Shop Talk Podcast Episode 10: Francis Deslauriers of Unik Metal on the Joys of Modeling by Hand

Muna Idriss Muna Idriss March 8, 2024

2 min read

Welcome to Shop Talk, a podcast where we catch up with designers and makers live from their workshops. In this episode, fabricator and Autodesker Trent Still speaks with Francis Deslauriers of Unik Metal.

Unik Metal is a Canadian fabrication studio specializing in a range of custom architectural components, including staircases, metal guardrails, glass walls, and more.​ Its projects range from personal residences to commercial spaces. In this episode of Shop Talk, Trent and Francis discuss business strategies, product creation, AI, and more!

Below is a short excerpt from the conversation to give you a taste of what to expect. You can also listen to the full episode below:

I do get some interesting requests. Usually, it’s not crazy stuff but it’s like, “I have this budget and I want to make something that the rules of physics won’t allow. I want to have floating stuff.” When you get those customers, you have to tone it down a bit. I might be good at what I do, but there are some rules that I have to follow.

The first step is really looking at if I can satisfy the need and sort of gauge the customer. And then we’ll go into the virtual prototyping. So if you were to knock on my door and say, “Okay, so here’s my project,” I would set out and go see the project on-site because I’m usually on-site for every project that I touch. Getting the measurement is the most important. The rest of it is simple once you have a solid model of the house.

This excerpt is edited for brevity and clarity.

Are you 3D scanning? Are you doing physical laser measurements?

We tried a few systems. We tried one tool that was nice, but it’s a $25,000 tool here in Canada and I couldn’t justify the value. We’re just using lasers and tapes because even if you grab super precise measurements with the most expensive tool… houses are not straight, right? They are not straight. You’ll see a half-inch deviation on the floor. If you’re taking an old manor and fixing it up well, the floors are not going to be straight, the walls are not going to be straight. Everything will have to be torn down and redone. So there’s no real value to incredible precision. We model everything by hand, and I just go on sites with a folding table—a cheap Costco table. I set the laptop on it, I open up Fusion, and I just model things. All the trades guys are laughing at this because it seems like I’m just showing up for lunch.

Stay tuned for the next episode of Shop Talk. Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel, catch up on any episodes you missed, and get your audio-only fix on Spotify.

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