If You Don’t Have It, Make It
Over the course of his welding career, 36-year-old Jason Marburger (see Figure 2) has burned countless rods in every capacity, from automotive fabrication to commercial ironwork construction to mobile welding. Marburger has worked alone and managed crews over the years. Today he works as a contractor. Through it all he has wondered why welders often are limited to using carpenter’s tools that never fully meet their needs.
“They give you a flat welding table and ask you to build and weld with a speed square and primitive tools. I always thought there had to be a way to clamp things to it,” he said.
He started his latest job in Spokane, Wash., with the intent of customizing his welding table to better serve his skills. Marburger wanted a welder-specific square that was designed with weld accessibility, able to accommodate offsets, and constructed of a material that could withstand the heat and abuse of welding. With the goal of making his job a little easier, he sketched out a rudimentary design for something that would meet any needs he might encounter on the job. The next day he had a friend cut the parts with a plasma cutter, then welded a prototype, and immediately put it to work. It didn’t take long to draw interest from co-workers and others in the shop.
“It worked well. Everyone immediately wanted to check it out, and I thought I might have something here,” Marburger said.
From the Welding Table to the Web
When a local welding supply salesperson learned about Marburger’s creation, he asked him to demonstrate it at the company’s open house. He dove headfirst into the world of entrepreneurship and in only two weeks threw together a website, built a brand, and hustled to create a small inventory of products to present.
“I welded my butt off; showed up at the event; flopped down the tailgate; and was right there with all the big boys like Miller, Lincoln, and ESAB,” Marburger said.
He said his custom-designed square drew interest from welders, buyers, and other manufacturers. Leaving with new contacts, new ideas, and a greater awareness of his product’s potential, he set out to design a more accurate and repeatable square.
He immediately faced the challenges of balancing a full-time welding job with becoming an after-hours entrepreneur. Marburger sold his pickup trucks to raise capital for the first orders and managed most of the growth himself, building the business on a limited budget and with a do-it-yourself attitude.
One of the first steps was to improve the design and move production beyond the limits of his own hands and welding table. In July 2016 he discovered an aluminum foundry in Spokane that could cast the tool in an accurate, durable, one-piece design. Marburger had access to the production facility to ensure quality control. Also, he considered it important to keep production in the U.S.
With an avenue for more production, he started promoting and growing his Fireball Tool through application videos on his YouTube channel.
“Within the few weeks of someone showing my tool on YouTube, I was selling hundreds of units,” said Marburger. “It has been growing ever since.”
The tool has been starting to receive interest from larger organizations that buy multiple tools for their entire team of welders. Inquiries also have come from as far away as Australia and New Zealand.
Bringing Tools to Market
The tool is under a patent application, something he said has been a “roller coaster ride.” He has been reinvesting nearly all of the money from tool sales back into the business and also has a dozen new designs that he would like to test and prototype in the future.
“Because I have a day job, I don’t have to pull from Fireball. I’m just reinvesting to buy more molds, improve my products, and create new ones,” he said.
The tool variations can be used alone or in conjunction with each other to handle nearly any type of weld or joint a fabricator might encounter, according to Marburger. The company now has more than a dozen products and combinations, including preassembled tools and kits that are precut and can be welded together.
Marburger said the tools can be used in many ways that traditional squares cannot, as different angles, access points, and lengths allow them to be used in multiple capacities. Angles and squares also can be clamped together (see Figure 3) to create tools up to 2 feet long to assist in various welding functions. The dedicated-angle fixture has no pivot point in the corner, allowing weld access inside and outside, and it can be adjusted to serve as a fixturing device for cutting, grinding, and gas tungsten arc welding (GTAW).
“Having a tool that was really versatile, valuable, and could accommodate many angles was important. It can be used on a welding table, on sawhorses, or a man basket,” Marburger said. “We’re welders. We need to be able to weld what we put together. And we need to be able to quickly check it to ensure it is square.”
Fireball Tool, www.fireballtool.com
Freelance writer Craig Guillot can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.