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How-To: Find and Hire a Fabricator

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  • How-To: Find and Hire a Fabricator

    I see members asking where they can find someone to do work they can't do or don't want to do. Maybe they lack the space, the tools, the skills, the time, or the knowledge.

    . . . I would get it done locally, but my big question is where does someone get this stuff done? . . . I am in (insert location here)
    The closer you get to a city, the more options you have. You're looking for a shop that does fabrication work or a place that does repairs to equipment. These resources come to mind:

    ■ Look in the yellow pages. Check them online and in a library.

    ■ Try contacting the shop teacher at a local high school (if they have a shop class) or trade school, and ask them about fabrication or repair shops in the area. The instructor might even take on a custom job.

    ■ Drive into the local industrial district and stop at small shops; ask who does fabrication or repair work in the area.

    ■ Ask your auto repair shop who they recommend.

    ■ Visit auto body shops and ask who they recommend.

    ■ Go to a university in your area, and find the manager in charge of maintenance; ask who they use when they need something fabricated.

    ■ At a university, wander the campus, find the engineering department -- preferably mechanical engineering -- and talk to the professors; ask what contacts they might have who do fabrication or repair work.

    ■ Ask among your friends -- maybe one of them has a relative or friend with a hobby workshop. If you're lucky, you can watch, or help, or learn to do it yourself.

    ■ Widen the scope of your search beyond your location. Check out the work of people on MP3Car -- and beyond -- who are for hire.

    If you already have an installation kit, take it with you. It'll be helpful in starting the discussion.

    Before you go, though, you'll need some good drawings, photos, or at least sketches of what you want. You can get free computer-aided design and drafting software at They'll do the fabrication work, too -- that's why they provide the software -- but you can just use the software and find your own supplier. You can also get software at

    Make sure your drawings are exactly what you what, because a good fabrication shop will give you exactly what you request; if what you ask for is wrong, you pay to fix your mistakes, too.

    Prices for this work vary over an amazingly wide range. You can shop around . . . and you may get some good advice along the way.

    Oh, and quality varies widely, too. Look at examples of the fabrication work each shop does, and see if it meets your standards.

    If your project is so successful that others want it, then you can get more made and become the distributor.
    If just enough is really good, then too much ought to be perfect.

    2006 Scion xB with in-dash Atom & Lilliput 889GL -- Worklog at

  • #2
    One big advantage to going around to fabricators asking questions is that it works a lot like this forum -- you get answers, but you frequently learn about other approaches. A lot of the people in the shops will let you pick their brains, and sometimes you find a simple solution to what looked like a tough problem. You may end up being able to do it yourself, or you wind up with a much lower cost than you thought.

    Or you may find a whole new approach to your installation that sends you off in a new direction.
    If just enough is really good, then too much ought to be perfect.

    2006 Scion xB with in-dash Atom & Lilliput 889GL -- Worklog at


    • #3
      Great Write up.

      I find the best way among the suggestions mentioned, is too browse particular forums that specialize in where what you want done. Usually these guys are know what their doing and have done it several times. If your going to find work online, research your Fabricators. Researching them includes reading their previous post and observe their knnowledge and projects shared. Also, talk to people who have dealt with the Fabricator before and get a first hand opinion of their experience. Basically make sure your Fabricator is not a noob. Newbie fabricators may think they know what their doing and their projects may come out fairly decent for a 2nd or 3rd time, but in fact they usually lack the knowledge of the proper materials to create your project. For example, most newbies will use Bondo to bondo a Bezel to an OEM panel. Which in turn the bezel will probably come apart during shipping. Things like this just should not be happening for more reasons then I can imagine.

      Good Luck to all.
      Brian @Nexations Creations

      Specialist in Custom Interior Fiberglass OEM Replication Work.

      AIM: Exus28
      E-Mail: [email protected]


      • #4
        Yep, whether you're typing messages in a forum or walking in the doorway to a shop, references are important. When a fabricator is recommended -- not just once, but often -- chances are good they're worth the money. If you aren't doing the work yourself, ask others who to use.

        Don't just take the first person who comes along; check them out before you hire them. There are several threads on that tell horror stories of having "friends" do the work and ending up with a nightmare. It's bad enough that we screw up our own vehicles. It's hell to pay people and have them screw 'em up.

        On the other hand, it's fantastic to find a good fabricator who can make our dreams happen in a short time, and do better work than we can manage in a long time.
        If just enough is really good, then too much ought to be perfect.

        2006 Scion xB with in-dash Atom & Lilliput 889GL -- Worklog at


        • #5
          Other Suggestions

          ■ Get a quote, not just an estimate. There's a distinct difference. With a quote, you know exactly the price you're going to pay. With an estimate, the fabricator is just guessing at the price you'll pay. An estimate can just come off the top of someone's head, whereas a quote means they've done their homework and know exactly what to do and how much time, material and labor will be involved.

          ■ Know what you want done. If you don't know exactly what you want, then you can't easily ask for a quote. If, between you and the fabricator, you can come to an agreement on what you want, then you're probably in good shape. But if you hand a piece to a fabricator, and say, "I want you to make it look good. What kind of price would you quote for that?", then they may have to work with you to determine exactly what "good" means. In fact, they may have to figure out how to do what you want. Radical custom work probably isn't cheap, and you may only be able to get an estimate, because even the fabricator doesn't know what it takes until they get into it..

          ■ Determine who's supplying the material. If you aren't supplying it, make sure it's included in the quote. If you're looking for custom work on a dash bezel, for instance, you may be asked to supply the bezel. Then you have to trust that you chose a fabricator who won't screw up your part. This where recommendations come in handy.

          ■ Go easy on the delivery date. If you can let them to squeeze it in between jobs whenever they can, instead of getting the fastest possible delivery, you may save some money.

          ■ Don't pay full price up front. Give them 50% or so. If you provide the material, no upfront payment may be necessary, although some shops will still ask for something. The issue here is leverage. They want to be sure you'll pay, but you want to be sure they'll deliver in a decent time. Pay the balance on delivery. Cash works well.

          ■ Don't be desperate. Rush work is always expensive. Many custom shops will price their work higher if you need it really badly.

          ■ And don't act like a jerk. That always costs you, because no one likes to deal with jerks. You'll either pay more or just get sent away with the explanation that they "don't have time" or "don't do small jobs" or some excuse like that.

          Here's a scenario: You walk into my repair shop and ask if I can repair some component, and I agree that I might be able to. I already see that I can fix it relatively fast and easily, and that I have the time. I ask, "Why don't you just get a new one?"

          You say, "Oh, they cost $450."

          I say, "What about getting a one from a wrecking yard?"

          You say, "They wanted $300 there."

          I say, "Why not just fix it yourself?"

          You say, "I tried. Couldn't make it work. My buddy tried, too. We went a couple other places and they said they couldn't fix it."

          So what you've just told me is that you'd have to pay at least $300 to get a replacement, and you're getting desperate. I'll think about it for a bit, and then I'll tell you that you'll have to leave it for three days, and it'll be between $150 and $250 to fix it right. If you don't wince, the price will be in the middle. If you ask what it would be if I did it overnight, the price will be on the high end of that range.

          If you've been respectful and you shake your head and look really, really sad, I might lower the price (maybe even well below the $150 number).

          If you've been a jerk or I suspect you'll be a pain in the butt to deal with, I'll suggest you go the boneyard and get that used one, or else you'll have to pay my price.

          Now, if I really like you, or if you're one of the guys who hangs around and helps around my shop, I might just show you how to fix it yourself, and all it'll cost you is my sandwich and a Coke from the local sub shop, because lunch is on you.

          Time, need, and being a jerk can all cost you. Being a "good guy" can save you.
          If just enough is really good, then too much ought to be perfect.

          2006 Scion xB with in-dash Atom & Lilliput 889GL -- Worklog at


          • #6
            Great write up. I should have just looked down the page a bit before I posted!