“I was going to mail out some orders, so I had a pile of knives sitting on my console with a truck, and I got pulled over,” Mickey Allen recalled. “As soon as a cop came to the window he asked, ‘Hey, what’s that all about?’
“I told him I was just on the way to ship them off to some customers, then he asked if I had a business card. I told him no, but I have a Facebook.
“He let me off with a warning, and when I got home I checked my business Facebook page, he had messaged me and ordered four knives,” Allen laughed.
“So I gave him a pretty good discount and told him since he helped me, the least I could do is help him out.
“I can’t believe that happened.”
The beginning ember
Allen was raised in Orange Grove where spent his adolescent years up until he graduated high school. He found his way to Corpus Christi where he played slap bass for local rockabilly legends Matt Hole and the Hot Rod Gang.
He also did refinery work his entire adult life until one fateful day last October he got a notice saying that he was being laid off.
With a wife and three kids to look out for, and a newly constructed forge sitting in his garage, the hammer started clanking, which quickly turned into the sound ca-ching as his blades started hitting the market.
“I’m lucky enough to be able to pick things up kind of quickly if I need to,” Allen said. “I’ve always been into mechanics and have always been a welder. So a lot of this pertains to that stuff, too, so it wasn’t too far out of my range.”
As a hobby while he was still working, Allen was making knives out of railroad spikes, complete with twisted handles, and showing them off on his personal Facebook page. He also would take his lunch time at his former job and practice what he was learning, even making his own anvil out of a piece of railroad track.
He still has that anvil but refuses to use it because, “it’s so damned pretty,” so he went on to make another on which he bangs away.
He learned the craft by watching Youtube videos and following other forging hobbyists on social media sites.
“I don’t have anybody to tell me how to do this stuff other than what I look up online,” Allen said. “That’s it. I don’t know anybody personally who does this stuff around here.
“I would pick up little tricks, and the more you do it and the more interested you get, the easier it becomes.
“I’m now starting to step things up a little bit with real knives also.”
But more on that later.
An idea was forged
Allen said that when he lost his job, he figured he could make a little bit of money on the side while he found another refinery job.
Then one night he and his wife were lying in bed, and he said that people seemed interested in what he was doing and that maybe he should try to turn it in to a little side business. His wife, who is a knife enthusiast (which is coincidently how they met) told him he should.
Right after that Allen said his phone pinged, and he had a message on Facebook.
Allen added, “This guy I used to go to school with had started his own oil field business up in San Antonio and said, ‘I really love your work, and I would like to order 20 knives for all my top clients as gifts.’
“He said name your price; don’t be cheap. I said, ‘OK, $85,’ and he said that’s not a problem.
“I just thought, ‘What the hell is going on?
“I told my wife, do you realize how much money that is? Do you know how fast I can do that?
“That’s when I knew I could do something with this.”
Home is where the fire is
The directions to Allen’s house led to a regular suburban neighborhood where he stood in his leather apron, smashing down on metal with his hammer.
So have the neighbors complained about all the hammering?
“They order stuff from me,” Allen grinned. “It worked out opposite because I was thinking they were going to hate me, but they all ordered stuff.
“And it’s nice because I can come inside and have lunch and then go back out in the garage. I get the kids from school then back to work.”
Now, Allen isn’t just creating railroad spike knives anymore. He’s making the real deal.
From large Bowie knives to filet knives to massive cleavers, Allen has grown his craft – and his business – in a matter of months.
“I order high quality steel like 1095, which has real high carbon,” he said. “It’s like the stuff you see on (History Channel’s “Forged in Fire”). That’s basically what they’re using.
“Once you harden the steel it’s like a sword, and you can test them pretty hard.”
Speaking of the TV show
Being a fan of the show “Forged in Fire,” he was thinking about applying to be one of the contestants in the near future.
“Yeah, I would definitely do it if the opportunity came up,” Allen said. “I’m kind of a perfectionist, so I definitely want to make sure my skills are there.”
He said that he’s already timed himself and can make a knife that takes contestants four hours to forge in an hour and a half.
He’s just not sure about all the intricate details some of the blade smiths can do, so he needs a little time.
“I don’t want to get in over my head right away,” he laughed. “But I think once I get another job, and I’m doing this on the side, then I can have more freedom to learn more.
“Right now I have to keep it moving; that’s the only challenge. You have to keep the money coming in, so I’m going to do what I know works.
The future of the forge
Through social media alone, Allen has shipped knives from Delaware all the way to California and everywhere in between.
But what does he really want?
“Well, hopefully I can eventually open a little storefront somewhere selling to the public,” Allen said. “Yeah, it works pretty good on Facebook and Instagram, but I think once people can see them in their face it’s going to be different.
“If I’m not satisfied, they’re not going to get it until it’s right. I don’t want to tarnish my own name, so I’m real picky about my stuff.”
And how does his wife feel about his blade smithing now that business has picked up?
“She’s definitely grateful for the financial help,” Allen added. “She works as a dental assistant here in Corpus, and anything helps right now.
“And it’s definitely helping.”