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Metal Fabrication

Branching Out

Versatile Cam Bortz discusses fabricating metal, sign-hanging brackets.

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Cam Bortz has established his name and the name of his shop, Finest Kind Signs and Graphic Design (Pawcatuck, CT), throughout New England –and, throughout the Letterheads community — by crafting upscale, dimensional, carved signs for clients in Connecticut and Rhode Island for the last 15 years. He’s won awards in ST’s Commercial Sign Design Contest and helped the Boston Red Sox celebrate a century of baseball lore (see ST, November 2001, page 62). However, when the ironworker that fabricated Cam’s bracket designs chose to retire, it led to an exciting turn in his career.

Getting into heavy metal

Because Finest Kind installs most of its signs, the shop always offered its clients custom-made, steel brackets. The shop offered in-house installation equipment, and the brackets were integrated into a sign’s overall design to give it a competitive advantage.

For several years, Cam took his bracket designs to Dom Barravecchia, a third-generation metalworker based in Westerly, RI. He marveled at Barravecchia’s expertise.

"His specialty for most of his career was spiral staircases," Cam recalls. "He built them by eye, meaning he’d measure the stairs’ space and height, then create a chalk layout of the railing curve and stair placement on the floor of his shop."

Cam also noted that Barravecchia custom-built his own equipment for cold-bending mild steel and could produce multiple scroll shapes and cold-bend heavy steel bars.

Three years ago, Barravechia announced his retirement, and told Cam he would sell his equipment. The announcement came as a shock to Cam, who thought the 80-year-old was "not a day over 60."

Reacting quickly, Cam purchased the shaping equipment, as well as an arbor press — a hand-operated device that exerts thousands of pounds of downward force to bend steel to 90

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