Servicing industry for over 65 years.
After building its history and reputation on a solid base of manufacture and distribution of hacksaws, bandsaws, butcher saws and various hand tools, First Cut has evolved into a company that now offers a total solution and a focused range of products providing cutting, welding and grinding solutions for a wide variety of industries – including steel, timber, meat and food, foam, plastics, composites, textiles and the DIY trade.
“First Cut has transitioned from being a family-run business into a thriving corporate entity with a substantial customer and supplier base in consumables and capital equipment, employing 220 staff in our Johannesburg head office and our branches in Witbank, Nelspruit, Durban and Port Elizabeth – as well as in our sizeable manufacturing facility in Cape Town,” explains Chief Executive Officer Ian McCrystal, who manages the company solely since the recent exit of his long-term business partner Andrew Poole.
Last year First Cut announced that it has entered into a merger of interests with Gas Safety International (GSI), a Johannesburg-based company that has been providing certified training and supplying gas equipment to the industrial sector in South Africa since 1985. The two companies have developed a world-first patented new safety valve, torch and process that will lessen the possibility of a gas leakage taking place due to either worker negligence or an accidental breakage in the compressed gas supply line
“Both of us had been with the company for many years – Andrew started in 1992 and I started in 1995. We jointly ran and owned the company, with Andrew responsible for sales and marketing, while I covered the administration and the operations of the business. I have now assumed overall responsibility, but have a very capable executive team in key roles, to support me.”
“This includes Wayne Labuschagne, First Cut’s national sales manager, who is located in Johannesburg, Zelda Vorster is the regional manager responsible for the Nelspruit area and the recently opened Witbank branch and Stuart Beck, who is based in Durban and is responsible for the Durban, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town branches. They have between them almost 70 years of experience in the cutting, welding and grinding sector.”
“Having spent the last year getting to know our products, customers and suppliers, they are now raring to go. We have some very exciting projects in the pipeline and I certainly believe that between them they have the skills, market and product knowledge and commitment to ensure success,” said McCrystal.
“In addition, our long-standing production director Jan Kriel and Karl Wells, our Cape Town factory manager, are both retiring at the end of this year. We have appointed Terrance Vermaak to fulfil this crucial leadership role. Terrance has been in a production environment for over 25 years before joining us. Gavin Stoffels, who has worked in the toolroom at the factory for over 30 years, has been promoted to factory manager. I believe this team is going to take our national production facility on an exciting journey into the future.”
After building its history and reputation on a solid base of manufacture and distribution of hack saws, band saws, bow saws, butcher saws and various hand tools, First Cut (Pty) Ltd has evolved into a company that now offers a total solution and focused range of products designed around providing cutting, welding and grinding solutions for various industries
“All this is very capably supported in the background by Dennis Marivate, First Cut’s chief financial officer, and this group makes up our executive committee.”
“This is a relatively new team. However, it is filled with enthusiasm and energy – taking the best of the experience and track record which First Cut embodies, and helping to drive the business in a dynamic and exciting direction.”
Focus on cutting, welding and grinding solutions
“The history of the company reflects how it was built on servicing and supplying many clients and businesses across a broad spectrum of industries and we built a reputation on a solid base of the manufacture and distribution of hacksaws, bandsaws, butcher saws and various hand tools. This was augmented with cutting consumables and precision measuring and work holding tools for the metal, timber, textile, meat, DIY, paper and plastic industries.”
First Cut markets a comprehensive range of precision engineering and hand tools
First Cut subsequently expanded its offering into a capital equipment division, specialising in the supply of plasma, fibre laser and tube bending equipment to the fabrication and industrial manufacturing sectors.
More recently, and in response to a changing economic and political environment locally, the company reviewed its business strategy, realising it was necessary to broaden this to counteract the negative consequences of policy on the manufacturing environment in South Africa.
“In line with these changes, we have changed our company tagline of ‘Total Cutting Solutions’ to ‘Total Cutting, Welding and Grinding Solutions’ to reflect the range of services and products, which we now provide.”
“This strategic move to encompass cutting, welding and grinding activities has been driven by the changes that have taken place in our economy and in the company over the last 2 decades. In essence, our offering is now a combination of the products that we market – and a return to the essence of what the company originally focused on and was founded on: servicing and supplying a broad spectrum of industries with cutting consumables. We have added welding equipment and consumables and grinding consumables to this range,” said McCrystal.
First Cut also sells a range of magnets and clamping units. These include magnet assemblies, magnet sub-assemblies, magnetic tools, magnetic chucks, magnetic separators, magnetic filters and custom engineered magnetic handling units
Throughout its history the company has pioneered innovation with many decisions carefully and strategically interrogated before being taken. This has provided the foundation for First Cut’s ensuing diversification and continued success.
“When deciding to diversify into welding and grinding solutions, we looked at it simply. For example, a metal sheet or plate would usually be cut, then it is more than likely going to be welded and then processed further, which may entail grinding. We want to be the total solution provider in this segment.”
“Capital equipment still makes up an important aspect of our product portfolio, in order to meet our customers’ requirements. Again, the same approach applies – cut, weld and finish. All our equipment is supported by factory-trained technical engineers and a robust service and maintenance protocol.”
Total Cutting, Welding and Grinding Solutions is First Cuts new slogan. This includes the marketing of abrasive grinding wheels
Strong supplier relationships and astute acquisitions
“Over the years the company has established a portfolio of high-quality and reputable international suppliers. All of these can be viewed on our website. Some of these relationships have existed for over 30 years and have developed into friendships, as well as very strong business relationships.”
“We are extremely proud of these supplier relationships, and work very closely with them in product range development to ensure that we can supply the best possible solutions to our customers,” added McCrystal.
First Cut has also completed several acquisitions over the years, all of them improving and enhancing the company’s position in the cutting business. One of the most notable was Bandsawing Services in 2002, which facilitated First Cut’s entry into the capital equipment market. The subsequent conclusion of a distribution agreement with the Everising Machine Company provided a sound base from which to begin selling capital equipment to the structural steel, sheet metal, tube and pipe industries. There are now well over 1 500 Everising band saws and circular sawing machines currently in operation across industry in South Africa, with many clients investing in multiple units.
In 2020 First Cut was appointed to represent Messer Cutting Systems’ oxyfuel welding, cutting, brazing, soldering and heating solutions, systems and consumables
“The acquisitions that we have concluded together with the supplier relations that we have developed over the years, have provided the foundation for our ensuing diversification and continued success through to the present day. Throughout this time, our consumables division has consistently pioneered innovation and driven growth in the business,” McCrystal pointed out.
Representation of Messer Cutting Systems
In 2018 First Cut acquired Messer South Africa and announced the addition of Messer Cutting Systems’ plasma, oxyfuel, and large-plate processing equipment to its metal fabrication equipment product lines. The machines are suitable for various sectors, such as automotive and vehicles, construction, custom cutting/steel processing centres, energy, material handling, mechanical engineering, metal products/heavy steelworks, plant and pressure vessels, recycling, shipbuilding and shipyards, rail, agriculture, job shop, structural steel, general engineering and precision fabrication applications. Messer provides full system support with technical and applications training, including software. Additionally, Messer Cutting Systems manufactures a broad product range and provides solutions in the field of hand flame-cutting and welding.
The history of the company reflects how it was built on servicing and supplying many clients and businesses across a broad spectrum of industries and built a reputation on a solid base of the manufacture and distribution of hack saws, band saws, bow saws, butcher saws and various hand tools. This was augmented with cutting consumables and precision measuring tools for the metal, timber, textile, meat, DIY, paper and plastic industries
Messer welding electrodes
Included in the transaction was the right for First Cut to manufacture and distribute a wide range of the Messer welding electrodes.
The range includes electrodes for welding mild steel, carbon-manganese steels, stainless steels and so-called ‘problem’ steels where welding has to take place under difficult circumstances or dissimilar types of metal need to be joined together. The company is also manufacturing and distributing electrodes for gouging and hard-facing applications.
The electrode range is manufactured under the Messer sale agreement and the products have to comply with German, British and American quality standards such as DIN, AWS/ASME and BS.
With the introduction of bi-metal band saw blading in 1985, the company was able to offer locally and internationally produced blades to satisfy the diverse metal cutting needs of industry throughout the country
Oxyfuel welding, cutting, brazing, soldering and heating solutions, systems and consumables
In 2020 the Messer oxyfuel welding, cutting, brazing, soldering and heating solutions, systems and consumables were re-launched to the South African market by First Cut. Through First Cut, Messer Cutting Systems also caters for spare parts, repairs, modernisation, maintenance and service, as well as environmental technology.
Messer Cutting Systems manufactures a range of products for industry, all of which are available from First Cut. These include cylinder pressure regulators and sampling points, safety devices, welding, soldering and heating applications, hand and machine cutting torches, nozzles and accessories.
First Cut and Gas Safety International join forces
In 2021 First Cut entered into a merger of interests with Gas Safety International (GSI), a Johannesburg-based company that has been providing certified gas safety training and supplying gas equipment to the industrial sector in South Africa since 1985.
The agreement became effective from 01 November 2021 and allows both companies to explore opportunities that are mutually beneficial.
In 2018 First Cut acquired Messer South Africa and announced the addition of Messer Cutting Systems’ plasma, oxyfuel, and large-plate processing equipment to its metal fabrication equipment product lines
Safety first with GSI: From cylinder to torch
“With the comprehensive basket of products for cutting and welding which First Cut offers its customers, the use of fuel gas and or oxygen is predominant as a fuel medium.”
“However, when using fuel gas and oxygen as a cutting or welding medium, there are many safety requirements which should be adhered to. At the start of every gas control path, pressure regulators are the pivotal connection between the gas supply and the torch. Depending upon pressure, volumes, connections required or the type of gas, various aspects must be considered. A technically faultless and simultaneously safe take-up point has the highest priority here.”
“Messer’s flashback arrestors provide reliable protection against reverse-flow of gas and flashbacks for pressure regulators, tapping points of pipe line systems, individual cylinders, hose, oxyfuel equipment, flame-cutting machines and gas supply stations.”
“However, we felt that we were lacking in the aspect of safety when using fuel gas and oxygen. There are many safe practices that one should implement before using these mediums, as there are ‘do’s and ‘don’ts. The preliminary ‘do’ of course is training, which you should have before you even consider picking up a torch or turning on a machine.”
“Our merger of interests with Gas Safety International (GSI) was a strategic move that is really paying dividends, strategically differentiating us from our competitors. With GSI’s MD, Peter Rohlssen, there are no grey areas with respect to when gas is used as a medium, no matter what situation. It is either black or white. It is either right or wrong. Nothing in between.”
Zelda Vorster is the regional manager responsible for the Nelspruit area and the recently opened Witbank branch, Stuart Beck, who is based in Durban and is responsible for the Durban, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town branches and Wayne Labuschagne, First Cut’s national sales manager, who is located in Johannesburg
This uncompromising dedication to gas safety for industry was borne out in our recent ‘Safety Unites’ compressed gas safety conference, which First Cut and GSI co-hosted with Bolt and Engineering Distributors and Messer Cutting Systems, held in June this year in Johannesburg and well-attended by delegates from mining, manufacturing, power generation and many other industry sectors.”
“GSI’s MD Peter Rohlssen has also been the driving force behind the development of the world-first patented new safety valve, torch and process – the Safety Advanced Technology (S.A.T.) system that will substantially reduce the possibility of a gas leakage taking place, either due to operator negligence or an accidental breakage in the compressed gas supply line. This revolutionary new patented development in gas safety usage in the field of metal cutting was officially launched at the Safety Unites compressed gas safety conference and will be distributed worldwide. The three elements that make up the system are the safety valve, the torch and the process.”
“In essence you could say this completes the ‘triangle’ in our consumables division that we now refer to as cutting, welding and grinding solutions. The product portfolio includes hacksaws, bandsaw blades, circular saw blades, magnetics, precision engineers’ tools, small saws and frames and abrasives, welding and grinding consumables.”
“But you never know. The business has evolved many times in the last 66 years, and we look forward to an exciting and dynamic future in the world of cutting, welding and grinding,” said McCrystal.
For further details contact First Cut on TEL: 011 614 1112 or visit www.firstcut.co.za