Alberta resident with a creative streak combines metal work expertise with passion for heavy equipment.
— Chris McMillan
As the saying goes, find a job doing something you love, and you will never work a day in your life. When you lose yourself in a project, and your wife calls you at nine o’clock in the evening reminding you to come home, chances are good that you have found your dream job. This is true for Wade Blundell, owner of Blundell Metal Works in Grande Prairie, Alberta.
Growing up in Pemberton, British Columbia, Wade was introduced to logging at a young age. Both his grandfather and father logged, so when Wade graduated, he worked in the industry for about twelve years. As a young boy, Wade would go with his dad into the bush and watch the fallers cutting the big fir and cedar trees. Then he would go back home and draw what he saw. “I always drew when I was a kid, and played a lot with Lego,” says Wade.
After leaving the logging industry, Wade moved to Alberta to work in the oil and gas sector. He worked in the welding trade for about six years, then became a supervisor in a structural steel shop in Grande Prairie. After four years, with much experience under his belt, Wade decided to venture out and start his own business. Blundell Metal Works opened in the fall of 2018.
Blundell Metal Works is a metal fabrication and design studio that specializes in hand crafted and CNC metal crafts, parts, home decor and industrial welding. Wade handles quotes and bids on jobs, and does design work for the structural items like hand railings, stairs, range hoods and similar pieces. “But for the other twelve hours of the day I build models,” he says.
Wade uses several different materials to replicate chains, cables and other small parts.
Models of heavy equipment, aircraft, trucks, military machines, and pretty much anything else can be custom ordered from Blundell. Wade usually builds models of heavy equipment, trucks, and trailers at 1:16 scale. For airplanes, boats, and trains, he increases the scale a bit so that he can add more of the smaller details.
Wade has built many Tigercat machines including feller bunchers, shovel loggers, skidders and loaders, with orders coming primarily from the southern United States and Canadian west coast. Wade comments, “I’m a big fan. I’ve run a lot of them and they’re just popular.”
Each project starts with a drawing. Wade has a library of about 150 machines that he has drawn and saved as files for the CNC machine. Using photos or drawings from sales literature, Wade draws each part of the machine he is going to build and scales the drawings accordingly. Being around machines for many years helps when it comes to drawing the parts and understanding how they go together. “It always just works. I don’t know why, I just have the eye for it or something,” admits Wade.
Wade uses a CNC plasma cutter to cut most of the parts, but everything else is handmade. He describes his side of the shop as “not your average fab shop.” He continues, “My wife works in dentistry, so she brings home all the broken, cool little tools. I fix them up and use them because you need good quality small little pieces to make pins and track rails.
Once Wade has all the pieces, he takes them to his fabrication table to put the pieces together and weld them. “Sometimes I go back and remake them, and make them better. They could always be better,” says Wade. Once the model is complete, Wade will go back and file the drawings under categories such as undercarriage, carbody and boom for future reference.
Having left a well-paying job in the oil field, Wade and his wife were unsure of what the future would hold. They questioned the decision while acknowledging the need for a change. “I needed a break. I needed out of the oil field.” Wade started an Instagram account and acquires roughly 50 followers a day. He is shipping models to Brazil, New Zealand, and Australia, and the orders keep coming in. “It’s good when you can enjoy what you do so much that you get lost in it and just keep working. You don’t realize what time it is, and that’s fantastic.”