Rebel Works with metal



August 25, 2012 - 12:00 AM

Jeff Richards’ commute to work each day consists of walking to his garage.
That’s when the fun begins.
Large sheets of metal adorn one wall, assorted pieces of metalworks — some finished, others nearly so — are scattered about, surrounding a pair of prominent table-sized CNC machines and other equipment.
“That’s the best part of my job,” Richards said. “I get to come out here and create.”
Reynolds, a long-time welder, has garnered a devoted following in Iola and elsewhere in the area through Rebel Works Manufacturing.
With Rebel Works, Richards creates a wide assortment of metal products, signs, yard art and other small parts. He also can create specialized or personalized items.
As September draws near, so does Richards’ busy season, as he takes merchandise to a number of area fall festivals.
The trips serve as only momentary breaks for Richards, who will spend almost all of his remaining waking hours working feverishly in his garage at 301 S. Elm St.
“You find yourself wondering if you’re coming or going,” he said.
All signs — no pun intended — point to a busy autumn.
“July and August usually aren’t my busiest months, but I’ve been able to keep busy with a few things,” he said.
Orders will pick up considerably with the fall festivals.

REBEL WORKS almost was borne by accident about two years ago, Richards said.
The 37-year-old Iola native had already made a name for himself as a skilled welder. He is a graduate of Tulsa Welding School. He worked briefly in Springfield, Mo., before he and his wife, Kristy, decided to move home.
Richards focused primarily on welding, as well as making metal machine parts, when a friend asked if he would make a small sign as a gift.
Richards did so within a day or so.
The gift was so well received that Richards was asked to create another. Then another.
“It started out just with family, but word spread pretty quickly,” he said. “That’s about when I realized I might be on to something.”
Over the past two years, Richards has steadily gotten busier, to the point that he’s considering ways to expand. If the price is right, he would like to eventually upgrade his equipment.
“But with the economy the way it is, that may be a while,” Richards said.

THE HUB of Rebel Works is the pair of CNC machines. The smaller one , which handles only metal cutting, was custom-built by Richards.
“It wasn’t as hard as it looks to build,” he said. “It’s a pretty basic machine.”
The machine itself is a metal stand the size of a ping-pong table affixed with a bracket containing a plasma cutter. The cutter is guided by controls sent from a connected a computer automated design system.
“I’m certainly no rocket scientist,” Richards said modestly, “but I do have a basic understanding of how computers work.”
The second CNC machine, one he purchased this year, also cuts plastic and wood in addition to metal.
“I found what I was looking for on Craigslist,” Richards said, “and the price was right.”
The new machine “has a steeper learning curve, so I’m still sort of figuring it out as I go along,” Richards said.

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