Wednesday, December 11, 2002

Twin brothers cut out for making molds

By David Dishneua
The Associated Press

BOONSBORO, Md. - The cookie has crumbled nicely for identical twins Bill and Bob Cukla, who started out as drag-racing "gearheads" and ended up as kitchen-gadget kings.

Cookie cutters, that is. Elaborate, handmade tinware is priced from $6 to $35 apiece in their Hammer Song catalog, and even higher in gourmet boutiques.

The witty, finely detailed designs, which include a robed and bearded wise man bearing a covered dish, make it clear the brothers and their wives are artists.

Just don't call them that.

"A lot of these other craftspeople, they take themselves real seriously as `artistes,"' Bill says. "We're not."

He drives the point home as he demonstrates his craft, deftly bending an inch-wide band of tin around nails protruding from a plank: "This is mind-numbing," he complains.

It sells, though, and that's what keeps Bill and his wife, Betsy, a formally trained artist, out in the garage behind their rural western Maryland home, twisting and soldering as many as 13,000 cutters a year for sale in stores, by mail and at craft shows.

Brother Bob and his wife, Julie Flaherty, also trained artists, collaborate on the designs and make other tinware pieces.

Cookies made from Hammer Song cutters have been hung on the White House Christmas tree and served by major corporations that pay up to $1,000 for designs.

The Hammer Song catalog is available for $3 from Hammer Song, 221 S. Potomac St., Boonsboro, MD 21713.

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