On a recent afternoon, Zombie Tools' Wyoming Street workshop is dotted with empty Pabst cans and tables holding rows of sharp and shiny blades. One of the Missoula business's cofounders, Maxon McCarter, a tall guy with long hair who wears black nail polish, helps splatter blades with wax before handing them off to Zombie Tools partner Chris Lombardi, who uses a paint brush to coat knives with acid. The end result is an antique-looking weapon sharp enough to take out the living dead—or the Pabst cans the blades are tested on.
Halloween brings images of undead scavengers. That means October is a busy time for Zombie Tools, which normally sells about 50 blades a month ranging in price from about $200 to $300. "We're just busting our ass trying to get ready," McCarter says.
His customers tend to be collectors, hunters and wannabe zombie killers. The company dates to 1999, when McCarter met Zombie Tools co-founder Joey Arbour at Flipper's Casino and hatched the idea of holding regular swordfights. That morphed into what became the "Drunken Jedi Pirate Circus"—beer-soaked battles staged in Missoula alleys and backyards. The partners launched Zombie Tools in 2007. "We're still sword-fighting to this day," McCarter says.
The company has four full-time employees.
Part of the reason time is especially tight this season is because Zombie Tools is also the subject of a new reality-based TV series, which is slated to air on cable next year. Missoula-based Warm Spring Productions—itself something of a success story, with a show now airing on the Travel Channel—is filming the Zombie Tools series. President Chris Richardson says he's excited to tap such homegrown talent: "We think it has potential to be hugely successful."