Meet Army combat veteran Hank Robinson, Owner and Master Engraver at Hanro Studios.
Q: Give us a little history on your background, and then lead into your military service (unit, combat deployments, etc.).
A: I am the son of a retired sergeant first class. I was born in Germany and I grew up on the west side of Phoenix. Three days after 9/11, I signed up and was stationed in Germany, with deployments to Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan. I served just under 10 years.
Q: You have mentioned you had trouble finding your way after you got out of the service (as many vets do). Tell us how you dug yourself out and turned things around.
A: As cliché as it sounds, when you hit rock bottom there’s only one way to go — up! My career in the Army taught me many things but in that moment, I saw myself and I didn’t like me. I knew I had to adjust, overcome and excel. At that moment, I vowed that I would push myself to carve my own path in life and not rely on anyone but me to provide for and support my family. I started surrounding myself with the people who I knew had my back through good or bad. It was important for me to know that whatever life threw at me, I was never alone.
Q: How long had you been engraving before Dremel approached you? How did you get noticed?
A: I started engraving for six years as a fulltime business. Dremel found me on Instagram and invited me out to the World Maker Faire in New York City. Since that day, Dremel has sponsored me, and I perform live engraving demos worldwide.
Q: Have you ever wanted to try different mediums such as tattooing or leather works?
A: I am actually a multi-material engraver. Wood, glass, plastic, leather or really anything I can get my Dremel on. However, I’m known for my metal work. As far as tattooing, I’ll leave that to the professionals. (Laughs.) Metal doesn’t bleed.
Q: Walk us through the process, from design concept to art prep to the finished product. Also, can you tell us how long some of your projects take?
A: Every project I do is custom ordered. I work one-on-one with the customer to work out design and sizing. Once we have everything set and, of course, depending on the piece, I use .090 aluminum cut to size. It can be painted or raw material, and then I will either draw out or use carbon paper to get a basic outline before engraving. Timing varies on each piece. Some things take one to two hours, while some projects take thousands of hours.
Q: What is the most unusual item anyone has asked you to engrave?
A: I had the pleasure to engrave several parts, including the entire leather interior, on Waylon Jennings original Cadillac that is now owned by Kid Rock. That was a badass build for a badass American.
Q: What music do you listen to when you work? What’s on Hank’s Playlist?
A: Any given day I will be bumping some MGK, Black Bottom Lighters or Hatebreed, but it depends on the project I’m doing. As an example, I’m currently listening to a lot of KISS, because I’m in the middle of an epic build for Gene Simmons.
Q: Tell us about the Freedom Blues H-150 and the PTSD Art Therapy Course you’re involved with.
A: As soon as I heard Ford was coming out with an all-aluminum body, I jumped on the opportunity to create a memorial to all the war fighters that I personally served with and all the badass men and women that served before me. Freedom Blues has been featured in many magazines as well as on the cover of Truckin.’
The Art Therapy Course was a gift from the Wounded Warrior Project. Through them, I am able to be a part of something that gives hope to so many. I take six to eight Veterans and hold an eight-week basic engraving course. Dremel provides all the supplies and when the students complete the course, we provide them Dremels to continue their skills at home.
Q: To go from U.S. Army Infantry to an expert engraver sponsored by Dremel and Monster must seem surreal. Tell us about your journey.
A: It has most definitely been surreal! The journey for me has been hard, to say the least. I start working before the kids go to school and often do not stop until after they go to bed. Although I have never been the smartest guy, I will always be the hardest worker in the room. I feel like my journey is just beginning, and I’m only going to work harder to achieve my goals.
To hear about other bad-ass combat vets and craftsmen like Hank Robinson, check out our podcast Skillset Live! Get in on the conversation on our social media pages or pick up a back issue at OutdoorGroupStore.com!