It’s surprising, the number of small businesses that began with the making of a gift. That was the case for Michael Stropola when he created a wooden American flag customized with an Air Force emblem for his father, who is a veteran. Encouraged to continue his unique craft, Michael began creating flags for his family and his wife’s coworkers before venturing out as a business. “This is the first time I’d ever made something that I sold to the public,” he says of his business Carved-N-Fire started in 2019, handcrafting wooden American flags and military insignias.  Like many woodworkers, Michael’s passion for the craft began in an industrial arts class in high school. “That really sparked my love for working with my hands,” he recalls. An Air Force veteran himself, Michael’s love for his country is displayed in the wooden flags honoring U.S. armed forces including the
U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard, as well as service agencies like the Fire and Police Departments.  Working from his home in Youngsville, he begins his process by selecting the wood. He prefers working with pine because he says, “I’ve tried a few different woods and they don’t burn as well as pine; the grain really pops.” He eyes the grain of the wood to get an idea of how it’ll look after it’s burnt. In cutting it to the size he needs, he uses enough to render four to five flags, 26” x 13”, so that he can match wood grains in making the flag’s stripes. With a hand torch, he burns the wood from about six inches away. Once the burning is complete, the red and blue strips are stained, and then assembling begins. The stars and intricate emblems are hand carved, rather than using a CNC machine, taking an hour for each. With a steady hand, he burns the insignias using a dremel with an attachment resembling a long pencil on the end. Five hours later, the flags are finished with an outdoor urethane and a 40-
pound picture wire attached to the backs. Because no two pieces of wood are the same, Michael says “Every flag is unique; no two are the same.”
While Michael’s patriotic artwork has shipped outside of Louisiana, we are fortunate to have it sold at the Delcambre Seafood & Farmers Market where he says after one visit, he felt it was a “great venue for his flags.” Being able to create something this special has been rewarding for Michael as he shares, “I have had people come back to my booth and tell me they gave the flag as a gift and how much the recipient loved it.”