HALIFAX – If you enjoy being transported back in time while watching a movie or a historical re-enactment, you can thank a Nova Scotia man.
Blair Higgins is the president of Loyalist Arms and Repair, a company in Harrietsfield that specializes in recreating historical props inspired by the 17th or 18th century.
Higgins is a self-admitted history nut who said that he is fascinated by museums and would often get lost in places like the Halifax Citadel when he was a kid.
“I’ve always collected antiques, specifically military antiques,” he said.
“Anything old, I like. I always think I was born at least 200 years too late.”
Loyalist Arms and Repairs specializes in making historical pistols, swords and even odds and ends like replica cannonballs, pirate belts and buttons.
He started dabbling in historical replicas in the 1990s and soon found himself in high demand.
“One of our big contracts that we got to start with was with Parks Canada,” Higgins said.
“I had to restore a whole bunch of muskets for the Fundy National Museum. Next thing we know we’re getting contacted by 20th Century Fox. They’re doing Master and Commander so we supplied some stuff for that. Next thing we know, Disney’s contacting us for Pirates of the Caribbean.”
Higgins said that he has been swamped with work ever since.
Most of his business comes from historical re-enactors and historical sites though more work has been coming in from the movie industry.
“That’s awesome to be able to see these guys running around and be able to say, ‘Hey look, that’s our blunderbuss‘ or ‘Oh look, there’s our whatever’. It’s really cool. There’s a lot of pride in that.”
He said re-creations of historical weapons, footwear and headwear can boost a scene’s credibility and authenticity.
“You’re offering a product or display where people are going to look,” he said. “Believe it or not, there’s a lot of educated people out there and they know. You can’t fudge something that easily.”
“With historical re-enactors, they have the uniforms and they even count the stitches around the buttonhole. They want something that’s perfect.”
Higgins researches and designs each product then sends a prototype to a company overseas. That company will then mass produce the product and send them back to Higgins who, along with his employees, put the final touches on them.
His staff know that their attention to detail is critical.
“Just seeing all the hard work you did on TV and movies, it’s pretty cool,” said employee Jeremy Hall, as he sanded a pistol.
“I do most of the metal work, which I really enjoy, then make sure all the parts are polished, clean and make sure everything’s working smoothly,” said Robert Jefferson.
Robert works alongside his wife Robyn, who has worked with Higgins for more than three years.
“It’s very rewarding,” Robyn said. “It’s really fun. It’s not something people hear about very often.”
“It’s very hands-on. A lot of work goes into the product.”
As rewarding and satisfying as his work is, Higgins said that he does face some challenges.
The warehouse where his employees work is the same place where his inventory is stored; that building is bursting at the seams.
Higgins said he is looking for a bigger space for his company.
He also said that the company’s busy season normally runs from January to June, meaning work can often be seasonal.
“I’m hoping the industry still increase to the point where I can have a dozen people working here full-time. That would be awesome.”
Higgins said he’s also considering expanding his business to include wardrobe and set design.