DUSON – Sparks and tiny shards of metal shoot out from where scrap and scrap of metal meet on Brennan Rhymes’ large CNC machine. Most of the time, the 25-year-old from Duson grinds metal into custom-designed works of art on his computer, turning large saw blades into Superdome, crawfish and more.
Rhymes began working with metal while still in high school at the WD & Mary Baker Smith Career Center in Lafayette. There he learned to weld and fell in love with the work, continuing outside of school with his father in their garage.
Their shared hobby produced a lot of pieces, so Rhymes’ dad suggested they set up an online store and see if there was any interest in custom metal artwork. There was a lot.
The father-son duo began the Acadiana Graphics store on Etsy in 2012, and by the time Rhymes graduated from high school in 2014, they had so much business that dad was ready to hand over the reins to his son.
He already had a full-time job and Acadiana Graphics was becoming a second. Now that he was out of school, Rhymes could devote more time to it.
“He said, ‘If you can keep up the pace, go for it,'” Rhymes said.
Zoning in a family business
Years later, Rhymes is still hard at work, now in a large store behind the house rather than the garage and a bigger CNC machine.
His friend Adam Gustafson, 27, joined the company about two years ago, and he and Rhymes often split the work according to what they enjoy most. Gustafson does most of the powder coating for products lately.
“I love all shop work; it’s what I’ve always done,” Gustafson said. “It makes me feel good.”
Rhymes likes to get creative with the designs he creates using AutoCAD software, but hands-on work is perhaps his favorite. He finds this part relaxing.
“I love the grind and how you have to be zoned in to get the angles right,” he said. “It’s peaceful and gives me time to think for an hour and then you get a solid and pretty impressive product in the end.”
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From custom designs to finished products
Its metal work is different from some on the market in that it uses thicker sheets of metal. It can be more profitable but harder to work with, and he prefers an end product with some depth.
He gets his steel locally, lately from Crowley or Breaux Bridge, depending on prices and availability.
“Metal prices right now are everywhere,” Rhymes said.
Some of its bestsellers showcase the quintessence of the Louisiana fleur-de-lis, especially among local customers or other foreigners from the Bayou State.
Among his largest and perhaps favorite pieces are 6-foot chop saws with upside-down fleur-de-lis rather than the jagged edge of the blade with ornate symbols of his home state on top. It’s his dad’s design and takes about 2-3 hours to cut metal.
“I like making saws; people really enjoy it,” Rhymes said. “I made a ton for the auction.”
Another big project underway at the store is a sign for an Alabama restaurant that resembles the famous sign that welcomes visitors to Las Vegas. Rhymes is excited about the creativity and new challenge of this project. There are several layers that need to be created and then put together.
“It’s fun because it’s different,” he said. “I love doing custom designs.”
He and Gustafson are looking for new challenges and new ways to include more fabrication and welding in his work. Making custom fire pits with cut designs is one idea they are considering.
But they can also become small. Acadiana Graphics sells custom office signs and metal house number plaques. These small projects allow them not only to meet a market need but also to make the most of their metal supply.
“It’s a lot of problem-solving,” Rhymes said.