Scraping scrap

By Andrew Paisley

Lamp staff

As customers enter Ben Curtin’s shop in Stonington, they see the sparks fly, hear the exhaust fan wail, and feel the massive air compressor vibrate. They also hear the crisp sound of the CNC plasma cutter swiftly slicing through steel, producing the signs that many of you see on doors as you drive through not just the neighborhoods of Christian County, but all over the state of Illinois.

The current services offered are CNC plasma cutting, CNC wood routing, plate metal rolling, welding and cabinet sandblasting. However, the transition to metalworking has occurred over the last seven to eight years.

Curtin started working out of his shop, a two-car garage on his family’s farm in Stonington, when he was 5 years old.

The farm had a detached two-car garage that was being used for storage. Curtin’s parents decided to give him the space for a workshop.

“When I first received my shop, I was interested in woodworking.” Curtin said. “I collected woodworking tools and worked on gaining woodworking skills for years, Curtin 3building workbenches, bookshelves, tool trays and more. In the fourth grade, I saved $45, which I used to purchase a jigsaw from Wal-Mart.”

With the new jigsaw, Curtin built tugboats and airplanes and sold them to students in his elementary class for $1 a piece.

“I continued woodworking and selling my projects until I entered seventh grade,” Curtin stated. “My mother was worried about the impending dangers associated with large saws, so she advised me to pursue metalworking.”

At that time, Curtin saved and purchased a Miller MIG welder, which he used to practice fabricating and welding for his family’s farm.

It wasn’t until about 2012, during his sophomore year of high school, that Curtin officially developed Curtin’s Creations, a welding business that originally specialized in building industrial furniture.

“I purchased scrap engines from Remmert Auto & Tire in Stonington, stripped the engines for pistons, camshafts and crankshafts and utilized the engine parts to build bookends, lamps, and tables.” Curtin said of his beginning experience, “I additionally built barstools with a car rim as the base and an antique tractor seat to sit on, and I would market these products on my Facebook page and by having a booth at local county fairs.”

After Curtin’s freshman year of engineering school at Purdue University, he took a Curtin 1gamble and decided to purchase a CNC Plasma Cutter to begin producing custom signs and custom/reproduction parts.

“I currently have two CNC machines, one being a 5-foot-by-20-foot machine which is utilized for plasma cutting, and a 4-foot-by-20-foot machine which will be converted to wood routing and engraving this next month.” Curtin said.

Curtin additionally has a plate metal roller which will roll 12-gauge metal up to 4-foot wide and thicker pieces that aren’t as wide. The ideal outcome would be for Curtin to begin using his future engineering degree from Purdue University to open an engineering firm and invent a product line which will employ the knowledge he gained in college while also using the skillsets and tools he has acquired throughout his lifetime.

“Ben Curtin’s mind never stops working,”  said Andra Ebert, a local customer. “He is a true entrepreneur that utilizes creative forward thinking and media marketing with his business. To be a great father, full-time student at the top of his class and begin a new, exciting business is a daunting task that he tackles with grace and determination.”

Curtin currently has three main employees at his business. His brother, Jack Curtin, is responsible for sign preparation and delivery to powder coat. Sign preparation entails wire wheeling the dross remaining on the signs after cutting and applying acetone the signs to remove grease and oils. Jack also typically delivers and picks up signs from powder coat.

Bryan Brown is responsible for powder-coating signs, and Aarika May completes the final touches and, if applicable, manages logistics and delivery of Curtin’s seasonal product lines. May crafts and installs bows, ribbon, and door hangers to many of the signs at Curtin’s Creations.

Curtin’s parents also assist him when time permits in their schedules. His father, Steve Curtin, picks up steel from his supplier in Decatur and assists in any other tasks that may need completed. His mother, Susan Curtin, delivers and picks up signs and parts from powder coat and/or hardware stores.

“Of all my projects thus far, my personal favorite has to be the entryway to the Taylorville High School football field that I designed this past fall.” Curtin said.

“Ben is an articulate, business-minded, young entrepreneur with thousands of ideas and gifted talent to go along with it,” said Darla Cochran, another customer. “Last fall, I was looking for a gift for my husband’s birthday, and I wanted to find a one-of-a-kind sign to greet visitors on our farm. I hired Ben to make our sign, and when he delivered it just a few days later, the design even had a perfect stencil of the antique tractor that my husband drives in parades for the Christian County Shrine Club.”

Melissa Williams, the Foods instructor at Taylorville High School, has hired Curtin to design three different projects for her.

“Ben recently created two signs for a benefit auction that I am helping with. I am so excited to be able to share Ben’s outstanding talent with others, and I highly recommend anyone who wants a metal sign for any reason, whether it be for a gift, advertisement or for a personal request, to work with him. He is an excellent, young entrepreneur, and I am pleased to be able to support him.” Williams said.

Nikki Carls contacted Curtin to build a sign for her husband’s 30th anniversary working at Sloan Implement Company.

“I was absolutely amazed at the talent and the awesome way that the sign turned out. It’s just phenomenal. The sign is truly one of a kind, and it will be cherished for years to come in my husband’s man cave.” Carls said.

Curtin said: “I have been influenced by several people throughout my lifetime. However, a majority of my influences haven’t been woodworkers and metalworkers. I have been motivated and inspired by people who have created the American dream for themselves. I am encouraged by the people who have started with nothing, worked hard, and made a life for themselves.”

Anyone interested in a product from Curtin’s Creations can contact Ben Curtin by calling him at 217-823-5657, emailing him at [email protected], contacting him on his Facebook page “Curtin’s Creations-Welding and CNC Plasma Cutting” or his Instagram page @curtin_cnc.

Andrew Paisley can be reached [email protected].