WAPAKONETA — Children in grades 3 through 12 from around the county filled the Junior Fair and Exhibit Buildings at the Auglaize County Fair Friday morning for 4-H Special Interest Project Judging.
The participants picked a project in categories ranging from woodworking and sewing to gardening and photography, completed that project, did a skills test the morning of the judging to prove they were the ones to complete their project, and sat for judges who asked them questions about what they did and what they learned from it.
Minster native Kyle Dircksen, 18, chose to do a welding project. Dircksen, with help from his father and uncle who weld, made a boot scraper to clean mud off boots. The goal, he said, was to better his welding skills.
“I wasn’t a good welder, but I knew how,” he said.
The project helped him really figure it out.
“I welded some brackets for my car, but that was the only welding I ever did,” Dircksen said.
The trick to making a good weld, he said, is in the technique.
“You basically just have to set your metal up where you want it, and then tag it and then make your weld,” he said. “The hardest part is getting the technique down on your weld — like how to weave it and keep your rod in your weld whenever you’re doing it, that way you don’t get holds in your welds and get a lot of slag in there.”
Slag makes for a weak weld, he said. It is a residue left from flux, or the chemical agent used to protect the metal from reacting with other chemicals in the air.
“If you get your rod too far away, you get flux inside your weld and then it becomes weak,” Dircksen said.
Though this is his first attempt at welding for the fair, Dircksen is a veteran when it comes to the Special Interest Projects. In years past he has done woodworking, lawn care, rope (tying knots), and hogs.
Dircksen’s favorite part about his project was the doing: “learning how to make stuff...out of wood, using wood and metals and stuff to build a weld,” he said. “I guess it will help (me) later in life to be able to weld stuff on (my) own.”
He currently works at a machine shop where they use different types of welding than what he did for this project, but he said the general idea is the same.
Liv Wuebker, 10, of Minster, also chose to make a boot scraper for her welding project. This is Wuebker’s first year doing a Special Interest Project.
Her father is a welding teacher, she said, and this is something she always wanted to try. Her sister had done welding before, so she knew a little bit about the subject already.
Wuebker said, like Dircksen, that the technique was the hardest part to perfect. Getting the welds correct was her favorite part, she said.
“That just made me happy,” she said. “If you go too fast, the weld is harder to break off and it kind of looks crappy.”
Jonathan Vogel, 16, of St. Marys, chose to do woodworking, as he has for the past almost seven years. This year he made a small, wooden box with a removable lid.
“I glued together this maple, that’s this white, lighter wood, and (walnut), this darker brown wood, and traced (the pattern) on there,” he said. “(I) took a bandsaw and cut out the design. I took a spindle sander, which is just a spindle with some sandpaper on it, and smoothed it out a little bit.”
For previous projects, he has made a desk, a folding table and a TV shelf. Vogel said he has improved immensely from year to year, and has learned many valuable lessons from doing woodworking, including precision.
4-H is also a tradition in his family, with his brother, father and grandfather all having done woodworking projects in the past.
Haley Fledderjohann, 9, from New Knoxville, chose gardening as her first 4-H project. She got the idea from a friend who was going to “take gardening,” and she thought that sounded fun.
“I grew cucumbers, green peppers, jalapeno peppers and tomatoes, and some lettuce but we already cut that,” she said. “I didn’t really have to water it that much, because we got a lot of rain.”
Fledderjohann is excited to eat the vegetables she grew.
“We’re probably going to cook it in something,” she said. “We already made a cucumber salad for the neighbors.”
This is also the first year for Allie Springer, 9, of St. Marys. She chose gardening for her project, too, but planted flowers instead of vegetables.
“We got bleeding hearts,” she said. “We also grew some petunias, and marigolds and impatients. I picked them out but I didn’t know the name of them.”
Her favorite part of the project was deciding where to put the flowers, laying them out and planting them.
“After we got done with the garden, we watered them — bleeding hearts need a little bit more,” she said.