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James Lackey

12/08/2005
James Lackey on welding and trading

When building my race car, we never had a problem fabricating steel, stainless or even aluminum parts. What is seemingly impossible to work with is plastic. Anyone remember the kids toy "spin welder?" That's how we all learned to build plastic toys as kids and simulate real welding like our dads.

Going to a local machine or welding shop can be an intimidating experience, even for a gear head. I had a motor plate for my race car designed for a smaller engine. So I cut of the tabs, ground down the stainless and waited for my dad to weld a perfect bead. The brackets or tabs were in clear view. I didn't want any nasty welds. Dad called and said he couldn't make it. I wanted to race the next day and I needed to get the new engine in the car.

I went up to the local 4-wheel drive shop. It was just a few minutes to close and the dude looked exhausted. I said please help it will only take a minute. I have this marked, cleaned prepped if you could just weld these tabs on here for me real quick.

There was a bunch of back and forth on price. He wanted as much as a new part cost. I didn't want to drive 50 miles to buy one. I said please here is 20 cash it will only take a second. He looked at my marks and my sketch on paper and flipped the tabs around several times to make certain "before I weld this on I want to make sure your measurements are correct".

He was a good guy and meant well but for goodness sakes put a bead on it, lets go Joe. He did make a perfect weld and I was very pleased. I cant imagine how many days it would have taken and triple the cost if I sent my wife in with the part. FYI my wife is a chief negotiator with local shops that do any custom work, powder coating to paint. She has an amazing strategy for price reductions. She gets them to over promise and under deliver. She then picks up the part a day late with a sob story of how upset her husband is and disappointed he missed a race. She gets a 1/3 to a 1/2 off.

For those that do not wish to deal with a local contractor we have the Internet. Also some locals do not have the ability to do custom plastic work. To anodize aluminum, I must send parts 120 miles to Tampa. There is no one locally to do it. To powder coat aluminum is not as cool as anodizing. I read a book on how to anodize my self but don't want chemicals in the garage with the kids.

If you want to customize your car, motorcycle, bicycle, even build parts for your house like custom lights, there is a zillion things I can think of. What a cool deal, design yourself and have your custom part UPS to your door.

James Lackey is a Florida trader.