A Shop of Shape Shifters

January 10, 2023

In folklore, a shapeshifter is a person with the ability to change their physical form at will.

And while they may not shift their physical forms, the folks at Compass Bending somehow take metals well beyond the typical limitations of time and space.

You see, there are metalworking facilities that can do certain things. Maybe they cut metal. Maybe they weld. Or maybe they bolt things together.

But then there’s Compass Bending.

Compass doesn’t just own a few machines. They’ve got a trifecta of broader capabilities:

  • The main shop boasts over 60 pieces of rare equipment – brought in from around the world.

  • There’s a “shop behind the shop” – designed to enable re-tooling of equipment, custom building of dies, and more.

  • They have people with the vision, creativity and skill to recognize “good bones” in equipment and invest in long-term capabilities.

The People

Let’s start with the last point: their people. The owner, Colin Maskey, has been in the business since he was a teenager working with his father. His lead Equipment Maintenance Manager, Don MacPhee, is a welder with an electronics background who has over 30 years experience. These two are continually buying unusual items from auctions around the world (think something that resembles a 20 Ton German printing press) – and re-tooling them for bending purposes. “It’s a passion,” says MacPhee, “You have the chance to bring new life to an old work horse, and give it a home.”

The Main Shop

What about the shop itself? Spread over two locations, its boasts over 60 pieces of major equipment, sourced from around the world. Almost none was bought new, and many are creatively re-tooled. “I do the calculations to ensure the motors on any in-coming equipment have the horsepower we need,” explains MacPhee. “Then we refurbish the motors, the heads, the works.”

The equipment is also heavy – many pieces in the 10 – 20 Ton range – and exerts major forces. One unit they call the Ironworker is a hole punch that can exert 12 Tons of pressure for punching holes or cutting angle iron.

So how do the employees manage to handle such heavy equipment and raw materials? By using a custom-built system of overhead cranes and rolling conveyors to glide the raw metal safely through the process.  Looking up, the ceiling seems to be constantly in motion.

And although the bread-and-butter work comes from bending pipelines for the energy sector, there are many other kinds of work they do, such as:

  • General Metal shaping – for displays, signage, doors, fire sprinkler systems
  • Vehicle bumpers – to protect semi-truck reefers, or for police car pit maneuvers
  • Rare parts – for machines, cars or anything else, and yes, the employees often come in to fix their own vehicles.
  • Structural Metal – for fabric membrane structures (such as event tents) or awnings, ladders, stairs, railings, and more
Inside the Compass Bending shop

The Shop Behind the Shop

But there’s also the shop behind the shop; the one that re-tools the equipment. This is where the genius comes in.

Whether it is making their own dies, machine parts, soldering electronics, or welding…the list goes on.  “We’ve brought tons of metal die material here from around the world.  I don’t even want to guess what the shipping cost us,” says MacPhee. “And it’s just waiting to be shaped for the next unusual job we get.”

So rather than create an endless list of possibilities trying to explain what kind of work this company can do, maybe this will sum it up for you…

Laying to the side in their shop sits a gearbox from a full-sized auger that came right from the fields of Saskatchewan. Says MacPhee with a twinkle in his eye, “Oh, we’ve got big plans for that unit. Let’s just say it won’t be for farm equipment!”