From the Web: Blacksmithing, 3D printing, and an immigration nightmare stymies a shop’s growth

July 22, 2014
By: Vicki Bell

Highlights for fabricators from the past week’s Web articles— Immigration nightmare stymies company’s growth/job creation; imagination an important tool in blacksmith’s arsenal; ultimate use of 3D printing; fabricator gives in many ways; and veterans trade combat helmets for welding helmets.

  1. Immigration continues to be a hot topic in the U.S. Most of the discussion centers on keeping illegal immigrants outside our borders and what to do with the millions who already are here. However, there’s another immigration problem you seldom hear about that is affecting businesses like Jamison Door Company, a manufacturer of giant walk-in refrigerators.

    For two years now, Jamison has been trying to launch a new, cutting-edge product in the refrigeration line, a high-speed, roll-up freezer door that already has been perfected in Italy. The company believes the new technology could lead to new demand and create as many as 15 new jobs at its Hagerstown, Md. factory.

    A key step in Jamison’s plan involved tapping into the technical know-how of Italian business owner Danilo Benotto, an expert in the roll-up doors. It took two years, but Benotto finally got his visa. Alas, he remains in Italy, because the IRS has rejected his request for a tax identification number. Benotto plans to reapply, but for all intents and purposes, bureaucracy has become a formidable obstacle in Jamison’s efforts to grow and hire and to this new technology being mass produced in the U.S.

  2. Blacksmithing is alive and well, at least in Canada. So said Hubert Smith, a Canadian blacksmith profiled in the Prince Albert Daily Herald.

    Smith, 77, recently could be seen plying his trade at a threshing festival, where he spoke to a reporter about the significance of the blacksmith’s role in years gone by: “If you go back to the original blacksmith, he was the center of the town or area, because anything that needed fixing was taken to the blacksmith shop. It didn’t matter whether it was something in the kitchen, whether you needed a soup ladle or something like that—you went to the blacksmith’s shop and he made you one.”

    Smith, who plies his trade at Pop’s Old Forge, likens forging to playing with Play-Doh. “(Kids) can do anything they want with Play-Doh— they roll it out, shape it, and I’m doing the same thing with metal by heating it up.”

    Smith said, ““There’s a lot of (blacksmiths) in Canada from coast to coast that do a lot of work,” he added. “I would say probably 60 or 65 per cent of us are retired, and not really interested in the role of making a living (as blacksmiths).”

    Part of the appeal is the seemingly infinite number of products that can be made. “You never come to a limit,” Smith said. “There’s always something you’re learning. Every day you work at the forge, you’re learning something."

  3. When it comes to metal fabricating, blacksmithing is as old as the hills. While it undoubtedly will continue to be used by some, metal fabricating technology has come a long way. Today, the buzz is all about 3-D printing, which is being used to fabricate complex industrial metal parts, consumer products, and human organs.

    According to an article on, the technology “has the potential to revolutionize manufacturing: it can reduce the time between changes in a large-scale production line, and allows for more frequent innovations in the item being made as well as for a high level of customization in mass production.”

    The article surmised that much of the revolution will be carried out by individuals using personal 3-D printers, but only after certain criteria are met, including software that’s easier to use and has more capabilities, and—most important—affordability.

    One day, we may all become fabricators on some very small scale.

  4. Fabricators are an interesting lot, with backgrounds and interests as diverse as the products they make. Take Ed Barr, president and founder of P&L Specialties, Santa Rosa, Calif. His company designs and builds crush and conveyor systems for the winery industry, a segment that’s continued to grow even in—or maybe because of— the down economy.

    The company also makes metal structures for the food, wastewater, agriculture, structural, and architecture industries. You could say its product line is diverse. The same could be said of Barr’s interests and how he chooses to give back to his community.

    Since 2002 he has served on the Workforce Investment Board, which uses federal funds to train and retrain dislocated youth and adults. He also serves on the Sonoma County Youth Probation Camp that provides vocational programs and the Petaluma Peoples Services Board that provides food for Meals on Wheels, the food bank, and local restaurants through its Bounty Farm. His company raises funds for diverse charities— a gospel mission, food bank, and horse rescue.

    And in his spare time, Barr gives free guitar lessons to high school and junior college students who can’t afford to pay for instruction. “All I ask is that they show up on time and practice as they expand their understanding of music. Now we have a Battle of the Students among those who play in a band together with a used drum set and PA system.” Mr. Barr has been fortunate to have great mentors, especially his dad who guided him in the business.

    "No one gets anywhere without someone helping them,” he said. “I genuinely like people, think the best of everyone and maintain a positive outlook. I believe if you give someone a fine reputation to live up to, they will.”

  5. Finally, an educational organization is joining those who are stepping up to help veterans return to the workforce. The Morris County School of Technology campus in Denville, N.J., has teamed up with the American Welding Society to provide local veterans with the skills and certification they need to land a welding job.

    The first two-week session is winding down, but the school plans to hold another session in the fall and two in the coming year.

    "This is a way for the American Welding Society, the Morris County School of Technology, and additional donors to give back to the vets," said Herb Browne, welding instructor for the school and volunteer at the program. "When we look we see there is a great demand for welding in America. I hope it will be a nice intro for them to get into the field."

    Among the 10 veterans participating in this inaugural session was 71-year-old Allan Graff, who was drafted into the Army for two years in the 1960s. While others in the program hope to become professional welders, Graff has a slightly different goal. "I've done lots of stuff but I've never done welding so I said 'gee, that's something I'd like to learn how to do,'" Graff said. He then called and asked if the program was for people strictly learning as a trade and not a hobby and was invited to join. "I'm too old for a trade but I might do artsy stuff."

    Allan, you might want to check out blacksmithing as well.

Vicki Bell

Vicki Bell

FMA Communications Inc.
2135 Point Blvd
Elgin, IL 60123
Phone: 815-227-8209