Every major trade in the construction industry has them - Web sites, that is. There are thousands in the HVACR field, many crossing over into other fields, including the sheet metal trade. If you ask Bud Goodman, one of these crossover Web sites is a perfect fit for sheet metal businesses and workers.

Goodman is the creator of www.thesheetmetalshop.com. "Thesheetmetalshop.com is designed to help those wanting to understand sheet metal layout," he said.

"Since 1999, the Web site has been offering free instruction and tutorials in developing sheet metal patterns, basic fittings used by HVAC companies, etc. There were so few places where a mechanic could go to learn sheet metal layout.

"I thought just maybe we could do something on the Internet, to share what I know and help those who want to learn this area of the trade or become more proficient at their job."

Goodman, who also owns The Sheet Metal Shop Resource Center in Waukesha, Wis., said it took a long time, disciplined commitment, and patience to develop the Web site. "For years our Web site was totally single dimensioned," he said. "You could come and browse the content, but there was no connection between you and others trying to learn different methods of layout."

He tried to answer all of the e-mails generated from the Web site during the site's infancy, but he couldn't keep up. The site suffered.

"The first couple of years, the Web site was like a roller coaster ride. Sometimes it was busy, but many times you waited for any sign of life and often it seemed like the idea or the vision I had wasn't shared by the industry and seemed like it just wasn't going to happen," Goodman said. "At the time it was very frustrating, and I'm sure it was one of the reasons why many great sites shut down."

Goodman said he was determined to make the site a success.

"When the slow times came, so did the challenges. I was not going to get beat at this, and every day I would tell myself, ‘Don't give up, just get better!' And that's what we did; we worked on the big picture and continued to build the resource Web site of pattern development.

"Part of this big picture was how we switched our platform from static HTML pages to a content management system," he said.

"It freed up a lot of time and made updating the site and storing content much easier, giving us a lot more freedom to grow. It really opened up a new door for us."

Web Site's Character

Some of the site's features were influenced by the successes he saw at heatinghelp.com, a popular Web site for wet heat professionals, founded by Dan Holohan.

"I decided to offer the sheet metal industry the same type of resource and created The Forgotten Art of Sheet Metal Layout Library," Goodman said. "Our library includes rare books completely scanned and saved for those who wish to read and learn a better way of sheet metal layout. This library is available to all registered users. Registration only takes a minute and is 100 percent free.

"We have also made available old magazine articles written from the early 1920s. The task of scanning thousands of pages went on for some time, and as we finished books, we added these to the list. We still have a lot of books to add, and we're working on them, but I'm confident that no one will run out of things to read."

Heavier Traffic

As the word spread in the HVACR trade, thesheetmetalshop.com became a popular gathering place for sheet metal shop owners and workers.

"This past couple of years, more information about the Web site trickled through the industry and the site was gaining momentum. Since the introduction of the library, we have seen a very large increase in traffic from all over the world," Goodman said.

"We host a message board that has a wide variety of discussions, including sheet metal for HVAC, crafts, and architectural work. The site has truly become as diversified as the sheet metal trade itself in both discussion and content. We continue to grow and look for more ways to help the industry."

The Web site's newsletter helps keep registered users informed on what's happening on the site. "To avoid spam and hard feelings," Goodman said, "all guests have to opt in for this newsletter."

There is no sign-up cost to become a member or contributor to the Web site. Goodman said some sections of the Web site require registration, which takes only a minute. The site has a sponsor, Tennsmith Machinery Inc. Other means of revenue have allowed Goodman to keep the Web site free.

He added that HVACR professionals would gain from more than just the information at the site.

"Besides the extreme amount of information on the site and in the library, our forums offer a place to discuss other topics like machinery, airflow, ductwork, and this exchange of information keeps growing," Goodman said.

Publication date: 01/31/2005