The Work We Do: Fred Schoenstein, North Fork Welding & Steel Supply

My name is Fred Schoenstein, my brother and I are co-owners of North Fork Welding and Supply.

We’ve been here for a little over 42 years.

We do custom fabrication from aluminum, stainless steel and steel. We supply local shipyards, ferry companies, with industrial supply stuff: chain, shackles, rope cable.

We also have a full line of steel supply, aluminum supply, stainless steel supply.

We’ve probably got five or six jobs going on simultaneously.

If somebody comes in with an idea, we’ve got to draw it up, draft it, and make what we call a worksheet out of it. Usually, with structural steel, I’ll measure the job, I’ll come back, I’ll make the drawing of the beams and the columns and the connections. We’ll make a worksheet, then it goes out into the shop, and the guys will cut the beams, drill the holes, and prepare it for the installation.

And I’ll work with the guys, occasionally, in the shop. If we’re bogged down or whatever, I’ll go out there and pick up a grinder or pick up a torch and cut stuff and whatnot.

Most of the jobs we do last anywhere from a day to a week, on average. We do a lot of repair work as well — small stuff that people bring in. That’s really not our bread and butter. The bigger jobs are actually a little bit better for us.

We’ve done some unusual things for local artists. … They come here with ideas of what they want, and sometimes I’ll go out and actually fabricate the pieces, tack them together, and work with co-workers. It’s complex stuff. It’s not cookie-cutter. We don’t do much of that.

My father was always a guy that was a hands-on type of guy, so everything that we did as children, whether it be mini-bike, go-kart, motorcycle, beach buggies — we kind of hand-built everything at our garage. We created a business. All we had to do was show up and go to work. And we’ve been busy ever since. 

It’s hard work, it’s dirty, it’s not glamorous, but it is rewarding. When you finish a project and everything’s good, the customer’s happy, it’s a nice feeling.

“The Work We Do” is a Suffolk Times multimedia project profiling workers on the North Fork.