19-year-old knifemaker’s backyard business shuttered by city officials

knifemaker's backyard business shuttered

Isaiah Washington’s original blacksmith business was made from an old shipping container. The city has closed his business down (Sun Journal file photo)

A ninteen-year-old knifemaker’s backyard business has been shuttered in the Maine town of Auburn. Isaiah Washington wasn’t expecting the exposure he gained in a local paper would lead to his undoing, but that is the case when city officials shuttered his fledgling business due to zoning violations.

From Sun Journal:

Largely self-taught, he built a coal-fired forge in the backyard out of a shipping container and was starting to build up a clientele.

But Washington didn’t know neighbors had been complaining about him to city officials. He said he didn’t realize there was any issue at all until a feature story about his business ran in the Sun Journal and the city shut him down that same day.

Now, he’s on the hunt for a new space and hoping someone will give him a chance.

“They shut me down when I had $200 in my bank account,” Washington said. “I can pay a little bit, but I can’t pay a lot.”

City officials say it’s a matter of zoning and commerce.

Eric Cousens, Auburn’s deputy director of economic and community development, said officials understood it was a hobby, not a business.

“People are able to pursue hobbies at their home with more flexibility than businesses that impact neighbors,” Cousens said. “Blacksmithing is a noisy, smoky industrial process that is not an allowed use in residential districts in Auburn. Isaiah was making some very nice knives and is a talented young man. We would like to promote creative businesses like Isaiah’s and we have been looking to see if any industrial property owners might be open to hosting his blacksmithing shed on industrial zoned land, but have not found a location yet.”

I see both sides of this, as does Washington.

“(I’m) a little discouraged right now, but I know it’s just a setback,” he added. “At the end of the day, it’s going to end up being a good thing, it’s going to force me to get out of the garage and, hopefully, somewhere more legitimate, I guess.”

I have a feeling this isn’t the last we will be hearing from young Mr. Washington. Check out his Instagram. He makes some really nice stuff.




  1. Sam L. says:

    He’s got some skill.

  2. Jason says:

    I guess them neighbors wont be coming over for Thanksgiving!

  3. Conrad Novak says:

    That is unfortunate but maybe this will turn out to be a positive thing for his business. I was checking out his work and he is very talented. I am sure that with this media exposure, someone will help him out and get him back in business. Thanks for sharing this story!

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19-year-old knifemaker’s backyard business shuttered by city officials

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