Understanding The Role of an HVAC Ductwork Fabricator

Have you ever heard of the term 'tin knocker'? There's a good chance you have come across the term somewhere along the line. Although, there's also a really good chance you have no idea what I'm talking about.

So what is a tin knocker anyway?

Although there is no real dictionary definition of the term, the accepted definition of a tin knocker is some one works with HVAC ductwork, a sheet metal worker. Meaning someone who fabricates duct and duct fittings for residential or commercial dwellings. Tin knocker can also be assigned to someone who installs ductwork on a regular basis. However, the term 'duct installer' is more common for the men and women working that job.

Pile of custom ductwork

My daily job, along with co-owner duties, here at K & E Sheet Metal is HVAC ductwork fabricator or tin knocker. I fabricate the components used for the duct running through your home so heat and air conditioning can get to each of the rooms.

Our main business

Our main business is fabricating the plenums, duct, elbows and transitions needed to run the trunk line (ductwork) in the basement or attic. Many times the installer will need to run the duct under existing plumbing pipes or around a corner. Whether the piece needed is a standard fitting or a custom section, contractors or customers will call with measurements for what they need to finish the job. I, as an HVAC ductwork fabricator, build the duct to keep the job moving along.

Method to the madness

CNC plasma cutter nested HVAC ductwork

Well, in our shop it's a much simpler process than that of the larger, unionized shops knocking out ductwork for major projects around the world. Our facility takes an order from the customer--no job being too small--where I will either enter the dimensions in our computer system running the CNC plasma machine or start the cutting process by hand. Either with had tools or with our 52" wide shear, which is used to cut larger sections of duct.  

After the pieces are cut, I will use our 8' sheet metal brake and other metal bending tools to form the duct fittings and custom sections one flat side at a time. Our ductwork is formed either in half sections or four different sides to create the square or box that will be the duct. This also gives me the chance to run each side through whichever roll forming machine is needed to create the joints necessary for assembling each component.

Assembling HVAC ductwork

The assembly process is performed either with a hand held or air hammer, with the air hammer being the quickest form of assembly at our shop. Depending on size or type of fabrication, each piece can take anywhere from 10 minutes to 45 minutes.  

Obviously. this is a very quick overview of what I do as an HVAC ductwork fabricator, but you can get a sense of the basic steps needed and where our services are very important to the installation process. In order to keep the air flow and efficiency at peak you need to have the proper sized duct and fittings to move the air. Therefore a good fabricator is a must for anyone who runs an HVAC installation company. 

Keep the line moving sir

You can equate what I do to a short order cook, who needs to have something done quickly and accurately to keep the line moving. When an order is called in, the time window for me to finish is tight, roughly within 24 hours. With many orders coming through the door, this leaves hours to minutes for getting the fabrication complete, depending on the size of the order. All lead times aren't always a rush, some are weeks or even months down the line. Nevertheless, the majority of what we do in the residential market is a very quick turn around because time frames for many of the homes going up these days is fast.

Other factors that will determine what an HVAC ductwork fabricator produces on a daily basis is the size of his shop, amount of equipment, technological advancement of that equipment and number of employees fabricating ductwork. 

The role of the duct fabricator hasn't changed much over the years, but the size of the shops have. There aren't many job shops like ours around these days giving homeowners and smaller companies the ability to get small orders fabricated on demand for a good price.

If anything, understand that an HVAC ductwork fabricator is an integral part of the construction of your home or commercial building.