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Local machinist runs one-man shop

EDEN TOWNSHIP — Down a long country road, through rolling hills, farms and fields, in a remote area of the county, sits a log cabin and outbuilding beside it.

Blending in with the rural setting, the exterior belies what is housed inside the outbuilding — a modern, clean and bright machine shop.

The home of Earl and Donna Benge and EB Machine and Tool contains large pieces of equipment with unfamiliar names like sheet metal fabricator and precision surface grinder.

Earl Benge, 52, is owner/operator of this one-man shop, and he prides himself in the quality of his work and his quick turnaround time for precision tooling and parts. His niche is precision tooling and fabrication.

“I make widgets that can’t be purchased anywhere,” Benge said. “I build special tooling for automated machinery/production lines.”

Benge has 30 years of experience in manufacturing and tooling precision parts, assemblies and dedicated machines for production lines.

He has a background in a variety of machining, including plastic-injection molds, sheet metal work and wax injection, and he has worked with a variety of materials including copper, brass, steel and plastic.

His customers have included giants such as Diebold, North American Rockwell, Boeing Aviation, Volvo, Honda and THK Manufacturing, to name a few.

“A lot of my work is held in (or only allowing a difference of) one-third of a hair strand,” Benge said.

Although he always has had good turnaround time since he started the business in 2004, that time got better because of the recent recession. When the economy hit the skids, Benge lost several of his customers when they went out of business, and several others cut their costs by not replacing tooling parts.

His net income dropped by 45 percent and even after two years economic recovery, he has gained only about 30 percent of his previous business back. So that means that some weeks he works long hours to get the parts out in a timely fashion, while the next week he might not have enough work to keep himself busy.

“I would like to be able to hire two or three employees, but the biggest problem is I don’t want to hire someone full time without knowing I can keep them,” Benge said. “That’s the bad thing about a small shop, it’s feast or famine.”

His advertising is all by word of mouth. To help that process along, he started his own website in 2010.

It was through that Internet connection that an engineer from Coshocton found Benge. Heinz-Gustav Reisser is the creator of an efficient diesel engine he said is capable of achieving 200 mpg.

Benge recently completed the first set of parts for the project and hopes for the success of the endeavor.

Being out in the middle of the countryside has not been a major logistical problem, but it does make for long delivery times for Benge. Because he is a one-man shop, he does it all, selling, order taking, engineering, fabrication and delivering.

He does not outsource any of his work because he wants to be sure of the quality. That is why he has so many diversified pieces of equipment.

“If I’ve done it, I know it will meet my standards,” he said.

Benge also is an instructor of machine trades at the Career and Technology Education Centers of Licking County and instructor at Stark State College.

Benge doesn’t see himself retiring. He enjoys his work so much that he is in the shop even if he doesn’t have any jobs to complete. But he admits it would be nice to have a day off once in a while.

“I will probably still be here until I can’t get out of bed anymore,” he said. “I enjoy my job that much.”

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