Former Teacher's School Project Spirals Into Full-Time Star Wars Wood Burner Business
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While researching an upcycling project for his A Level students back in 2015, design and technology teacher Alex Dodson noticed that an old LPG cylinder that'd he'd sourced resembled Star Wars villain Darth Vader.
Fast forward to the present day and Alex has been company director and lead designer of Burned By Design for almost four years, shipping incredible made to order wood burners, fire pits and barbecues all over the world.
Yorkshireman Alex - originally from Barnsley, now based in York - set off on this new path following the unexpected viral popularity of his Darth Vader wood burner design.
Speaking to LADbible, the 38-year-old said: "It didn't look much like Darth Vader, more like an Angry Birds version, but I posted it on Facebook and it went crazy.
"I set up a little workshop in the back of my dad's garage - which I set fire to numerous times - and on evenings and weekends I would make Vader Burners and ship them all over.
"I sent one to Australia and the client was kind enough to send me back a slow-motion video of it burning in his garden. The video wasn't anything fancy but it has been watched 22 million times... orders came flooding in and not just for Darth Vaders."
As his designs burgeoned in demand and with a 32-week waiting list stacked up with commissions, Alex decided to pack in his teaching job and go full-time to devote more time to the business.
In the period since, his Star Wars range has grown massively and now includes Millennium Falcon, Storm Trooper and Death Star wood burners, as well as his joint-most expensive product, the AT-AT barbecue grill, which retails for £1,395 ($1,702.23).
His designs aren't solely from a galaxy far, far away though - they can be whatever you want them to be.
Alex said: "The coolest thing is we can base a design around whatever you are into: sport, music, sci-fi, movies, hobbies etc, there's a design out there for everyone.
"Most of our designs start life as an empty LPG cylinder, ours have never had gas in them and are stamped up with our brand; people should know it's unlawful to cut up their old gas bottles and can land you in bother.
"The time taken to make each design varies in the complexity of the design, some can be made in around eight hours, some take over a week and we try and price accordingly.
"We use MIG welding, plasma cutting and laser cutting to create some very intricate and detailed pieces which receive great client and public feedback."
Alex makes all of the designs himself, while his sister Lynsey handles the customer service side of things, but with the waiting list piling up again, he reckons he may need to hire his first pair of hands soon.
He said: "We have all sorts of cool designs in the pipeline, you'll have to stay tuned to find out more, but these include a 'Triumph' motorbike fire ball, some mini Tiki warriors which are going to France, as well as our first Yoda design.
"We do ship globally but things are super busy at the moment and the waiting list is over ten weeks... it might be time to employ my first apprentice?"
You can place an order or find out more here.