by Kip Hanson
No job too big or too small for Ontario welding shop
Job Shops In Canada | Ontario
Years in Business: 7
Size: 1,579 m (17,000 sq ft)
Part Capacity: 1524 mm x 3048 mm (60 in. x 120 in.) 4500 w laser cutting, with press brake and shear capability to 3 m (10 ft)
Key Processes: laser cutting, forming, welding and machining
Key Equipment: Mitsubishi laser cutting machines, Wysong press brake, lathes, mills, ironworkers
When Dave Krabbe, president of DK Custom Welding and Design Inc., Elora, ON, is unhappy with something, he fixes it. A welder for most of his life, he started a small rustproofing firm in 2005 while still working full-time at a local fab shop. Krabbe says he didn’t like the service he was getting, so decided to do it himself. That business quickly expanded as Krabbe hired a few friends and neighbours, tripling the first year and doubling the year after that. In 2008, unhappy with the choice of truck bumpers available for his pickup truck, Krabbe designed his own and started making them on the side in the back of his father’s barn. Again, his business grew, and Krabbe was soon building a variety of custom truck components. That’s just how he rolls.
The stakes went up last year, after Krabbe heard news of a nearby shop, Wellington Manufacturing, which was planning to shut down its production activities. “They’d been laser cutting bumper parts for us over the past few years at that time,” he says. “Then one day the owner called to say he was retiring, and was selling off some of his equipment. So I asked him about buying the entire business. He gave me a couple of days to put an offer together.”
Krabbe pulled out all the stops, and later that week, was the proud owner of an established job shop, complete with a pair of Mitsubishi ML3015LVP-plus CNC laser machines, a 3 m (10 ft) Wysong press brake, and a handful of assorted lathes, mills, and ironworkers. For the first time in the history of the company, Krabbe had most of the equipment he needed under one roof. Unfortunately, news had spread by then of the looming shutdown, and some of Wellington’s customers had already moved on to other sources. Still, there was enough work to keep the doors open. Krabbe took stock of the situation, and quickly added to the shop’s existing capabilities by installing a restoration shop complete with paint booth, several hoists, and a hydraulic shear.
A leap of faith
Today, DK Custom Welding has 10 employees. Growth has been steady, and the company has recently been doing some tier two work for Hydro One and Bell Canada. Krabbe anticipates regaining some of the work that was lost during the transition, including a potential contract for US military components. Looking back, he admits that buying the shop was a leap of faith. “I had no experience with the lasers or the machining equipment. I hired a full-time machinist, and several of the other guys have some experience there too. I managed to keep the laser operator with me, and my general manager, who has owned two different laser shops over the past 30 years, saw what we were doing and asked if he could join. I’m very fortunate to have such talented people working here.”
It’s not all about hard work. Krabbe and his team enjoy what they do, with the shop being the perfect outlet for a staff of auto enthusiasts working on many restoration projects and building hotrods from the ground up. He says most of the paying business continues to be one-offs and custom work, but says it might be nice to develop his own product line of truck accessories one day. “There are so many different truck brands and styles out there that it’s a bit tricky. I’ve found the biggest challenge with our growth has been adapting as we continue to evolve as a company.When I had one employee, it was a lot easier to manage, because I was doing much of the work myself. But I’ve got a really great team. It’s not too hard to get everybody on the same page, and all pulling in the same direction. For now, things are going just fine.” SMT