Zachary Lee (@arc.and.alloy_metal.art)

September 09, 2023

 

Welcome to this week's #benchmarkspotlight (formerly the #weldershowcase) - we had the opportunity to sit down with Zachary from @arc.and.alloy_metal.art 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 leo.benchmarkabrasives@gmail.com to get you scheduled in an upcoming week. 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!
Enjoy and Grind On!

 

 
Name:  Zachary Lee
 
Business Name:  Arc & Alloy
 
Location: Iowa, USA
 
 
Specialties:  I specialize in hand made welded steel fine art.
Tell us about yourself - what inspired you to get into your trade? And how long?
My father was a ship builder when I was a small child and he had a fab shop also for a while. I loved how heavy metal was and how you could build seemingly unbreakable things out of it. It was his involvement in steel trades that eventually got me into them as well. I started as a union Ironworker in 1990 and except for a small hiatus for college, I continued in that trade up until present time. I have always been an artistic person, winning my first drawing contest when I was in 4th grade.  That love for creation, whether on paper or any other medium, is something that has never left me. It only makes sense that eventually I would turn the skills learned in welding and working with steel for around 30 years into art.  I started my first piece in 2013 and finished it in 2021. It spent years just sitting between times working on it, but I would occasionally dig it out and work on it until one day it was finally finished. I named him “Mean Dean”. After he was completed, I could not stop trying to build highly detailed welded steel art and August 2023 marks the 3rd year of my consistent efforts.
 
  What keeps you motivated throughout the day?
I work at my home which I love, and seeing the finished product is similar to what a kid feels when he looks at his wrapped Christmas presents waiting for the time to come where he can open them up.  The anticipation of seeing the metal transform into a beautiful sculpture drives me greatly. I love doing this. I get in a zone and hours fly by.
What is your favorite shop tool and why?
All the tools I use are integral but the one which has changed things the most for me is the Milwaukee cordless right angle die grinder. It has given me a greater variety of grinding options with a variable speed and the ease of changing abrasives makes it a favorite.
 
  What's your favorite piece that you've worked on?
I built a large 27lb Blue crab as a commissioned work for a woman in Hoopers Island, Maryland. The Claw tips are 26” high and his footprint is right at 30” wide. Lots of effort on this one. Having no clue about how to price something like this, she got a heck of a deal.
If you could have any job as it relates to question 1 what would it be and what would you do with that?
Being that I am just getting started, there is still a transition out of the Ironworker career and into the art career. I hope to build metal art as my permanent full time job soon. It would be a dream come true.  I plan to travel and sell art at shows wherever I want to go. I have already delivered art to far away destinations which is great. While traveling, I keep my eyes open for places that have a market for the type of art I create so I may return and participate in them.
 
 
What BA product is your favorite and why?
I really like the T29 Jumbo zirconia flap discs. They are consistent, a great hardness for what I do, and durable. 
What BA product surprised you in terms of quality - what about it set it apart from the competition?
I continue to use the T29 zirconia flapdisc in 60 grit because they have a good balance throughout the duration of the life of the product. It’s not overly aggressive for the first contact and stays consistent for a good long time.   
 
 
What tips and tricks do you have for us that might be different or eye opening for others to try with BA product?
The surface prep paint and rust stripping wheels work great for removing mill scale on new steel. Just make sure wheel rotation is working from center of piece to the edge or you will eat up discs in a hurry.
If there was one person you could collaborate with - who would it be and why?
Jesse James

He has a vision and ability that sets him apart from others doing what he does. His metal work and machining skills are 2nd to none. He just does his thing and he creates some amazing pieces. He is also successful in doing that. I would love to collaborate with him.
 
 
Do you have any advice for the next generation that you wish you had when you first started?
Don’t let fear of failure stop you. If you never try, that is in itself a failure.  Working for yourself is a way better path than working for the man.  Figure out how to do it and go for it.
What are your future plans for your shop?
I plan to build a stand-alone purpose built shop soon. It will have great art, loud music, and be the place everyone wants to hang out. I also want it to have climate control and efficient ventilation sufficient for welding and grinding.

 

A Note From Leo
Thanks for sharing your story with us, Zachary!



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