Editor’s Note: This article originally ran on jalopyjournal.com, but I figured it was relevant to you guys as well…
Fitzgerald once said that you don’t write because you want to say something, you write because you have something to say. That quote has driven me as both a writer and a business owner for some years now and it’s the main reason that I often decline opportunities such as the one Baileigh Industrial offered me a couple of months ago.
Essentially, Shane from Baileigh called and asked if I would be willing to fly out for one of their metal shaping classes. They’d pay the way and the stay, but made no mention of what they expected in return. It’s safe to say, however, that they did expect some coverage from it. This, in and of itself, put me in a weird place.
On one hand, I’m really interested in metal shaping and I absolutely love to learn. However, this is just something that I wanted. And to get it, it just might come at the expense of my own legitimacy – Fitzgerald be damned. But then, I also had to weigh the fact that Baileigh (and Shane in particular) have been long time unconditional supporters of both The Jalopy Journal and the H.A.M.B.. In fact, I considered Shane a buddy just as much as I considered Baileigh a sponsor of this joint.
In the end, I figured that this is something I needed to do. I owed it to the people that had done so much for me. So, I accepted the invite and waited for my itinerary. Then, a few weeks before departure Shane called again. “Hey man, I just emailed your itinerary. You are going to be traveling with Jimmy Shine. You know him, right?”
“Shit,” I thought. “So not only am I whoring myself out, I’m now doing it with a reality TV star?” At this point, I was feeling pretty gross about the whole thing, but realistically knew there was no graceful way of bowing out of the deal. I was going to Wisconsin whether I wanted to or not.
I conversed with Jimmy once through email years ago, but had never met him. I didn’t know what to expect, so I had no expectations at all really. We met in Dallas, flew to Milwaukee together, and then shared a rental car to Manitowoc, WI. It was during that drive that Jimmy asked about our phone call six or seven years prior:
“You remember that time you called me at So-Cal and let me have it?”
I didn’t. And as I racked my brain trying to remember, Jimmy continued to elaborate on the call.
“Oh man. You called me every name in the book, but I’m over it now. It’s cool.”
It was then that I began to think Jimmy had me confused with someone else. If you know me, you know that calling up the legendary So-Cal Speed Shop, asking the receptionist for Jimmy Shine, and then barraging him with obscenities is not something I’d ever do – even if I was really pissed about something or the other. And I told Jimmy as much, but…
“Dude, I know your name. I’ve been thinking poorly of it for six or seven years now. I don’t have your name confused for another,” Jimmy said.
And that’s when I figured it out. Someone had called Jimmy using my name and let him have it. A few more minutes of conversation and we both had it figured, along with a couple of suspects (to be identified later). Even so, I sat for the rest of the ride with the realization that Jimmy Shine, someone I didn’t know at all, had really disparaging thoughts about me for almost a decade. My feelings were pretty well hurt.
Six or seven hours later, Jimmy and I sat in the hotel bar verbally jousting with a group of New York City accountants who had incorrectly identified Jimmy as Billy Ray Cyrus. After taking enough beer on board to sink the mighty USS Cobia, we decided to call it quits and head to our rooms. As we were walking from the bar, one of the accountants had to get in one last word. Jimmy and I looked at each other and simultaneously turned back – ready to show Mayweather a thing or two about how fights should be fought.
We’ll get back to that…
The Baileigh metal shaping class started on Friday afternoon with lectures from different folks of different capacities handing out their ideas of what metal shaping is and where it can take you. It’s pretty much exactly what you would expect from such a gathering. This was classroom time, sponsored by Baileigh Industrial… and these were experts spitting out theory about the trade, also sponsored by Baileigh Industrial.
The next day, these experts got up one-by-one and taught you the finer points of each Baileigh machine in attendance. After each was covered, sheets of aluminum were handed out and the students were told to have at it while the experts hovered and gave advice.
At any one time, there were three power hammers hammering, four or five english wheels wheeling, shrinkers shinking, stretchers stretching, rollers rolling… It was pure pandemonium. My ears had trouble coping, but it was exciting to see and I found myself wanting to jump in and try it all out. But I was there to cover, not participate, and I didn’t want to take up a machine that a paying student might want to use. So instead of getting busy with machines, I got busy with my cameras.
As I walked around taking photos, I began to notice something. These people, both experts and students alike, were having a lot of fun and were really passionate about shaping metal. And it wasn’t just students and teachers… Baileigh employees got into the act as well – picking up aluminum, starting their own projects, and helping out others with theirs.
Before too long, my cynical view of a marketing event was completely turned on it’s side. I left with the feeling that the Baileigh metal shaping class had very little to do with selling tools. In fact, I got the feeling that this class was just some shit the employees of Baileigh did behind the boss’s back – hoping he doesn’t realize that it’s more about feeding a passion than selling tools. Work isn’t allowed to be this fun.
Anyway, towards the end of the day I noticed that there was no line at one of the power hammers. I grabbed a sheet of aluminum, one of the experts for direction, and went at it. Fifteen minutes on the power hammer and my legs were shaking uncontrollably, my back ached as if a disc split, and my forearms burned liked hell. And despite all those sacrifices, my attempt at a hub cap looked more like a wart on a fat man’s ass. Seriously.
Roseanne Bar can’t sing the national anthem. Nick Cage can’t act. Tim Tebow can’t throw a football. Along those same lines and with the same intensity of failure – I can’t shape metal. Even so… Oh my god, do I absolutely adore trying. So. Much. Fun.
And I guess now would be a good time to list the experts that made all of this happen. With any luck, I haven’t forgotten anyone:
1. Chris Rusch. Pure genius. When you look at the Baileigh metal shaping tool catalog, everything that is painted yellow was designed and built by Chris. Whenever he walks into a room, he instantly becomes the smartest guy in it. Only, you’d never know it. Quiet. Brilliant.
2. Dave Byron. Another quiet guy… and a total loner. I chose him as my instructor on the power hammer. As such, I can tell you that his patience is second to none. Just a really nice guy with some serious metal shaping talent.
3. Austin Paruch. So after a few lectures on the power hammer, your ears get very fatigued. Your head hurts. And then, it’s Austin’s turn. He quietly stands next to the English wheel and starts wheeling out a Ferrari GTO hood from flat sheets of aluminum as he softly explains each step. It’s a zen moment. An hour later he’s done. Yeah. One hour.
4. Kyle Yocum. Remember this name. He’s 28 years old and has “Michael Jordan” like talent and potential. Super focused. Super family oriented. He’s already big time… But mark my words, this guy is gonna change the world. You heard it here first.
5. Mike Wagner. Another youngster… He’s a HAMBer that you know as Cornfield Customs and he too has talent coming out of his eye balls. Just watch fellas…
6. Mark Gerish. Mark runs one of the premier metal shaping schools in the world – The Academy for the Art of Metal Shaping. In his free time, he builds vintage Ferrari bodies. From scratch. No Shit. I don’t even know how to elaborate on that.
Fisticuffs or no, you can tell a lot about a guy in a drunken joust. Jimmy Shine is the polar opposite of me in a lot of ways. He’s outgoing. He’s good in front of crowds. He doesn’t mind attention. He’s smooth. He’s all the things that a TV personality would have to be. But he’s also a lot more…
When it looked like the chips were down and we were out numbered, he didn’t hesitate to turn back to the bar with me to face a potential beating of epic proportions. Given that, you might assume that he comes with a bit of arrogance as well. I never saw it.
During class, he was just another guy there to learn. If he didn’t know the answer, he had no problem asking for help from one of the experts. And if one of the other students was struggling with a question that Jimmy did have experience with, he’d quietly approach with tips and tricks. And I guess that’s why Jimmy and I got along so well… He knows exactly who he is and how he got there. And because of that, he’s humble.
Jimmy and I had a lot of down time between both Manitowoc and Milwaukee. We toured a submarine, we checked out the Harley Davidson Museum, we ate in as many hole-in-the-wall restaurants as we could find, and we drank a lot of beer. We also did a lot of talking… Big things are coming from Jimmy and I’m really excited for him.
In any regard, that’s my trip to Baileigh Industrial and their metal shaping class. Other than a few canceled flights, it couldn’t have gone much better. I left with a whole new respect not only for Jimmy, but also for the fellas that run Baileigh. And I’ve got no guilt from writing this article. It’s long and it runs on through a lot of words, but I came home with something to say.
A couple of notes:
1. Special thanks to Shane Henderson from Baileigh. He put together this class and, as mentioned, was responsible for getting me there. I owe ya man!
2. Also as mentioned, Jimmy and I pulled a lot of sidebars during the trip. I’ve included some of the photos taken from those excursions. I realize they are largely off topic, but I needed more photos to accompany all the damn words above. Enjoy or ignore.