After seeing a photograph a couple years ago of a knife made from an old railroad tie, Marvin Hartley, of Zachary, knew he could make one, too.

First, the full-time Department of Public Safety and Corrections employee and Army veteran began researching how to make his own forge by watching a video online and salvaging a brake drum from an old Dodge truck and parts from his buddy’s deer blind.

“I welded it all together and used my wife’s hair dryer for the air source. Of course, we compromised. I promised to buy her a new one if she’d let me use it,” Hartley said. “She got an even better hair dryer out of the deal.”

Next, Hartley made his own charcoal from scraps of wood and sticks that he burned in a metal bucket. The coal is what keeps the forge heated.

“Sure, you can buy charcoal at the store, but I prefer to make my own. It’s great to barbecue with also,” he said.

Once the forge was completed, he began making the knives from the railroad spikes and ties and some from lawn mower blades, which have leather-wrapped handles.

“No two are exactly alike, and they’re completely functional,” Hartley said. “Some people use them, some like to collect them and others just like to display them.”

He says the entire process of hand forging the knives is rewarding and stress relieving.

“After I made my first knife, my neighbor saw it and asked me to make him one, too,” Hartley said. “Then a friend of my neighbor’s saw his knife and asked where he could get one. It just kind of snowballed from there.”

His hobby turned into a little side business he appropriately named, Marvin’s Handmade Creations, and besides the knives, Hartley also makes wood and metal signs by repurposing old horseshoes on pieces of cedar wood or by welding iron fleur de lis to create decorative wall hooks.

Hartley’s repurposed creations are sold at the Clinton Community Market from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the first Saturday of each month.

“I’m small time, so I think I’ll just stick to the Clinton farmers market for now,” he said.

Email Hartley at or call (225) 931-3996.