Machinist Interview #003, JT Belknap of DFM Tool Works

 

DFM Tool Works Logo

I want to thank JT for taking the time to complete my survey. I met JT through Instagram, and he's since helped me out with everything from marketing to machine troubleshooting. JT makes high quality tools geared mainly towards woodworking. His Instagram content is top notch, so be sure to check him out!

Give a quick, couple sentence intro stating who you are, what you do, and where people can find you on social media.

    My name is JT Belknap and I started DFM Tool Works to create American jobs by sourcing materials and making tools here in the United States.  Most of my tools are for woodworking and DFM Tool Works can be found primarily on Instagram (@DFMTOOLWORKS) as well as my website DFMTOOLWORKS.COM.


    How long have you been in Manufacturing?

    I have been in manufacturing since 2006 when I graduated as a Mechanical Engineer and became a Production Engineer at Toyota for 5 years building technology and machines that build the new model vehicles across North America.  I have been in manufacturing ever since and love making things and working with people to create them.

     

    What is your biggest “Win” to date?

    My biggest win to date is earning the trust of my customers.  Without their trust, I would not have a company today.  That trust is earned and displayed on Amazon in the form of positive product and seller reviews.  That trust has been slowly earned with thousands of wonderful people and businesses on Instagram as well.

     

    What is the biggest hurdle you’ve had to overcome thus far?

    The biggest hurdle for DFM was starting a new shop with a business partner and our used, bought at auction Haas VF2 3 axis mill did not work for the first 2 months, which was not part of the business plan and cost us time and money we didn’t have budgeted.  Thankfully the machine has run well since then.  We learned a valuable lesson for the next machine: See it in person and run ALL the critical functions!

     

    What do you do when feeling overwhelmed or stressed?

    Usually I work even more thinking that I can overcome the issue, but other times I am avoiding the problem with other, less important work.  I am learning to rip the band aids off if it’s something I can control.  If my stress sources from outside my control that will probably be a lifelong work in progress to deal with it better.
     
    I am learning to take some breaks, especially for my family and sometimes my sanity.  For example, I usually always worked after my daughter would go to bed, and now I am getting better at doing that maybe 50-60% of the time instead of 100%.  Sleep is important especially around equipment that can injure or kill you.

     

    What is the best shop purchase you’ve made in the last 6 months for $500 or less and why?

    I think it’s a toss up between our shop gas grill which has made many tasty cheap frozen burgers for lunches OR the multitude of $20 box fans sprouting in our shop for the summer to keep us focused a little more on the task at hand in 95 degrees indoors.

     

    What is your favorite, or go-to, cutting tool?

    My favorite tools are my Garr drills for aluminum and steel.  3 Flute for aluminum and 2 flute for tool steels. Easily over 5000 holes and still trucking in aluminum and I get about 1500-2000 holes in 3/8 thick A2 tool steel annealed.  I don’t have through spindle coolant, but these drills have been great for my applications.

     

    What is one tool or piece of equipment in your shop that you couldn’t live without?

    Coffee maker.  I drink between 40 to 58 ounces per day and it’s not weak.

     

    What is one piece of advice you’d give to someone just entering the manufacturing industry?

    I would highly recommend working for someone else first that really cares about their people and their products. 
     
    I think some people are turned off by the leadership more than the processes in manufacturing.  I was extremely fortunate to begin my career at Toyota where everyone cared for each other and their customers.  With that said, my second manager at Toyota did not care about his people and I almost quit despite it being a 9 month assignment.  The rest of my 5 years at Toyota were a great process and people foundation.   Afterwards, running someone else’s small business with 100 employees for 4 years was the on the job MBA I needed to start my own business today.

     

    What is one thing that most people may not know about you?

    I am a Philadelphia Eagles fan because I picked a team in high school when I lived in South Jersey outside of Philly.  I am an Army brat so I did not grow up in one place for more than 3 years.  I really enjoy the intensity and knowledge of the fans in Philly and I feel like I deserve any wins or losses today since I started out with Ray Rhodes as head coach back in 1998 when they went 3-13 for the season.  I have a soft spot for the Steelers because I went to college in PGH, but only if they aren’t playing the Eagles.