Craftsmanship comes in many forms. One can specialize in a variety of fields, from cooking to painting to construction.
But right here in the Catoctin area lives one of the most talented craftsmen around.
Blacksmithing and metalworking extraordinaire, Robert Bittner, 27, of Sabillasville, has found his niche creating entirely unique custom cars and fueling his creative outlets with hand-crafted projects made from whatever scrap metal he can find.
After spending most of his childhood on a farm and thinking that was where his career was headed, Bittner found a new direction in quite an unusual way. “I started in high school,” Bittner said. “I didn’t want to take Spanish, so I had to take a career course. I went to CTC for welding, and I got really good at it. I went to nationals for skills USA, and I ranked really high in the nation and just kept going.”
As a kid, Bittner found drawing as a sufficient way to take ideas and create them into something physical, which may have been a precursor that lead him to where he is now.
Making it as an artist outside of a major metropolitan area is an increasingly difficult avenue for a career, therefore logically, Bittner chose something with a bit more stability, contracting with a roofing company.
Bittner worked the roofing job for a year, but quickly found out that wasn’t the path for him. He landed at a shop nearby, which changed everything for him. “After roofing, I got a job at Hauk Designs in Pennsylvania, building one-off custom jeeps,” Bittner said. “I always liked the custom side of everything, especially vehicles.”
Bittner and the team at Hauk Designs caught the eye of some reps from the History Channel with one of their vehicles at SEMA, the biggest invite-only car show in the world.
That launched the opportunity to showcase their metalworking talents to a larger audience in 2017 as they filmed the TV show Road Hauks. Each episode followed the design and fabrication process to build custom jeeps and vehicles from scratch into a photoshoot-worthy and fully operational pieces of machinery.
The exposure for Bittner and company allowed them to take and build more cars for shows as far as Las Vegas, showing the world what they could do.
The exposure from the show even spun off into other lucrative projects. “A guy in Taiwan sent us $150,000 and said, ‘build me a jeep I can’t kill,’” Bittner said. “I built and designed a full exo-cage, fenders, bumpers, $15,000 worth of just axles.” Those are the projects an artist like Bittner thrives on. “If I could, I would do these all the time.”
Today, Bittner has the means to take those ideas and put them into a tangible metal work of art, with an unbelievable amount of detail and uniqueness you can’t find anywhere else, and he plans on doing it just from the comfort of his home in Sabillasville under his new business Har-Valley Forge and Fab Works.
While he is commissioning personal art pieces for locals, like his popular hand-crafted metal roses, he still makes time to work on the things he loves most.
“My motorcycle I built from the ground up. It’s a Sportster that I completely customized top to bottom,” he said. Nearly the entire motorcycle is fully hand-built, aside from the Jack Daniels plate on the frame of the vehicle. There isn’t a piece exactly like it in the world.
Bittner has a promising road ahead of him, and with new projects and ideas coming to mind every day, it feels like it’s only a matter of time until we see his work on the big stage again.