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Technical Where to Begin to Learn Customizing

Discussion in 'Traditional Customs' started by MarzLowrider, Mar 23, 2016.

  1. MarzLowrider
    Joined: Mar 16, 2016
    Posts: 8


    I'm really new to customizing in the sense that, even though I grew up with it all around me, I didn't actively partake in it like my dad and older brother. Now that my dad's too old to really do much in the garage and my brother's moved off to Indiana with his wife, I've suddenly taken an interest in it (go figure). Someday, I'd like to buy an old Hemicuda or Chevy Nova and restore it but right now I just have a Honda Civic which can't teach me much. I live in LA and there's this auto customization shop two blocks up from my house. I'm thinking of going by and asking them for an apprenticeship but do auto body places do that? Or am I better off trying to enroll in college courses? Are there trade schools for rebuilding old cars? Any direction would be much appreciated.
  2. Stu D Baker
    Joined: Mar 4, 2005
    Posts: 2,649

    Stu D Baker
    from Illinois

  3. alchemy
    Joined: Sep 27, 2002
    Posts: 16,743


    Ask around a bit about the reputation of the shop before you ask to work there. See if the customers are happy with their work. You would be working there to expand your knowledge, and it would be a shame to be learning poor techniques.
    bct and timwhit like this.
  4. dreracecar
    Joined: Aug 27, 2009
    Posts: 3,141

    from so-cal

    Back in the 70's I took body shop at LA Trade Tech College, Body repair is much different today along with labor laws.
    Wyotech is a pay for diploma college, try not to get roped into debt
    Do not be afraid to push a broom or scrub the toilets for the first year
    CowboyTed likes this.

  5. JeffB2
    Joined: Dec 18, 2006
    Posts: 8,826

    from Phoenix,AZ

    patmanta likes this.
  6. george d gabert
    Joined: Nov 12, 2015
    Posts: 17

    george d gabert

    Check with the local high school or college body shop and see if they can suggest where they place their students.
  7. That's where you're wrong. You gotta walk before you run. Start by doing everything you can to make your Civic the best car you can. Not "customized", just a car in excellent condition. Even if your dad can't physically do the work, he can supervise:

    1) If all you're capable of doing is to wash, wax & detail it, then do that.
    2) You only need basic hand tools to do a brake job, tuneup and replace the suspension bushings. Look at youtube videos to see how.
    3) As you gain more experience and confidence, maybe upgrade the exhaust.
    4) Fix any dents or rust.

    Now you have some rudimentary skills, a little bit of confidence, and a presentable car to offer as a resume to prospective schools or employers. See how that works? :)

    Hope this helps.
  8. get out and go to some car shows,ask questions,you might run up on a car club that can help teach you some of the tricks of the trade. HRP
  9. 0NE BAD 51 MERC
    Joined: Nov 12, 2010
    Posts: 1,464

    0NE BAD 51 MERC

    I would suggest getting involved with the local car groups that best represent your interest, [ Rods, Customs, Lowriders, Muscle cars, Trucks, ect. ] See who dose the work on these cars. Most car clubs have at least one member that has a shop. I was that member in my own group. We use to detacate Tuesday and Thursday nites and some Saturdays to working on a club members car and anyone that wanted to hang out and watch or pitch in could whether they where a member or not. I taught a lot of people, including women, how to weld and metal finish, block sand and even layout and apply custom paint. I even showed one girl how to shape metal and she eventually built a custom gas tank and fender for a Harley Sportster she had. As far as local trade schools , most consentrate on collision repair. And when I had my big shop I hired several Wyo Tec grads. Was not impress with their scope of abilities, and they had spent a lot of money to go there! But anyway good luck and if Dads garage and tools are still there go out and play with something ! Who knows He might enjoy coming out and saying "Not that way! This is how it's done!! My Dad is 84 and I know he would! Lol Larry
    Ratatouille and voodookustoms like this.
  10. MarzLowrider
    Joined: Mar 16, 2016
    Posts: 8


    Thanks for the tips, everyone! Really inspired by this advice! I'm definitely going to take a look at my Civic and get it pristine before I approach anyone. Great idea! I guess I just took it for granted. Even though I don't have one, I really like lowriders because that's what most of my dad's friends drove so I feel nostaljic(sp?) around them. My uncle told me there might be a decent school in Rancho Cucamonga he heard about so I might check that out too. Thanks so much for the advice, everyone!
  11. paintspill
    Joined: May 3, 2015
    Posts: 89


    Well your first step of joining the hamb is a damn good start. These guys and girls are a wealth of knowledge and you can ask them anything and you will get good answers. The next step is to buy a beater and jump into it with both feet. That's what I did and I'm learning as I go. Best part is its your car and you don't need to impress anyone.
    MarzLowrider likes this.
  12. MarzLowrider
    Joined: Mar 16, 2016
    Posts: 8


    Thanks for the encouragement! It seems like it's going to be a really exciting adventure for sure!
  13. I am 20; this is what I have been up to...
    I tried to tally it all up, and I have definitely spent more than a thousand hours to get where I am at, accompanied by a few thousand dollars. It has been almost a year and a half. My father lives in a house 60 miles away, and I had to buy all my own tools. I work under a carport (frame transported to garage for paint), and have done everything myself; and by everything, I mean it.

    I have learned a lot about this stuff. I bought an angle grinder and learned how to cut and fabricate. I bought a welder and learned how to mig. I bought a compressor and learned how to bead blast in my back yard using a speed blaster. I learned how to paint by going to horrible freight (actually something good to buy from there) and picking up a hvlp gun, and spraying some PPG DP90Lf with 401 catalyst. I learned how NOT to buy a project car, what is truly required to do this stuff, how to plan a build... Its a lot. And that doesn't include all of the researching, networking, and traveling for parts.

    Keep watching craigslist. In the months before I bought my project, I just started working on individual parts that were rusty. It was good practice, and if you ever get a project, you can just bolt them up and go.

    * One thing that I have picked up on is that it seems like you have to buy your way into the game. Once you start buying parts from your local supplier, or start telling people what you are up to, you seem to get more acquaintances.
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2016
    Okie Pete, Ratatouille and Appletree like this.
  14. 49ratfink
    Joined: Feb 8, 2004
    Posts: 18,036

    from California

    trade schools and college are a joke. first thing you need to do is learn to weld.
    Squablow and Ratatouille like this.
  15. Marz: I agree with the suggestion about going to shows. Look at the kind of car you would want and ask some questions. Maybe the owner will have done the work himself and be willing to share some knowledge with you. Maybe even point you to shop where you would be welcomed in to learn. I think if you spend a couple of months going out and doing this, you will come back here and tell us you've found your direction. There are people out there who will help. Tim
    Ratatouille likes this.
  16. Dick's Beaters
    Joined: Apr 27, 2008
    Posts: 203

    Dick's Beaters

    Definitely learn to weld. All schools are not the same. McPherson college in Kansas offers a 4 year degree in automotive restoration. They're building a recreation of the "Glasscock Special" (Pierce Arrow chassis and custom built roadster body) in the sheet metal shop right now. They will teach you welding, metal shaping on the English wheel, power hammer and pullmax. They offer courses in casting, engine and transmission building, chassis, trim (upholstery) paint and machining to name a few. I had an associates degree before I enrolled and learned to weld from a local community college and by practice. But the college has given me a chance to become familiar with the tools and procedures involved in building cars. I also had the GI bill to help.

    Now I wouldn't say that a program like McPherson's is the only way to go, but it is an option for some. An apprenticeship would be just as good at a good shop if you can get one. If you're looking for a degree from any college, maybe get your general education requirements from a local community college first. They're cheap and you won't rack up the debt that universities hang around your neck.

    Posted using the Full Custom H.A.M.B. App!
    Okie Pete and elgringo71 like this.
  17. You might contact SCROC in Torrance and see if they have anything to offer, . I have just heard of them but am not that knowledgeable about what they offer.

    Charlie Stephens
  18. cgc1958
    Joined: Aug 22, 2011
    Posts: 302

    Member Emeritus
    1. 1957-59 Ranchero's

    In my opinion classes are the ticket! Spend the money on a variety of classes even with the travel expenses you will pay less than say some of the high dollar trade schools. This way your education can be geared by you determining what you want to learn & ultimately you save a ton of money in the process. Then put the hours in, since that is the only way to get good.
    For example you could take these courses
    -For traditional kustoms: Gene Winfield
    -For coach building (metal shaping): Wray Schelin
    -Welding: Community college classes
    (skip any classes that try to force you to buy their equipment/tools. In my opinion that's a scam.) Find the used high quality stuff on ebay, auctions, craigs list, estate sales, etc. in my opinion the old tools are of higher quality and last forever. Some you can research and make yourself.
    -There is a lot of free & almost free education if you are self motivated on You tube, through books, the hamb, DVD's, forums etc.
    I haven't taken Gene Winfield's class but I've heard it's excellent! I have taken Wray Schelin's and learned a lot! Here is a pic of part of a fender I shaped after a few days in his class. Clark took the class with me and he had a ton of experience going into it. I had very little experience in metal shaping & I didn't expect to learn this much in a class & to be capable of this by the end of it. Whatever you choose to do, have fun! I wish you the best! -T
    P.S. The school in Rancho C. is not good for customizing cars, that's where you go if you want to learn mechanical and work as a mechanic at a dealership.

    Okie Pete, Ratatouille and elgringo71 like this.
  19. TJratz
    Joined: Oct 28, 2008
    Posts: 373


    Give Jesse a call at Lordz of Kustoms. He is in south LA. His whole crew is apprentices. He has a web site. His number is : 323-233-3224
    lordz of kuztomz likes this.
  20. my doors are always open to any one with the will to learn.. pura sangre 51 mercury by lordz.jpg
    Sauli, BenLeBlanc, Okie Pete and 3 others like this.
  21. Finnrodder
    Joined: Oct 18, 2009
    Posts: 2,964

    from Finland

    Friend(Lepola) of mine was there few yrs ago and i think he learned well.
    lordz of kuztomz likes this.
  22. G V Gordon
    Joined: Oct 29, 2002
    Posts: 5,701

    G V Gordon
    from Enid OK

    Learning is never ending proccess if done correctly. I have tinkered with all sorts of cars and bikes in my 67 years on the planet and got offered my dream retirement job by my friend Clay a couple years ago. He owns and operates Harolds Hot Rods. We are just a two man shop but even with all my experience I have learned tons in the last two years and fabricated and built things I didn't know I had the skill to do. Walk before you run but but if you try to run too fast and fall down, get back up.
    Pick up welding, body classes and basic mechanics at local Vo-Tech and build on that. The rest is experience and guidence, and this board is a great place for both.
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2016
    Okie Pete likes this.
  23. I began learning under an old oak tree in the Pacific North West. If you step back and think about it most of it you can figure out, learn to weld and braze, teach yourself to shape metal with common hand tools and watch vids on spreading mud or slinging lead and you are one your way.
    Ratatouille likes this.
  24. CowboyTed
    Joined: Apr 27, 2015
    Posts: 341


    I got my start working on car bodies as an apprentice of sorts at a body shop, way back in high school. To this day I use that knowledge all the time, along with lots more I've added to it through the years.

    Maybe you could start by imagining a simple custom project you want to do to your own car, then figure out how to do the shaping with basic hand tools. You'd be surprised how much you can achieve with very simple, inexpensive tools. Have a look around youtube for instructions on metal shaping with hand tools. You'll find lots of instruction there.

    I'll echo the warning that Wyo Tech is not a place to spend your tuition money. I'm sure Stu D Baker didn't mean to mislead you. There was a time when Wyo Tech was the premier school in the country for all things automotive. That time is past. Since Corinthian Colleges took over Wyo Tech, they have been operating it as a scam to suck up education grant funding from congress, and teaching has taken a back seat to profitmaking.
  25. All that's going to happen if he works with that Civic is he is going to get discouraged. Tin foil body panels are not what you want to learn on.

    Most customization is just common sense, there are some tricks of the trade but for the most part if you just look at it and thiMk about it you can figure it out.
  26. john~N~dallas
    Joined: Dec 30, 2009
    Posts: 412


    My suggestion is to go to a local community college for a semester or two and take the GTAW (tig) class.. Here 1 semester cost about $250 .. Two times a week 4 hours a day., Which for the time under the hood is very cheap.. By doing this you will learn a lot and have something to offer at any shop.. Everything you do in this hobby/ career you have to know how to weld .. Welding is the basic fundamental skill if you want to build cars .. Having something to offer will go a long way .. Rather then just walking in off the street and asking to sweep floors.. Sure you should ask to sweep floors as well .. But you also have a skill to go along with your broom skills
  27. Ratatouille
    Joined: Sep 3, 2014
    Posts: 605

    from France

    Hello, my way......if you want a job, someone, a man, will show you how to do, and you will have stolen his profession.

    If you want to be this man, start now, do things by yourself, and grow up step by step, built by yourself ;-).

    (My answer is just available for me, i'm French, and in France, "where" is "nowhere" ;;;;;-))))) ).

    Good luck for your futur restoration, and don't forget : Have fun!
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2016
    Joined: Jun 3, 2005
    Posts: 8,200


    The title to this topic is very generic. I couldn't raise a right hand to "customizing" as being something that can be taught. The idea at it's foundation is to see, or more accurately, "feel", an different set of individual design/style parameters. There's a list of famed and iconic "customizers" for a reason. If you want to learn to modify, hot rod, or otherwise improve mostly unseen design parameters then schooling and apprentice programs are indeed the way. Customs come from inside, take all that the individual has to bear and can effect the changes they see, if it's done "right" and restraint is exercised it's a winner.

    Does this seem like I'm playing devil's advocate? Like I'm trying to dissuade you from following such a thing? Quite the opposite, I'm trying to help define a path. Custom can be as easy as color and wheels, as complicated as chop/channel/section, a disciplined mix of all of the above. Custom can be found in the engines, the suspensions, the interiors. You do indeed need skills to pull off whatever it is you view as custom or being in "the life" as such. You mentioned lowriders. That may well be a world I don't totally understand but I know a good one when I see it. That's what you will find within once the cobwebs are cleared and your path has direction. Slick out that Civic and dump it for a profit if you can. Look for a good builder to make into a lowrider, preferably something old. The apprentice program in the right shop will expose you to that which you're really looking for. I doubt you'll find more than tool use and identification from most dedicated "tech school" gigs like Wyotech. FWIW, I've had about 4-5 Wyo-worms in my work force over the last 10 years. Not a one of em worth a bent dick and a feeling of misplaced superiority was the common thread. Each one thought they were Foose or Trepanier already and couldn't/wouldn't learn even the most simple of real shop tasks. All of em? Nope, just those few I mentioned. Your results may vary, tax n title extra, no purchase necessary, void where prohibited...
  29. steinauge
    Joined: Feb 28, 2014
    Posts: 1,507

    from 1960

    RE outfits like Corinthian-I worked for a vo tech school for forty years .It is like anything else,you get out what you put in. The way to get your moneys worth at any vo tech school is to be there every day,bedevil the instructors with questions,(once they figure out you are truly interested the amount of help you get will astound you) Do every procedure you are shown as many times as you can manage,doing something once doesnt generally make it stick,take very careful notes,take pictures,forget your social life for the duration of the course.Use your local vo tech schools-STAY AWAY from the big outfits,the reality is very very different from the advertising and they are a huge amount of money.If you think I am talking out my ass please read the first sentence of this post again.Good luck and good wishes.

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