All Things Spinning Interview – Rich Stadler/ BilletSPIN
1. Tell us about yourself a bit, where you from, what’s your day job, what’s your passion other than tops(or just your products)
Rich: Well my name is Rich! My brother, sisters and I own and operate J Stadler Machine inc. My father started our company back in 1986. He retired back in 2012. I started working here when I was 13. My Dad woke me up on a Saturday morning and said it was time to go to work! He had me sweeping floors and washing walls. He always told my brother and me that he was not raising spoiled owners kids and we would have to work our way up like everyone else. I had a deep desire to make my Dad proud of me so I worked my butt off and took advantage of every opportunity I was given. By the time I was 20, I was put in charge of the CNC lathe department and when I was 26 I became plant manager. My passion besides work would be golf. My wife and I are heavily involved in our church and take our faith in Jesus Christ very seriously. I am happily married to the most wonderful woman on the planet and have three amazing kids.
2. We know you turned full time at the beginning of 2016 and we can see your business is taking off. What’s the biggest challenge before you made the decision and what’s the biggest concern right now?
Rich: Great question. Being equal owners in a business with your brother and sister is not easy. Family comes before money. None of us thought this would go anywhere when I started it last year. As it grew, it became harder and harder to do both my day job and tops. Tension grew in the family and it was there during the negotiations of bringing this into the company. It was a huge challenge and my parents got involved. In the end, we came together as a family and put or pride and differences aside and made it work. It has been going great. My biggest concern now is that the core of our business is changing. Making the right decisions is a huge concern going forward. The lives of our parents, our families, our employees and their families is at stake.
3. What is your current EDC items? Let’s do a pocket dump photo please!
Rich: I will be honest, I don’t like carrying things. I know this will floor people. I have my stuff at home and at work. I LOVE knives and watches. My love of both of those came from Jim Skelton. We would watch him on ShopNBC every time he was on. I learned so much from the guy! I have a lot of very cool tops from other makers but am still looking for my first UDW. I have a lot of knives but my watch collection is down to almost nothing as I don’t like wearing a watch lol.
4. Do you have any other hobby? Is it related to EDC or tops?
Rich: Like I said before, my biggest hobby is golf. I used to be pretty good back when I was young. I have a bunch of friends from church that I play with regularly. When I do something, I go all out. This can be a problem when you have a family. I have to be careful to not spend all day at the range. I am learning to be content with my current skill level so I can spend more time at home. It is an amazing game though that I enjoy very much. Something nobody knows, I was going to start my own line of putters before I started making tops!
5. What was the biggest challenge you’ve ever faced during your products development? Tell us how you created your style, your own combo metals, your own designs, etc.
Rich: Keeping this fresh. It is very easy to get lazy. I feel like I did that on one of my designs. I learned from that and will not stop designing a top until I am completely satisfied. It can be a very frustrating but rewarding process. As for my style, that is complicated. I am blessed with some amazing equipment here at work. I did not want to make tops that looked like any other maker. Milling was the key. When I got on board, the only guy that was doing any milling was Ken Jordan Jr. I looked over his stuff and saw plenty of room for myself. I like ultra modern. Classical is not my style. This fit in very well with milling. The problem with milling is that it creates drag which will kill spin times. My first milled top was completely smooth. I just blended to two materials. This was very hard to do and to this day, it still surprises me. That style is just not as sought after so I have not done it since. It is great in a way because it is so much harder to do! My goal is to be as unique from other makers as humanly possible and I have scrapped out many a design due to this. I even had to toss finished parts because of it but in the end, my reputation means a lot more to me than money.
6. What is your favorite metal? What metal do you hate the most? Pls tell us why and any stories about your reason if it’s cool.
Rich: Favorite metal is brass! It is the easiest thing on the planet to machine. Wet, dry, fast slow, it does not matter. Great stuff to prototype with. My least favorite of top materials is titanium. Very gummy and hard to break the chips. This is a real problem in the production environment. We have to do program stops to clean off the chips sometimes. It also work hardens extremely easy. This means slow SFM’s which adds a lot of time to cycle time. My only cool story involves timascus. The first time I flamed it, my heart was pounding. When you see the colors appear, it is one of the coolest experiences in top making. I actually prefer machining it to straight titanium.
7. Do you have a word for the up and coming collectors and new makers? Any suggestions you’d like to share?
Rich: Oh yes, yes I do!
Makers- Be original. Never convince yourself that every idea has been taken. Find your own style and resist all urges to use another makers design element. This has happened a few times unfortunately. I don’t care what anyone tell you, it hurts the community and in the end, it will hurt you as a top maker. I can look at any top made by the top makers and tell you who made it. Each has their own style and you can tell they put their heart into it. That is why they are so successful.
Collectors- Spin times lol. Almost every person that gets into this hobby starts out caring about spin time the most. As time goes on, most switch to design over spin time. Find out what you like and then find the maker/makers that build that style fo top. My biggest piece of advice: buy tops from makers that are original. Yes you can save a little money by getting a knock-off. More than likely it will not perform as well and the fit and finish will not be nearly as nice. The main reason though is to support the makers that are advancing this hobby, not riding off the coattails of others.
8. What do you see this Top community in 5 and 10 years?
Rich: Nobody knows! I will tell you this and I know some will completely disagree; as long as we as top makers keep being original and collectors keep supporting those makers the community will be fine. If people support the knock offs, the community will drop off. Countless other EDC categories have seen this. The top community is something special. It is made up of some amazing individuals. I have seen so many amazing deeds done for those in need. Good cause auctions, people sending new people free tops, one guy gave away he sleep machine to another guy that needed it. All of this goes hand in hand. Character, that is what it is all about and good character breeds good character.
9. Once in awhile, we see ppl copying other makers’ design(by accident or intentionally), metal combos and such. What do you see in this topic and what would be your opinion about this?
Rich: I think I beat this one to death already. It drives my insane when people condone this because there is nothing legally wrong with it. Well there is a lot of shady things we can do as human beings that is not covered under the law. Why do it? Be creative and find your own designs.
10. How many machines are running at the same time for BilletSPIN? I know this question is repeated but it’ll be nice to include this part here.
Rich: We use 6 machines total for tops. Sometimes they are all running at the same time and sometimes not. It all depends on the design, the schedule for the main company and the employees that are here on that particular day.
11. Where is your inspiration coming from? I can tell most of your design is naval related but is it because you worked with a lot of stuff that was related or that’s one of things that you’re interested? And who is the most influence in your maker’s career?
Rich: Great question! I am a google image search junkie. I also look at things in everyday life. The inspiration part of my brain never shuts off. I see maybe a hundred things daily that my mind considers making into a top. Patterns, it is all about patterns. Hard to explain really. Gavin has helped me a lot with designs. He has a great eye and we are on the same page as far as designing goes. The hard part for me is that I love the Wraith. That is my personal taste. Well a lot of people would take the Torch over the Wraith because it is more classical. I try to mix up my designs to appeal to as many people as possible but I won’t lie, I don’t enjoy those style of designs nearly as much as something like the Wraith or K2.
12. We all know the two things you love the most, Manatee and Shia Labeouf, tell us more about them.
Rich: Shia, oh Shia. I am a people watcher. I am fascinated by people and why they do the things they do. I try very hard to understand people. I could sit at an airport and watch people walk by all day long. I try to learn things about people without them saying a word. I remember when I saw the just do it video for the first time. I was very confused lol. Was this intentional? Was he acting or was this really him. Was he punking the world? I had to know and I still have to know. One of my goals is to meet him. I want to sit down and ask him. He is either stone cold crazy or one of the most brilliant people on the planet. He fascinates me.
Manatees- they are sea cows!! What is not to like. What a strange creature. How does that exist in this world? They fascinate me similar to Shia. I could meditate on them both for days lol.
13. Do you like music? What’s the music that you blast when you’re working?
Rich: I love music. When I was young, I loved hard rock. Then I started appreciating all kinds of music. I would listen to Metallica and the Celine Deion. With that said, I cannot stand country. I mean I loathe its very existence. It is like finger nails on a chalk board to me. Nowadays I just listen to Christian music. Mathew West is one of my favorites. Due to circumstances in my life back in 2012, songs like his took on a whole new meaning. Now it inspires me and reminds me of what is really important in life. I never want to slip back into the miserable creature I was before.
Great questions! This was fun!