Both my father and his brother moved to the United States in their mid-teens and got a job in a small wrought iron shop that manufactured gates and fence. As time passed, my father and his brother developed their experience in the trade and decided to go on and open their own manufacturing shop in Ontario which they named P & A Wrought Iron. After a while, the economy took a substantial plunge and my uncle decided for himself that moving back to Mexico was ideal and sold the rights of the company to my father. This event compelled my father to pass down his knowledge and experience of fabrication welding to me in order to eventually reduce the stress and pressure of owning his own business.
I was about ten years old and I remember my mom would take my sister and me to my father’s business and we would play around in his office by making small drawings and making copies on the fax machine. It wasn’t until I was about thirteen years old when my father began letting me help him in the actual workshop. He began by teaching me how to cut the material; this consisted of setting up the machine which was a stationary cold saw that had degrees on the bottom which allowed you to adjust the blade if the material you were cutting needed an angle. I was first only allowed to do basic tasks like cut and clean material but because I was at such a young age it set the foundation to learning how to weld and fabricate but my father’s advice to me was to monitor his employees that would weld and pick up advice from them whenever I had a question about what they were fabricating. It was the first time that I began to receive cash for my labor so when I would collect $20 dollars for a whole days’ worth of work, it would make me satisfied to spend money that I earned through hard work.
When I turned fifteen my father finally allowed me to commence the welding process. He taught me that the chart located on the door of the welding machine shows what voltage and wire speed is recommended depending on the thickness of the material for optimal results. Next he taught me how to weld in-between gaps, which meant I had to weld in a spiral motion while still pushing the tip of the welding wire forward in order to fill the gap. I recall having to practice multiple times on scrap metal before I actually moved on to using valuable material to avoid its disposal. I struggled with either making my welds too bulky resulting in having to grind the excess weld or I would weld too slow which would result with holes in the material. The most difficult part of welding at first was being able to see through the welding mask due to the darkness of the shade you use that protects your eyes, but after years of using it now I have become accustomed to using it.
The first project that I laid my hands on by myself was a standard pedestrian gate. I completed it and it was a total catastrophe. The frame I built was completely out of square, the welds were way too thick, and I positioned the box which holds the deadbolt and lever way too high. When I was finished I remember my father coming up to see the gate and telling me, “Make sure that what you create is something you will proud to present to your client and they will in return, recommend you and bring you other clients.” This set the foundation to raise my own standards of quality. We proceeded to scrapping the gate that I initially fabricated and started from scratch. The first correction I made was making sure the frame I made was perfectly square. My dad said, “This is the foundation of your gate and nothing will look right if you start by doing this incorrectly”. The next correction I made was sure I put the box for the hardware in the right area. The advice my father gave me was “Do not make the box to the height you are most comfortable with because you are much taller than most people. Make sure the box height is something the average individual is comfortable with”. Finally, he explained to me how to make the corrections for my welds. He explained to me that because it is only a pedestrian gate for a residential home, it is unnecessary to be excessive on the strength of the welds and focus more on the appearance of the product.
Although the first item I made was a pedestrian gate, the majority of projects we fabricate are custom, so the manufacturing process may vary significantly. Our projects differ from simple items such as standard fence which has a fairly simple procedure and can get as complicated as constructing a unique building structure. An example of this was when we built a canopy structure for the Arts District in the city of Los Angeles. The process of manufacturing this was unknown to me due to its massive size which forced us to fabricate the canopy in five large sections, then assembling them in a particular order on site. Up until today I have about nine years of experience in welding and fabrication which has been a difficult experience and still haven’t mastered the art of manufacturing through welding which I am sure will still take me many years to refine. Mastering it will take me at least four to five years but that can be extended due to the new projects we receive as time passes.
My intention is still to take over my father’s business and understanding the process of how to fabricate certain projects gives me an idea of how difficult it is to make and how much time it takes. This allows me to better understand how to price items to avoid undercharging any of the products we manufacture. With the help of my father who played the role of my mentor in understanding the process of fabrication welding, I have been able to progress further towards my goal of taking over the family business and although I feel I will never fully understand every aspect of it, I strive towards fabricating goods that I will be proud to offer and improve P & A Wrought Iron as company with quality difference against other contenders.