His creative metalworking began when he inherited the welding machine from the ranch after his dad died. Around 1973 he ran into Kenneth Nash, who was playing with Weather Report at the time, and Kenneth asked him to make him a bell, so he did. After that, he made some bells for Airto Moreira, and then others. Things started ramping up and he did custom work for people, oftentimes creating incredibly fantastical sonic sculptures for adventurous percussionists. Word caught on.
He started making his famous Ribbon Crashers in 1986 when his business was taking off. “I was really lucky to get some really good metal,” he confides. “I found it at a junkyard — sheets of cold rolled full hard steel. They roll it under tremendous pressure, so it’s a very hard material — it’ll break it’s so brittle. It’s very hard to find. It was so neat that I brought it home and started making Crashers. A lot of care goes into making them — each piece has to be twisted a certain way to have a certain sound. I used to make Crashers with four different sizes for four different tones.”
At some point he could only get the special steel in huge sheets or 5,000 lbs. of coiled strip. While he could still pick up the stuff here and there, it was beginning to be a hassle. Fortuitously, the metal fabricator next door regularly gets large amounts of materials, so Engelhart has been able to piggyback his metal needs on his neighbor’s orders. “Otherwise I couldn’t even afford to be in this business,” he says. “Also, I can use his machinery if I need to. I use the shear back there. We all sort of interchange and work all together here — it’s wonderful. It’s a cool community.”
Shaping And Tooling
Using the hand shear.
Rolling the curve.
Smoothing with the belt sander.