Today we had the pleasure of talking with Greg and Vicki Cameron of TinKnockers in Temple, Texas. They manufacture and powder coat custom vent hoods and other fabricated metal products in the Waco, Texas, area.
Q: Greg, can you give us a little history on how you started TinKnockers?
Greg: Right out of high school I got into welding. I moved to Houston and joined the sheet metal workers’ local union. Because I was working at the “Cadillac” of shops, I learned a bunch of advanced techniques and worked with equipment that most journeymen didn’t have a chance to use, and I was just an apprentice.
At the age of 25, I already knew I wanted to start my own shop and already had the name TinKnockers picked out.
I moved to Temple and worked for about 10 years in a shop that I bought from the owner when he retired. We had to move due to a state highway coming through, and I had the opportunity to set up the new shop so it was like the Houston shop where I first learned all my advanced techniques. We now do a lot of sheet metal work, including our custom range hoods which are extremely popular.
Q: What are some of the obstacles that you faced while growing your own business?
Greg: Mostly labor. It’s hard to find a good metal working employee with experience. I can only train so many beginners, and it’s hard to train advanced techniques because we do so many one-off’s.
It’s really challenging to take your skills from one project to the next because you don’t use them all. The local unions are still training, but they seem to only be focusing on ductwork. I’d take a ductwork worker right now just to take care of those jobs.
Q: What sets you apart from your competition?
Greg: Most of the shops in this area are welding shops that work with plate thickness steel instead of sheet metal.
Vicki: We work with lighter gauge metals. Stainless steel, copper, galvanized, and aluminum. In sheet metal, we can build anything out of anything.
Greg: Also, we have the powder coating capabilities that the others don’t.
Vicki: Everything stays in-house. We build it, blast it, paint it, deliver it, and then install it. All our advertising is word of mouth, so it doesn’t leave here till I’m happy with it.
Q: Tell us a little bit about why you decided to start powder coating?
Vicki: Powder coating has changed the face of TinKnockers. We do what other shops do, like restore furniture, car parts, gates, etc., but where we make our money is custom residential work.
We can make a custom hood out of powder coated galvanized steel that matches the kitchen. Not only does that bring down our material costs by not using stainless steel, but it adds a color combination that enhances the interior design of the rest of the house.
In these new open floor plans where you see the kitchen when you walk in the front door, the ventahood are the centerpieces of the main room. We can also use powder combinations on stainless to simulate finishes like brass, which has been really fun to do and popular with customers.
Q: How did you first start with your powder coating set-up?
Greg: Well, we first started with a homemade set-up that didn’t work too well. A residential oven with an insulated box and cheap guns. We decided to bite the bullet and buy a professional oven from Reliant and then we got a booth and an overhead rack set-up to roll parts back and forth. It is a real compact operation that does not take up too much space. It took us about a year of fiddling around with different powders and metals to really learn how to put out a quality product, but now our powder coating business is blowing up. Hoods, balconies, rails, car parts, and rims. We don’t do too many exotic finishes (two-tones, candies.) We’ve improved our profits by offering powder coated panels made of regular steel instead of using stainless steel for a lot of kitchen jobs.
Q: Why did you use Reliant Finishing Systems for your powder coating oven?
Vicki: I did a lot of online research and I found Reliant’s ovens to be affordable and simple to understand. We wanted to install the equipment ourselves, so that was a great option for us. Our 8’ x 8’ x 15’ oven is perfect for us. All our other enclosures are the same size, so if we can blast it, we can coat it and we can cure it. I’m very happy with this oven. If anything ever acts up, Reliant’s tech people are right on it. They are very responsive and helpful. When we started powder coating, we jumped into something where we didn’t fully know how things worked. Reliant helped us out by being attentive and informative. Choosing Reliant was an easy decision, but it wasn’t a money decision. We made our decision based on the trust fostered by the people at Reliant.
Thank you so much for your time and business Greg and Vicki! Reliant always strives to be a finishing resource as well as a finishing equipment partner.