Match made in metal

By Lynn Stanley

Above: Loose Cannon personnel MIG weld handrails fabricated from mild steel.

Welders join forces, spotlight the importance of the trades, attract high profile work and give back to their community

April 2021 - Like most professions, welders have their own lingo. Take the word fizzle. It is the vernacular for arc sparks but sounds like an oxymoron when used to describe the incandescent droplets expelled by metal being fused together. Sparks of a similar sort flew when welders Inez Escamilla and Nic Joslyn met. The Austin, Texas, residents married in 2018. The bridal party donned safety eyewear while the bride and groom put on welding helmets to join two halves of a stainless steel heart.

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Loose Cannon owners Inez Escamilla and her husband, Nic Joslyn, building a legacy for son, Jace.

“I had to add the wedding venue to our commercial insurance policy before we could TIG weld the heart,” says Escamilla, who also crafted her bouquet of roses from brass and copper.

The unity ceremony is a hallmark for the creativity and original thinking that marks the couple’s personal and professional lives. The two own and operate Loose Cannon Industries which provides custom welding and fabrication services to the residential and commercial construction markets in Central Texas.

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Inez Escamilla and Nic Joslyn donned helmets to TIG weld together two halves of a stainless steel heart as part of their unity ceremony.

Escamilla started the company in 2007 under the name Creative Sparks & Arcs while completing an associate degree in the Applied Science of Welding Technology at Austin Community College. She rebranded the company under its current name in 2014.

Acceptable weld

Its tagline, “Custom welding and metal fabrication built by our family for yours,” reflects the connection that Escamilla and Joslyn feel with their craft, their customers, their roots and each other.

Escamilla was exposed to art and a mechanical mentality at a young age. “I graduated from high school a year early, and didn’t know what I wanted to do,” she says. “I decided to take a metal sculpture class. My art had always been two-dimensional. The course gave me the opportunity to learn how to think in 3D for the first time.” It also prompted Escamilla to finish her degree, which combined accounting with a specialty in metalwork.

Her skill sets earned her an internship with an architectural welder where she worked on projects that called for elaborate, high-end bed frames, lighting and other specialty pieces. “From there, I moved into structural work but soon discovered I wanted to keep my feet firmly planted on the ground,” says Escamilla.

Joslyn also got his start at a young age. “I began working when I was seven years old,” says the Houlton, Maine, native. “I wanted to play hockey so I got a paper route to pay for it.”

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When he was 14 years old, Joslyn took a welding class at high school and found he excelled at it. He signed up for an autobody metalworking course during his senior year. He also honed his skills doing odd jobs for the family property maintenance business. Small town life equipped him to be inventive. “We couldn’t buy everything we wanted or needed so we figured out how to make things,” he says.

In 2011, Joslyn decided to move to Jacksonville, Florida, where he attended the Tulsa Welding School and got hands-on experience as a pipe welder. Math, physics, chemistry and metallurgy are just a few of the skill sets a pipe welder has to master along with welding technologies that typically include MIG, stick, flux-cored and TIG welding.

“I enjoyed the work,” he says. “It kept me challenged because I knew that the project’s downstream processes relied on me making quality welds.” Heavy demand for pipe welders sent Joslyn to different locations across the U.S. until he relocated to Austin in 2015 and met Escamilla.

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(l to r) The Loose Cannon crew: Trey Fierro, Cristian Gonzalez, Josh Walker, Mike Johnson,  Nic Joslyn, Jace Joslyn, Inez Escamilla, Merrie Hyltin, Diesel and Hammer.


Diverse backgrounds and experience mean the two can tailor the right welding technique to the application. Fine craftsmanship and attention to detail have contributed to the company’s steady growth over the last six years and attracted some high-exposure contracts. The welding and fabrication shop was recently tapped by JE Dunn Construction to provide steel products for 6 X Guadalupe. The 66-story skyscraper will be the tallest tower in Austin.

“Taking on challenges and delivering a quality product has been our bread and butter,” says Joslyn. “I’ve learned that you can’t be afraid to step out and try something whether or not you’ve done it before. And that’s helped us grow.”

From structural and architectural steel work to railings, stairs, gates, fencing and custom lighting, Loose Cannon has built a reputation for tackling difficult projects. “We polished 38 titanium fan blades from a Boeing 737 and welded them together,” says Joslyn. “A local supplier waterjet cut the customer’s company logo and name into mirror finish stainless steel. We finished the piece with a hand-polished brass backing plate. It was a beautiful one-of-a-kind art piece.”

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Loose Cannon turned an airplane tail into an artful wall hanging.

Complex logistics don’t pose a problem for Loose Cannon either. When a client asked the company to turn a 25-ft.-long tail wing from one of its airplanes into a unique wall hanging, the Loose Cannon team stepped up to the plate. “We cut it down to 14 ft., exposed the internal structure, stripped the paint and spent long hours polishing it to a mirror finish,” Joslyn says. Delivery meant figuring out how to maneuver the large, boomerang shape to the customer’s 7th floor office. “We had to secure it on top of an elevator,” he says. “It was a memorable install.”

“Our projects come to us word of mouth based on the quality of our work,” says Escamilla. “That consistency and Nic’s ability to problem solve has helped to open up other avenues for us like the Guadalupe tower.”

Construction for the state-of-the-art office and residential skyscraper began in late 2019. Loose Cannon is tasked with supplying a variety of structural and architectural steel such as railings and support beams. When Joslyn reviewed prints for the custom railing, he noted that the specifications weren’t compliant with the city’s building code and the surrounding floor was missing the proper metal supports. “Nic is meticulous,” says Escamilla. “He came up with a solution for how to reinforce a floor that was missing some support joists.”

“I didn’t just build what they told us to build,” he adds. “Instead I solved a problem they didn’t even know they had. That’s one of the skills we bring to the table. Foresight helps us predict different outcomes so that we can mitigate issues before they become a problem.”

Loose Cannon’s capabilities have been put to the test during the pandemic. The company qualified early on as an essential business. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security defines the classification as “those who conduct a range of operations and services essential to continue critical infrastructure operations.” Escamilla says the pandemic illustrates “how crucial the trades are.”

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Loose Cannon designs and fabricates custom products from patio covers to stainless steel stair railings.

Spark test

“We were in the midst of some affordable housing projects when the crisis hit,” says Joslyn. “If we had not been able to get in and finish those jobs for our clients, they would have been homeless.”

Loose Cannon is also focused on building up its own infrastructure. “We want to be ready to support ongoing expansion,” Escamilla says. “We bought our first truck and we’re now certified with the state of Texas as a minority- and woman-owned business (MWBE). It will allow us to compete with bigger players for jobs and bid on government contracts.” The couple is looking to move fabrication off their personal property to a larger work space. In addition to shop equipment that includes a CNC plasma cutter and a Baileigh Gear Driven Dual Miter Band Saw BS-350SA, the shop would like to add a Baileigh ironworker.

Loose Cannon recently announced that they’ve teamed up with Motorcycle Missions to help veterans and first responders with PTSD. Loose Cannon began holding welding classes for participants in December 2020. Escamilla and Joslyn also have plans to start their own non-profit. “We want to teach veterans trade skills so they can secure jobs in the industry.” she says.

And the two are adding to their labor pool with their one-year-old son Jace. “He’s growing up in the shop,” says Joslyn. “That’s what I enjoyed about my upbringing. Everything you learn passes on to the next generation. People think this is just a job. For us, it’s a mindset. It’s about lessons that don’t just apply to work but to how you handle life.”  FFJ



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