Clark Kent, who? This Super(Trades)man can fix and fab virtually anything!
Meet Lee Zundel, a 54 year old Texan who grew up in Phoenix, AZ with the type of parents any inquisitive kid would want. “I was very lucky to have access to my dad’s tools, and a mother that would allow me to stay up all night building plastic airplane models.”
With support like that, it’s no wonder Lee has been involved in the trades industry since he can remember!
How long have you been welding? What got you interested in it?
Somewhere around 34 years.
I was not even 12 years old and I would hang out over at my buddy’s house down the street. It was two brothers, Rick and Jeff Geiser who were always working on dirt bikes, off-road buggies and Volkswagen’s. They often had to fabricate and weld things. I was hooked!
I had always messed with my dad’s tools and would make things out of wood, but I really was fascinated with the metal fabrication aspect. My freshman year in high school I took metal shop and from then on, I knew I found my calling.
My first year out of high school, I got a job working at a Volkswagen aftermarket store called “Station 1.” It also had a separate building that fabricated Beetle to Baja Bug parts like bumpers, roll bars and nerf bars. I was the proud drill press operator.
From then on, I have worked at several fabrication shops finding that you never stop learning and improving your skills.
What is your job now? If welding is not a part of that, in what way do you use welding?
I am a production specialist at Raytheon technologies, no welding here but I do get to use my mechanical skills every day.
On the weekends I become “Fabrication Superman!” I do what I love while making side money. I always seem to amaze the average person that has an “emergency“ or a project they need to have fabricated. I have some really genuine reviews on google, they make me realize the gift I have in repairing things. I usually don’t turn down the small jobs, I find them to be the most challenging because you have to figure out how to fix the customers broken part quickly while also making sure it’s done above their expectations.
How did you train? What welding processes do you use the most or feel more familiar with?
When I was hired as a drill press/saw operator, I would always ask the welders questions and watch them. I was working at a precision sheet metal shop in Chandler, AZ. and the senior guys would let me practice with their MIG or TIG welders on some scrap during lunch.
One day a welder got fired and they said, “We need you to MIG weld some sheet metal boxes together.” I was scared but confident. I learned real fast and in a few days, I was fast enough that they just kept me as the solo welder.
TIG welding is my love. My first welder I ever bought was a Miller Syncrowave 250. That was 25 years ago and it is still my biggest used machine!
What advice would you give your 15 year old self? What advice would you give young people interested in welding as a career?
The advice that I would give to someone interested in welding as a career would be “Don’t be afraid to ask.” If you ask, most often a craftsman that doesn’t think you’ll take their job away will be interested in sharing their knowledge with you.
Always be willing to put in the hard work to achieve a level of “mastery” you want. Being ‘good enough’ isn’t the goal, you should always strive to reach a high level in order to be successful in anything you do.
What has been your biggest career challenge to date?
Dealing with a wide variety of customers.
Finding the other shops that have the machine you don’t to complete your job.
Saying no to a job.
Where do you see the Job opportunities in this industry? What’s the best path for success for both women and men, especially given the projected shortage of skilled welders?
Just being proficient at welding isn’t all that you need to be successful in the field. You need to be aware of the various avenues of fabrication, equipment, machines as well as a deep understanding of metals and their properties.
Designing is also important as you should be able to help others understand how a particular design or sketch will or will not work.
Any other topics you’d like to cover, such as favorite project, favorite tools, music you listen to while welding, where you get your inspiration for your projects, etc.?
Favorite tools: Battery operated Milwaukee everything.
Favorite music: Stuff that helps motivate the mind, hip hop and dance party jams!
My inspiration starts with a tiny vision, either from myself or a customer’s, then multiplies after that.