Steel Fabrication Tones

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Meet the gentlemen who work at Zottola Steel Corporation, a fabrication shop in East Liberty. I met Matt Zottola about a month ago at a friend’s party. As soon as I answered his what-do-you-do question, he said, “How about some steel fabrication tones?” Since I’d just been to Rivers of Steel to get archival steel industry tones, I thought some present-day steel tones would be fitting. Plus, such a shop would be the next likely stop after steel came out of a mill–so perfect!

Matt started working at his family’s business when he was in high school. “I’d get calls from my father to come down and help out when other guys were missing from the floor,” he said. And it’s still a family business–the day I visited, Matt’s son Brandon was there working.

The shop is huge (the building is 18,000 square feet and the ceiling is about 25 feet high). Looking around, I kept thinking of the Richard Scarry books I had as a little kid. How I loved looking at all those finely detailed pictures of animals working (at the airport, in stores, on city streets). Those books, like episodes of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, when Fred went to visit factories and farms and other exotic-to-me places, made me feel like I was having a look at something most folks don’t get to see. Neat-o.

I asked Matt where their work goes after it leaves the building. “About 99% of the fabrication we do is for construction of some sort. Every once in a while, we produce a part of a machine for a customer. And we also did the cages and chutes for the elephants and polar bears at the Pittsburgh Zoo.”

Matt identified major sounds related to the work that goes on in the shop and introduced me to the men on his team who specialize in working with the various equipment. As we went around the shop, the guys were helpful, fun to work with, and darn patient with me and my childlike curiosity about what the heck the machines actually did.

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The first audio I recorded for a tone was made by Russ Kovacic, who was working on a stainless steel truck rack.

Before I began recording, the guys brought over an extra helmet so that I could see what the welding process looks like. If you haven’t seen anybody weld before, you might not know that you shouldn’t look directly at that firey light from the torch. Through the green glass of the helmet I couldn’t see the fire, just the path of melted steel from the torch. Very cool. Or should I say hot? Anyhow, here’s Russ Kovacic’s Welding Tone.

After welding, we moved onto grinding. When I asked Matt which of the audio would make the most ‘iconic’ ringtone for him, he said, “grinding because practically every job that goes out of here has to have some grinding done on it before it leaves this place.”

Dave “Unk” Demme did the honors. I pulled very straightforward audio from his work on the steel truck rail to make this Grinding Steel Tone.

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Here’s the other Dave–Dave Bassett. He ran the machine called the Iron Worker, which, as Matt told me, “takes a lot of tonnage to punch through stainless steel.” And it makes a very loud “bang” sound that made me jump in the air when I heard it the first time. This ringtone audio consists of the ‘whir’ of the machine once it’s powered up, the punch and a little clank.

It was the loudest, scariest, most powerful sound I recorded within the shop. It reminded me of the industrial music my college friend Sean used to listen to back in the mid-to later 80s.  For that reason, I was inspired to make this Iron Worker Industrial Tone–the sounds are mixed from the range of audio content I recorded from Dave working the machine. I also made a very short (but shouldn’t be described as sweet) Iron Worker Punch (Message) Alert for the non-faint of heart who want a powerful text or picture message alert–it’s a simple chronological excerpt from the type of work Dave did with that machine.

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Last of all, I edited a clang-ey Fixin’ to Move Steel Tone from audio I recorded of the guys (starting from far left–Matt and Brandon Zottola with Dave Demme),  moving steel beams across the shop floor.

brandonBEAM

You’ll hear a lot of clanking sounds. That’s Brandon Zottola throwing the chains around (for the most part) to use the crane to move steel through part of the fabrication shop space.

Thanks to Matt Zattola (and the guys) for welcoming me to the shop to collect some awesome steel fab tones, and thanks also to Craig Parrish for showing me how the drill line works. Watching that machine operate was super fascinating, but the audio wasn’t distinct enough from the other sounds in the shop to cause me to want to make a ringtone out of it.

Thanks gentlemen of Zottola Steel Corporation! I’m pleased to have a whole new set of local industry heritage related work tones in the project.

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