Hillsboro man fuses metal with meaning
Not just anyone would see beauty in a bucket of old horseshoes, but Hillsboro welder Kevin Bernhardt did.
“You can make just about anything out of metal,” Bernhardt said. “One of the first things I made from those horseshoes was tulips for my mom last Christmas. She cried when she saw them.”
The tulips had a special significance between Bernhardt and his mother.
“Mom didn’t have much luck with flowers when I was growing up,” he said. “I figured she’d like them. One of our big jokes was, ‘Hey, at least you can’t kill them.’”
Bernhardt has used his welding skills at Circle D Corporation for 10 years, but about a year ago, he started experimenting with his own projects after he came across those horseshoes.
He said his dad helped him acquire his own welder last fall, which made it possible of Bernhardt to do different projects outside of work.
His dad enjoys riding motorcycles, so Bernhardt decided to make a small sculpture of a chopper as a way to thank him. He got the idea after he noticed some discarded metal nuts. Bernhardt realized he could use them for wheels. He used other castoff materials, including old drill bits, screwdrivers, and screws, to complete the miniature motorcycle.
“The gas tank was crooked on the first chopper I made,” he said. “When I gave it to Dad he said, ‘It’s art. It’s not supposed to be perfect.’”
Bernhardt said welding at home is different from welding at work. At Circle D, there are precise measurements and time standards for production he has to keep. Welding for him at home is more of a hobby.
“I’m kind of anal about my stuff at work,” he said. “But I don’t have time standards at home so I kind of just let my mind run wild.”
Bernhardt cranks up folk or bluegrass music out in his garage to relax and get into a creative headspace.
He keeps every tool in its right place at work, but Bernhardt said coworkers who have visited his garage have joked with him about its appearance.
“It’s a mess but I know where everything is at,” he said. “It’s really hard to stay organized because I’ve got all these different sizes and shapes of metal.”
At home, he keeps scrap metal outside because he likes to let it rust. He said people seem to like items that have a rusted or vintage look. He also does some repair work and other more precise fabrication work on the side.
Bernhardt posts pictures of his home projects online at KayBee Metal Works. He charges for commissioned work but continues to make heartfelt gifts for friends and family.
“I enjoy working with metal either way but don’t want my thing at home to become a job,” Bernhardt said. “I want to have fun.”