Precision the secret of perfection


From left, Phil Crosbie Junior, Phil Crosbie, and Bill Lee in front of the Metalmaster press brake, looking at two profi les it made

Are PEC Stainless Steel products made in an engineering workshop or an artist’s studio? The answer is probably a mixture of both, as JENNY PRETORIUS reports.

The PEC Stainless team are masters of their craft, the trademarks of their work are accuracy and quality. To achieve that they need plant they can rely on.

On the one hand, Phil Crosbie and his team of four colleagues manufacture their stainless steel products with the help of a stable of precision engineering equipment. On the other hand, by far the majority of the products that roll off the Pukekohe-based factory floor are exquisite, one-off designer pieces.

PEC Stainless Steel specialises in manufacturing high-end fixtures, furnishings, and sculptural accessories for bars and kitchens for the domestic home and yacht markets, and for commercial markets. PEC Stainless Steel has a loyal customer base that hails from the early 1990s, when Mr Crosbie and his wife, artist and writer Jane Crosbie, established the company.

The PEC Stainless team mostly works to architect specifications, but in some instances Mr Crosbie helps design the product, especially when the BJ Crosbie operating the new Sunrise punch. He says it is easy to change the tooling and set the back gauge for production runs, which saves a lot of timebrief includes a sculpture to complement the bar and or kitchen suite or as a stand-alone creation. He says to bring out the true beauty of stainless steel, he treats it as a malleable material, as a potter would treat clay.

“I believe stainless steel should be handled the way a man handles the beautiful body of his woman – gently. It is about teasing and caressing its essence into being. I don’t hack and hammer…I rub and shape and join, I smooth and polish and mould the stainless steel with my hands and the most sensitive touch of welding,” Mr Crosbie says.

The studio stays busy with a constant stream of commissions from all over the world that arrive as a result of word of mouth networking. “The majority of my contracts for the domestic market include a confidentiality clause, as the clients are often reclusive and do not want the pieces photographed and publicised,” Mr Crosbie says.

Recently completed commercial work includes the fitting of The Crossing Bar and the Kagura Sushi restaurant in Highbrook, South Auckland, as well as a Hollywood Bakery in the same area.

“Finishing big jobs like these feels like a major achievement… it is a good showcase for our work,” he says.

Mr Crosbie says PEC Stainless Steel creations’ trademark is quality and accuracy. The team achieves this through excellent craftsmanship and using reliable, quality The recently completed Kagura Bar, with benchtops made from Deco 9 Linen Textureequipment. His credentials are impeccable – he has won several awards for his stainless steel work.

The award that stands out for him is the “Oscar” of the stainless steel industry, in an event presented biennially by the South African Stainless Steel Development Association.

“In 2000 with my first entry I won the highest award for in this event– the first prize in the Welding Section. No human fabricator has won the S.A.S.S.D.A. Welding Award since. The judges declared they had never seen fabrication work of this calibre before. This proved that the human eye and the soul of an artist can still produce standards of excellence and precision that surpass the world’s most advanced technology and machines.”

In addition, Mr Crosbie is the only entrant to ever have won awards in different sections in consecutive years.

To cope with PEC Stainless Steel’s increased workload, the team recently bought three new pieces of plant from Machinery House in Highbrook Drive. These are a Metalmaster 3200mm x 6mm hydraulic guillotine, a Metalmaster 135t x 4m press brake S908G, and a Sunrise 35t punching machine.

Mr Crosbie is particularly impressed with the guillotine.

“Its 250mm slit function enables me to cut any length stainless steel sheet. I also found the guillotine back guard is extremely accurate. I set it to specific measurement on the digital panel and can count on it this will be the size I get, which makes a major positive difference to the work it takes to get the job done perfectly.”

The acquisitions follow a relationship with Machinery House sales manager Bill Lee that has been growing steadily over the past three years. Bill, in the engineering field for 40-odd years, says Machinery House prides itself on supplying customers with the exact right machine for the job at hand.

“All our machines are prerun and checked against a checklist before going out to customer.

“The machine basically hits the customer’s factory floor running. And to ensure the machines remain as reliable as the day we install them and the customer as happy as the day he got them, we provide a full backup service.”

Machinery House’s focus has impressed Mr Crosbie greatly: “Machinery House’s product advice, training, and after sales support were great. The machines are user friendly, easy to operate, and has proved to save us time and money. And it’s good to know that we can call on Bill when we need him,” he says.

Mr Crosbie continues to develop and look for new challenges.

“I’m constantly trying to think outside the square when designing with stainless steel. I like to believe there’s nothing I cannot design, fabricate, shape, form, weld, or make out of stainless steel.”

Traditionally metal craftsmen had to be both artists and scientists in the disciplines they love. Now technology allows craftsmen to be designers and engineers as well. The tools of technology today marry the past and the future, allowing craftsmen to combine the best of the old with the challenge of the new.