Behind the Flame: A Welder’s Story
Words and photos by Natalie Hardwicke
After graduating from Bend Senior High School in 2013, 22-year-old Mack McHone began studying at Shasta College in Redding, California. In only one term of studying business, he realized that sitting in a classroom was the very last thing he wanted to do; he wanted to be out in the world making a name for himself. Deciding business school wasn’t right for him, he left Redding and set out to follow in the footsteps of his father, Wade McHone. Wade has been a welder for 35 years.
“I just wanted to be successful,” Mack McHone says. “I didn’t know how, but I knew that’s what I wanted.” McHone’s success as an established welder is directly tied to his uncompromising work ethic. Today, he runs Mack’s Metal Fab in Bend, Oregon, where he repairs everything from exercise bars to heavy equipment to building truck customizations. His dedication to his work is obvious. In his shop he kneels on the cold cement floor for over 30 minutes to weld a bed frame together. He meticulously inspects all corners and angles.
His journey to success was fueled by always wanting more for himself. “I think it’s in my bloodline,” says McHone, “I’m an alpha male, I’m always hungry for bigger, better, stronger…that’s just who I am.” McHone originally headed to North Dakota to work on the oil rigs alongside his father. He attributes this time spent in North Dakota and his relationship with his father to his steadfast work ethic. “I was thrown into it, but I was lucky because if I got into a bind I would call my dad and ask for help,” says McHone. He learned all his welding skills from his father, including patience through a long work day.
“I’d work for 24 to 48 hours straight,” says McHone. “You’d have guys complaining how tired they were and that they needed to go home.You get a sense of how tough you are, and I learned that from my dad. The last thing I was gonna do was let my dad down.” Around town McHone’s welding is known for its precision and durability. “People keep coming back to me time and time again,” he says of his loyal customer base. His merchandise reps his tagline: “build perfect shit.”
Despite his sleeve of tattoos, intense biceps, and seemingly hard exterior, McHone has an indisputable love for his 71-year-old Nana. “She’s my best friend,” he says. McHone works out of his late grandfather’s shop in Bend in order to be closer to his Nana. The welding shop is on her property, and only a few steps away from her front door.
McHone’s tough exterior melts as he listens to his Nana recount stories of his family in her living room. “I wanted to be close to her so that I could drop in on her and give her loving,” he says. Nana smiles as she talks about her special connection to Mack, and notes how thankful she is for him. “Mack and I really do have a special connection,” she says. “He’s always stopping by to check on me and spend time with me.”
While welding is a tough and physical trade, it can also be very personal, and be inspired from many aspects of the welder’s life and personality. This trade is more than just sparks and tough edges: it’s created by the people who hold that flame. This is Mack McHone.