Van der Elst looks forward to enjoying the West Coast

Soon to be retired but not dead. Keen to keep busy.

Gary van der Elst, Foundry/Toolroom General Manager at Wahl Aluminium, has reached retirement age and will soon take up full retirement and relocate to the West Coast of South Africa from the Gauteng area.

“I have been working for 48 years now, with the majority of those years either in a machine shop or foundry, and I have now decided it is time to move on and hand over although I will not be entirely idle.”

“My career in industry started off in 1973 when I joined Castle Brass Works as an apprentice tool, jig & die maker. At the time Castle Brass Works was one of the biggest companies in the Krugersdorp area, an area where I grew up and did my schooling. I finished at Krugersdorp High School in 1972 and did my national technical certificate NTC4 at Krugersdorp College.”

Gary van der Elst

“After six years at Castle Brass Works, finishing up as Tool Room Charge Hand, I then joined Cobra Watertech in 1979, another big company in the Krugersdorp area, as their Tool Room Foreman.”

“I spent the next 20 years at Cobra Watertech eventually ending up as their Technical Manager.”

“In 1999 I resigned from Cobra Watertech and went into partnership with a long-time friend Wicus Hoffman and opened up three gymnasiums in Krugersdorp, Brixton and New Gate under the name of Bodyworx.”

“We ran the gyms for two years but in 2001 we closed the gyms and I went back to work in the engineering industry as General Manager at Laser Metal Pressings. In 2003 Cobra Watertech approached me to take over the running of their brass foundry. This would be my first experience to work directly in the foundry industry. While there I met guys like the late Tubby Boyton-Lee, who was the CEO of the company and John Davidson, who was the Production Manager. Both of them were very instrumental in the knowledge I gained of the foundry industry and really mentors of mine, which I am very grateful for.”

“In 2006 I was on the move again. This time I was asked and challenged to successfully run the machine shop at Cobra Watertech. I held this position for two years.”

“In 2008 I accepted the position of Foundry/Tool Room General Manager of Wahl Industries, one of the largest privately owned aluminium gravity foundries in South Africa. The company also has a sand casting facility where the large castings are manufactured and the once off samples for testing before a steel die is made.”

“The facilities in the toolroom include CNC machining, conventional milling, spark erosion, turning and grinding. All CNC programming is done by utilising the latest Mastercam CAD/CAM software. The initial process starts with the Industrial Designer who utilises the SolidWorks drawing package to design the individual components and the component assembly. He then supplies the Toolroom with a 3D Model of the relevant mould to be manufactured.”

“The programmer converts the 3D Solid Model into Surfaces. It is then possible to programme all the required toolpaths and more importantly to verify all toolpath operations and to execute collision checks by simulation on the PC. This process ensures that there are no costly mistakes during the actual machining of the components. Once the CNC machining operation is completed the job is moved along to the next phase of manufacture. At this stage one of the toolmakers would assume the responsibility for the additional work which needs to be carried out.”

“It has only been 13 years that I have been with the company but it has been years where I have taken my own personal skills to a level that I am confident that I could consult and that is exactly what I am going to be doing for the next year.”

“Going forward with Wahl Industries, I will be consulting for them for three days a week until December 2022. The company has appointed Alan Wood to take over from me and I will be on hand for the handover during 2022. I will also be available for outside consulting work as I will have time on my hands.”

“I’m then off to St Helena Bay, West Coast in the Western Cape, where I have purchased a house on the hill overlooking the bay. There are three golf courses in the area and I will be spending a bit of time on them. Equally I have a lot of deep sea fishing to catch up with.”

“I have many stories to tell about the industry and the companies that I have worked for, which have only been three. But the most treasured story has been how my long-time friend and colleague Wicus Hoffman and I have followed each other around. He was one of my apprentices at Castle Brass Works and worked himself up the ladder to Works Manager at Cobra Watertech where I was employed as Foundry Manager and reported to Wicus. We then both left Cobra and went into partnership in the gym business and after two years, when we closed the gym business, Wicus went back to Cobra Watertech and once again I joined the company and worked under his supervision. When Wicus resigned from Cobra Watertech and joined Wahl Industries in 2008 I joined up with him once again. We have been around the block together for some time.”

“And no, he is not joining me and my wife Lorain in St Helena Bay – at least not yet.”

“Alan Wood, who has been working in the non-ferrous foundry industry for a number of years will be taking over from me. He can be contacted on email or telephone 011 474 0171.”