How to build a metal cube
New York City fabricator teaches nonmetalworkers basic tricks of the trade
Scott Behr, founder and fabricator at Total Metal Resource Inc., Brooklyn, N.Y., usually gets a pretty enthusiastic response when he tells people what he does for a living. With the upstart of his Metal Shop Fantasy Camp, he can now share tiny parts of his job with people who might otherwise never get an opportunity to try their hand at metalworking.
People familiar with Scott Behr and his company, Total Metal Resource Inc. (TMRnyc), a custom metal fabrication shop located in New York City, know the grandiose and polished effect that a well-designed and -fabricated object can have on the overall environment of a home or business.
To nonmetalworking folks, there’s something mysterious about the craft as well as the people who perform it. Maybe it’s because we meet people who more often than not work in offices Monday through Friday, dress business-casual, and sit in front of computers. Or maybe, said Behr, it’s something else entirely.
“I just feel like so many people grow up nowadays not knowing how to do things, and I think using tools is a basic instinct that we have as humans. I think most people have a curiosity about working with tools.”
Either way, Behr has found that many people he meets or knows are fascinated with what he does for a living, and it’s easy to understand why. TMRnyc has made its mark in the various boroughs of New York City fabricating custom furniture and environments for homes and businesses. That success led to a few high-profile, signature projects, including the Chobani SoHo storefront; Sprinkles Cupcakes in Manhattan; and the Shinola flagship store in Tribeca—a project on which the company worked alongside renowned and award-winning architect David Rockwell, who called TMRnyc one of the last remaining blacksmiths in New York City.
Not bad for the Atlanta College of Art alum who fell in love with the city more than 15 years ago.
Curiosity Built the Fab Camp
Behr is always surprised by the reaction he gets when he talks to people about what he does.
“Anytime I tell someone what I do, they’re always like, ‘Wow! You weld? I’ve always wanted to learn how to do that.’”
After hearing the same comment several times, the idea came to mind, more or less as a joke, to host a metalworking class geared toward nonmetalworkers. But that’s exactly what it was, an idea … that is, until he came up with a name—Metal Shop Fantasy Camp—as well as a concept—building metal cubes.
What started as a joke became this very doable, very real idea to offer people who are curious or interested in learning how to weld, cut, or grind a fun outlet to try their hand at some basic metalworking processes.
For those wanting to learn the trade, acquire certifications, and leave with an employable skill, Metal Shop Fantasy Camp probably isn’t the place. It does, however, cater to people who are curious about metalworking; who have welding, metal cutting, or working with industrial tools on their bucket list; or who, at the very least, are looking for a unique way to spend four hours.
The class is held on select Thursday evenings and Saturdays and is open to anyone who is interested. Behr, who teaches the course with the help of Michelle David, starts it off with general safety principles and an overview of how to read a tape measure. He then reviews the project—how to make a metal cube—goes over shop drawings of what the cube will look like, and then introduces them to the band saw on which students cut their own pieces. After cutting is complete, he shows them how to add bevels and clean up the edges before welding them together.
“Once that’s all ready to go, we sit down, clamp them up, and tack them together to get the bottom and the top, and then we put the side pieces on. And then once it’s tacked up and everything is square, we start welding the piece up and we do all the first passes with the welds. Then we show them how to use the grinder to finish off the welds to get it to a finished look. By the time they are finished, they have a completed cube in their hand and they also have the fundamentals that go into building anything,” Behr explained.
Though the class is still a very new concept, Behr said he has received positive feedback from the folks who have taken it. He has found that most people—even those who have never so much as read a tape measure—get the hang of things fairly quickly, end up laying nice weld beads, and become comfortable handling the various metalworking tools. With such a positive response, Behr has been busy dreaming up ways to expand upon the class for 2014, including offering new sessions that would feature new projects or focuses. He also has aspirations to create a three-day class where attendees could spend time making something a little more substantial to take home.
An unexpected perk of Metal Shop Fantasy Camp for Behr has been the ability to view his craft from a different perspective.
“You go through each day and sometimes forget how cool this stuff really is. It’s nice to step back and not have to be the boss.”
To learn more about Metal Shop Fantasy Camp, visit metalshopfantasycamp.com/.
The FABRICATOR is North America's leading magazine for the metal forming and fabricating industry. The magazine delivers the news, technical articles, and case histories that enable fabricators to do their jobs more efficiently. The FABRICATOR has served the industry since 1971.