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Stephen Kehrer (SGK Custom Metal Works)

Welcome to this week's #benchmarkspotlight (formerly the #weldershowcase) - we had the opportunity to sit down with Stephen from @SGKCustomMetalWorks 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. 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:  Stephen Kehrer
Business Name:  SGK Custom Metal Works
Location:  Albuquerque, New Mexico
Socials: IG:  @SGKCustomMetalWorks    FB: SGK Custom Metal Works
Specialties:  CNC Plasma Cutting, Powder Coating, MIG Welding, Manual Mill/Lathe
Tell us about yourself - what inspired you to get into your trade? And how long?
Retired from the Albuquerque Fire Dept. 7 years ago.  I've always been into cars and motorcycles but never had time to develop the necessary fabrication skills.  I went through the local community college and earned an AAS in Machine Tool Technology (machinist).  I was introduced to the local Makers Space through CNM Community College (what a great resource).  I started a small household business doing metalwork.  I do A LOT of art pieces such as retirement plaques, wall hangings and yard art.  I now teach a few classes at the space and love it!  I've recently gotten involved as a crew member on a Nitro Funny Car/Altered, The Cone Hunter.  I'm learning from some great people and every now and then get the opportunity to make cool stuff for the team.  
  What keeps you motivated throughout the day?
Every day I learn something new.  Seeing my toolbox of skills expand is the main motivator.  I look at the stuff I was making 3 years ago compared to now and I've definitely come a long way.  The ability to make parts that I need for my car and motorcycle instead of buying them or paying someone else is REALLY inspiring.  I love to put a little of my own imagination into them as well. 
What is your favorite shop tool and why?
The CNC plasma table at Fuse Makerspace is definitely the tool I use most. I enjoy manual lathe turning the most.  My lathe is an old Rockwell that has quite the checkered past.  It still holds to a couple of thou though! to.  I also have a sort of clapped out Bridgeport Mill.  I love it and wouldn't trade it for the world.
  What's your favorite piece that you've worked on?
I've done a few bits for my motorcycle. So satisfying to look down at cool stuff that you've made!  My retirement plaques have a whole lotta love in them. I loved being a fireman and it was probably the thing I've done best in my life.  When I make them I feel like I'm still part of the brotherhood and I usually get a great breakfast when I deliver them to the stations.
If you could have any job as it relates to question 1 what would it be and what would you do with that?
Honestly I'm pretty much doing what I want to do.  Since I retired I've worked for a private rescue company, a large semiconductor manufacturer, and a machine shop.  I find it so much more satisfying to work for myself.  I feel like my hard work is truly focused on supporting myself and my family and not making money for someone else.  I would like to expand my skills in the areas of TIG welding, improving my MIG welding abilities, and machine/tool programming.
What BA product is your favorite and why?
I actually already have a grinding helmet and I freakin' LOVE IT! It's a game changer!  If I were to receive a free one, I'd probably hand it off to my assistant, Caleb, who does A LOT of grinding.  
What BA product surprised you in terms of quality - what about it set it apart from the competition?
The flap discs are GREAT!  For YEARS I've been purchasing cheaper discs from a certain major knock off tool store.  When I first purchased BA discs I was sort of sceptical but I was a quick convert.  BA discs last WAAAAYYYY longer.  They are thicker and have a higher quality sandpaper.  In the long run, they definitely save me money.  As you can see, my grinder tool box is now overrun with BA discs.
What tips and tricks do you have for us that might be different or eye opening for others to try with BA product?
The grinding hood makes that task A LOT more comfortable.  I prefer to use earmuffs with ear bud headphones (I go with Led Zep, Black Sabbath, Suicidal Tendencies or Slightly Stoopid in the summer) for long sessions.  The muffs fit just fine under the helmet.  I am transitioning to using an APR when I grind and it fits great as well.  Lord knows I've breathed in enough crap in my life and an old dog CAN learn new tricks.
If there was one person you could collaborate with - who would it be and why?
Easy.  Barbie the Welder.  Her skill and vision blows me AWAY.  She takes welding techniques and uses them in different ways to paint her picture.  Just Incredible.  She also has a cool history and shows that even when you are down you can recover and kick some ass!
Do you have any advice for the next generation that you wish you had when you first started?
Just jump in and try.  You might scrap 10 parts before you make 1 good one.  Parts 12 and on will get better and better.  Also, I'm a believer in the 10,000 hours to be truly skilled.  You gotta put in hour after hour working at your craft.  It rarely just "happens".  It's a great pay off to perform well enough to teach and pass on your knowledge.  I can't explain how rewarding it is...I just know it is?
What are your future plans for your shop?
I would like to keep expanding my skills.  Adding TIG process and more CNC machining processes would be great.
Thanks for sitting with us and sharing your story with the community - is there anything you'd like to add?  
You're very welcome. I love your products and promote them every chance I get.  I don't do that with all the stuff I use but I do feel like BA stuff is well worth it. 


A Note From Leo
Thanks for sharing your story with us, Stephen! It's great to see a retired firefighter turned welder and still giving back to the community!
Previous article Wil Smiley (IG: @_grumpy_gramps_

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