Jessi Combs

Jessi Combs: The Real Deal

With a long, varied, and record-breaking career, Jessi Combs truly is the “Real Deal” in the world of metal fabricators and motorsports. Just who is Jessi Combs and why is she important to the metal industry?

Growing up in South Dakota, Jessi excelled at racing, snow sports, and especially off-roading. She also showed an artistic bent and found working with her hands to be quite natural and extremely empowering. All these talents came together when Jessi entered WyoTech, graduating with a degree in Custom Automotive Fabrication.

jessi combs working on motorcycle

Her first fabrication job was building a car from the ground up in six months for the school’s marketing department. The car debuted at the Specialty Equipment Marketing Association (SEMA) show, and propelled Jessi headlong into a career combining fabrication & metal artistry, racing, and the entertainment industry.

Since then, Jessi has co-hosted or guest-starred on hundreds of television episodes for shows like Overhaulin’, Xtreme 4×4, SEMA Show Special, All Girls Garage, and The List: 1001 Car Things To Do Before You Die. Among multiple guest appearances in automotive TV circuit, she also appeared in the entire 7th season of Mythbusters, filling in for Kari Byron on maternity leave.

Jessi’s Love for Racing

Jessi’s first love is racing, and she continues to build and race vehicles with her teams. After three attempts as a co-driver, her first year as driver of record and Jessi placed first in the spec class in the King of the Hammers (KOH) off-road race in 2014 – the first female to ever place at any Ultra4 event. Then in 2016 she won the Every Man’s Challenge (EMC) at KOH in the Modified class, and in 2017 took that car to a twelfth place overall finish. To level out the playing field, she followed that up with a 1st place win in the Stock class in 2018 – taking 3rd overall in the EMC. The brutal race, which combines desert racing and rock crawling, takes place on a dry lake bed in and around Johnson Valley, California near Yucca Valley.

jessi combs working on motor

In 2011, Jessi finished on the podium in the Baja 1000 in class 10, and again a few years later a 2nd in class 7. In 2015 she competed in the Rallye Aicha des Gazelles, a nine-day all-female rally race that only uses 1960 hand-drawn maps and compass, winning 10th place overall and 1st in the First Participation category. In 2017 she attempted to Iron[wo]man the 1300+ miles of the 50th Baja 1000.

The North American Eagle Supersonic Speed Challenger, a jet fighter turned into the fastest racing machine in history, added Jessi to the team for 2013. Their attempt is to break the 512 mph Women’s Landspeed World record made in 1976 by Kitty O’Neil. Jessi achieved a speed record of 398 mph with a top speed of 440 mph, becoming the fastest woman on 4-wheels. In 2018 the team achieved a new top speed of 483.227 mph with Jessi behind the controls.

One Of The Boys

According to Jessi, her love for building cars came as a result of her desire to be lighter, race better, race faster… to be just as competitive as “the boys.”

jessi combs welding helmet

“I have a natural desire to be the best and to win, and so I learned how to fabricate,” she said in an interview. “It helps me become a better driver because I understand what’s going on internally and externally with my cars.”

Jessi’s wide visibility and skills in metal fabrication opened up the opportunity to develop a woman’s line of welding gear (PPE) with Lincoln Electric. She also works with WARN Industries to spread the word about their off-road accessories. As a hands-on builder, aligning with establishments such as Industrial Metal Supply only help her mission to express to others what woman are capable of in the shop.

To that end, Jessi joined with Theresa Contreras to form the REAL DEAL, a non-profit with a mission to revolutionize the perception of skilled trades – and women’s roles in them. The Real Deal is a dynamic collaborative of automotive and industrial women who empower and educate others by teaching the skilled trades through hands-on workshoppes, events, and adventures.

This infographic illustrates the life and amazing accomplishments of Jessi Combs – Truly the Real Deal!

TS Ironworks, Phoenix Customer

IMS Customer Spotlight: TS Iron Works 

In this post, Industrial Metal Supply highlights another loyal customer of the Phoenix location.

Industrial Metal Supply’s Phoenix customer, TS Iron Works, LLC, is located in Queen Creek, Arizona.

TS Iron Works is a small machine shop with three employees, headed by Travis Rupp.

“We do mostly commercial welding and fabrication, and we do CNC plasma cutting in-house,” Rupp said. “We’ve got a big 5 ft. X 10 ft. cutting table that we use to run everything from stainless to aluminum to steel.”

How did TS Iron Works first connect with IMS?

“Before this, I worked for Key Tech International and we bought through IMS off and on,’ Rupp said. “Then I left Key Tech and started my own business about seven years ago.”

After meeting Roger Cundick (Phoenix IMS General Manager) three years ago, TS Iron Works has done business exclusively with IMS.

“I work with Roger directly, or with Jon Carden (Inside Sales) or the sales office, calling in my quotes and orders,” Rupp said.

For their plasma cutting work, TS Iron Works buys a lot of sheet steel, mostly plate, in a variety of sizes.

The company also orders quite a lot of tubing, angle iron, and other metal, and has it all cut to size at IMS.

What appeals to you most about working with IMS?

“I’ve worked with all the big metal companies here in Phoenix, and Roger at IMS has given me by far the best customer service out of anybody,” Rupp said. “I even order structural iron and beams from Roger and pay the higher price just to buy it from IMS, because I’d rather I’d rather pay more to get their customer service.”

For example, Rupp takes advantage of the brokering services provided by IMS.

“A lot of the big structural stuff we use is not a stocked item at IMS here in Phoenix, but Roger orders it out for me,” he said.

“IMS has gone above and beyond for me a couple times on last minute orders that I needed right away, and I’ve even had them bring an order out in a pickup truck just to get it to me in time,” Rupp said.

A two-way partnership

IMS also buys parts from TS Iron Works, which makes for a great business relationship.
“I make a couple of different things, like a heavy duty weld-on gate latch that IMS now carries in all its stores,” Rupp said. “We’re actually working on an order for about 105 of them we’re building right now. I’m just really happy working with IMS and hoping to stick it out for a long time here,” Rupp said.

For photos and updates on TS Iron Works products, such as a 16-ft. custom 3-D metal sign with LED backlighting for Greenfield Acres, visit the TS Iron Works page on Facebook.

“Everything we build and every single thing on our Facebook page is made with metal from IMS,” Rupp said.

We hope that stories like these from our customers will inspire you to check out Industrial Metal Supply products and services.

Grate Solutions Joe Fischer, Phoenix Customer

IMS Customer Spotlight: Grate Solutions

In this post, Industrial Metal Supply highlights just one of our many loyal customers.

Grate Solutions, a supplier of heavy duty highway gratings and other storm drain metals, is supplied by Industrial Metal Supply’s Phoenix location. Grate Solutions employees 18 people, with three mobile trucks on the road doing installations in and around Phoenix, and throughout Arizona.

What products and services does Grate Solutions provide?

In addition to gratings and storm drains, Grate Solutions builds and installs:

  • Bridge pedestrian rails
  • Guardrails
  • Catch basin frames
  • Trash racks
  • Scuppers
  • Manhole frames & covers
  • Safety posts

The company also provides mandrel bending, welding, custom hole cutting, plasma cutting, painting, galvanizing, powder coating, and sand blasting services.

How did Grate Solutions first connect with IMS?

“Roger Cundick, the general manager at IMS Phoenix, reached out to me a few years ago and said they were interested in carrying the products that I buy regularly,” said Joe Fischer, President of Sales and Operations at Grate Solutions.

“Roger is a great guy and I typically work directly with him, but I also work with Jon Carden (Inside Sales) and Johnny Grumm (Outside Sales),” Fischer said.

Which IMS products does Grate Solutions rely on most?

To make the grates, the company uses quite a bit of ½-in. thick flat bar steel, anywhere from 2 inches to 6 inches in width, and also a lot of angle iron, up to ½-in. thick, and 2 inches to 6 inches on a leg. They sometimes use specialized services from IMS to cut bars to size with a band saw.

What keeps Grate Solutions coming back to IMS?

“Price and service from IMS has been impeccable,” Fischer said. “For hard-to-find things, sometimes it takes a couple days, but Roger’s been able to take care of pretty much everything I’ve needed.”

According to Fischer, IMS has even come through for Grate Solutions in a pinch.

“There have been a couple of times we’ve forgotten to order things, and I’ve called Roger and he’s had them there later that day,” he said. “I’ve even texted Roger on a Saturday, and he has sent an order to me on Monday morning – so he’s gone well above and beyond for us.”

We hope that by connecting with customers such as Grate Solutions and hearing their stories, you will be inspired to check out all the products and services Industrial Metal Supply has to offer.

Furniture Maker Cooper Reynolds Gross

Spotlight: Furniture Maker Cooper Reynolds Gross

Cooper Reynolds Gross runs a high-end custom furniture-making company formally called Spark & Dowel, but now named after him. Originally a photographer, Cooper started building furniture in his garage 10 years ago.

“Friends really liked the stuff and started asking me to make some for them, and finally about seven years ago I moved into a 1,000 sq. ft. warehouse in North Hollywood,” Cooper said.

Cooper had learned about Industrial Metal Supply while working as a production welder for an exhaust company.

“IMS is well-known in the industry as a distributor that can get just about anything, but that also stocks most commonly used items,” Cooper said.

“I didn’t realize when I first started [my shop] that you don’t have to be a big company to work with IMS,” he said. “So when I finally called the outside sales department, I told my new rep Jim Colley, ‘I don’t need a lot yet, but I will in the future,’ and he always made sure I got a fair price.”

The shop grew steadily and by its third year, Cooper had a team of 13 people working in a 5,000 sq. ft. space.

“We were just cranking stuff out, but I wasn’t particularly happy with what we were doing because they weren’t my designs – it wasn’t stuff that I really loved,” he said.

Downsizing For a Better Fit

“Some of my clients and mentors told me, ‘You need to figure out who you want to be because you’re going to get stuck in that rut,’” Cooper said. “I decided I wanted to go back to building low-volume, custom, one-of-a-kind pieces, so I changed gears and went down to two team members.”

He taught them his way of building furniture, and both are still with him today.

“We tend to take on very challenging, very complex pieces for clients that can afford anything they want,” Cooper said. “So the fact that they’re choosing to buy something that I designed and we built in-house is special.”

Cooper has become known in the interior design industry for his work in brass, steel and wood, done in monumental sizes – for example an 8-ft. desk or a 25-ft. dining table. He also creates large architectural pieces including handrails and entry gates.

“I try to work on architecturally significant projects with interior designers whose taste matches mine,” he said. “If designers approach me with something that is not in my wheelhouse, taste-wise, I’ve learned not to do those, because I won’t be happy with it, and at the end of the day it’s kind of a reflection of me.”

Clientele Around the World

The business has grown to the point where it has contracted to build indoor-outdoor dining tables for a series of restaurants opening around the world. The tables feature a solid brass surround with a spun steel base and aged marble table top.

“The approvals process is very intense, with a lot of details being reviewed, and it’s great knowing that any time I need more material I can call IMS,” he said. “Even though I may only need enough for a prototype, my rep knows I have a huge order for a massive production run on hold, so I never feel taken advantage of when I put in a small order.”

Generally speaking, Cooper found that when he orders something from IMS, he has it the next day, though there are exceptions if there’s laser cutting, water jet, or other custom cutting services involved. He builds a lot of brass railings, for which he orders laser-cut 1/8th inch brass parts used as brackets to be inserted into the brass tube – 100 at a time.

Patinas R Us

“Every metal piece of everything that I make, from the raw material before I fire up the machine, all the way through to the patinas I use, are all from IMS,” he said.

For patinas, Cooper uses Sculpt Nouveau products, especially the brass and bronze rubs. He recently completed a 16 ft. x 7 ft. brass gate, with an accompanying pedestrian gate, made of 1/8th inch solid brass plate welded to an aluminum sub-structure.

“The patina was important because the client was very particular about how he wanted it to age,” Cooper said. “We did a ton of samples before and during the process and they ended up very happy with a combination of two IMS products – the base coat was Sculpt Nouveau Black Magic, and the second round of patina was Antique Brown.”

Cooper’s pieces have become collectors’ items, and each one leaves the shop with the clients’ initials and his signature engraved on them – for example, a large, kidney-shaped leather desk with brass legs boasts a slide-out drawer with his initials carved on a plate inside made from an aluminum billet supplied by IMS.

“It kind of hit me at one point when clients started asking me, “Hey where did you put your signature?” And I said, ‘Oh, I’ve got to start doing that!’”

As a full-service supplier of metal and metalworking tools and accessories, including patinas by Sculpt Nouveau, IMS is proud to showcase unique metal artists/builders in our community, such as Cooper Reynolds Gross.