Tuesday, 31 January 2006 17:00

Hands-on experience with master craftsmen

Written by John B. Hendricks
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There's an old saying, "Those who can, do; those who can't, teach." To prove that wrong isn't hard as many professionals know, but without becoming an apprentice how can a young - or not-so-young - auto enthusiast or aspiring craftsman get the opportunity to visit a working shop and have the ears, eyes and hands of talented and recognized experts with them for three days running? All in the actual working environment where those experts turn out prize winning project after project. 

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Rich Evans, owner of Huntington Beach Bodyworks, puts metal to the welder before students take their turns.
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Even a Mercedes owner balks at the $4,000 replacement price for a bumper. Here, Evans demonstrates to three students how to repair rather than replace this expensive part.

The brainchild of Rich Evans, owner, proprietor and master craftsman of Huntington Beach Bodyworks, Huntington Beach, California, the inaugural three-day hands-on seminar for professional and amateur painters, fixers and fixer-uppers took place over a weekend in early January.

Evans is known for his appearances on Chop Cut Rebuild, Junkyard Wars and Dude Room. He is currently marketing stencil kits, headliners and a series of DVD demonstration/lessons on various aspects of his craft.

But sometimes a video isn't enough to get that airbrush in your hand or that MIG welder plugged in.

Who would come and why?

The class attendees were an amazing cross-section of people, some with occupations totally unrelated to the autobody business.

Take Paul from Las Vegas who worked as a graphic artist to put himself through culinary school. Now he is a pastry chef called upon to provide extremely unique cake-top ornaments on his commissions. He has worked at Matsushisa in Beverly Hills and now is at a prestigious hotel, continuing to enter competitions for cake decorating. He had ordered stencils from Evans and received a flyer for the workshop with his order. He drove in to get the hands-on airbrushing secrets from Terry Stephens, the resident airbrush guru. Surprising, huh? Airbrushing on a wedding cake? Who'd of thought it?

Semi-retired, Louis is a car collector and restorer. His major interest is movie cars (including Black Beauty from the 1960's series The Green Hornet). Until now he has had specialty shops do everything for him and currently has four projects in the works. He wanted to get enough bodywork information to do the prep work on dings and dents before he started paying someone else for the intricate work.

Coming all the way from Miami, Florida, Emerson, a graphic designer and illustrator, was impressed by the incredible chrome effects that can be achieved with an airbrush. He didn't regret a penny spent coming to this event. "Definitely worth the trip," Emerson said. With passion in his eyes, he explained his goal to combine his love of cars, motorcycles and art into a future occupation.

Leaving behind the frigid weather in Minnesota, Tytus came to get his hands wet in airbrushing (is there a trend here?), having already attended technical school for collision repair. He was familiar with Huntington Beach Bodyworks from ordering products on the web and gladly made the trip for the opportunity to learn some of Evans' trade secrets.

Joe, a graduate of Wyotech, a coast-to-coast technical school, and Richard, a current student, were both very impressed with the class. Joe called it, "very educational" and emphasized that Evans excels in "zeroing in on the explanation of a technique." Richard's first love is motorcycles, choppers in particular, but felt that a well-rounded learning experience would serve him better. He also designs tattoos for his friends. The second Richard in the class, a friend of Richard 1, sells cars but was having a great time at the seminar.

Last, but certainly not least, is Gary, a professional educator. After a long career in collision repair a friend told him that there was an urgent need for an instructor at Edison High School in Orange County, California. He has some inspiring stories of students who have gone on to six figure incomes in the repair business, both male and female. And they stay in touch with their teacher with updates on their careers and lives. He's been blessed by success in both the hands-on side and the teaching side and was happy to come in to such an impressive facility and get even more knowledge to take back to his "kids."


Every student indicated a desire to return for future workshops. Many had specific facets of the class that they would like to see expanded. They agreed that they would tell their friends about the experience and encourage them to attend in the future. Much of the training was videotaped both for review by the instructors and for the students to have as a reference when they put the techniques they had learned into practice.

Sharing the lessons of experience

So some who can do the job love it so much they want to share their insights with others. Some who already know a lot want to learn more. And some who know and teach want to learn even more to carry back to their students. Unanimously the attendees were impressed with the facility, the ongoing projects, and the willingness of the instructors to share hard-learned lessons and techniques. It takes years to perfect a style that has grace and beauty and to find someone who has that style and is eager to share it is inspiring.

"I want to give back to the industry that has done so much for me," said Evans. He plans to continue offering the workshops and will refine the curriculum to help more students fine tune their skills, learn new ones and find out "how the pros do it."

Information on future workshops can visit www.huntingtonbchbodyworks.com.


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