Musician Steve Lilly tried his hand at a traditional job, really he did.
He even found a job - as an insurance agent - that allowed him to work at it while dividing his time between his home in Waynesboro, Va., and his parents' home in Hinton, where he was helping to care for them.
"That didn't go so well," he said. "I'm not a very good insurance agent - I just don't have that in my DNA."
Instead, Lilly realized he could supplement his music income and bond with his dad, V.E. Lilly, if he focused on helping his dad make the coin rings he had been making for years and selling casually.
The rings catch people's attention because they aren't merely coins mounted atop ring bases. Instead, V.E. figured out a way back in 1952 to shape and cut the coins so that the decorative edges - the part containing the date, for example - form the ring. The rings contain a pattern on both the exterior and interior.
This past spring, Lilly and his dad manned a booth at Hinton's Railroad Days festival, where hundreds of visitors stopped by to talk and purchase rings, which sell for about $50 each.
"I figured if I can do this in Hinton, I could maybe get myself in all these other craft fairs and festivals," Lilly said. "So I proceeded to make this job up myself. I learned and learned and learned."
Lilly for many years was the house guitarist at The Greenbrier, a gig that kept him busy five nights a week.
"House gigs never last forever," he said. "It was a nice eight or 10 years, and I still play there some."
Ring making has filled the gap pretty well, added Lilly, 60. He makes the rings using a technique his dad figured out back in the 1950s.
"He had a kit and tools that he put away in a bag and forgot about," Lilly said. "Then my parents moved back to Hinton about 20 years ago, and he came across this little bag and started making rings again for friends and family."
Lilly, who had been living overseas, moved back to the United States in 1993, and his dad taught him how to make the rings before one of the Railroad Days events. The two were juried in at Tamarack, which also sells the rings.
Lilly works only with silver coins, those minted in 1964 and earlier, and he uses quarters and half-dollars because their sizes are appropriate for fashioning rings.
Coins minted after 1964 have mixed metals and, if turned into rings, will turn the wearers' fingers green or black. Lilly said he's considering learning how to silver plate the newer coins because often customers choose a coin by their date of birth.
"We only use hand tools, no machines, to make them," Lilly said.
The coins are first hammered on a mandrel, a bowl-shaped piece of metal, to round them into a bowl shape. The ridged edges of the coin are filed to smooth them, and the design of the ring takes shape by filing off the bowl and forming a band.
The ring can be shaped and stretched for size.