Hilltop Machine Shop Makes Custom Metal Builds & Parts
Writer / Lois Tomaszewski
Necessity is said to be the mother of invention, as the saying goes. For David Yoder, learning to repair damaged metal farm implements on his family’s farm as a teenager led to him becoming the owner of Hilltop Machine Shop.
“We used to do our own repairs and it just expanded out from there,” Yoder says.
He has been working in metal fabrication for 27 years, beginning in 1994 in his father, Sam’s shop. At 15 ½ years old, he worked outside the family at an implement repair shop in the Lagrange area. The family then moved to Shipshewana.
The shop started small and later expanded into a bigger building to meet the needs of the community.
Metal fabrication is the process of taking steel and making a product, Yoder explains. It can be a piece from a larger farm implement or a customized truck bed, gear or other metal part to a machine or tool. Sometimes this process involves reading engineered plans and sometimes it involves problem solving by homing in on what the customer needs and how to manipulate metal to meet that need.
Today, the shop specializes in custom steel fabrication and machining, machine rebuilding, implement part replacement and repairs, as well as retail parts and equipment sales. Services provided to customers include hydraulic repair, welding, painting, trailer repairs, sand blasting and media blasting.
In the early days of Yoder’s experience, it was fabricating replacement for damaged parts on spreaders and hay mowers. While the shop still does some of that, the overall volume has decreased from nearly 100% to about 20% of the total sales for Hilltop.
Now the focus is on new fabrications using steel and aluminum and other metals. If a customer needs toolboxes built onto a flatbed of a truck, Yoder’s crew has done that.
“What I enjoy most is being able to provide a product that is unique and different, specific to a customer’s needs that we can supply,” Yoder says. “When a customer comes to you with a problem and you figure out a solution, that makes this business enjoyable.”
It’s not always easy to solve the customer’s problems. Yoder says some of these are ones that make you “scratch your head” and look for inspiration.
At the Hilltop Machine Shop retail portion of the business, customers can find replacement parts, such as bearings, spokes or springs. Farm gates, new wagon gears, cattle handling equipment, hay feeder wagons and combine header carts are also for sale at the Hilltop.
In the shop, the five-person crew — comprised of two brothers, one son, a nephew and a business manager who is not family — builds hay racks, pallet forks and tilling spears, among other agricultural needs. The shop also manufactures self-feeders for calves and steers, a direct tie to the tools and products the local farming community needs.
Hilltop also fabricates custom hydraulic hoses, which are made to order. Also available are carts, railings, flatforms, stairs and mezzanines.
Yoder says he would also like to focus on obtaining additional contract production work for area manufacturers, in which his shop would build parts needed in the building of their products.
Most of Yoder’s customers come from LaGrange, Elkhart and Noble counties, but he has done work for customers in Warsaw and other surrounding areas. The business also ships orders out as needed.
“One thing we stress here is to do quality work,” Yoder said.
“We like to have the best price, but it’s when we look back at our own work and it is the best that could be done for the project, cosmetically and structurally, that’s our goal.”
That goal is not inexpensive. Yoder says he knows everyone is conscious of the cost of a product. But for him, it is more important that the part has been sanded to look clean and that sharp edges are rounded. That concern for quality is something that Yoder and his crew can be proud of.
Hilltop Machine Shop is located at 10515 US 20 West in Shipshewana. You can reach the shop by calling 260-768-9196 or visiting www.hilltopmachineshop.com.