Meet The Makers

You may notice initials on your Allagash Cruiser or Dirigo Belt Axe.  This is an homage to the Maine makers of the past that stamped the initial of the maker that tempered the axe on the poll of the axe.  For us, an "M" stands for Gabriel McNeill, "D" is for Nicholas Downing, "S" is for Aidia Sandlin.  A "T" on the handle means Tanner Wilcox hafted your axe.  These are some extremely talented people who we are blessed to have practicing their craft with us in South Portland.  Prepare to meet your maker!

GABRIEL MCNEILL

Position at B&C: Lead Blacksmith & Shop Manager

What drew you to want to work at B&C? The chance to utilize my skills as a machinist and blacksmith all in one job.

What is most satisfying about working at B&C?  One of the most satisfying things is to hear feedback from our customers. As someone who is constantly wrapped up in the details, it’s nice to remember why we make what we make. I also love research and development, figuring out processes and designs for new products. Equally maddening and fun.

Favorite moment at B&C? Open house demonstrations showing people all that goes into making our axes.

Other makers that you respect/follow? @DereckGlaser, Doug Wilson, @SethGould

Favorite Bands?  I switch from heavy metal to rap to country to indie singer/songwriter to r&b to electronic/trap to blue grass. Hilary Hahn...Lamb of God...Rhianna... back to back even. I have no real favorites and find I prefer a roulette wheel of tunes.

 

TANNER WILCOX

Position at B&C: Handle Designer & Hafter

What drew you to want to work at B&C? Reviving the manufacturing of high quality axes in Maine.

What is most satisfying about working at B&C? Having true valued input in all aspects of the job.

Favorite moment at B&C? I love the meetings we have when we're all together as a group because you can really see that everyone is passionate and dedicated to the perfection of our products.

Other makers that you respect/follow? Chris @cooperhill over on instagram.

Favorite Bands? Osker, The Distillers, Sed Non Satiata, Joanna Newsom, Dear And The Headlights

 

AIDIA SANDLIN

 Position at B&C: Blacksmith

What drew you to want to work at B&C? As a 5’4” transgender craftsperson, it’s important to me to invest myself in a number of trades typically reserved for ‘big men’. My hope is to learn enough where I can one day start a queer Smithy of my own. 

What is most satisfying about working at B&C? Knowing that I’m improving my skills each shift and participating in a classic trade is pretty cool.

Favorite moment at B&C? Sunday cleaning with Keg

Other makers that you respect/follow? Paige Henry, Joseph Bueys, Rhiannon Schmidt, Wasilly Kandinsky, Kenneth Payne

Favorite Bands?  I listen to everything to it’s hard to pin down my favorites, I listen to a lot of metal and folk, with maybe some Gregorian chants here and there.

J. Glover

Position at B&C: Assistant Blacksmith

What drew you to want to work at B&C? Their community of craft and passion for restoration.

What is most satisfying about working at B&C? I learn new skills almost every day and I look very badass holding a blowtorch.

Favorite moment at B&C? When a good song comes on and everyone takes a moment to dance.

Other makers that you respect/follow?  Adam Pogue, Anthony Ladd Canney

 Favorite Bands? I listen to Sarah Vaughn.

 

KEG WHITFORD

Position at B&C: Assistant Blacksmith

What drew you to want to work at B&C?

I've always loved working with my hands, body and brain in the same setting. B&C was a chance opportunity to put these skills to the test and it's one of the most rewarding things I've ever done.

What is most satisfying about working at B&C?

Making a damn beautiful axe! But really, when you step back and take a look at a clean, freshly polished and sharpened bit, you can really see all the sweat and hard work reflecting back at you.

Favorite moment at B&C?

Sunday morning shop cleaning dance parties with Aidia are definitely my favorite way to end the week.

Other makers that you respect/follow?

I have to give a huge shout out to Rachel David at Red Metal for running a blacksmithing workshop I took at Haystack in 2019, she really had me fall in love with working with hot metal. Also majority inspired by all of the folks at the Society for Inclusive Blacksmiths, check them out at inclusiveblacksmiths.com

Favorite band?

Tough question! I listen to a whole lot of everything. To name a few: Misfits, Death Grips, Parquet Courts, Johnny Cash, Nina Simone, Stan Getz, Howlin Wolf, Big Mama Thornton.

 

ALUMNI

MATT BUSH

Position at B&C: Blacksmith

What drew you to want to work at B&C? I first encountered smithing while living in the Southwest when a good friend invited me to spend some time in her shop, nearly instantly hooked, I would eventually go on to study with William Bastas and work as a metalsmith while earning a degree in welding and art metals. After returning to New England and a long stint of parenting and working in a more practical field, Nicholas let me know that Brant and Cochran were looking to hire another smith. Just when I thought I was out of the forge they pulled me back in.

What is most satisfying about working at B&C?  I have a deep appreciation of the beauty that is found in the form derived from a functional tool and watching a raw piece of stock transformed into something useful and beautiful is satisfying work.

Favorite moment at B&C? Favorite moment is when my daughter came into work with me and was able to test fire Gabriel's prototype slingshot. 

Other makers that you respect/follow? I am inspired and awed by many smiths past and present, Fritz Kuhn and Alfred Habermann are two of the old masters that have left behind amazingly inspirational work, both functional and purely artistic. I love the tools I see being produced by the many talented contemporary smiths; Jakob Faram (@faramforge), Josh Burrell (@j.l.burrell_toolmaker), Ben Snure (@bensnure) and Liam Hoffman (@hoffmanblacksmithing) are a few of my current tool crushes.

Favorite Bands?   I am almost always listening to music while forging and I'm likely to have Townes Van Zandt, Bikini Kill, or King Tubby playing at inappropriate levels. 

NICHOLAS DOWNING

Position at B&C:  Blacksmith

What drew you to want to work at B&C?

I was drawn to work at B&C by serendipity. I was a blacksmith and metalsmith working various gigs, and word of mouth lead to my attending an early B&C planning meeting.  When I was offered a job forging axes part-time, I jumped at the chance since it expanded my ability to pursue something I'm passionate about.

What is most satisfying about working at B&C?

First, the everyday challenge of consistently forging a high quality product on a shoestring.  Secondly, I derive satisfaction from the historical significance. Reviving Maine's axe-making industry, which was a casualty of mass production, is a deeply meaningful pursuit for me.

Favorite moment at B&C?

Last summer, we were busting our asses trying to finish up a wholesale order as well as a slew of direct to consumer orders. The bosses walked through the blacksmith shop, frosty beverages in hand, and said we should all go try out the new axe target they had just built. We didn't get much work done the remainder of the afternoon, but we did perfect the two-hatchet double throw. 

Other makers that you respect/follow?

There are so many. To name just a few, axe and tool makers like Jason Lonon, James Wood, and Joshua Burrell are among my favorites. Blacksmiths like Doug Wilson, Seth Gould, and Daniel Miller are perpetual sources innovation and creativity.

Favorite Bands? José González, The Bones of J.R. Jones, Andrew Bird

MATANAH BETKO

Position at B&C: Blacksmith

What drew you to want to work at B&C? I grew up in a barn above a blacksmith shop so B&C feels just like home. Initially I was drawn to work at B&C for the opportunity to support a start-up in the crafts.

What is most satisfying about working at B&C? I am most satisfied by the continuing research and development required in the daily operations of such a unique business.

Favorite moment at B&C? One of my favorite moments so far has been trying to convince Mark to paint the shop bathroom pink during her first few months at the shop. (Note from Mark - they were unsuccessful).

Other makers that you respect/follow?  I am inspired by renowned blacksmith Elizabeth Brimm.

Favorite Bands? I listen to French Bossa Nova working the forge to help focus while pumping iron.

 

 

Pictures by Brian Threlkeld @threlkeldoutdoor