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Matt Stewart (The Scrap Whisperer)


Welcome to this week's #benchmarkspotlight (formerly the #weldershowcase) - we had the opportunity to sit down with Matt Stewart and talk a little shop.
If you would like to be featured in our weekly spotlight (100% FREE) and have a chance at winning one of our Grinder Hoods please send us an email to to get you scheduled in an upcoming week. And for those of you that take the time to share your story with us, we'd be happy to provide a free BA banner. These spotlights are intended to highlight your skill, your business, and your tips and tricks.  Most of all it's to have a little fun!


Name:  Matt Stewart
Location: Huachuca City, AZ
Specialties:  Sheet Metal, Fabrication, Old Machinery Restoration
Tell us about yourself - what inspired you to get into your trade? And how long?
My name is Matt Stewart and I am a retired Production Controller from Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility. I entered the Sheet Metal trade back in the late 70s. My inspiration was needing a job! I was between jobs when I applied for an entry level position at a local HVAC company. I used to service all their work vans at a local gas
station when I was in high school and they remembered me. I worked for them for a couple of years and then joined the union, earned my Journeyman’s card, and started working  architectural Sheet Metal for a local roofing company. This is where I really fell in love with the trade. There was something new everyday and it was challenging. In 1981 the economy crashed and the 15 person sheet metal crew was reduced to the foreman and me. I knew who was next! The shipyard was hiring so I applied and was hired. I earned my Marine
Sheet Metal Mechanic certificate and worked in the shop and on the ships for the next seven years. In 1988 I was promoted to the Layout Department. We still made patterns on giant drafting and layout tables in those days. In 1990 the Sheet Metal Shop introduced Computer Aided Design/Computer Aided Manufacture (CAD/CAM) and I was trained to be a programmer. I missed doing layout by hand, but CAD/CAM was more efficient. In the early 90s, our kids were getting older and expenses were going up so I applied for a Production Controller job in the Scheduling Division of the Operations Department. I was hired and I remained there the rest
of my career retiring as a Lead Scheduler in 2012. I really missed the Sheet metal Trade, but a guy’s gotta do what a guy’s gotta do.
  What keeps you motivated throughout the day?
My motivation comes from a desire to create something unique and meaningful from scrap and salvage. The garden screen house in the photos is an example of that.
What is your favorite shop tool and why?
Hands down, my favorite tool is my work bench/welding table. This is the center of my shop and I use it every day. This was a storage unit sale find that my wife discovered. I scored it for $40.00!
  What's your favorite piece that you've worked on?
The favorite is our garden screen house. My wife and I designed it to keep birds out of the garden. The main structure is built from 1” x 3” steel structural channel iron that came from a torn down warehouse. The decorative panels are drops from a fab shop in Tucson, AZ. The interior is lined with 1/2” square mesh hardware cloth welded to the panels with washers. I designed and built the rolling barn doors using surplus 1” x 1” steel tubing. The door handles are old wrenches I welded to the door frames.
If you could have any job as it relates to question 1 what would it be and what would you do with that?
It would have to be a Hot Rod/Rat Rod fab shop. That’s the one aspect of the Sheet Metal Trade I have never worked in. It would not be production oriented though. I was a Scheduler for too many years and I’m done with deadlines!
What BA product is your favorite and why?
That would be the Type 1 cutting wheel. It is my go to for any cutting I do with a grinder. They don’t load up and bind, and they last a lot longer than the competitors' cutting wheels.
What BA product surprised you in terms of quality - what about it set it apart from the competition?
Again, the Type 1 cutting wheel. I have tried a number of different competitors cutting wheels and they don’t measure up to the BA Type 1. The BA wheels last 2 to 3 times longer, they don’t bind in the cut, and they are less expensive to boot.
What tips and tricks do you have for us that might be different or eye opening for others to try with BA product?
Don’t force the cut. Let the weight of the grinder, and the cutting wheel do the work. The wheel will last much longer, and there is much less operator fatigue. It’s also a good idea to tape a length of foam pipe insulation to the handle of your grinder. Cuts way down on tingling fingers when you are grinding all day.
If there was one person you could collaborate with - who would it be and why?
Arco Horton at Minnesota Outlaw Customs (Outlaw Edge on YouTube). Arco is an innovative Sheet Metal Fabricator and prolific custom car builder. Most of his shop tools are hand built by him, and the quality of his creations are second to none.
Do you have any advice for the next generation that you wish you had when you first started?
Wear the personal Protective Gear (PPE)! Safety glasses, ear plugs, and respirators are a must! I have two floaters in my right eye from not wearing safety glasses when I was young. Also, glue yourself to the old timers on the job. Volunteer to do the dirty jobs, carry their tool boxes, anything it takes so you can pick their brains. There is decades of knowledge locked in their heads that will enhance your skills and your life.
What are your future plans for your shop?
I plan on building a jack shear, and then a box and pan brake. That will round out my sheet metal fab tools.




















Previous article Dr Brian Reed (Sands CISD FFA)
Next article Peyton Sweet (@sweetsfabrication)

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