Evoke your entrepreneurial or designer dreams and let Macki Metal Smiths bring your creations to life

Too young to retire and too much experience and entrepreneurial spirit to waste, Peter Hamilton started his own company at the age of 56 and is loving it.

Blacksmithing, the ancient root of industrial metalworking, might not be the business of Macki Metal Smiths but the image of hammer and anvil pounding out ideas and shaping product and equipment seems a fitting symbol for the effort that is being put into the company and the feeling you get when you visit.

I ran into Macki Metal Smiths by chance, after visiting a neighbouring company in the industrial complex in Anderbolt, Boksburg, Gauteng. As I left, after an interview and taking photographs of product and equipment, I thought to myself what a refreshing and interesting experience that was. More importantly it showed that no matter what age you are if you have a good idea, you have some know-how and you have the drive, passion and a hard working attitude, you will succeed.

Owner Peter Hamilton, Johan van der Merwe, Byron Hamilton and Willem Potgieter

I was introduced to Peter (57) because he has the same name fibre laser as his neighbour but it has different capabilities and is being used for completely different reasons.

“The majority of my working career was spent at one company, 25 years to be exact, and 15 years were as MD of the hand tooling and related equipment manufacturer that supplies the agriculture, construction, forestry, gardening, mining and DIY markets. Prior to becoming MD I was in the manufacturing and production department and also gained experience in the other departments. A great overall learning experience and one that certainly has helped in getting my own company up and running.”

“Prior to me starting Macki Metal Smiths I did spend a few years as MD of a well-known South African plumbing (kitchen and bathroom) and sanitaryware manufacturer before it was acquired by a German company. The company had a huge machine shop and foundry but unfortunately it has since ceased all local manufacturing.”

The Bodor A3 1.5kW fibre laser with a bed size of 3 000mm by 1 500mm. Bodor is represented in South Africa by Integral Machine Tools

Rakes before they are sent for coating

“I then did some consulting work but it was not enough to sustain three big healthy boys who were finishing off their studies, which needed some sizeable funding. With my experience in the hand tooling market I knew there was an opportunity to manufacture cheaper alternatives to what was currently being offered by the local manufacturer but not as cheap as those that were being imported from China.”

“There has subsequently been a review by ITAC of anti-dumping duties on garden picks, spades and shovels, rakes and forks originating in or imported from the People’s Republic of China. The recommendation is that a duty of over 500% be imposed on these products. This certainly has restricted any imports and is giving new local manufacturers like myself an opportunity to gain some market traction and penetration.”

“Life has been pretty hectic since we opened our doors in March 2021. It is only really now – one year later – that we are starting to ship product to our agent who will be distributing for us across the country. In that period there has been plenty of research done not only on product design and functionality but also on the manufacturing process and the tooling and equipment you need.”

“We have tried to be as self-sufficient as possible in all departments and in many cases we have been very inventive.”

Macki Metal Smiths uses a robotic welder for precision welds

Macki Metal Smiths also manufactures its own range of dead blow hammers

“There are only six of us in the company so we are all very hands-on and able to perform the various tasks which involve laser cutting, profiling, blanking, forming, bending, robotic welding, heat treatment, tempering, washing, assembly and packaging.”

“At the moment we are manufacturing six products that are used as hand tools in the garden and construction industry and can also be used in the mining industry.”

“We also like to have a bit of fun and manufacture laser art products and products for South Africa’s national past time, braaing. Customised products in these areas are also manufactured. For example, we have made a steel hanger for your braai tools. This was a giveaway for a client and we laser marked his company name on the product.”

Shovels, spades and rakes
“Not many know the difference between a shovel and a spade and what ergonomic considerations are taken into account when designing either one. They both dig right? They both lift things, make holes and are good for leaning on. But what is the difference between a shovel and a spade?”

“This may come as a bit of a surprise to you but there are distinct differences. Many people think they are the same thing. However, there are differences between the two. Picking the wrong tool for the job can cost you time and literal backaches, so it’s important to pick the correct tool for the job.”

Macki Metal Smiths have developed and manufactured the spavel – a cross between a shovel and a spade

A mining shovel

“Shovels and spades have many similarities in both appearance and function. But it’s their differences that make them good at what they do. Spades are best for digging, while shovels excel at scooping or moving loads. For this reason, spades have flat or almost flat blades, while shovel blades are wider and more concave.”

“Rakes on the other hand can be used in conjunction with both the spade and shovel, whether it is at home or in industry. You also used to get a special type of shovel that was used to shovel coal on the steam locomotives but because there are very few steam locomotives that are in operation these days they are regarded as a special purpose tool and do have the price to match it.”

“If we lived in the US and a fair amount of snow falls you should probably go out and shovel a couple of times during the day instead of waiting until the end of the snowfall to do it, if you want to keep the white stuff off your driveway and sidewalks. Every household has at least one shovel and you will probably find most have more than two. A sizeable market.”

Spades, shovels and spavels ready for packaging

The company also manufactures laser art products

Macki produces a range of all steel round nose shovels and will shortly provide and all steel spade and square mouth. These are made from carbon manganese steel that provide good durability and strength. Our products are made to conform and surpass the local national standards.

“We have the ability to make specialised tools like post hole spades and drainage shovels or extend the length of our existing tools.”

Spavel: It’s a spade and a shovel
“Metal has transformed the world we live in. It has always been appreciated beyond utility and has inspired craftsmanship and artists to produce lasting structures and works of art. This has inspired us to design and produce our own unique product – a spavel, which has taken various aspects from the spade and the shovel and can be used whether you are scooping or digging.”

“The spavel has a flat blade to provide a cutting edge with which to dig into hard ground as when you are digging a foundation trench. The flat blade is also ideally suited to mixing cement. It has higher sides (commonly associated with a shovel) that taper to the cutting face. These sides allow a greater carrying capacity.”

“The combination of features provides a product that is unique in design and functionality as compared to existing shovels and spades commonly available. The spavel allows you to have one tool best suited for multiple applications.”

“This new design has been registered and also trademarked.”

“The product was launched in February 2022 along with our other products. We are already in production and are hoping for a good reaction.”

“It all starts off cutting a sheet from a coil and then a blank is cut on our laser according to what product it is. From there it goes to forming, heat treatment, tempering, welding, washing and coating before being ready for shipment.”

Macki Metal Smiths has manufactured its own heat treatment furnace, an integral step in the process of spade, shovel, spavel and rake manufacture

Macki Metal Smiths manufacture braais as another product

“The decision to produce a part progressively is usually determined by two factors: The volume of production and the complexity of the part. These two factors are instrumental in the design and construction of the tooling. It is important to address all factors that will contribute to the desired level of part quality, tool maintenance, and tooling life. Trade-offs will be necessary to reach most decisions, and all will affect tooling costs.”

“Laser cutting is a much more versatile method than fixed tooling and allows for better steel utilisation and responsive production changes . I saw it being used in Brazil and it stuck in the back of my head. Some say the two piece (separate shaft and blade) type way that we manufacture is a weaker method. But you are manufacturing with steel and after good welding, heat treatment and tempering you have a very strong component.”

“Besides we have now invested in a hardness tester to see if we are in spec and achieving the right strength.”

Robotic welder
“From day one we have not compromised on quality. For example we use robotic welding for the various welds we have to perform and our coatings are quality coatings.”

“My son Byron is the programmer and operator on this machine starting as I did on the factory floor. One day he will put his B.Comm Entrepreneurship to use in taking over from me.”

The laser art side of the company

Macki Metal Smiths offer laser cutting and steel fabrication. They blend traditional craftsmanship with state of the art manufacturing facilities to produce functional designs

“Simply put we weld the top half of the product onto the bottom half. The bottom half shape, or the heads, change often depending whether it is a spade, shovel or spavel. Not in the case of the shaft and handle. Only the length will change when necessary but we try to keep it as standard as possible.”

Bodor A3 1.5kW fibre laser
“We have purchased a Bodor A3 1.5kW fibre laser with a bed size of 3 000mm by 1 500mm which is perfect for our needs at the moment. We do all our product blanks and jigging components on it with the help of our Solidworks programme. We also cut our artwork and promotional gift components. The limit is how adventurous and productive you want to be.”

“Most of the components we cut are either 2mm or 3mm gauge but if we need to cut thicker we can cut up to 12mm. We are now acting as a service centre making bespoke requirements when requested but it is not our priority.”

Macki’s garden spade

A round nose shovel

Most of our equipment has been designed and built by ourselves, including jigs and fixtures. The Bodor and robotic welder are our key capital equipment purchases though.”

“We are a niche company having fun. We have recently launched a garden hand-held spade and there are a number of other products that are in design or testing stage. We are building our brand and offering a quality product as a cheaper alternative. If the ITAC report on dumping duties is a guide it is stated that 566 431 spades, shovels, rakes and forks were imported in the 2016/17 period and if anti-dumping duties were not put in place the estimated amount of imported spades and shovels just from China would be 1 071 053. That would be depriving a huge amount of local manufacturing.”

For further details contact Macki Metal Smiths on TEL: 087 551 2932 or visit www.macki.co.za