Freedom Blues – A Monument of Honor

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When Staff Sergeant Hank Robinson returned home from the US Army in 2010 after serving his country for nearly a decade in combat infantry, he found himself lonely, without a job, and trying to find his way back into society. During tours in Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan, losing brothers in arms left Hank with a deep sense of guilt and anguish. Not only that, Hank said, “Most folks don’t understand that the enemy here is far more lethal than the enemy over there. We have lost more veterans to suicide than we have to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan combined. This silent epidemic claims more than 20 veterans a day.” 

Hank (3rd from right) and some of his Army buddies

Respect

Making His Mark

As is often the case, Hank had a difficult time navigating the path from soldier to civilian. He ended up taking some welding classes through the G. I. Bill. But something sparked in him when an instructor asked him to sign his name to a piece of work with a Dremel. As it turns out, Hank had an incredible knack for creating freehand art on various mediums with an engraver. What began as signature on a piece of metal started him on a path of creative therapy, a new purpose and way for him to honor those with whom he served. Hanro Studios was born in 2011 in Hank’s garage, where he started out creating small, one-of-a-kind engraved gifts. 

A decorated veteran—receiving the Bronze Star Medal for valor, Army Commendation Medal for valor and the Combat Infantryman Badge—Hank’s art most often takes on a military theme. As the media started to take notice of his extreme talent and innovative use of materials, opportunities beyond his wildest imagination were knocking on his door. Dremel approached him in 2014 about a sponsorship, and now his work is exclusively done with Dremel rotary tools. He has created pieces for celebrities, pro athletes and musicians including some engraving on a Cadillac Coupe DeVille owned by Kid Rock, which he completed at West Coast Customs in Los Angeles. His engravings have appeared on motorcycles, rear auto glass, truck rims, pistols, tool chests, tonneau covers and leather car interior. His work is on display at the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport Museum in an “Art of the Ride” exhibition.  Hank said the one of the most interesting materials he has engraved on was an F-16 titanium fan blade, which he did for a retiring Sergeant Major.

Some of Hank's Work

Memorial at Veteran Tickets Foundation in Tempe, AZ

Engraved mini hood for Indian Motorcycle

Engraved Jeep spare tire 

American Force Wheels

Custom engraving on a gun

"Art of the Ride" display at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport Museum

Rolling Tribute

Hanro Studios’ expansion into a larger facility fostered collaborations that showcased Hank’s skills on entirely new level. Like out of this world level. “I’ve been wanting to do a memorial, like something massive. I really just wanted to honor the guys that I served with,” he stated in a recent TV interview with 3TV/CBS 5 in Arizona. Freedom Blues is the name bestowed upon his tricked-out 2016 Ford F-150 4x4 truck, a rolling mural that pays tribute to his Army comrades. “I remember the endless hours we spent on patrols talking about how we were gonna trick out our trucks. I took all of our ideas and I did it for us,” he said. The entire build is impressive from top to bottom, including an amazing headliner made from a decommissioned US flag. (To see vehicle specs, see TruckTrend’s in-depth article on Freedom Blues.) 

But the most jaw-dropping part of this truck is Hank’s handiwork on its body depicting ground combat scenes in homage to his time spent in service. Using his Dremel 4300 with flex shaft attachment and a technique called scratchboard, he spent more than 800 hours engraving the scenes depicted. “That’s just me with my Dremel and my Beats and I kinda just get lost in it,” Hank said. The rotary tool removes a layer of the truck’s custom color (House of Kolor Straton Blue) to reveal the contrasting silver aluminum beneath. How does he create the art to start with? “Similar to a tattoo, I lay a basic outline and then go back through with detail by hand,” he said. An automotive clear coat with a ceramic coat over that protects the work.

Clearly, Freedom Blues is a show stopper. “There is something about art on a vehicle that just really grabs my attention personally,” Hank said. Not surprisingly, the truck has attracted national attention and was featured on the July 2017 cover of Truckin’ Magazine.

Front cover of Truckin' Magazine

Decommissioned US flag custom headliner

An Epidemic of Hope

Hank passionately supports causes that focus on helping veterans upon their return home and is intent on creating an “Epidemic of Home” for those who suffer like he did trying to regain their focus. Putting his money where his mouth is, he is currently auctioning off Freedom Blues on eBay with a portion of those proceeds going to Boulder Crest Retreat for Military and Veteran Wellness, the nation’s leading PTSD treatment program. The truck can be seen in person at Peoria Ford in Peoria, Arizona, or view the eBay listing here. The auction will end 1/18/18 at 10:15am Mountain Time.

“To me, this isn’t just a truck. It’s a life saver, a hope bringer, a monument of honor and my labor of love.” 

Another project near Hank’s heart is an art therapy course with the Wounded Warrior Project. “Eight weeks every other Saturday, we work with veterans on various materials and by the end of the class, they make a memorial piece to gift someone if they choose,” he said. Dremel is the tool sponsor for the class, and each veteran gets to take home the tool when the class is completed.

The Mark of a Man

When he’s not in the shop, Hank can be found spending time with his wife Christine and three kids, Ryder (8), Azaleah (7) and Aleiya (5). “Outside of the business, I make stuff constantly,” he said. “I really try to focus with my children that it’s better to make stuff. It’s unique, it’s one of a kind, and that’s how I see myself and that’s how I want my children to see themselves as one of a kind.” He credits Christine with “always having my back in everything I do. I couldn’t do any of this without her.”

Hank won’t be resting on his laurels, as he already has a new truck he’s been tricking out – a 2017 Ford F250 Super Duty truck. This gloss black and silver beauty, dubbed “Aluminati” in a nod to the truck’s all aluminum body, will be Hank’s “work truck” aka “mobile engraving station.” The black/white paisley theme prominently displays the company logo and “100% Dremel Engraved” and has already been featured on the January 2018 cover of 8-Lug Magazine. 

Hank Robinson with Freedom Blues

To learn more about Hank Robinson and Hanro Studios Engraving, check out his website http://hanrostudios.com/ or follow him on Instagram and Facebook.  

We hope you'll be inspired!

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  • JS
    This is such an amazing and very inspiring post! I personally started on woodworking 3 months ago and glad to say, I was able to create works that gave me a very good income. Without the 16 woodworking plans, I won't be able to do it! They are so easy to follow and even a beginner like me can easily learn the steps and be like a pro! I'm very sure this will give a very good income to your family. Happy woodworking!

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