There was the love of fine art metal sculpture. Then there was the love of beautiful cars.
Then in 2007, worlds collided for Ed Barr when he attended McPherson College - the only college that offers a four-year degree in automotive restoration.
“It wasn’t until I came here and went through the program that I put the two together,” Barr said.
Now as assistant professor of technology at MC, Barr has become one of the foremost experts on automotive metal shaping. What’s more, he is now sharing that knowledge with the world in a comprehensive handbook through the world’s leading publisher of automotive, motorcycle and motorsport books for enthusiasts.
Motorbooks - a Quayside Publishing Group imprint - is producing Barr’s “Professional Sheet Metal Fabrication.” Weighing in at more than 300 notebook-sized pages and containing more than 550 detailed color photos, calling it a “handbook” might be putting it a little too… lightly, so to speak.
After Motorbooks approached Barr to write the book, the volume took Barr two years working nights and weekends to complete. He also received help from MC students, who illustrated shaping techniques and made their projects available to be photographed.
The book runs the gamut for readers: from the basics to needed equipment and materials to the specifics of projects to finishing touches. It’s been receiving five-star reviews and is often ranked in the top 40 in two technical categories on Amazon.
One of those five-star reviews came from Graham Gott, lead mechanical engineer at Stackpole Engineering in Canton, Ohio. Gott said Barr’s book holds a quality and depth of information he would expect from a McPherson College professor, especially the step-by-step instructions.
“The thing that I like about all of the ‘how to’ sections is that they’re clearly written by someone who is an expert sheet metal worker instead of a writer describing what they’ve seen someone else do. This really separates this book from several others that I own.
“I recommend this book highly to anyone looking for a good reference on tools and techniques used in sheet metal shaping.”
Barr said it was great exposure for the college and a great experience for him.
“The final product shows what typically goes on here as far as sheet metal is concerned,” he said. “It’s the best snapshot you could ask for, to see what it is that we do here.”
Barr started on this career path through the - perhaps unexpected - gateway of running the Mulvane Art Museum at Washburn University in Topeka. From 1999 to 2005, he was assistant to the director, then the director of the museum. All along, he pursued his interest in metal sculpture and jewelry.
Page 2 of 2 - After completing his bachelor’s in automotive restoration at McPherson College - where he attended from 2005 to 2007 - Barr went on to work for Vintage Restorations Ltd., in Union Bridge, Md., working on restoring British cars. In 2010, he returned to MC, this time as professor, teaching sheet metal and history of automotive design.
His teaching methods are hands-on; he loves demonstrating metal’s eccentricities and the techniques to use on it.
“You start hitting stuff with a hammer - Oh, it feels great,” he said. “You’re making things that are beautiful; it’s very satisfying. It’s very challenging and I love that about it.
“It takes a lot of time to get good at it. It can be frustrating, but it’s gratifying to work hard at it and get it right - make what’s old new and perfect. It’s that tangible reward for your hard work that, from my experience, is hard to obtain in an office cubicle.”
The experience with the book is not yet over for Barr. Starting June 3, He will be blogging for Motorbooks for a year about students’ projects at www.motorbooks.com - the same day that www.MotorcycleClassics.com will excerpt a portion from the book. Through the end of the year, Motorbooks is offering a 40 percent discount on the book by visiting www.motorbooks.com and entering the promo code: EDBARR.
Barr also suspects a sequel with more and advanced techniques could be a possibility.
As much as he loves the shop, Barr said, what’s most rewarding for him is teaching at MC and seeing the great careers it opens for automotive restoration alumni.
“It’s what everyone hopes for their students or their own kids,” he said. “You want them to have these jobs where they can go to work and have fun every day.”