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Jean Claude Vanderfield (IG: @jeanclaudevanderfield)

Welcome to this week's #weldershowcase - we had the opportunity to sit down with Jean Claude from @jeanclaudevanderfield and talk a little shop.
If you would like to be featured in our weekly showcase (100% FREE) please send us an email to to get you scheduled in an upcoming week. These showcases 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: Jean Claude Vanderfield

Business Name:

Location: Florida, USA

Socials: IG: @jeanclaudevanderfield

Specialties: Industrial Automation and Controls Specialist,  Electrical engineering.
Tell us about yourself - what inspired you to get into your trade (backstory)? And how long?
I've always dismantled every mechanism or machine I can get my hands on, always had to see how it works.  At 12 years old I was already salvaging old record players, cassette players, TV's, toys, anything that had gears, levers, or electrical components, and building new circuits or inventions with them. My first creation back in 1976 was an "touchless toilet paper dispenser" made from an old r/c car motor and some other electronic components I had salvaged.  Guess I was too far ahead of Covid-19.
It's a long winding story, but I'd have to say what eventually guided me into a career in my lifelong love of metal art and mechanical designs, was having to work on a reduced schedule, out of my home, due to being very ill after turning 51 yrs old. I had a $24 pawn shop wire-feed welder and a garage full of old parts from other projects, so I worked, when I felt well enough,   repairing items or building things in my garage to sell. I had welding classes when I was in school, and learned on the job as a car body and frame repair man, as well as training on the job working for Midstate Oil Company, so I used that little bit of experience to start relearning how to weld unique objects together and make moving sculptures. 
I found that people really enjoyed my art and would buy it at a local antiques market and exhibits, it paid the bills, mostly, and I just kept working hard to improve, and still do.  My first commissioned 20 or more creations were all made with that little taped together welder.
  What keeps you motivated throughout the day?
I'm a serious machine addict, I can't get enough of mechanical things, especially making them.  To have an idea in mind,  then go into the shop,  pour out bins full of an array of shapes and sizes of metal objects,  then put them all together by hand to create the working machine or form you see in your mind's eye,  brings all my constant barrage of thoughts into sharp focus.  It's calming,  deeply satisfying,  and helps me center myself.  I also love that sometimes this humble work can be a catalyst to others to use their imagination and discover their own styles and talents. I think helping each other become more than we can be as an individual is a beautiful thing! I'm grateful for those who've taken time to share their experience and wisdom with me over the years. 
What is your favorite shop tool and why?
I love my anvil!  There's something primal and authentic about hammering metal over an anvil into the shape you want, making the curves,  folds,  thinning it out, straightening, or flattening. It's really amazing how much you can do with just that one tool and a hammer.
  What's your favorite piece that you've worked on?
I'd say "Harley the Talking Dragon".  It was my first attempt at a more complex  automaton,  and I love that you can hold a conversation with the sculpture and it will talk back in with correct responses to your speech. You can tell it to make a phone call or play music,  read a book aloud, and it still has all the automaton movements and smoke from its nostrils, folding wings,  e.t.c.   Completely made from junk I found,  and driven by a car window motor hooked to sewing machine gears,  it was the first piece that helped me to realize that I could integrate automation and scrap, and even combine it with newer technologies like bluetooth and wifi, to expand this art further.
If you could have any job as it relates to question 1 what would it be and what would you do with that?
I can't think of a better job than doing what you love each work day as I do now.  However, sharing what you love to do with other people who share your passion is something I'd love to be able to do.  So, I think my answer would be doing this work on a larger scale and perhaps having a place to teach, and to learn, with other creators and makers.
  What BA product is your favorite and why?
Other than the incredible customer care,  great attitude,  and quality of their employees,  I'd say my favorite Benchmark Product (tuff choice, so many great things) is their polishing sets.  They take plain metal sculptures to another level with all that bling!
What BA product surprised you in terms of quality - what about it set it apart from the competition?
The durability of the high density flap discs was a wonderful surprise.  It's amazing how they keep on working even after you wear them down to the diameter of your grinder!  There's no doubt you get every last penny of use,  and more,  out of these wheels!
  What tips and tricks do you have for us that might be different or eye opening for others to try with BA product?
I like to save money by buffing my Optrel helmet lenses on low speed with the blue compound bar instead of throwing them out when they are scratched up.  At 6 bucks per lense, it saves money by reusing each lense for about 3x's longer.  I use my grinder on a speed controller and work really light.  Another trick I use I found while working with the mirror polishing set ,   I found that by inserting the fine (blue one) interleaf flap disc wheel in between the red flapper interleaf stage and the compound stage, you get dual benefits.  1. It's easier to polish the surface scratches out with compound.   2.  Less work for each step makes the polishing set last longer,  and since the fine(blue) interleaf cost is really low, you end up saving money in the long run. 
If there was one person you could collaborate with - who would it be and why?
There's so many extremely talented creators with such a wonderful array of styles, so that's a really hard question to answer.  However,  if I have to choose a single person,  I'd probably go with Tim Hunkin with his incredibly fun and creative offbeat sense of humor, and his decades of experience and genius! I think anyone would love the opportunity of tapping into such a great mind. 
  Do you have any advice for the next generation that you wish you had when you first started?
Do your homework and try to establish gradual attainable goals that take you in the direction you want to go from the start.  If you plan to do this art as a career,  sit down,  count your true costs and establish a reasonable and profitable rate for your work,  don't forget the little things,  pens, sandpaper,  markers,  consumables,  PPE's, e.t.c.. basically everything you wouldn't pay for if you didn't do this work.  Then don't be afraid to ask what your work is worth.  Many startups miss those hidden costs and it delays growth or can kill a business altogether.  You'll increase your joy in your work knowing you are earning a fair price,  and make growth easier for your shop and your reputation if you start out knowing what your cost of doing business is.  Work hard, be consistent,  work smart,  work safe,  make time for breaks, and don't be afraid to say no when it's called for. 
What are your future plans for your shop?
To revise and expand my work space  to focus specifically on more complex automatons and larger outdoor automated works.
Thanks for sitting with us and sharing your story with the community - is there anything you'd like to add?  
I have to add,  the support I've had from the IG community and from others that enjoy my work has been phenomenal, has moved me and inspired me.  I want to give a huge thank you to everyone for the encouragement,  insights, and inspiration to continue to create!!


A Note From Leo
Thanks for sharing your story with us, JC! And thank you for taking the time to go in-depth with every answer. Your humility doesn't go unnoticed and we really love your work. It stands out from the rest with all the automation! Cheers my friend!
Previous article Wil Smiley (IG: @_grumpy_gramps_

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