“We can make anything out of metal,” says Scott Fillmore, co-owner of Fillmore Metal Crafters, which recently opened in the former Kramer Small Engine building between Merrill’s Sixth Ward bridges.
Scott and his dad, Bill Fillmore, are talented metal crafters, indeed, and the unique handmade products that fill their showroom certainly seem to bear out Scott’s bold statement.
Bill, a retired Vietnam veteran, got started in metal work to keep his hands busy. He’d always been handy, but about five years ago, at his doctor’s suggestion, Bill started making metal sculptures in his home garage. He started with a theme close to his heart – mostly military memorial pieces – crafting each sculpture by hand. A life-size veterans memorial piece stands in his yard, and he’s also created and donated statues that are displayed at area VA clinics.
“I’ve built things all my life,” Bill said. “I’ve built homes, I’ve been the maintenance man at a factory, I did sheet metal work and electrical work. I could repair just about anything that came along. I’ve never gone to school for any of this stuff.”
Scott, in turn, learned how to weld and shape metal by working with his dad. Both men share an artistic talent, which coupled with their fabrication skills, allows them to create the images they see in their heads.
After Scott lost his job last year, the Fillmore’s decided the time was right to turn their hobby into a bona fide business. To that end, they purchased a computerized nitro CNC plasma table, and Scott learned to operate it proficiently.
The plasma table is used to create metal silouete art. Fillmore Metal Crafters turns out a wide variety of metal art in every theme imaginable. Wall art, yard art, home dècor – the shop is full of original designs. If you see a piece on the wall, but it isn’t quite what you’re looking for, they can custom make a piece that is personalized for you. Customers can even bring in sketches of what they have in mind, and Fillmore Metal Crafters can make the idea a reality. And the customer doesn’t pay until they’re satisfied with the results.
“If you can think it, we can make it,” Scott said.
One of the many unique products developed by the Fillmore’s is window security screens. Made of sheet steel, the screens offer security, but can be made in any theme desired to create an attractive look. The screens can also be used as Deck rail inserts.
And the prices are a pleasant surprise. Because there is no middle man – the items are manufactured in the same building where they are sold – overhead is kept to a minimum.
“We’re half the price of buying it off the Internet, or anybody within 1,000 miles,” Scott said. “We just want to be able to pay our bills and do what we love.”
“We have fun doing it, as long as it keeps the doors open,” Bill added.
Metal art is just one facet of the Fillmore’s business. They also offer welding, fabricating and sandblasting services.
“A lot of the projects we do are small projects,” Bill said. “We do a little bit of everything. It’s a niche that a lot of people don’t do.”
The Fillmore’s products are 100 percent made in America; they’ll only use American-made steel in their creations.
The Fillmore Metal Crafters building is virtually unrecognizable from its former life as a small engine shop. After purchasing the building last December, the Fillmore’s totally gutted it and replaced just about everything.
Scott runs the day-to-day operation of the shop, while Bill plans to step back once the business gets off the ground.
“Once this gets going, it’s my kid’s,” he said. “I’ll go back to retirement.”
Even then, you’ll likely find him working on some new creation that may end up in the showroom or might just be for his own amusement.
“I come up with the foolish ideas, and people seem to like them,” he mused.
Fillmore Metal Crafters can be reached at 715-218-8302. The business is open 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m.-6 p.m. on Fridays, and 9 a.m.-3 p.m. on Saturdays. To make sure customers can always get what they need, Scott’s cell phone number is on the door.