Bode has been in the welding business since taking a high school
welding class in the late 1960’s. After graduation, he entered the
Navy and honed his welding skills during his enlistment. He advanced
to being certified to work on nuclear component welding. After his
military service, Bode returned to Lincoln to open his own welding
service, a business that has been a Lincoln staple for the past
Don Bode is well known for his skill at welding, and has worked on a
myriad of projects for individuals and corporations. He is also an
artist who has exhibited his metal sculptures at the Lincoln Art
Festival for many years. He credits his niece for adding art to his
considerable welding projects.
During the visit, Bode demonstrated his computer linked plasma
The plasma cutter that Don Bode has in his shop uses electrified
ions to produce an extremely hot cutting flame. The cutter is linked
to a computer that controls everything from the height of the
cutting head to the speed of the cut. It also controls how much
power can be generated to the cutting head. The amount of power
determines how thick a piece of metal can be cut. Speed, cutting
height, and power in the correct balance produce the perfect cut
with a minimum amount of melted metal on the surface that would have
to be removed by hand.
While the cutter is at work, a brilliant flame is evident and an
enormous amount of smoke is produced. Bode has installed an exhaust
fan that removes over 3000 cubic feet of exhaust per minute. Sparks
fly as the cutter head moves unaided across the metal surface
producing a perfect shape.
Bode has linked his plasma cutter’s computer with a computer aided
drafting program so that he can design special shapes that are then
imported into the cutter’s computer. The shapes that can be produced
are almost endless.
One design that shows the intricate cutting ability of the plasma
cutter is a University of Illinois logo which has over 400 inches of
cutting lines on it. Bode does custom art work on a regular basis.
He has produced a St. Louis Cardinal logo as well as one for the
Chicago Cubs for a charity auction. “The St. Louis art work went for
over $5,000 at the auction, while the Cubby one went for less than
$500,” he said with a laugh.
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With the collaboration of a Champaign resident who is a horse
person, he designed horse yard art that is so delicate that it moves
in the wind.
Bode related that before purchasing his computer aided plasma
cutting table, he had to make a template of a design out of
cardboard and then transfer that outline by hand to a piece of
metal. He then had to cut the shape by hand with a cutting
torch. With the computer aided cutting table, all he has to do
is enter the dimensions of the cut into the computer and turn it
on. The cutter does the rest guided by the computer program. He
can replicate each design endlessly with just a few keystrokes
on his computer.
While the LCGHS members watched, Don Bode did an actual job for
a client as a demonstration. The client wanted a quarter moon
and stars design to hang on his man cave restroom door, like an
old outhouse design. It took the cutter less than a minute to
produce the intricate finished product.
Bode related that the high cost of the computer assisted plasma
cutting table was paid for in one year by the specialty work it
was able to produce. He also credited the use of the device with
increasing his computer savvy. He is self-taught on all aspects
of the plasma cutting table.
Bode isn’t the only one who uses this device in his craft. He
regularly goes online to a website with other welders who use
plasma cutters. At the site, members share their knowledge and
artwork with one another. A community has grown up around this
Don Bode has seen a lot of change in the welding business in his
thirty years on the job. The use of a computer to guide a welder
was not even on the radar when he began.
The Logan County Genealogical and Historical Society meets the
third Monday of the month at their research facility at 114
North Chicago Street at 6:30 p.m. They always have an
interesting program and the public is invited to attend.