Engraved in Metal: Moses Lake Maker Expands Custom Design Business
For Chris Ball of Moses Lake, it all started when his younger brother wouldn’t allow him to borrow his welding kit to work on an all-terrain truck at the age of 16. Ball said he saw it as a challenge to work in metal fabrication.
He worked for over 14 years at Genie Industries as a technical engineer and two and a half years as a metal fabricator at Busby Metals. Ball’s custom metal fabrication business, CBCustom Creations, started in parallel eight years ago and he decided on April 5 to work full time at his business.
Ball said he doesn’t consider himself super creative, but he’s always been told he has a creative mind.
“In my youth I used to get school credits for drawing on my records because my teacher said it looked so good he would give me credit for them,” Ball said. .
Her business started after a colleague at Genie asked if he would help her use a new 2ft by 2ft CNC plasma cutting table that she had recently received. Ball said he had always been interested in trying something like this.
“I had the opportunity to look at the machine, learn how to use it, design things on it and cut whatever she wanted,” Ball said. “That was the deal, I could use it whenever I wanted as long as I cut whatever she needed. Soon after, she actually sold me the machine because she didn’t want it. to learn.
Ball said things were moving forward as he made some of his first custom metal signs and small manufacturing jobs. He said he always used the same cutting table, as well as a 5-by-10-foot table that took up most of his store space next to his home outside of Moses Lake.
With the two plasma cutting tables in his store outside of his home right now, Ball said he’s practically run out of space. He said he was finishing a new 40ft by 60ft store next to his house.
Ball manages a wide variety of projects with CBCustom Creations. He could someday work on small parts for an off-road motorcycle engine or make custom three-dimensional painted trophies for the Moses Lake Sand Scorpions. Other days he could tackle larger projects like a 50-foot Gothic iron fence or custom arborist equipment for green tree preservation.
Some of his bigger projects often find Ball working outside, and he said these can be some of the funniest projects. He said he had recently started work on a dock repair project on the Columbia River. He said it was pretty easy and working surrounded by scenery was just great.
“The bigger projects definitely pay more, but I like doing all the smaller ones because they’re kind of quick and easy, and they get things done,” Ball said. “It’s a little 50-50 right now in that sense.”
Steel, stainless steel, and aluminum are the three main metals Ball said he works with, and each uses equally. He said aluminum is supposed to be the toughest of the three for manufacturing work, but he was able to pick it up pretty quickly.
Ball said he believes his high-quality work and word of mouth from clients has helped him grow his business. He said the majority of his projects feature custom designs, with clients typically sending him a photo or idea of what they’re looking for.
Once he has an idea, he says he will come up with a few samples that customers can choose from with a few tiny differences before starting the final model. Most people want a fairly simple design, he said.
“I never did anything too fancy that I couldn’t handle that was beyond my ability,” Ball said. “I keep waiting for someone to come and want this amazing sign or project that I’ve never done before.”
Ball said he wanted to continue to be more creative in his metallic fabrications and designs, hopefully incorporating more three-dimensional styles and colors into his work. He said his goal with CBCustom Creations was to deliver products and projects that customers simply couldn’t find in a store.
“Whatever their dreams are, they don’t need to be delayed. They can do it, have something amazing for themselves, ”Ball said. “I can do it.”
Casey McCarthy can be contacted by email at [email protected]