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There was a man Louis Black in Chambersburg PA who had an 8th grade education and made Stanley Steamer hoods, grills and other one off specialty auto sheet metal parts all with his old rough hands.  I met Louis through a friend from St. Thomas PA that made continuation Stanley Steamers and we hit it off from that day.  I would stop by now and then on the way home from work always bringing him a.. light no sugar coffee. I would be mesmerized watching him roll and hammer out his wares and would ask way too many questions but that never seemed to bother him in fact, Louis was eager to share his knowledge but never stopped working while he spoke.  One particular visit I found him taking a break, reading the NY Times with it turned open to the Stock Market.... that's odd I thought and though no more about it.   He looked up said hello and said " You know, can't take it with you" we talked for a while then he went back to work. Some months later he passed at home at 86. What surprised me was I thought all along he had no real close friends I couldn't have been more wrong as his viewing and funeral was a packed house. You see he was not only a craftsman but everyone's friend. BTW he left his $200,000 plus AND stock investments to his local church ~

Last edited by Alan Merklin

Wray Schelin runs the Pro-Shaper Workshop on Youtube and has an extraordinarily well equipped shop in Charlton, MA.  While he will do custom work under contract for something like, say, a fender for an early 1950's Jaguar, his real money-making lies elsewhere and this gets to Ed and Stan's comment:  "It's very difficult to make money hand building a car".

This is very true.  Hot Rod Charlie has been building custom Hot Rods since the 1960's. They typically sold for $50K to $100K, depending on how much true customization was included.  It often took him 2 - 4 years to complete his more involved cars, but if you wanted an old school '32 Highboy and YOU had already gathered all/most of the parts and just didn't have the time or skill to build it he could knock it out in a year or so.

The trouble is, you never really make any money building custom cars.  The best you can hope for is to break even (and die in your sleep, per Kenny Rogers).

So how does Wray Schelin survive?   First, he runs a master class in metal working once or twice per month for a dozen or so students.  These are attended by people from all over the World.  One of his students came here from Australia and has been building a 1960's Jaguar from scratch over the past three years, all in Aluminum.

Secondly, Wray manufactures his own line of "Pro-Shaper" metal working tools based on his own designs, refined over the years, to get tools that do the job and don't wear out prematurely.  That means his tools are RUGGED, period.  Some of them are based on the best designs from England, but a lot of evolved from tooling made in nearby Worcester, Massachusetts, which once was a tooling capitol of the US so there are quite a few examples of well designed metal-working tools around.

Those are his two main businesses, so lastly he does custom metal fabrication (mostly sheet metal, but sometimes heavier stuff) under contract, like the copper distilling vessels for Tree House Brewing or the brewing vessels for Wormtown (Worcester) Brewing or the occasional architectural piece for commercial or residential buildings (My house builder son-in-law goes to Wray for really way-out custom stuff).

Wray is kind of a very handy guy to have in the area.

Another buddy, Hot Rod Ron, has a 1934 Dodge coupe that needed a transition piece between the running board and the front fender.  He found a couple of them for $800 each somewhere but for $1,200 for a week of classes at Wray's he then could build his own - Once you take one of Wray's classes you're welcome back to use his shop for free.  So he got his pieces AND learned something useful along the way.

Last edited by Gordon Nichols
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