SYRACUSE -- In a large metal shop behind his residence, Corey Stahle regularly creates fireworks, or as he puts it, "lightning in a box."
Stahle uses that phrase to describe his CNC plasma cutter, which shoots sparks while it cuts designs into sheet metal.
Stahle, 61, began welding years ago, while still in high school. He added to his skills while working for an Ogden business. Eventually, while working for the post office, he decided to turn his talent into a side business, one he began nearly 20 years ago.
"You derive a sense of satisfaction from working with your hands and seeing a project finished. That was something I wanted for my boys," said Stahle, whose three sons were young when he set up his welding shop.
"You gain a lot of confidence in the process. At a young age, that is a good skill to learn."
He and his sons gleaned more information from other professional welders over the years.
"There is an aspect of being able to work on a project from the start of the concept with a mental image, then create that into a physical image," Stahle said. "I've always enjoyed seeing a project finished, and the sense of accomplishment when it's through."
He spent hours making a rose bush out of sheet metal for his wife, painstakingly hammering and shaping the thin metal into rose petals. The sculpture sits on his kitchen table, though his wife still asks for live roses every so often.
Along with creativity comes the trial and error that goes into using the tools of the trade -- band saws, drill presses, manual pipe benders and the CNC plasma cutter to create varieties of metal art, signs, yard art and sculptures.
Stahle's hope is to ensure he doesn't make too many mistakes in the process, as it can get quite costly. The welding industry has been hit hard by the economy, with the cost of metal increasing. Many welding businesses have had to close their doors as a result, Stahle said.
To stay in business, he has honed his craft to incorporate a wide variety of business ventures, beginning with repairing tractors for farmers. He also expanded to mailbox designs, wall sayings, trophies, railings and even fabrication for off-road vehicles.
Stahle said he is always looking to the future with new ideas. He is currently working on designs for electric bikes.
Stahle calls himself a welder but said there is so much variety that goes with that term. He works with all types of metals, including steel, aluminum and alloys.
"You have to be able to understand and appreciate the differences between the metals and how they work together," he said.
The ever-changing technology has made it possible for him to weld more intricate designs on thinner metals, using the CNC plasma cutter. That involves creating the design on a computer program, then transferring it to the machine. It can take mere minutes to cut what once took him hours using an oxyacetylene torch, a hand torch using a mixture of acetylene and oxygen.
New technologies and new metals make Stahle excited for the future and provide the opportunity to continually learn more about his craft.