Shariar Ghalam
Photo: Dot for dot, Inc. Shariar Ghalam

Shariar Ghalam's father knew his dream for his son to become a musician was long gone when he discovered the boy had taken the strings off his violin to make a crane. It wasn't too much of a surprise. Ghalam kept his parents on their toes by disassembling his toys and revamping them, and later as a teenager by designing, building, and flying–not to mention crashing–experimental one-man aircraft.

Now that Ghalam is the owner of a successful residential remodeling business in Boulder, Colo., it's his workers who try to keep up with his experimentations. If a new employee doesn't recognize a tool on the jobsite, the veterans will explain that it has been "Shariarized." Ghalam frequently modifies his tools using his lathe or milling machine, and even makes his own if he can't find the price, quality, or precise function he wants on the market. His collection of more than 500 tools, many of them customized, enables him to cater to the most discriminating clientele–those who appreciate fine craftsmanship and top-quality materials.

While you're likely to find Ghalam remodeling a bathroom by day, by night he's realizing his dream of becoming an aerospace engineer. Last year he and three partners started up Frontier Astronautics, a company that develops affordable rocket engines and attitude control systems in an effort to help privatize space exploration. He recently built a prototype rocket engine using some of his customized tools, including a plasma cutter with a homemade circle-cutter attachment.

With both of his companies keeping him busy, Ghalam spends more time with his tools than the average toolhound–something that's been true all his life.

–Anne Dixon