Chris Martin may be just a 16-year-old kid, but he knows what he wants to do in life. He’s well on his way to success, thanks to the help of his school shop class and the opportunities it provides for developing metalworking talent.
Canon City High School is on the cutting edge of technology with its addition of a CNC plasma cutting machine. According to Chris’ welding teacher, Brandt Bradbury, “Any kid with basic typing skills is able to learn the machine. While welding is a great skill to have, proficiency with modern CNC tools truly prepares today’s shop students for tomorrow’s jobs.”
Inspired by a picture he saw on the Internet, Chris recently made a wine rack. “I thought it would be cool to make it more natural,” he said, “with a modern feel to it.” He entered the project in a competition, and it has become one of his more popular items to make and sell.
“After I cut the leaves out,” explains Chris, “I grind and polish them. Then I use a chisel to hammer in the veins.” Finally, Chris curls a 5/16″ steel rod around a wine bottle to hold it, using a picture of a grape vine as a guide. He welds some quarter-inch steel piping to branch off from the vine to hold the wine glasses.
Chris has never taken an art class. Instead, he credits most of his skill to the time spent practicing metalworking and learning to use the equipment, including the school’s PlasmaCAM machine and DesignEdge software.
Fortunately for Chris, his school sees the value of vocational programs. “For someone like me,” says Chris, “it is really important because you get to practice your fundamentals. You get to get better with it.”
Chris’ father also purchased a PlasmaCAM system for Chris to use at home and for use in the family sheet metal business. As a result, Chris spends hours each day working on metal projects. He just can’t seem to get enough of it.
Chris loves to make unique and authentic pieces, and he plans to work in metal art after he graduates. “I’ve always wanted to have my own shop,” he says. He also dreams of opening his own gallery to display his work. “I want to branch out, increase variety,” he explains. There are so many different techniques you can do.” In particular, Chris wants to further explore the possibilities of 3D art.
Chris helps other students learn to use the machine and various shop tools. He finds that students with no metalworking experience really enjoy and benefit from using a CNC plasma cutting system. “It’s a very interesting field because there are unlimited possibilities,” he says.
Chris has been making a name for himself around town by creating sellable products like gates and other functional pieces. Several businesses have asked him to make custom signs for their buildings after seeing his work.