It is hard to believe that roughly three years ago I couldn't figure out how to get that metal clip off the adhesive tube; I also didn't know that denatured alcohol loosens hot-melt glue off solid surface. There was obviously a bunch of things I did not know. I was working with Avonite Glass Series solid surface and did not know squat about solid surface. I remember I had to ask some guy in the shop I was working with at the time if he could tell me how to make the glue come out. I couldn't get that metal clip off nor figure out which mixing tip to use. He showed me how to use the adhesive gun and gave me some brief tips of how he worked with it in the past.
Shortly after getting aggravated about not knowing too much, I signed up for the basic fabrication class with Avonite. I remember when they started talking about the fabrication of Avonite Glass Series and the instructors were teaching us about using hot glue on the deck for seaming up a piece if you only have spring clamps, and I said, "Oh, no, you can't do that!"
The two trainers had been with Avonite for many years and hadbeen teaching and fabricating for a long time. I laugh now at what they must have thought of me saying that the glue soaks into the solid surface and becomes one. One of them just looked at me and said with the utmost respect to me, "I'm not so sure about that, Gene."
Right now if someone was to say that to me, I'd probably die laughing and say, "What are you—some sort of a wing nut?" I thought my arrogance and three weeks of experience were going to set the Avonite class and teachers straight. It's funny, I now have a lot of experience with all the polyesters from Avonite. If you think it's a difficult material to work with, you should try to further your education because there are a lot of customers that want the polyesters' durability and look for some of their designs. I would urge you to go to the advanced Avonite classes when they are in your area; the tech team can coach you through any problems you may have.
The point, though, is that there are opportunities out there for newcomers to learn the solid surface trade and advance their skills, as well as the industry. If you have passion, desire, or the phrase I like to use, "solid surface ambition," you can do it. Do not be discouraged or intimidated by the experts in our industry…Go for it and keep this thing going.
The guy that I asked about how to get the tip off the adhesive tube three years ago just attended one of my Solid Surface Ambition Workshops held in January at Creative Arts Unlimited in Pinellas Park, Fla. What a good feeling! It made me want to encourage you to share your knowledge and teach someone the things you know about fabricating solid surface. Don't worry about them stealing your job or your business. There is enough money to go around in this business for everyone.
Tips For the Beginner From A Beginner
I just recently started my own business refreshing old solid surface countertops and doing unique solid surface projects (but I'm sure I'll have to do some ordinary tops once in awhile to pay the bills). But as a relative beginner, I'd like to give you some advice. The first bit is about repairs. Most people learn about repairs after they get a few years of experience, as if repairs were for advanced solid surface workers. Learning about repairs when you're new is going to be more profitable in the beginning rather than learning about them when you don't make as many mistakes.
There are many things a beginner with ambition will want to learn about: templating, sanding, polishing, thermoforming, inlays, installation and adhesive strengths, to name a few. But you should also learn about properties in the materials you are working with, such as the difference between 100 percent acrylic solid surface, polyester solid surface and the blended solid surface.
Another word of advice for newcomers is, in my experience, a picture really is worth a thousand words. Taking photos at every jobsite will document the quality of your work for future customers. This also shows where the work billed for was actually completed. These same photos can also be used to show new or potential customers the kind of work you do and what a finished project might look like.