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, "B" is for Matt Bush or Matanah Betko.  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.

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

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

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.

AIDIA SANDLIN

 

Position at B&C: Assistant Blacksmith

What drew you to want to work at B&C? I have always been fond of physical labor, craft and machinery, but this job really fell into my handscall it fate. I never thought I would become as passionate about blacksmithing and craft as I am now. The work I do here has truly changed my life and given me skill, purpose and direction. 

What is most satisfying about working at B&C?  Being able to come home at the end of the day and knowing I've put effort into something meaningful and engaging. I learn something new every day and I hope I never stop learning and improving my skills here. I'm extremely grateful to work with such good, hardworking individuals who inspire, educate and push me forward. 

 

 

Favorite moment at B&C? It's hard to find a single moment to cherish because I truly cherish them all. I'm especially fond of the simple moments when my coworkers and I are able to sit and eat together; sharing stories, conversating and enjoying pizza (usually ordered from Otto's).

 

 

Other makers that you respect/follow? David Altmejd, Theaster Gates, Sarah Sze, Andrea Zittel, Francis Bacon, Tom Sachs, Bruce Nauman, Nathalie Djurberg & Hans Berg.

 

 

Favorite Bands?  Oh man, now that's a tough one. Well, to name a few in no particular order we've got Led Zeppelin, Modest Mouse, Nico, Tyler The Creator, John Fahey, Iggy Pop, The Pixies, Ween, Connie Converse, Michael Hurley, Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie, MF DOOM, Dean Martin, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Joy Division, Sonic Youth, Billie Holiday, Yellowman, System Of A Down, Pearl Jam, Canned Heat, Louis Prima, Franz Liszt, Frédéric Chopin, Sublime, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, The Cramps, Fugazi, The Replacements, Johnathan Richman, Tom Waits, and PJ Harvey.. just to name a few.

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.

 

 

 

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. 

 

 

Pictures by Brian Threlkeld @threlkeldoutdoor