craftsmen. They have already prepared everything so that in just one afternoon I can document the individual steps that are necessary to manufacture a metal frame from MARABU.
Often it doesn’t happen that a photographer accompanies her at work and so the “lot” fell on Arthur. I am assured that he is the most “photogenic”.

Three industrially rolled blanks made of seawater-resistant V4A steel are processed per frame. A rough shape is already visible: the edges are rounded and the two pieces, which are mounted on the vertical part of the corresponding wooden frame, are conically shaped. The holes for the screws have also been prepared and the surface roughly sanded.
Using a template made by boat builder Axel, the blanks are first bent into the frame shape. The workpiece is clamped in a special vice with jaws that can be adjusted against each other. I feel reminded of a saying attributed to Archimedes: “Give me a lever long enough…and I’ll move the world.”
Arthur grabs a lever mounted on the bending device and skilfully uses his body weight to bend the steel millimeter by millimeter into the exact rounding. He always compares the template and the product, readjusts the tool, corrects it again and then clamps it a little further.
In a surprisingly short time, the 80cm long iron exactly follows the curve recorded on the cardboard. 

Since MARABU is not completely symmetrical on port and starboard side, both sides are transferred to the stencil independently of each other. It is also not easy to determine the angle between the straight base plate and the two curved legs caused by the inclination and gradient of the keelson. Usually the three parts are first “stapled” with a small provisional weld. Master metal worker Günter – himself an experienced sailor (45sqm Nat. Kreuzer) – and Axel then check all angles and bends directly on the ship again in order to be able to make minor corrections before everything is firmly and stably joined by TIG welding.

Today I can take a closer look at this as well and am astonished when Arthur takes a seat at a special welding table, protected by a darkening screen and huge gloves bent over. I had imagined welding to be somehow more “grossly motorized”.
Warned of the very bright light, I keep my distance with the camera. None of us knows at this moment, whether and how I can reproduce this process exactly. Curious become, I can be equipped likewise with a protective hood and put on my gloves – luckily it is winter – against the UV radiation.
First of all I want to understand what happens with so much sensitivity. A highly heatable tungsten electrode (many still know this element from physics lessons on the subject of “filament lamps”) forms an electric arc above the steel that melts the V4A alloy at over 3700°C. In contrast to other fusion welding processes, the filler material – an alloy similar to the workpiece – is additionally supplied in wire form and melted into the seam. The characteristic wave pattern is created in the weld seam. The tungsten electrode is so heat resistant that it does not melt itself.
In order to prevent the molten steel from burning with the ambient air, the inert gas argon supplied from the torch head forms an invisible protective sheath around the location of the event.
After a lens change, some adjustments and if possible fixed in a good position, I now take pictures on command with my eyes closed. Arthur is happy when his, for outsiders normaly invisible work, becomes visible on the display. 

When the outer seams of the frames are ground flush with the angle grinder, the sparks fly again.
After an exciting afternoon, I close the workshop door behind me with many new impressions. It turned out later than expected and I am looking forward to accepting the new invitation of the metal manufacturer for next year, because then the bolts for MARABU will be produced.