Welding is a valuable skill to help you be successful in the metal fabrication industry, but what other qualities or characteristics do you need to excel and stand out from the crowd?

Hands down, no doubt about it, you need to learn to become a creative fabricator.

Fabrication begins way before the metal even arrives, and it’s much more than just cutting, bending, notching, and assembling. The average welder can read blueprints and welding procedure specification sheets to get the job done. But how do you feel when asked to fabricate something from scratch?

Whether it’s a suspension kit, equal-length stainless steel headers, or a cool rocket stove for cooking in the backyard, the fabrication process starts in the mind, and it takes time to bring to life. You need to think about correct operation of what you’re fabricating, then incorporate talent and creativity to transform it into functional art. The finished product must look clean and well-planned.

Over the past five years in the welding and fabrication industry, I’ve worked on a variety of projects and have seen first-hand how much thought and attention to detail it takes to be a great fabricator. But how do you move toward that goal? A good starting point is to follow the five steps of the creative process:

1. Gather New Information. Follow skilled fabricators on social media for “fabrication inspiration.” Fabricators like Kibbetech, Morgan Clarke Design MCD1, and SMP Fab do a great job of showing different angles of what they’re building, and they provide insight to guys like me who don’t have access to years of knowledge. Learn all the fabrication techniques you can, old and new, so you can find the best one for your project.

2. Work Over Concepts in Your Mind. Give yourself time to really think about your ideas and concepts for the project. Sometimes it’s best to do this just before bed.

3. Go for a Walk. Don’t pressure yourself to spit out magical fabrication work instantly. Give your mind a break and do something completely off-topic.

4. Let the Ideas Come Back. After some time, your mind will flash insights of new concepts and builds.

5. Start Your Build! There’s no need to chase perfection, but if you keep working hard, your fabrication abilities will continue to grow.