sheet metal work is great trade.
i apprenticed under my father about thirty years ago, and have been a journeyman for 25 years. i never seem to loose interest in my work, and never stop learning new things. i've had the opertunities to work in so many different facets of the trade. from custom architectural restorations to plain old ductwork to heavey fabrication, working with materials from 0.010 thick all the way up to 1/2" thick. unfortunately, the trade isn't what it used to be and is going steadily downhill. the important stuff like layout and pattern development is just glossed over in the trade schools these days, and more emphasis is placed on CNC computer skills. but when the computer crashes who do you suppose becomes the most important guy in the shop? that's right. the old guy that grew up doing layout work. still; i love my job and enjoy going to work every day. (pays well too).
My 2CW on skills
Many years ago when I was setting up my home wood working shop I brought a high quality American wood working magazine called Fine Woodworking, in the back was a little story which has become one of my favorites. Whenever I want more equipment I get this story out and read it.
It is about this American hobby wood worker, he was a self confessed power tool freak, he had to go and work in Oman for a few years and he could not bring his power tools.
So when he arrived he went around a checked out some local furniture making shops.
To his surprise there was no power tools to be seen and only a few hand tools. He watched a worker grab a piece of square wood and with only an axe and hand plane make a leg for a table which turned out to be perfectly round and shaped, all this in less time than it would have taken him to set the piece of wood up in his wood lathe at home.
He realized that we in the machine age are loosing valuable hand skills and these skills once lost might never come back. He vowed and declared that he when he arrived home he will sell some of his tools and practice his hand tool skills.
I was doing a fine wood working course at the local School of Art and through my metal working skills made friends with the head of school (George) who was one of Australia’s top furniture designer and wood craftsman (unfortunately he passed away a few years ago) I discussed the above issue with him and he suggested the one machine that would be an advantage and that would be a good bandsaw, the rest could be happily done by hand tools. I now have a very good collection of hand tools and a bandsaw.
Twenty years ago I did a Advanced Diploma in Mechanical Engineering which had a large pencil and paper drawing component, drew lots of sheet metal design and development not easy stuff, these days with CAD, draw in 3D and push button for 2D too easy but nice.