David Stanavich’s career in fabrication and machining began back in 1989, after studying painting and fine art at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York.
«After graduating from art school, I got a job in a fabrication shop. They put a grinder in my hand and I spent the next two months grinding welds. I thought to myself , ‘I don’t want to be doing this type of work every day.’ They had a Bridgeport knee mill that was only used as a drill press. I said to the owner, ‘I know that machine can do a lot more.’ I worked at the shop for 11 years and in that time, I taught myself a wide variety of machining skills.»
Striking out on his own about ten years ago, Stanavich opened Brooklyn Custom Metal Fabrication. First on his list of major purchases was a CNC mill. «I was looking at used equipment and that was going to be too much of a project. It would have meant restoration, gutting electronics and computer hardware, none of which I was interested in,» he said. «I already knew my way around a Bridgeport and a lathe, and I was ready to up the ante. At the time what drew me to Tormach was the affordability of the PCNC mills. I didn't want to end up buying a Sherline mill and only be able to make small parts. I wanted something with real capacity.»
Over the last decade, Stanavich has built a portfolio of high-end custom metal fabrications for architects, artists, and designers, with his PCNC 1100 playing the role of lead workhorse for many of his recent projects. «Often I use the Tormach to make fixture parts, but mainly I use it to build architectural hardware which has been a steady income source for my company,» he said. «It’s a niche that took time to develop, but now is paying off. It’s not something you can just jump into.»
What’s the secret to his success? «I know a lot of people that are really great at the 3-D modeling, but they haven’t spent any time in a machine shop. I don’t claim to be a machinist, but I can hang with that crowd» he said.
Stanavich recently attended the SprutCAM and CNC Fundamentals workshops at Tormach with the goal of expanding the scope of his product lines with the 4-axis capabilities of his PCNC mill. «SprutCAM is infinitely more complex and more dynamic than what I've been using for solid modeling and is definitely going to evolve into my 'go to' CAM system. The design potential is just huge and I’m really excited about that,» he said.
With the help of CNC technology, Brooklyn Custom’s business model has evolved over the years. Stanavich is using the programmability of his PCNC to add a line of products in addition to using it in his one-off contract work. He explained, «My customer base typically focuses more on aesthetics than precision. I love going to the right side of the decimal point. That’s really my interest. What's happening now is that I’m making the shift from a contract fabricator who has never done the same job twice to small-run production work that I am designing.»
On a lighter note, Stanavich has made several injection molds using the mold design aspect of his main CAD program. «I've been making small molds that produce plastic toys. I’m getting a gum ball machine to set up in the shop. The goal is to have 10 different toys to dispense. I used the PCNC 1100 to machine the permanent molds for the toys I designed. The toys make for a unique calling card,» he explained.
Stanavich isn’t the only one in his family with machining aspirations, however. «My wife Helen is learning jewelry making,» he added. «She has had some formal training and gotten very good with silver soldering and other techniques. She is also learning CAD. We’re in the process of collaborating. I’m designing some parts for CNC machined elements for her sculptural jewelry. Some parts will be machined or cast in bronze and brass and then plated with silver or gold.»
What does the future hold for Brooklyn Custom? «Down the road, I can see another vertical mill in the shop along with the slant bed lathe Tormach is currently developing. I want to do as much digital fabrication as possible» Stanavich said. «My feeling is ‘Why have one expensive machining center? What if I had three Tormach PCNC mills to do small runs with custom set ups? So, machine number 1 is set up for this, machine number 2 is dedicated for that and so on. I may check them out and calibrate them every now and then, but we’re really off and running. I’m not wasting time and energy tearing down and continually resetting the work station. Now I'm starting to look at my business as a digital work shop.»