Mark Ruble has been perfecting his craft since he was a child growing up on his family’s farm in Franklin County.
“When I was a kid, I would find scrap metal and take pieces of welding rod and I would weld up go karts and stuff like that,” Mark said.
He would also help his late father, Jerry Ruble, weld farm equipment that needed repaired.
In high school, Mark took welding classes in vocational school. He graduated as a junior in 1980 and went to work at Bagdad Roller Mills. His father also worked there.
“I did a lot of repair work because I was small and could crawl in small holes,” he said.
Eventually, he left the mill to work at a sheet metal shop.
“I learned how to do sheet metal for homes, commercial and some industrial sheet metal work,” Mark said.
He also learned how to read blueprints and started to notice other areas of the facilities that needed sheet metal that the company wasn’t bidding.
“I noticed there were kitchen systems, hoods, exhaust hoods, which had duct work,” he said. “We weren’t bidding any of that. I thought we needed to include that because I knew how to weld it together.”
Mark said once it was known that he could weld, people began bringing him things to repair. He got so busy that he started his own business and after only five years of working for the sheet metal company, he was able to quit and run his business full time. He incorporated his company, Metal Werks, in 1992.
“People brought me things to repair — handrails, machinery,” Mark said. “Then, I started reaching out to other companies and started doing industrial work. It kept growing from that.”
Almost 30 years later, he’s still at it operating his business out of two facilities at 195 Locust Drive.
He still does a lot of sheet metal work for HVAC units for residential and commercial use, but his favorite part of his business is fabrication, where he really puts his skills to use.
A few years ago, he took a class at a vocational school in Shelby County to learn to use the program AutoCad, which allows him to digitally draft designs for metal fabrication.
“I would get my classwork done and would take work from the shop. I would draw it in the class and I took it back to work the next morning to cut it out and put it together,” he said.
He uses the program for a variety of projects, including handrails for homes and businesses.
“I always want to look at the building or the house and ask if the person has an idea in their mind, but not be set on it,” Mark said. “A lot of times, I’ll do a drawing and then present it, and most of the time that will confirm what they want.
“Then we decide on colors, but seldom anybody wants something other than black, occasionally they want white or bronze.”
All of his rails are custom. He never repeats the same design for another customer.
“I won’t copy a design for another person,” he said. “There won’t be anywhere else around town that match.”
For the owners of the former home of Col. E.H. Taylor, at 300 Washington St., Mark fabricated a handrail with bourbon barrels incorporated into the design.
“I drew the barrel and drew the rail after looking at the building and presented (the owner) the drawing and she loved it,” Mark said.
Mark was also hired by the state to create handrails and gates at the Old Governor’s Mansion, which he said is the most historic job he has had to date.
“The state had an architect come and he drew the blueprints for the rails,” Mark said.
The architect also said the rails would need to be installed using the same method that would have been used 100 years ago, which meant leading the rails into the stone.
“That was the first time I had done it,” he said. “I had to do research to find a melting pot and ladles.”
He had to melt lead to pour into the stone to set each picket.
On the fence are solid brass finials that he designed, but had turned by Capital City Tool.
He also fabricated the gates behind the Old Governor’s Mansion with an ornate design.
Along with handrails and fencing, Mark fabricates railing for balconies at private homes, stainless steel countertops, custom chimney caps, arbors, outdoor fireplaces and more.
Several years ago, Mark built the Kentucky Law Enforcement Memorial in Richmond. Every year he adds names to the memorial.
Mark runs the business with the help of three full-time employees and his wife, Leigh Skaggs Ruble, who also shares in his craft. She has helped him install sheet metal at different sites. She also makes duct pieces and chimney caps.
“They call me Tool Time around here,” Leigh said. “I also like integrating wood and metal. I put together a fire pit that I donated to the Elks Lodge for an auction item.”