The Metal Shop

A somewhat new venture for Van Dam Custom Boats is the Metal Shop. Being head up by Jess Brown, the Metal Shop is a growing section for Van Dam. Given the opportunity to create the metal fittings and such in-house has proven to be a big success. And this is just the beginning! This allows for more freedom in the creative process of the details of the boat.

Although Steve Van Dam has been doing some light metal work since he started Van Dam Custom Boats in the late 70’s, it has grown into much more. Sticking to mostly cutwaters and more visible pieces, he had to rely on the quality and craftsmanship of an outsourced company. Having to worry about how these parts would fit after the boat was built made the decision to have an in-house metal department easy.

After graduating from the Landings School of Boatbuilding in Maine, Jess Brown began his career at Van Dam Custom Boats. In 2003 he commenced his boat apprenticeship, but showed a real talent for metal work. Having the ambition the show his talent any way he could, he took on any challenge that Steve would give him. He even learned to TIG weld with either hand! With this skillfulness and desire in house, the Metal Shop started getting bigger, better tools. By being able to have custom hardware, Van Dam is able to distinguish itself in yet another way.

One customer really gave Jess (and the Metal Shop) its head start. With the boat, Susan C, Jess was given a bit of freedom and room for creativity to show his work with metal. The boundaries that Van Dam had never crossed were now crossed. These unique mechanisms and fittings really showed the capabilities that Van Dam Custom Boats had. By the time the boat was completed the Metal Shop had the sound footing it needed to continue its growth.

Even though Jess does majority of the metal work at Van Dam, every employee is cross-trained so they feel comfortable in the Metal Shop, as well as, any other part of the building process. It is important that everyone feel confident anywhere in the shop. Ben Van Dam puts it best when he says “ Understanding what happens in there (the Metal Shop) and what the struggles are helps make people more well-rounded which is extremely important because that will help us head off potential problems earlier in the game and make us more efficient”.

There is one apprentice that has seemed to find his home in the Metal Shop as well Jacob. Although Jacob works in many different areas in the shop, his specialty is the Metal Shop. Adding him to the team is a step in the right direction for the “ultimate goal” for the Metal Shop.

Today some of the typical pieces that you could expect to see come out of the Metal Shop are: engine mounts, lift points, structural attachment points, cutwaters, hardware, hinges, hatch mounts, seat mechanism, trim tabs and rudders. These are just a few of things that the Metal Shop is capable of. With the addition of the brand new CNC machine their possibilities will be endless.

The CNC (Computer Numeric Control) machine will open up many new opportunities for Van Dam Custom Boats. In the past they would have to design and then send out parts to get “cnc’d”. This not only took more time, but there were limitations as to what they could do. By having the capability here in house, they are given more freedom for creativity.  The CNC uses a computer to control machine tools. This machine is more precise and can produce more complex shapes than the other machineries. Another benefit is that the program is stored in the memory of the computer. By having the CNC machine here Van Dam is entering an entirely new playing field. The enhancements in the capabilities and end product will be endless.

With the hope that one day the Metal Shop will be large enough that it will need a shop of its own, the progress that Van Dam Custom Boats has made toward this dream has been with leaps and bounds. With the occassional metal part being crafted in house, to almost having every metal part made in house, the capabilities and growth at Van Dam Custom Boats is outstanding.


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