Article By: Chris Callen
Originally Published In The May 2015 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine
It was a few years ago that I was introduced to Mike Mittler. I already knew of his company, Mittler Bros. Machine & Tool by the reputation of his tools and it was a blast spending a day with a man who was as passionate about what he does as Mike is about Mittler Bros. Now we have covered the use of Mittler Bros. Tools in tech articles, talked about their quality American manufacturing and innovative nature, but lately there has been a new direction taken with one of the tools that I have watched with great admiration. The direction is the actual art being made on a Mittler Bros. bead roller by a young man out of Meridian, Article By: Chris Callen Mississippi: Jamey Jordan. Jamey’s designs are amazing creations stand alone, but are unparalleled in this media.
The use of simple sheet metal folds to create shades and texture, or the appearance of, is an art that was unheard of before he got his hands on his first bead roller. Today, so many people know of this cat and his work, we felt it was about time to sit down and get some facts on where he came from and how he ever looked at this very industrial tool and thought he would one day make fine art with it. At 35 years old Jamey has come up fast for the accomplishments of a man his age. His love of mechanical things started off back in High School with mini trucks. He had taught himself how to weld by the age of 16 and was always tinkering with something. In spite of his passion he went the traditional route of getting a civilized degree from community college in drafting, but soon realized he wasn’t cut out to be a desk jockey.
So in 2002 he packed up his drafting pencils and headed off to Wyotech in Wyoming to be properly schooled and furthered his education from there to a welding school in Florida. During that time he lived on the beach and worked for a bike shop and a few hot rod shops in the area. Once he graduated he moved back home to apply his trade. There he went to work for a hot rod shop and was giving it all he had. He slept on the couch at the shop more than his own bed and took the whole paying his dues thing to the extreme. During his off hours he was starting to make and sell bike and bomber seats on E-bay. He had a nice little flow of business going and a good thing too as the shop he was working at fell on bad times and with six months’ worth of back orders for his personal work he decided to break out on his own. During this time, like so many that launch a small business, Jamey sold just about everything of any value that he had to get it off the ground. A year later the orders were coming in, the overhead was low since it was running out of his garage, and he was starting to develop a good rhythm when he realized that he was out of work.
It wasn’t that he didn’t have enough work for himself, in fact too much. He had hit the proverbial ceiling. If he wanted to take the next step in his business he would have to find a way to out work the work. This was about the time that Jamey started to play around with a bead roller. What is a bead roller? A bead roller is a tool that is traditionally used for making decorative bodylines on automotive panels or flanges on sheet metal panels to make them sit flush. He was fast to learn what he could and couldn’t do with it but he kept pushing the limits and taking it further. It started simple, doing seats, since Jamey wasn’t in a position to say no very often he took on any work he could. He would tell customers that he wanted to try something and if they didn’t like it he would re-do it at no charge. Since he was still a oneman show and keeping the overhead low he could afford to mess around with stuff all night. It was then that he started to develop bead rolling into an art.
So for any of you that haven’t seen this man’s work, what am I trying to say about it being art you might ask? Well, just this; what Jamey does is art in the highest form. He uses a media that you can’t erase; he doesn’t paint or change the finish of it either. By simply creasing parts of the metal and changing the way the light interacts with its surface he crates shading and colors. It’s all about negative space like good tattoo art is these days and Jamey has a knack for spotting the right lines like none other. Having that knack is of the utmost importance if you consider that you only get one shot. If you make a mistake, no matter how many hours you might have an a piece, it’s back to a blank sheet.
Jamey was getting better and better but the tools were now the only thing holding him back. He had been in contact with Jason at Mittler Brothers for a couple of years when Mike Mittler decided to make him a deal. He gave Jamey a bead roller in exchange for him teaching his skill at trade shows for the company. With Jamey on board Mike could really show people what the tool was capable of. After a short while of working these shows Mike presented the idea of Jamey helping to develop new tooling around the bead roller. This was the break Jamey was looking for an he showed up day one at Mittler with a box full of ideas on how to make the tool better. Of course, Mike being a well tenured man of the tool industry he knew that too much at once would never fly. He allowed one change on their first run and more the next year. Since then Jamey is getting to be a well-known name in the metal shaping industry. His signature series tools, including the new Shrinker / Stretcher, are some of the best tools on the market and have come along with the level of fabrication that goes on in both the custom auto and motorcycle industries today. It really has moved into the field of art as well as metal work after all.
Today Jamey talks about Mike Mittler like so many of us do; he is his hero. That one chance changed Jamey’s life and brought his art to the forefront of our culture. Of course Mike is way too proud a man to acknowledge such accomplishments personally so we are happy to do it for him. Keep watching Mittler Brothers social media feed and look for them at trade shows across the country. Hell, you might even get a firsthand lesson on bead rolling from Jamey Jordan himself.