Hey Certiflat Family! This is Matt, I’m the GM here at Tab and Slot, and it’s my turn to write a blog. I haven’t really done one of these before, so I thought I’d just interview one of the people I met through this business, and share it with you. It was either that, or a recipe for my special chili. (Don’t worry, I’ll still share the recipe later this winter)
So, I interviewed Alvin Lawrence, an Industrial Arts Teacher at Charleston Collegiate School, in Charleston, South Carolina.
Matt: Tell us a little about yourself Alvin and how did you get into fabrication?
Alvin: A few years ago, a buddy of mine handed me a copy of Shop Class as Soulcraft and it really made me think how bad of an idea it was that this country got rid of shop classes and the ability for younger generations to learn to use their hands. In 2015, I moved to Charleston, SC and took a technician position at Mercedes Benz. I’ve been a mechanic for more than 20 years and to be honest, the money was good, but the honeymoon was long over. In my free time, I build and restored vintage motorcycles and when I’m not doing that, I’m creating industrial furniture. I bought my first 2x4 welding table and I still use it to this day.
Matt: How did you get into education, and passing this on to the next generation of fabricators?
Alvin: I had a friend approach me in the spring of 2016, to tell me about a project based school located here in Charleston, that was looking to bring some kind of Craftsmanship class to the school and was looking for a candidate that could help with that goal. After having an interview and being offered the job, as a part-time Craftsmanship teacher, I said why not. I love building stuff and I thought it would be awesome to work with kids.
Matt: Tell us a little about the first batch of students?
Alvin: September rolled around quick and I tried hard to prepare myself over that summer to do something new. I found myself sharing one small classroom with 2 very talented art teachers. I had 5 Seniors that had never even used a screwdriver or had any mechanical knowledge. We sat and spoke about different possible projects using reclaimed materials with almost no tools at all.
Matt: We all know how difficult it is to fund programs like this, how did you get over that hurdle?
Alvin: We found some steel, wood and worked outside with my personal welder off the back of my pickup truck and started making some cool art projects. But we were still lacking a proper work space. It took 5 students reaching out to shipping container companies and writing proposals that were passed around to our school family. That spring, we had two 40-foot shipping containers donated. Then, with some more reaching out, networking, and lots of friends, we had tools and equipment donated. You would be surprised what big hearts people have when it comes to helping these kids discover the trades again.
We have an annual fundraising auction to help raise money for our school and we were asked to make all the centerpieces out of steel. A few of the local shops cut flowers and diamond shaped art with their plasma tables and we welded them together. We actually sold 11 of the 14 centerpieces for our class. This new school year we have tools, a welder from Lowes, and a good amount of Harbor Freight equipment.
Matt: What kind of projects are you working on currently?
Alvin: We started an Instagram account @ccsIndustrialarts so that we could start showing the world what awesome things this school is doing. With the new equipment and tools, we started working on bigger projects. I brought four of my own vintage motorcycles to school and created a lesson plan around them. Some of the students decided to completely rebuild these classics using any donated parts we could get our hands on. Companies like Cognito Moto, Z1 Enterprises, Dime City Cycles and Loaded Gun Customs, donated steering stems, Cafe Racer parts, and even gave us parts at cost. In some of the other Industrial Arts classes, we’ve been building lamps and shelves, but always needing a proper surface to work on that was perfectly flat.
Matt: You had CertiFlat tables at your home shop, tell us a little about your plans for the table that the school has recently acquired?
Alvin: I’ve been so happy with the tables I have at home, why not see if they’d ever give us a deal. I reached out to CertiFlat and we were asked to fill out some paperwork about how a welding table would benefit our class and how it would be used. I filled it out and sent it right back to them. A few days later, we had a table on the way.
I told my students and they were equally excited. They couldn't even imagine all of the possibilities. I’m excited to have the students build up and customize the table by using the Lean System. I have required reading in my class like “Shop Class as Soulcraft” and Paul Akers “2 Second Lean” where he speaks about making 2 second improvements every day. We’re always trying to make tools and equipment easily accessible and having a place for everything and everything in its place is very important with our school schedule. When this table is complete, it’ll have a lower shelf and storage for all of our clamps, magnets, measuring tools and so much more. We’ll equip it to travel our campus to give demos and make repairs wherever needed.
We’re a small private school, with about 300 students from K-12. But we’re more like a family and with our budget, it’s always a blessing to get a gift like this. We want to assure you that it won’t be sitting in a corner collecting dust. It is going to be awesome not welding on top of plywood sitting on top of milk crates.
~ End of Interview ~