A couple of years ago, Trevor Cullen of the Orange PD never had a clue that soon, he would have a favorite new hangout on his days off:
The Home Depot, at Tustin Street and Taft Avenue in Orange.
Now, though, Cullen’s new hobby takes him to the home improvement store several times a month, usually bright and early.
Cullen, 39, who has spent 25 years at the OPD, beginning as a cadet when he was 14 through his current assignment as a patrol sergeant, discovered wood-working a year-and-a-half ago.
Since then, he’s been keeping busy off hours huddled in his garage-turned-woodworking studio, cranking out wood flags and flags out of .223 brass casings, mostly for current and retired law enforcement personnel.
Cullen isn’t doing it for the money, and he donates many of his works to police and fire agencies.
He’s doing it for the enjoyment of making something with his hands – and for putting smiles on the faces of those to whom he donates and sells his works, which go for a modest $55-$115.
Cullen has made a wood flag for a retired “bobby” in the U.K., and for a retired teacher in O.C. whose students all signed the back of it.
He donated a Thin Blue Line flag to raise money for a law enforcement officer in Montana who was shot on duty.
It all started a couple of years ago when Cullen saw the work of a colleague, OPD Det. Tyler Ray, who was making flags out of .308 brass bullet casings.
Cullen, who had no previous woodworking experience, was intrigued.
He bought some woodworking tools and saws, checked out some “how to” You Tube videos, and decided to make a smaller version of what Ray was making:
Flags out of .223 brass bullet casings.
“I have to give credit to (Det. Ray) for all of this,” says Cullen, who in November 2017 launched a side business, Old Glory Brass, that he promotes on social media (here is Old Glory Brass on Facebook and Instagram). “He (Ray) started something in me that has completely changed my life.”
Cullen makes two versions of the flags out of pine wood, one 37 inches by 20 inches, the other 12 inches by 10 inches. Many have the “Thin Blue Line” design to honor fallen members of law enforcement. Some include a groove for challenge coins, some have badge numbers and station numbers.
Cullen can customize his creations to whatever a person wants.
Once he started posting photos of his creations on social media, the requests pored in.
Robyn Alford, of Elk Grove, heard about Cullen’s work through her aunt, who used to live near Cullen and who has bought some of his works.
Last June, when her father-in-law, Vietnam veteran Dennis Alford, turned 72, Robyn said she and her husband, Darren, wanted to buy something unique for his birthday.
They ordered him an American flag made of shell casings. Cullen was able to track down a challenge coin for the unit Dennis Alford served in, the Army’s 173rd Airborne Brigade, and embed it among the stars.
“He was very touched,” Robyn said of Dennis Alford’s reaction to the gift. “He cried. It was a very personal gift. He’s very proud of his service, but doesn’t like talking about it.”
Dennis Alford keeps the flag in a spot where he can see if from his favorite chair in his home in Seaside.
“He (Cullen) did an excellent job,” says Robyn Alford, who has a photography business. “Now we would like him to make one for us.”
Cullen says his wife, Aimee, a records supervisor at the Fullerton PD, loves his new hobby.
“She actually likes it that I’m doing something creative,” says Cullen.
And she’s put her husband to work on home projects.
“I’ve made a headboard for us, some shutters,” he says. “I’ve given the house a little bit of a facelift with some of the new skills that I have.”
Cullen says woodworking may serve as his post-law enforcement career.
“I’m just a guy who likes to do stuff on my days off and really help the community,” he says.