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March Issue: Mastering Metal - Tech Feature


12-volt expert Joey Knapp discusses the finer points of metal work and how anyone can master an often under-utilized aspect of 12-volt craftsmanship. 

Mobile Electronics, March Issue, 3-30-2016 -- In the last edition of Tech Today, we looked at an amplifier installation. The installation was a little different because the amplifier was installed onto the roll cage of a car. In order to address the parameters of the build, which specified that it needed to be securely mounted, not too heavy, and minimalistic, I chose to make the amplifier-mounting frame out of metal. It is very common to use wood as a substrate to mount amplifiers to. I think everyone who has ever installed, for even a short amount of time, has installed an amplifier on some sort of wood. Wood is not always the best choice. In the case of the amplifier-mounting frame for the roll cage, it wasn’t a possibility. A wooden frame, in that instance, would be either too bulky, or not strong enough. That is why metal was chosen to construct the frame. In that article I mentioned an upcoming article on using metal in installations, and here we are!

Many, many years ago, I remember reading an article about one of the more prominent car audio shops of the time in one of the popular car audio magazines. The article talked about the facility, the sales staff and the fabrication team. The fabrication team consisted of specialists in the areas of fiberglass, plastic, wood and metal. As a teenager just getting his feet wet in the car audio industry, I wondered what area I would end up being a specialist in. Was I going to be a wizard of fiberglass? Would I become a master carpenter? Would fiberglass be the medium that suited me best? Would I become skilled in metalwork? The answer was that I would have to become all these things, and more. During the “car audio heyday” it might have been possible to specialize in one area, but from my experience, those days are far behind us. Now, to be successful, we have to be masters of all of those abilities and many, many more.

This article is intended to help those of you who aren’t familiar with metal work to get a cursory look at metal, what it's like to work with it, and the practical applications for it in the field of mobile electronics. It is very important to note that I am not a “metal master”. I am a guy who has learned what he needs to know about metalworking to get him to the point that it can be successfully used to make things. Many of you might have seen the welding meme floating around the Internet with the little boy. It reads, “My dad says using a grinder to make a weld look good makes you a ‘grinder,’ not a welder”. That could be an accurate description for me. I have some welds that look great, and some that aren’t as attractive. I make sure all of them are suitable for the project’s needs, though. It seems that the majority of the things that are welded in our field have something attached to them, so even pretty welds would need to be ground down, most of the time.

If you are a fabricator who has yet to begin his or her journey with metal fabrication, hopefully you are anxiously reading for more information. If you are a shop owner, you might possibly be thinking: “I hope my guys don’t read this and start bugging me for money to buy metal-working tools.” Hopefully not, but if so, let me share a story with you that could change your view. A few articles back, I wrote about some iPad dash overlay pieces I had been building for a credit card company. We have built a number of them, and it turned into a welcomed, yet unexpected, source of income. The opportunity to build those all came from a job that required welding. Another large corporation had contacted us about building a freestanding display, which would require a very sturdy frame to support the weight of the display. The scheduled time for the project was very short, which would dictate all of the work would need to be done in-house. Had I not had the tools and ability to weld, we would not have been able to take that job. In turn, we would have not gotten the additional iPad overlay jobs either. So, I encourage both owner and fabricator to make the move to add this very valuable skill to your arsenal.

Let’s look at some of the benefits that metal fabrication can bring to the realm of mobile electronics. I am going to share some of the different projects which I have incorporated metalworking into. These are just a few examples to let you see how beneficial metalworking can be. 

To read the rest of the article, visit the digital issue HERE.

Last modified on Wednesday, 30 March 2016 12:31
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