Keep Craft Alive: Luke Thomas Gaffney, Welding Foreman
“Everybody I went to school with is behind a desk somewhere, and they think I’m the crazy one.”
Luke Gaffney likes working with steel “because it scares people.” He says, “My job is to stand calmly, welding overhead with a 10,000° stick, while it’s raining fire. And if a spark ignites my pant leg, I have to not care until I finish the weld.” He doesn’t sound like a kid who went to prep school.
Gaffney works for residential builder Risinger & Co., an odd place to find a welder, but Austin is famous for being weird. It’s also known for cutting-edge, architect-designed homes. “No place uses metal the way Austin does,” Gaffney says. “You can go into almost any neighborhood and see steel everywhere.”
The average welder today is 55 years old and dreaming of retirement. But the 25-year-old Gaffney considers himself “incredibly blessed to be part of the structures that hold up this country, to think that the welds I’ve made are always going to be there, that my kids and grandkids could come back and see what I’ve created.”
Gaffney says that his most gratifying days are when he finishes a project. “To shut and lock a door that you just made … It’s like finishing a good book. You look around and nobody else cares. They didn’t go through what you went through, the emotion. If a project is hard enough, if it gave me enough stress, enough push back—when I finally conquer it? That just feels incredible.”