In one of the most unexpected of places, at the heart of Stettler’s industrial area is a white quonset that has the most exquisite and ambitious metal art at the front – a dinosaur, measuring 10 feet long and 6 feet tall at the tail, with the head being about four-and-a-half feet tall.
“We try and mix things up a bit, although originally this was Ryan’s idea, it was easy to get hooked on to these side projects, it’s a lot of fun,” said Wayne Tebbe, owner of WTS Manufacturing. “We had put together a smaller version of this for a client and painted it olive green, so we decided to put our skills together again and make something bigger.”
Tebbe employs Ryan Pinnock and Braydon Whiteford, partners in play for all the commercial and fun projects.
“Ryan found the drawing for different-sized dinosaurs and one day when it was a little quiet, we put a sheet of steel on our CNC Plasma table and a few hours later we had the 10-feet-long Velociraptor,” said Tebbe.
Although “reserved and a man of few words”, Whiteford is a “hard worker” and passionate about what he does.
“I started welding in school in about Grade 10 and have been interested ever since which made me apply at WTS, where I’ve been working now for over two years,” said Whiteford. “Since then, I have acquired many new skills here and techniques from my co-workers.”
Having fun with metal is second nature to Whiteford, who said, “During welding in school, we would have small projects to work on usually, but one year I built a three-dimensional prop airplane, which I really enjoyed and that created in me a deeper interest in pursuing metal craft, such as the dinosaur because it was something different than what we normally do.”
Tebbe is no novice, either, to the world of metal and welding, having started the craft at the age of 18.
“I have always loved working with metal and really enjoyed being able to take a pallet of raw steel and be able to make something that is functional and works and has a purpose,” said Tebbe. “I welded for farm equipment manufacturers for about eight years in Saskatchewan, and then I went back to college to get my Business Administration and Marketing Degree before I moved to Alberta in 2003.”
Although at first Tebbe worked in sales for farm equipment and oilfield, about seven years ago, he bought a welder for their garage and did a few odd projects for himself and his neighbours.
That sparked an interest in Tebbe to get more creative.
“I then started doing some small-parts welding for a few companies, and after awhile I had to make a decision to either keep doing sales from 9-5 throughout the week, Monday to Friday and weld t evenings and weekends or do this full time,” explained Tebbe.
Adventurous and a calculated risk-taker, Tebbe slowly transitioned his part-time job into a full-time vocation in July of 2013.
“I think it was important for me to pursue what I loved and so I made the move to quit my full time job and doing this full time finally,” said Tebbe.
Tebbe’s baby, WTS Manufacturing was born out of his need to chase his dream.
“WTS currently builds parts for hydrovac trucks, skid stands, as well as products for Government of Alberta parks and repairs or just custom work for individuals,” added Tebbe. “People who know me have always asked if I could build certain things, customized to what they want and I always give it a try!”
Currently working on a few Star Wars cutouts, Tebbe likes to keep pushing the envelope every time he takes on a new project.
“We have always tried to make cool products, which could also be functional and more durable, so we use steel, aluminum and stainless steel a lot,” said Tebbe. “In the last few months, we’ve built custom gates, fire pits and vent covers.”
Tebbe prefers working with steel and has always found it easier than other material such as wood.
“Working with steel has always been easier for me than working with wood, so when we realized how we can do certain drawings and what we can do to make different items from coat hangers to wall art, we’ve been able to make just about anything,” continued Tebbe. “A lot of what we cut or built is from just wanting to build something custom and has never been seen before or done before, so its nice when you have the material and equipment to make whatever it is you want to make.”
It is Tebbe’s playful spirit and innovative mindset that has brought him a long way from just creating the usual commercial projects.
“You just have to think of what you want and make a plan to make it work,” said Tebbe. “Take a boring cold air vent and make a nice skyline and now you have a conversation piece.”