One minute with Leonard Harbacek, instrument welder

Leonard Harbacek inspects a gas distribution manifold he built with engineer Cary Kendziora and senior technician Bill Miner. Harbacek has worked as a Fermilab welder for 16 years. Photo: Reidar Hahn

What might you do in typical workday?
As a welder, in the morning I might be cutting steel 19 inches thick, and in the afternoon I might be working on a clean cryogenic system.

I travel around the Fermilab site with a portable automatic welder, going to different locations to make high-quality welds. I like to make myself available to help with a wide range of tasks. I also work in a building with a research and development team.

What’s the best part of your job?
The best part of my job is the challenge of it. You get to work with new ideas and create something.

For example, 12 years ago I was asked to help build focusing horns for NuMI and MiniBooNE. For this, I needed to make X-ray quality welds. These welds can have only very small pits and no cracks, and they’re vacuum-tight. It took us a year to develop the welding parameters. And now we’re now in the process of producing a new generation of horns.

When did you begin welding?
Right out of high school I worked at a small welding company. The man I worked for was a welder at Argonne, and then he started his own business. He’s the one who taught me how to weld.

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
Spending time with my wife and three grandchildren comes first. And in the summer, it’s anything I can do outside — mow the lawn, plant flowers, detail the car. In the winter, I like to work with stained glass. The best piece I’ve made is Southwestern-themed and hangs in my den. It has over 300 pieces of glass and took two years to make.

What’s something people may not know about you?
I was a Seabee from ’72 to ’75. That’s what they call construction workers in the Navy. During that time, I helped build an airstrip at Diego Garcia, a small coral island in the Indian Ocean.

Amanda Solliday