Metal worker crafts unusual furniture Tables, chairs will last a lifetime


SALISBURY -- Walk into Mark and Amy Smullen's house and the chair in the living room will catch your eye.

Modern and shiny silver, the steel straight back was made by Mark Smullen, who also crafted a dozen other eye-catching pieces for the couple's home. All are made from metal.

There are tables with intricate curves and designs, a unique lamp, television stand, kitchen corner stand and a big bucket that holds wood for the fireplace. He also makes headboards and footboards for beds and other items by request.

The creator remains humble about his talent.

"We needed some furniture so I just kind of slapped some together," Mr. Smullen said, sitting back in an easy chair. "Amy kind of liked it. All our guests liked it."

He works with a partner, M. J. Taylor. The two operate Expert Welding and Design and do industrial work. Their jobs include making conveyors for plants and installing saws. Mr. Smullen is trying to sell the furniture and eventually open a showroom.

He started making the furniture a couple of years ago, using skills he learned from studying metal work at Wicomico County Applied Technology Center when he was in high school. The designs are his own.

He works with mild steel, which is relatively soft, and stainless steel and aluminum.

Although it might be a bit easier and less expensive to make furniture from wood, Mr. Smullen said he feels more comfortable with metal because that's what he was taught to use. "I'm not a wood worker," he said.

"Working with metal is tedious work. I do it all by hand. I don't have any modern equipment," he said.

He's making the furniture as a sideline now. A few pieces have been sold and Mr. Smullen hopes to turn it into a thriving business.

"I'd like to mass produce a whole lot of it and try to make a go of it," he said.

Mr. Smullen makes the furniture in a shop he rents in Selbyville, Del. About 12 pieces are in his home.

Some tables have glass tops and others have tops made from wood. His brother, who's in the glass business, cuts pieces for the tables.

Each piece is handmade. A table with an intricate design, such as the coffee table in his living room, takes one to two eight-hour days to make. When he produces a set, though, the job is faster, because he draws a pattern first, makes four table tops, four bottoms and four sets of legs, then puts them all together.

The coffee table costs $175, but Mr. Smullen offers discounts to customers who buy items in sets, such as four chairs or a coffee table and two end tables. A chair like the silver one in the living room costs $200.

"These pieces last forever," he said. "It will last a lot longer than wood. It will last a lifetime. It won't rust, if you don't chip the paint."

Before he fashions a piece, he draws the design. Some items start from a sheet of metal, others are created from tubing. The metal is heated with a torch and bent.

After the metal is shaped, it's painted. "You can use any color. I like black. I think it looks good," Mr. Smullen said.

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