Right around the time that Ben Naylor started collecting his own clothing as collateral damage in the process of finishing his parts, he realized that he needed a better solution than simply using handheld grinders and disc sanders for his operation.
“I’m wearing a sweatshirt right now where the middle is worn out from sparks flying at my midsection the whole time,” adds Naylor.
The sweatshirts, however, were the least of his concerns. Performing finishing operations on parts was taking hours and hours, so he knew that he needed to speed the process up somehow.
“It wasn’t even just the time – it was the repetitiveness, the carpal tunnel, the tendinitis that I was getting,” he says.
Naylor owns Naylor’s Custom Metal Cutting, a small, one-man fab shop based in southeastern Wisconsin that focuses on creating lawn and garden decorations. It started as a part-time operation in 2008 while Naylor worked full time teaching automotive repair and some metalworking in the technology education department of a school. In 2010, he bought a dedicated building, and two years later in 2012, he quit teaching and went full time with his business.
“The decorations I make are basically butterflies and dragonflies that can either be mounted on stakes, hanging from a tree or a shepherd’s hook or string or whatever you can use around the house or they can be screwed right into the wall,” he explains.
Making the same parts over and over meant that he was sanding them over and over, resulting in the time-sink and repetitiveness problems. Naylor threw himself into finding a solution.
“I’m a former educator, so I research the hell out of things,” he says. “I did quite a bit of research on the issue, and not just other companies, but I looked at other options beyond just a sander too.”
One such option was a tumbler, but he learned that it wouldn’t fit his needs.
“I sent a sample to various places to have them test it, and nothing ever came back satisfactory,” he explains. “The slag from a plasma cutter is quite hard, and sometimes, depending on the condition of the tips and the other consumables on it, the slag’s on there pretty good.
“Occasionally, you can just take it and tap it edge to edge with two pieces and the stuff just falls off. But quite often it’s welded on there, so it needs to run through a grinder.”
With that discovery, Naylor began researching companies offering equipment that could meet that need, and he found that SuperMax Tools wasn’t that far from him.
“I went over there and I took samples with me, and I was able to run them through,” he comments. “They were very good about trying out different machines.”
Naylor decided on a 20 hp, 37-in. SuperMax wide-belt sander, and once it was integrated into his operation, it changed his production dramatically.
“Finishing parts used to be a job that was a painstaking and time-consuming killer of the day,” he explains. “Before going full time, I would come home from school, eat supper and then run whatever handheld tools I needed to clean the slag off the parts. I would be doing that until I was too tired to stay awake, and then I would go up to bed and get up the next morning and do the same thing.
“Now it’s to the point where, even when I was teaching, if I had a couple weeks’ worth of stuff piled up, I could go and do that in one evening, or about four hours.
“It sounds silly, but with some of the jobs I do here, I look forward to when I have enough stuff piled up that needs to be sanded, because I can just throw on a pair of headphones with my iPod and sit back there running the sander. It gives me time away from all the other stuff in the business.”
Naylor says that where previously he would have a difficult time keeping up with the plasma’s cut parts, he now estimates that he’d need between six and 10 more plasma cutters running full time just to keep his belt sander running full time. In fact, because it works so well, he’ll actually go for stretches during which he doesn’t have to turn the machine on at all.
“It does such a good job that it works itself out of work right away,” he comments.
Given this, he also says that “it’s a financial savings from the time standpoint alone.”
Besides saving time, Naylor’s SuperMax wide-belt sander has cut down on his finishing supplies, as well.
“You start going through wire cups at $30 apiece for the grinder, and then the sanding discs are about 50 or 60 cents apiece, even if you buy 400 at a time. That gets pretty expensive,” he points out. “I can get one belt for about $70 or $80 now, maybe even less. And I can do a ton of product with one belt. It’s incredible.”
Thanks to the wide-belt sander, Naylor has also been able to expand his business.
“I had one customer where I cut his pieces out for an outdoor spinner decoration, but I he also pays me $50 an hour just for running them through the sander so they look nice,” he says.
Beyond the benefits of the wide-belt sander itself, Naylor also speaks highly of the customer service at SuperMax Tools.
“They set me up with the belts, and when there were shipping delays – which weren’t their problem, the machine was made in Taiwan – they were very good about sending free belts along and taking some of the shipping costs out of it because I had to wait,” he elaborates. “I paid $14,000 for the machine, and we actually agreed on a higher price, but they came down a little bit because of the shipping delays.
“They also let me borrow a drum sander while the wide-belt sander was being shipped. I don’t know if I even brought the drum sander back right away, because they wanted to make sure that I was set up with the belt sander before I gave it up.
“So I might have hung onto that loaner for quite a while. They were great that way.”
Overall, Naylor is very satisfied with his purchase.
“I would definitely recommend it to anybody who’s looking to do the same kind of work,” he says. “I tend to max out equipment, and use it for all it’s worth. And I don’t think I’ve ever really tested this thing fully – it’s a monster.
“I’ve never had the conveyor belt going any faster than its slowest speed. I sped it up just to see how fast it would go, but it’s never been something I’ve actually had to do. I can’t put the product on it quick enough.”
Naylor’s only complaint concerning his SuperMax wide-belt sander relates to the instruction manual.
“The manual was originally written in another language, and I got kind of a kick out of reading it, because you can tell by the translation that they paid very close attention to being polite in their writing, and I think they missed some of the details as a result,” he says.
“So that would be it, I’d just like to see the manual rewritten by somebody who’s less concerned about being polite and more concerned about where the adjustment screws are and which way to turn them.”
Naylor’s Custom Metal Cutting