What do you do with a box of 1,400 bullet casings?
If you’re 19-year-old Carter Buchanan, you start a business – or two.
The recent Paul Kane graduate licensed two home-based businesses, BulletProof Jewelry and ProBar Bartending, in January after being laid off from the oil patch.
After receiving his diploma in June 2015, Buchanan went straight into the trades. He worked as an instrumentation technician for six months but was let go due to the dip in oil prices.
Buchanan toyed with the idea of starting his own jewelry business back in high school. He had watched an online video detailing how to make headphones out of bullet casings and wanted to craft a pair for himself.
Unfortunately for the Grade 11 student, but fortunately for present-day Carter Buchanan, the local shooting range couldn’t just sell him the two cases he needed and he walked out with a box of 1,500 – 9mm bullet casings.
A few failed soldering attempts later, he had a single working ear bud and no idea what to do with the 1,400 leftover casings.
To get the creative juices flowing Buchanan would stand in front of a mirror and hold the bullet up to different places.
“I still do it now,” he said laughing. “I’m moving it around myself until ‘Oh, tie clip!’”
But first it was the ears that inspired him. He began creating studs for friends and family, but didn’t think the idea could be much more than a fun pastime.
“By the end of Grade 12, I was really giving them up, thinking this won’t take me anywhere,” said Buchanan. “That was the worst mistake I ever made.”
Instead he stuck the plan and opted for the guaranteed job in the oil field.
Part of the Registered Apprenticeship Program, he was offered a job before ever donning a cap and gown. He signed a six-month contract with the possibility of extension.
Two months later he saw all the contractors get cut. Half the engineering department disappeared and the next thing he knew there was a union meeting every other week. “We were notified that we were going into a hiring freeze,” he said.
The company was no longer able to bring him onboard as an apprentice as promised.
Though disappointed at the time, he now appreciates the opportunity the layoff has presented.
“It felt like I had my life in a pan in front of me,” said Buchanan. “The second that I incorporated (ProBar) and licensed (BulletProof) and made it real, I just took that pan and threw it in the air and I’m still waiting for the pieces to fall down.”
After a bit of uncertainty, a chance meeting with a kindred entrepreneurial spirit inspired him to give his jewelry another shot.
He attended a night market in Edmonton’s downtown with 38 pairs of earrings in tow. He went home with only 18, which were easily taken off his hands by former Original Joe’s coworkers.
“I thought, screw it. What do I have to lose?” he said.
His original box of casings long depleted, Buchanan estimates he’s gone through at least 4,000 shells making a variety of products from tie clips, to cufflinks, to necklaces. But his feature product is still his Swarovski crystal earrings.
Buchanan’s jewelry can be found online (bulletproofjewelry.com), every second week at the St. Albert Farmers’ Market and in-store at Modern Eyes.
Before reviving his jewelry business, Buchanan fell back on the service industry, where he has been working since he was 14.
In December, he received a call from a former employer asking if he could bartend a private event. Recognizing a gap in the market, Buchanan started a private bartending company, called ProBar Bartending Services, a month later.
Buchanan’s bartending savvy can be tapped into at probartending.com.