Jan. 14—Sometimes setbacks have a way of steering people toward new possibilities.
Such is the case with Scott Mullins of Greenville, who discovered an interest in smithing six years ago when he had to take time off from work due to a broken hand. Now, he and friends Ben Gregg and David Perez make custom knives and other items through their business, Metal Bros. Customs.
"I have a nine to five (job), where I run maintenance for a number of apartment complexes. When they wouldn't let me work because of my hand, I started watching a lot of 'Forged in Fire' (a bladesmithing competition series that formerly aired on the History channel), and I got so into it and felt like I was learning so much from it that I eventually found myself yelling at some of the contestants for the mistakes they were making, even though I had never smithed anything myself," Mullins said with a laugh.
"Then, using what I'd learned from 'Forged in Fire' and from various YouTube videos, I went to Home Depot and bought what I needed to build my first coal forge," Mullins continued. "I'd always been a tinkerer who enjoyed learning how things worked, but I had never worked with metal before. I also used to indulge my artistic side by playing music in a number of bands, but through this I found out that I have a passion for smithing."
When one looks at the knives made by Mullins and his fellow Metal Bros., one of the things they'll notice is the visually striking use of pattern-welded steel, which is when a blade is formed from several metal pieces of differing composition being forge-welded together and twisted to form swirling-type patterns. One of the most popular styles of pattern-welded steel is called canister damascas.
"As soon as I thought I was ready, I decided to dive in and make my first knife with canister damascas. It turned out beautifully, and we actually made it our first giveaway, which we gave to someone after we hit 1,000 followers on Facebook," Mullins said.
In addition to making knives with elaborate pattern-welded blades, Mullins also enjoys tackling new challenges, often from found items. For example, he's in the process of converting an old broad axe into a Viking-inspired battleaxe. He has also made a push dagger out of an old railroad spike.
Also, his experience with pattern-welded steel has led him toward making jewelry like rings as well as other special items.
"I've used cremated remains in canister damascas, since the remains are just carbon, really, to make memorial items for people," Mullins said. "Actually, one of my uncles, Matt Mullins, was a blind guitarist and after he passed, I used some of his cremated remains to make canister damascas metal guitar picks as keepsakes to give members of the family."
Currently, Metal Bros. Customs is hurriedly making a large batch of items to sell at the Hunt County Fair.
"Yes, we'll have several of our knives, which can cost $200, $300, $400 and so forth, but for the fair, we'll make sure to increase our inventory of $20-$30 items ... things like railroad spike steak turners and wooden items like cutting boards," Mullins said.
Although Mullins has sold his wares at various knife shows and flea markets and sees the importance of building an inventory of more easily affordable items from a business standpoint, he also enjoys taking on special large-scale ambitious projects.
"Because I'm a huge nerd, I'm working on making a replica of dual swords wielded by Ichigo Kurosaki in the Anime (Japanese cartoon), 'Bleach'," Mullins said.
"I'm making them from two large leaf springs, and they're going to be insanely huge 'typical Anime' swords," he added with a chuckle. "I don't care if I ever sell them, but I will set them up at my booth at every trade show with pride."