We asked our customers and newsletter subscribers what advice they’d give to those just starting out in metalworking. Here are some of the best words of wisdom we received.
1. Learn on paper and in practice.
Several respondents advised new metalworkers to formally continue their education. “Go to a school to learn your craft,” writes John Stevens, who works on roll cages with his Baileigh tube notcher. “Attend a trade school. Find a good mentor,” urges Richard Ritari of Aspen Custom Metalworks.
However, going back to school isn’t for everybody. What should you do if you’re serious about learning on your own? “Read as much as you can, find someone to ask questions, then dive right in and get your hands dirty,” recommends Papa Bear from Papa Bear Fabrication, LLC who uses his Baileigh tube bender to make roll cages.
2. Invest in the best equipment you can afford. And look for reliable customer service.
The importance of finding the right metalworking tools was one of the most popular advice topics. “Quality tools are a must,” explains Brad Goodman of Goodman Metal Products. “Spend the money [you have] on high quality tools and they’ll serve you well for many years.”
Although good tools usually cost more, they’ll save you money in the long term. “Buy quality equipment the first time. Don’t skimp on good equipment,” insists Brian Wensel from Desert Fabworks, LLC, who makes complex sheet metal bends with his Baileigh magnetic brake.
Investigate the aftercare as well as the quality of the tools themselves. “Research when buying equipment. Make sure they have good support,” writes Tim Arnold from Steel & Stone Works, who creates metal signs with his Baileigh bead roller.
As JC McKeown from Joatmon, LLC points out, tools with strong customer service can prevent delays and lost profits. “Customer service is a top priority for me on any equipment purchase. Down time waiting for answers about machine problems costs money.”
We’re proud that Philip Hartmann of PH Fabrication, owner of a PH-28HD power hammer, gave us a vote of confidence: “Don’t buy cheap equipment just to get by. Save up and buy Baileigh equipment. They have great service and it will last you a lifetime.”
3. A safe, clean shop is essential.
Yeah, yeah, we know. You’ve heard this lesson before, but for good reason! Several of our respondents wanted to remind beginning metalworkers that proper precautions are worth it in the long run.
As Keith Schmidt from Colgan Industries puts it, “Safety first and always.” Paul Feit of Feit Brothers Inc. echoes the sentiment: “Be safe. Use the proper tools and equipment.” Similarly, Pierre Godin urges, “Be careful around equipment.”
Safety and neatness go hand in hand. Alan Yurich of ARC – Earth2Ground Innovations identifies a “clean workspace” as a key ingredient to success. Making a habit of keeping your shop clean prevents mishaps and generally adds to your efficiency.
4. Be precise. Don’t rush your projects.
Haste makes waste, as the old saying goes. Go slow if you need to. “Take your time and do the very best you can do,” recommends Peter Wigand from Blue Chip Builders LTD., Inc. “Check and recheck your plans and measurements,” writes E. Antonio Kure M. from Mundiahorros.
5. Develop your own style and brand. Exercise your creativity.
As you start to sell your work and launch your business, make sure you have a strategy to set yourself apart from other fabricators.
Don’t be afraid to specialize, if you know there’s a large enough market out there. “Find a niche,” says Brendan Jones from Buffalo Floral Art. Jones uses a R-M40 ring roller to bend frames for stylish event decorations, like wedding arbors.
“Learn from others, but think for yourself,” advises Christopher Laundrie from MTB Tools, which makes handcrafted mountain bike components “by riders for riders.”
“Always be creative,” urges Allen Anderson who uses Baileigh tools to make hand railings for the marine maintenance services company AMMSCO Limited. Whatever you choose to work on, bring your own flair to your projects. Each day, approach your work in the spirit of curiosity and discovery.
Want more metalworking advice? Interested in building your shop? Give us a call at 1-920-684-499. All of our customer service reps have hands-on metalworking experience.