What does a Metal Fabricator do?

Barbara R. Cochran
Barbara R. Cochran
A metal fabricator might work with sheet metal.
A metal fabricator might work with sheet metal.

A metal fabricator cuts and shapes metal, usually steel or ferrous metals, which are used in the manufacture of both heavy and light structures or articles that are used by people every day of their lives. Examples of heavy structures are bridges, buildings, ships, and heavy equipment. Light metals fabrication is involved in the production of automobile bodies, bicycles, chairs, and ornamental products.

Metal fabricators may use fly cutters, which are used for milling circular cuts and notches in metal.
Metal fabricators may use fly cutters, which are used for milling circular cuts and notches in metal.

To be able cut and shape metals to be used for these articles and structures correctly, a metal fabricator has to know how to read and interpret engineers’ drawings and blueprints. He or she must also know how to use computers as part of the metal fabrication process. Once the metal fabricator understands what is required to fabricate a piece for a structure, he or she uses tools like band saws and cutting torches to create it. Also, he or she may connect pieces with rivets or nuts and bolts, or bend, twist, or roll pieces into different form.

Metal fabricators work with engineer designs and blueprints.
Metal fabricators work with engineer designs and blueprints.

The usual route one takes towards becoming a metal fabricator is training at a technical institute. In some countries, the training programs offer several years of training beyond a basic certificate. Prior to schooling, a man or woman may have worked his or her way up at a fabrication shop or manufacturing site, from an entry-level position into a metal fabricator apprenticeship.

Metal fabricators commonly wear coveralls designed to protect their body from metal shavings and other debris.
Metal fabricators commonly wear coveralls designed to protect their body from metal shavings and other debris.

Anyone who wants to work as a metal fabricator should enjoy working with his or her hands, in addition to working with engineer designs and blueprints. The work can be hazardous, since one sometimes has to use sharp, heavy tools, and fire, when welding is involved. Metal fabricators have been known to lose a finger or two while carrying out their work. They can experience temporary blindness from intense light, as well as get tiny flecks of metal embedded in their eyes. To try to avoid all that, a metal fabricator typically wears protective gear like coveralls, safety goggles, heavy-duty gloves, face shields, and steel-toed boots.

A metal fabricator may need to be skilled in cutting and welding with an oxyacetylene torch.
A metal fabricator may need to be skilled in cutting and welding with an oxyacetylene torch.

Metal fabrication jobs are highly dependent on the construction industry, and of course, on manufacturing. As a result, lay-offs tend to occur when the amount of new building declines, or when there are losses in the manufacturing sector. If a metal fabricator belongs to a union, he or she may be prohibited from taking on non-union jobs. This can seriously limit work opportunities and income.

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    • A metal fabricator might work with sheet metal.
      A metal fabricator might work with sheet metal.
    • Metal fabricators may use fly cutters, which are used for milling circular cuts and notches in metal.
      Metal fabricators may use fly cutters, which are used for milling circular cuts and notches in metal.
    • Metal fabricators work with engineer designs and blueprints.
      Metal fabricators work with engineer designs and blueprints.
    • Metal fabricators commonly wear coveralls designed to protect their body from metal shavings and other debris.
      Metal fabricators commonly wear coveralls designed to protect their body from metal shavings and other debris.
    • A metal fabricator may need to be skilled in cutting and welding with an oxyacetylene torch.
      A metal fabricator may need to be skilled in cutting and welding with an oxyacetylene torch.