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Old 07-10-2021, 09:58 PM
Harpkatt Harpkatt is offline
Join Date: Feb 2021
Location: Long Island, NY
Posts: 13
Default From Hobby to production

What's your success story? I guess you could say I'm too inexperienced to take the leap to pro or maybe too apprehensive. But its a dream I aspire to. I've never taken any metal forming classes or worked in any shops, but I've made do so far with reading and research and hand tools . Some how I went from working in the engineering field to working in the banking field and It's not a step I enjoyed taking.

My dream would be to get back to the hands on. I'd like restore everything and anything. Not so much just cars.
I took formal welding classes and am just finally getting good enough with the tig to do thin body panels with out constantly blowing holes ( i used to mig them) but I've concentrated more in the last year on getting the work nice in metal and just touching up with fillers.

How did you decide when the time was right for you to start operating professionally?
Chris From Long Island
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Old 07-11-2021, 12:16 AM
Mr fixit Mr fixit is offline
Join Date: Aug 2014
Location: Portland, Oregon
Posts: 219


What is the business your looking at going into? Do you have any pictures or examples of work you have done that could be commented on? Be prepared for constructive comments but then that's how we learn.

I'm just a hobbyist, but I'd be glad to give you my input if you can share your work.

Look forward to what you have to show.

Mr fixit
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Old 07-11-2021, 03:13 AM
Jaroslav Jaroslav is offline
MetalShaper of the Month April 2020, September 2021
Join Date: Dec 2012
Location: Czech Republic
Posts: 1,960

I had old motorcycles for many years. Later, I bought several cars at the same time. Some I donated, some sold and some waiting to be repaired.
There was still no time. One day I closed a company and wanted to get a job. I've found that despite knowing and knowing a lot, no one wants me.
The turning point came when one lady kept telling me that I was missing half a year on my CV. What were you doing ? I didn't do anything. What have you been doing for half a year? I didn't do anything. She kept saying it.
I got up and said, "Dear lady, if the two of us are missing something, missing only you my half year."
I decided to use my skills for myself and sell them better.
Yes, the journey is not easy, but I decide when and what to do. I can even choose who I want to talk to and who should deleted my phone "because he won't need it".
I have 6 customer categories:
1. Desperate
2. Dreamers
3. Rich people - they usually rob you.
4. Enthusiasts
5. Enthusiasts with paying
6. Professionals.
Business security is very uncertain, but it's fun and adventure at the same time. You will need a lot of mental strength.

Take advantage of the experience of the banking sector and be just as tough in choosing customers and rules. Good luck.
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Old 07-11-2021, 08:35 AM
Joe Hartson's Avatar
Joe Hartson Joe Hartson is offline
Join Date: May 2009
Location: Pass Christian, MS
Posts: 4,979

Jaroslav, very good information.

There will be many people that want you to do work for them that have no idea what a fair price is for the work. You have to know when to say NO.

Don't start a business if you are under capitalized or have a lot of debt, you will fail.
Joe Hartson

There is more than one way to go to town and they are all correct.
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Old 07-11-2021, 10:31 AM
ojh ojh is offline
Join Date: Nov 2009
Location: Shenandoah Valley, VA
Posts: 662

My primary thing is mechanical restoration/fabrication and trying to expand it to include metal shaping, at one point I'd like to do the metal shaping as my primary. As I get along in years I think I can be productive in metal shaping where the mechanical stuff get harder to do.
oj higgins
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Old 07-11-2021, 09:10 PM
Harpkatt Harpkatt is offline
Join Date: Feb 2021
Location: Long Island, NY
Posts: 13

I'll have to get some pictures up to show the stuff I like doing.

Point taken on having a stock pile of cash on hand. I'm sort of at a point where I'd like to purchase some big pro type equipment, but to spend thousands on a real planishing hammer (looking at you Tin Man) or power hammer is hard to justify as a hobbist.

As a profession, I'd like to say the show American Restoration nailed what I want to do. I know thats a reach though, but I don't think it's impossible.

Chris From Long Island

Last edited by Harpkatt; 07-11-2021 at 09:14 PM.
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Old 07-12-2021, 01:08 AM
Jaroslav Jaroslav is offline
MetalShaper of the Month April 2020, September 2021
Join Date: Dec 2012
Location: Czech Republic
Posts: 1,960

Chris. A little warning. This work is not about equipment. The equipment will only make your way to the result easier. The path cannot be measured. It is mostly a mental matter. At one point I found that I didn't know the basic procedures, but I had good equipment. For the next 2 years I researched how to do it. Count on this thing as well. If you overcome it, you have no problem. All videos look very optimistic. Top equipment and tools are more expensive than a family house.
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Old 07-12-2021, 04:01 PM
cliffrod cliffrod is offline
MetalShaper of the Month January 2020, March 2022
Join Date: Dec 2014
Location: Spartanburg, SC
Posts: 2,707

Can you afford to go for broke? That's what it's all about. The only way to do it is to do it. By "broke," I mean money, home, marriage/family, etc. - lose everything that matters to you. don't trust fancy machines or luck or wishful thinking or what someone says they'll buy from you when you go into business unless they put big money in your hand now. You have to be smart, good, business/market savvy, lucky and much more.

TV shows aren't real life.....sometimes I wish I had a tv contract with guaranteed paycheck, merchandising agreements, potential syndication residuals, etc to supplement the income my studio does or doesn't produce.

I'm not a pro metal shaper, but my specialty career field is quite analogous. Feel welcome to contact me directly if you want to talk about real btdt experience. Glad to talk about what it's like to make everything except money for a living for decades and still love doing it.
AC Button II Carolina Sculpture Studio Channel
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Old 07-13-2021, 10:54 AM
TonyP TonyP is offline
Join Date: Jul 2020
Location: Los Osos, CA
Posts: 10

+1 to all the above! I wouldnít classify what I do as a success story but just following the path in front of me has me the most grateful for my life Iíve ever been.

In the 80ís I came up with thing for myself and others saw it and wanted one. A friend wanted to sell them in his booth and so I went along. One of the first reactions people had was I would be knocked off and it would all go away. So that and I figured it was so niche Iíd make a few and thatís it. It was just a hobby, a side hustle no biggie and Iíve always loved metal working. But then came along the net and it took on a life of its own and I just kept following, keeping my day job and improving the design and how to produce it thinking it would go away any day now. Letting word of mouth do the work.

But 15yrs ago while I was getting more and more orders I was having to work through my only day off from the day job to keep up. Life at home with dying relatives and the day job kept getting stupider and one day Iíd had enough and punched out, for good. 2 days later a big dealer got hold of me and wanted to sell them so once again I just followed and 35yrs later Iím still doing metal work from designing, machining, welding and forming the machines and equipment to make my gadget. While the gadget is the day job. No expensive tools most of it used Harbor Freight reimagined to do the work I do as a one man shop.
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Old 07-15-2021, 12:04 PM
crystallographic crystallographic is offline
MetalShaper of the Month October '14 , April '16, July 2020
Join Date: Dec 2010
Location: Western Sierra Nevadas, Badger Hill, CA
Posts: 4,151

What's your success story?

How did you decide when the time was right for you to start operating professionally?
Chris From Long Island

For me, personally, I got OJT for a while and then took on small jobs, nights and weekends.
When the right "side job" came along (demolished 275GTB/4) I made it my full-time. Headaches, long days, and unexpected losses finally led to the final paycheck on day of delivery, in primer, road tested for several hours across NV.
Then I took on my second job.
And so on.

Some go smoothly.

Headgames? (Some difficult customers are encouragements for psychology studies as the new "side job.")

"How do you want the job: Good, Cheap, or Fast?" Pick one.

Or maybe ... two.

Never three. Though it does happen, it is rare and of great good fortune in so many areas ....

The job is hard enough. The customer can help - either by making the job easier, or harder. Possible class topic: "Educating the customer."

Finance advise I took in 1980: Take a deposit on the job, in advance.

Get one quarter done, and bill for 2nd quarter.

Get 2nd quarter done, bill clearly with photos and descriptions.

Get 3rd quarter done, billing clearly.

At final quarter, inspection, discussion, final payment, in cash. (Prevents cancelled check on customer's way home.) Yes, it happens!

Some will always try to cheat. That is the way people are.

Some like to haggle and haggle some more. Same goal, different people, style, techniques, angles.

Earn the money, then fight for getting paid = This is normal.

.... But sometimes, not.

(... but I am not the only craftsman with this experience and philosophy and finance methods .... ask around....)


"All it takes is a little practical experience to blow the he!! out of a perfectly good theory." --- Lloyd Rosenquist, charter member AWS, 1919.

Last edited by crystallographic; 07-15-2021 at 11:14 PM.
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