One of my favorite parts of being MMT’s senior editor is hearing how mold shops got their start—especially ones with humble beginnings in a garage that evolve into premier mold manufacturers. Not only is Buss Precision Molds (BPM) is one of these shops, but also a story of a father and son working hand in hand to build a business.
Jonathan Buss (left) inspecting the EDM of a check valve housing with one of his employees.
When I profiled BPM in the May issue, current owner Jonathan Buss told me how his father Earl got his start in machining by taking machine shop in the local trade school to get experience. “He always liked mechanical things growing up and instead of spending the money he earned on candy, he would buy nuts and bolts, etc. to make things with,” Jonathan recalled. “Earl turned his machining experience into a moldmaking career after working in the Navy on a submarine tender in the 1950s. A fellow shipmate’s father owned plastic moldmaking and molding facility in Southern California. The man asked him to come by for a job after he was discharged. The company specialized in making scale model hobby kits of military and historical figures, when that work migrated offshore, the work changed to making molds for Barbie dolls, Hot Wheels and other consumer items.”
Back then, Earl had a garage shop back then with a Bridgeport mill, Boyer Shultz surface grinder and Deckel Pantograph. Jonathan said that Earl would do the overflow work from the shop at home when the shop got too busy.
Then Earl moved to Portland Oregon in the mid-70s and worked for a small moldmaking company, their market was electronics, test equipment, computer and heavy trucking industries. He pulled some strings and got Jonathan an apprentice position, and was able to train him in the moldmaking trade. “He wanted to pass along all his knowledge to me so the moldmaking lessons went along at a fast pace,” Jonathan said. Since he was working under his father, Jonathan was able complete his first complete mold with multiple stepped parting lines after only three months on the job. Jonathan says his father told him every move to make, but most apprentices have to work for a couple of years before having that kind of opportunity and accomplishment. They happily worked together for the next eight years. “A lot of people commented they could never work with their father, but working together for over 20 years was a privilege,” Jonathan proudly stated. The two worked together until Earl retired in 2000 and passed the reins to his son, who is proud to carry on the family tradition.