By Gregory Daurer | Sep 11, 2022
Metal fabrication services
Reynolds says the "bread and butter" of Standard Metal Works' business consists of building "stairs and rails" -- displaying aesthetic attention to line and form -- for luxury homes in the Boulder area.
He doesn't need to do extensive marketing for his metalworking business, either. "We have been very lucky," says Reynolds about the demand for his company's services in a hot home market. "It comes to us because Boulder's Boulder. We've had work come to us this year that we said no to: 'I just can't get it done. I can't meet your timelines.'"
The company may not always be able to meet someone's proposed timeline, but Reynolds says he and his crew pride themselves on "meeting our deadlines and meeting our quality expectations" for the projects they do take on.
Besides stairs and rails, the company has done a major awning project for One Boulder Plaza (an image of which can be seen at the top of the company's website). Sometimes they're called on to construct a metal planter, a gate, a mailbox, or a repository for chopped wood. The company's fabrication work has also accompanied artwork: "We used to do a lot of pedestals for an artist in town," says Reynolds. "He would put his rock sculptures on them."
The company also builds furniture like tables and table bases, he adds. "We're next door to a granite shop that sends customers over. . . . We'll make the granite into a tabletop, and we'll build the base for it."
When Standard Metal Works takes on, for instance, a rail project, part of the welding work takes place at the home site, but mostly it's done at the company's shop in a decreasingly industrial section of East Boulder. Measurements will be taken at the home site, then a draftsman will produce the plans -- which get double-checked before work begins. Then the crew "will tack up a rail frame" -- the "skeleton of a rail" -- and get to work on completing the work at the shop. "Sometimes we apply a chemical patina in here," Reynolds says. "Sometimes we send it off for powder and then we need to go back and install it." Finally, the work is taken to the site for installation.
All told, the number of projects the company took on -- varying in time and scope -- totaled about 100 last year. "Our gross is down and our profitability is up," says Reynolds of the overall business. "We grew too fast a few years ago, got up to 18 people. I wasn't a confident enough manager to keep track of all that, so we scaled back and charged more appropriately for the quality we're capable of. And we're making more money and have fewer people to manage. That's been unexpectedly helpful, because it's really hard to find qualified guys right now."
The company's name pays homage to a previous family business: Standard Machine Shop, which was run by Reynolds' great-grandfather, his grandfather, and his great uncle. According to family lore, his great uncle made parts for the Apollo spacecraft for lunar missions in the 1960s.
Reynolds took a circuitous route to his current profession: He studied English literature in college, pursued professional snowboarding for a time, practiced weightlifting, got a degree in kinesiology, and then taught high-school English. "I started taking welding classes at night because I always liked working with my hands," he says.
He's also quite blunt about his own abilities. "I am the least skilled draftsman in here," says Reynolds of his shop. "The least skilled welder, the least skilled finisher. I just recognize it all, I know what's good. These guys are genuinely talented -- and I don't think that's always highlighted by business owners. I just put them all together. But without them, I can't do it."
And what is it he likes best about the work? "Concreteness," says Reynolds. "I get to see my work every day."
Challenges: "Staffing is a tough one right now," says Reynolds. "Scheduling is always hard, and it's become harder due to staffing and material shortages."
Opportunities: "We're located in a good city for what we do," says Reynolds of Boulder -- which for all intents and purposes is as close to recession-proof as a county can be in Colorado. "There's plenty of people wanting to move here and spend money on their homes."
Needs: "If we had one more really competent fabricator, we could put more work out," says Reynolds about hiring. "We just can't seem to find one."