Tuesday, October 9, 2012


This change in the weather from summer to fall brings to mind so many great memories. Hunting trips I’ve taken with friends and family, the birth of my first grandchild and my favorite daughter’s birthday.

 When I was younger I did a lot of coon hunting with my friend, Kyle.
Coons are nocturnal so hunting is done at night. We would load our dogs in the back of the truck in their box and take off to the woods. On this particular trip, we got stuck. We let the dogs out while we tried to get the truck out of the mud. While we were working to get the truck out, the dogs took off to the woods. We hollered for the dogs to come back but they had a coon treed and weren’t leaving. We ran after ‘em but by the time we got there, the coon had jumped to another tree and the dogs took off after it. We chased ‘em but they crossed the bayou and we couldn’t follow ‘em. We stood there hollering for ‘em to come back but they ignored us and stayed after the coon. We were cold, tired and frustrated so we went back to the truck. We tried again to get the truck out but it was buried too deep. This was before cell phones so we couldn’t call anybody and the nearest farm was a couple of miles away. The only thing to do was wait ‘til morning and walk to the farm. It was really cold so we crawled into the dog box to get out of wind. I guess we fell asleep because the dogs woke us up trying to get back into the box. They were wet, we’re trying to push them out so we can get out and they’re pushing us trying to get in! By the time we got out of their box and got them in, we were soaking wet and freezing. The only thing left to do was start walking.
We made it to the farm about daylight. As luck would have it, the farmer didn’t have a tractor we could use to pull the truck out. Also, he and his wife were Polish and spoke very little English. The communication between us resorted to charades which, as it turns out, I’m not good at. She finally grabs four five gallon buckets, gives them to us and motions for us to follow her. She took us to the train tracks and in broken English, with lots of hand gestures, told us to fill the buckets with rocks then pour the rocks in the tire ruts to get the truck out. Do you have any idea how hard it is to carry two five gallon buckets full of rocks a mile through rough terrain? By the time we got to the truck, the buckets were half empty. We had to make five trips to the railroad tracks to get enough rocks to get that truck out. I swear my arms had been stretched two feet and were dragging the ground. 

We’ve retold this story through the years to our kids and the only thing anyone remembers is the night Kyle and I slept together in the dog box.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Wagon Wheels

Hunter’s wife, Leah, is a cowgirl.  She owns a couple of horses and enjoys barrel racing with her best friend. 

For years, she and her family have attended the Chuck Wagon Races http://www.chuckwagonraces.com/. This is an annual event that features a national chuck wagon race along with a weekend of food, fun and music. It’s a family tradition that she looks forward to every year.
Hunter wasn’t able to attend this year. He’s a full time fire fighter and works most week-ends. However he was inspired to craft a wagon wheel chandelier.  He started by selecting a couple boards about 12” wide and laying them side by side. He chose rough cut oak planks and made sure the wood was completely dried out to prevent cracks and splitting. Using a pencil, he drew a circle on the boards and cut it out using a band saw. Next he fabricated metal shims to connect each section of the circle. When the circle was complete the connections were clamped and glued together until set.
Now for the hub. The first one we made was wood and metal but it didn’t give him the look he wanted so he fabricated a metal one using the plasma torch. Once that was completed we were able to determine the spoke length. He used smaller blocks of wood and turned them down with the wood lathe.
One of the more delicate parts is getting the size of the ends to match the holes drilled into the wagon wheel. This is time consuming and requires a lot of patience. But it’s so rewarding to be able to create something you’ve only seen in your mind.
The spokes are clamped and glued in place until set. At this point, Hunter fabricated a metal band and attached it to the outside of the wooden wheel.  
His wagon wheel is complete but the chandelier is not. He still has to decide the lighting design. And while he’s deciding, I think I need to make my own wagon wheel but as an end table. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

A Tale of Two Horses

Hunter and I have spent the last couple of weeks getting our boat ready for deer season as well as helping friends get their rigs ready.  We’ve repainted a boat, upholstered seats and put a lift kit on a golf cart with off road tires.  I also have a friend who buys a Jeep every year and every year he needs me to attach his wench to the front of it.  This year I took the opportunity to add my unique design.  Now that I have a logo (thanks ScottysWeb!) I used a plasma torch to free handedly burn my logo into the bar.  Then I fabricated a couple of horseshoes and welded them to each side of the wench to frame it.  He really liked it.  I get a kick out of surprising people with more than they expected. 
What do you think?
I actually enjoy helping people and I love horses.  Many years ago my friend in Colorado was experiencing a draught and his horses were starving.  He called me for help and said he would give me a couple of ‘em if I would come get ‘em.  I’ve always liked riding horses and wanted my daughter, Samantha, and my son, Hunter, to have the experience of owning and caring for a horse.  So I said yes, hooked up the trailer and took off for Colorado with Hunter. 

Do you ever look back at moments in your life and say, “If only….”?  Mine would be, “If only I had asked him the names of those horses.”  But I didn’t and so began an exhausting journey.  We drove non-stop to Colorado on a crusade to save the horses.  We arrived 16 hours later, tired but excited to see the horses.  What my friend brought out was not exactly what we had envisioned.  The first one was a really old mare that had the worst sway back I had ever seen.  To this day, I haven’t seen one worse. And what was her name you ask?  Granny.  My first thought when I saw her was, “It’s going to cost me $300 to rent a back hoe to bury her.” The other horse, however, was a thoroughbred.  Yay me, right?  Wrong!  That horse only knew one speed.  Faster! 

Well, I couldn’t let ‘em starve so we loaded ‘em up and headed back home.  It took 16 hours to get there but it took 24 hours to get home because we had to stop every so often to let ‘em walk around.  At one stop, we tied ‘em up and went in to get a bite to eat.   When we came out the “Faster!” horse was gone.  We ended up driving around that town ‘til we finally found him.  That trip turned out to be the longest trip I have every taken in my life.

In the end, I wound up with two horses I couldn’t ride and couldn’t keep.  Hunter was a little boy at the time and when I put him on the “Faster!” horse, he took off.  All I could see was my little boy holding on for dear life with that horse getting further and further away.  I finally caught up with him but I couldn’t let the kids ride him after that.  The kids loved Granny.  She was a sweet and docile horse, but we didn’t have the heart to ride her because of her back.  Eventually I was able to find good homes for them.

So the moral of the story is, don’t look a gift horse in the mouth without asking for its name first. 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Stump and the Mule

I’ve been scouting out places to hunt this season and the other day I came across this old Cypress stump.


I already have so many ideas of how I can repurpose it but I have no ideas on how to get it to my truck.  It’s down in the bottoms so I can’t take my 4-wheeler down there to it.  If I still had my hunting mule this wouldn’t be a problem. 

I must’ve been around 20 when I bought that mule.  He’d been retired from The Great Passion Play in Eureka Springs but mules can live up to 40 years so he still had a lot of life left in him.  His name was Mickey and he would load up in the back of my truck like a dog.  I wish you could’ve seen the looks we used to get when I’d drive down the road or stop for gas with that mule standing in the bed of my truck.  It’s not really something you see around here everyday. 
I’d take Mickey to deer camp, pack my deer stand and supplies on him and ride him to my hunting spot.  As long as there weren’t any mosquitoes he was fine.  One time I took him hunting, tied him up and positioned myself in a tree.  Well, it was a humid day and the mosquitoes were really bad. I could hear a ruckus in the distance but I ignored it and stayed in my stand.  At the end of the day when I came down to go back to camp, that mule was gone!  I figured out that the mosquitoes covered him up and the ruckus I heard was him trying to get away from ‘em.  But I’m several miles into the woods, it’s getting dark quick and I had to get all my stuff back to camp.  It took forever to walk back and with every step I took the stuff got heavier and I got madder.  Well, I finally made it back to camp and do you know that mule was standing there watching me with what I’d swear was a grin on his face.  I wanted to kill him!  But I was too tired, too sore and too weak to lift my gun. Now I’ve never claimed to be a smart man and the fact that I took that mule out again the next morning is proof because (and I’m sure you’ve already guessed this) that mule left me again!  I sold him not too long after that trip.
Now about the Cypress stump, I’ve used them before as table bases. They’re texturally interesting and it adds a natural element to the d├ęcor. Use a wood burner to personalize it or carve your initials in it. Make it a one of a kind conversation piece.
You can also put polyurethane on them to keep them preserved and use them outside.

Or leave them in their natural state to add interest to your landscaping. Hammer a nail in it and use it to hang an outside lamp or a welcome sign on.

Do you have more ideas? Leave a comment and share them with me.

Monday, September 3, 2012

"A Picker"

Blogging is new to me.  I’m used to talking but not writing.  However, my wife enjoys typing and listening to my stories so she thought we should start a blog as a way to spend time together.  How do wives think these things up?

I guess you could say that I’ve been a “picker” all my life.  When I was young I would pick on my three younger sisters.  As a teenager, I picked up girls.  And I’ve been known to pick through discarded items on the side of the road.  During one of my recent walks through the pasture, I found an old cow bone. 

Being the picker that I am, I picked it up and took it home.  I polished it until it was smooth, shiny and resembled ivory.  I knew it was meant to be a knife handle.


I have a saw blade that I picked from an old saw mill about 15 years ago.  I cut some of it off to make my knife blade.

I draw the knife design on the blade and cut it out.  I then heat the metal with a torch and put it on the anvil and work the metal until I get the edge I need.  I use a finish grinder to finish the edge and polish it. 

Now where did I put the leather strips?  My knife needs a sheath.

Friday, August 31, 2012

About Robbie Collie ~ Owner of Collie's Custom Designs

Robbie is a Master Welder who began his career more than 30 years ago. He was born with a learning disability that went undiagnosed during the early years of his education so he had to rely on his creative skills to teach himself to read. He learned not to rely on conventional methods but to hone in on his own instincts and creativity which has enabled him to find solutions to fabrication challenges and to accomplish what few welders can. This ability has made him sought out in his field. While growing up, he also learned the basics of carving from his father and enjoys the challenge of combining metal and wood. For years he has designed and hand-crafted works of art for family, friends and a select clientele. He has fabricated designer gates, balcony railings, lamps, coffee tables, bed frames, candlesticks and dining tables. What began as a hobby has quickly become a full time business. The commitment to owning a business that meets the needs of each client and produce a quality, original product has attracted customers from around the country. He’s proud that his son, Hunter, has joined the business. Hunter brings his skills as an electrician and a welder to produce chandeliers and lamps.