The Christmas table.

candle holder, center piece, metal work

I am a sucker for miniature Christmas tree center pieces on the table for Christmas dinner. If not that, perhaps some holly around a big red candle like my Mom has put out for decades. I think the little red holly berries have all fallen off by now. However, if you are ready to turn a new leaf and do something different this year, may I suggest this 3/16″ thick steel, waterjet cut “Grass Candle Holder” from my Etsy store. None of your friends have one and you can still wrap old  plastic holly around it…


Merry Christmas to all.



GOOD DESIGN and a powerful LINK

When designing a part or product, there are several things you can do to reduce the overall cost of manufacture. For years managing a machine shop, I have come across some terrible drawings. The ones on the napkins or scratch paper are sometimes the best. Often times, machined partscompanies retain high level engineers that have never made anything. Of course this may not be their fault but designing parts that can actually be made with machine shop tools is a learned skill. Recently, we were machining a cover with an O-ring groove. The print had no flatness callout. When we asked the customer how flat the plate needed to be, their answer was, ” you know pretty flat, but don’t machine it flat.” Now the tolerance for the depth of the O-ring groove is +/- .005. There is absolutely no way that can be achieved with out machining the surface of the plate. Of course when the plate came in from the customer, it had a bow in it roughly 3/16″ or .190″ This required grinding and pressing before we could even touch it.

  This type of problem is so common. Designers always forget the most important information, or just assume that the fabricator or machinist knows what the designer was thinking. We all see parts differently and seldom do I just guess correctly. There are two ways that engineers and designers can combat this expensive cycle; education, and experience.   Experience- Even if an engineer doesn’t actually make a part, just having him or her in the shop while the machinist or fabricator is building the item drawn, can be a huge advantage. We have had our customer’s engineers call or stop by so they can really see some of the issues we deal with, and it cam be extremely helpful for all involved.   Education-   This is where my blog post may be most helpful… Last summer, I made a connection with a local shop that specializes in very high end complex parts made in difficult materials. They are a wonderful group of guys and gals ready and willing to help out when the parts get a little too fancy for our capabilities. Over the years, the CEO has developed an E-book that deals with these issues in a real world way. This e-book should be required reading for ALL designers and Mechanical engineers. Following these points will save an immense amount of time, money and frustration when the designs can be easily made. Most of the time small insignificant changes made to the drawing can save hours. Engineers, please read this short book and set yourself high above your competition.

go to this link,  and click on, Designing Cost Effective Machined Parts                         ‘

Yes, I can make that for you…..

Moni, who I now consider a friend, came to me by a mutual friend. Moni had a need for a shape cutter. It looked like a small cookie cutter though she never told me what it was to cut. She had a couple problems; first her sample cutter was a little too large for her needs. Second, Moni wanted to cut 100 pieces at a time, not one!     This is exactly the type of challenging I love.       A prototype device, all food grade stainless and not a slam dunk.

raw tube material SS
The first thing I had to do was to find a tube material that would form into the desired shape and size.
Next, I had to design and fabricate several swaging tools to form the tube into the shape. After all 100 pieces were parted off, sharpened and de-burred, I went into the forming of this shape.
This was a several step process. First I squeezed each tube section into a slight triangle.
Then I pressed an armature into the cutter to shape the three outer lobes. A lathe chuck then formed the final shape. The last step for the shape cutters was to press the sedge armature out of the shape. Repeat 99 times.
After all the shapes are made I used a water jet cutting machine to cut out 100 tight fitting shapes in a 1/8″ stainless plate. I also cut handles and stiffeners for the device. Each cutter has to fit perfectly in the corresponding hole so when fit, a simple fuse weld around the top will be all that’s needed.
fit up for fuse weld

    fit up for fuse weld


This also keeps the heat input low and leaves a smooth cleanable surface. Even with this low temp TIG process, the plate warped like a potato chip. With the use of the handles and stiffeners, I was able to maintain the arc shape desired  for the cutting action we wanted.
Some finish polishing, final straightening  and the cutter is ready. This project is a perfect example of what TRUEFORM DESIGN is all about. A person with a dream of a tool that doesn’t exist, and a company that creates that dream into reality. What’s your dream? What do you need to make your life or business better?

A Hammer, Nail and a Welder

milling, tooling

This is a tool being milled to shape and size.

A wise man once told me when I was just starting out as an apprentice at BEPEX, “Scott,” he said, ” What we are doing here is special. We are elite. There are not many like us.” He had my attention. After all, I was just a new apprentice. I had started as a grinder. That is one step up from the very bottom; sweeper. I actually had the huge responsibility of polishing, de-burring, sanding, surfacing and general “clean up” of all types of fabricated items. From small hand held components to huge school bus sized (and much bigger) pressure vessels. As a grinder, the finished product that we shipped often was last touched by me. In the food and chemical industry, finish is quite a big deal. After a year or so, I won a welding/ fabrication apprenticeship. I can still remember looking into the eyes of my mentor as he slowly explained his aged theory. He went on,” Scott, in every garage across Sonoma county, and anywhere for that matter, you will find a hammer, nails, a screw driver or two, a hand saw and other carpentry tools. You will rarely find a welder. A milling machine. A shear. A press break, etc…” He was right. That day I realized that, he and other mentors over the years would share with me a new language. New skill sets. Contacts. Age old processes that have not changed for 100 years. And the ability to invent new processes to accomplish a desired result. He and others would share a culture not understood by many but critical for everyday life of everyone on earth. I have been trusted with a lot more than job instructions or a career. It wasn’t until I started Trueform that I realized that people sometimes need someone that speaks the language. Someone that can identify a problem and come up with a manufactured solution. I am that person.

So, what’s your problem? And how can I develop a fix for you?

I’ve done that like a thousand times….

Really, one thousand times. I don’t think I’ve ever done anything a thousand times. Maybe hundreds, but thousands? Recently my son’s Little League contacted me because they wanted to do something special for a coach that has been in the league for 40 years. John Perry has coached now, over 1000 little league games! Quite a feat! In fact, he has coached more Little League games than anyone in history as I understand it. Therefore when the Westside Little League wanted to name the field where they play after John, they knew a sign would be required. One of the board members contacted me to see if I could bid the job. The budget would be tight and the delivery date was critical. It would need to be delivered for a special ceremony dedicated to Mr. Perry. And of course, the colors would have to be that of the Oakland A’s. Well the job was a success and forevermore our field will be known as “John Perry Field”. I am humbled to be part of this project.  The back story of John’s years of dedication are what make the job so rewarding. What is your story? What will your sign say? Can I bid it for you?