I consider this to be my greatest creation.  The bookcase is 12 ft. 7 inches tall and 13 ft. long.  The room has 42 inch high wainscot with arched raised panels.  The steps and rungs of the library ladder, which will roll the length of the bookcase, contains thirteen different species of wood.  Everything but these steps and rungs are made of black walnut.

This entertainment center, display cases, and wainscot are in a fraternity house. There is a total of 51 linear feet of wainscot around the room and down a hall. It is made of White Walnut which is also known as Butternut.

All but one of these stair treads is made of apple wood. If you want some apple wood, be prepared to go to an orchard and harvest it yourself. Plan ahead as it takes 4 to 8 months to dry it properly! After you have carefully stacked the lumber with closely placed stacking strips, figure out how to park a very large bulldozer on top of the stack! God made all fruit trees to withstand the bending caused by a bountiful crop. Not only is it very hard but it is one of the toughest woods in the forest! If you are lucky, the weight of the bulldozer will prevent some of the warping, buckling, cupping, splitting, and cracking that accompanies the drying process. In the absence of a bulldozer a few heavy items will suffice. The triangular tread which is halfway down the stairs in made of persimmon, the dark color, and pumpkin ash. Pumpkin ash does not even resemble the more common species of Ash that are used in floors, furniture, and ball bats. The riser under this triangular step is made of Dogwood All of the regular shaped steps have risers made of Red Bud except for the top step. That one is made of Staghorn Sumac. Again, be prepared to go to the woods or someone’s yard to harvest enough of these species to complete your project.

At the request of Brother Moses Onwubiko, Pastor of Bethlehem Missionary Church, I made this top portion of the pulpit. It is made of Red Oak and is stained to match the portion of the pulpit that was in the building when his congregation bought it. The cross is made of black walnut.

Alms Box Built for Bethlehem Missionary Church requested by Rev. Moses Onwubiko. I used most of 1800 board feet of Coffee Tree lumber to build the display case shown in the last picture. Many of the usable scraps that resulted from that process were placed in a cabinet in my shop instead of in the kindling box. I had the perfect opportunity to utilize some of them for this small project. All of the top, ends, and back were made of Coffee Tree scraps. The top is made of the thin strips I ripped from the rough-cut boards. I never counted them but there are probably 18 to 25 thin strips glued together. (If you had made the picture I described it, it would show the top, one end and the back in the same picture!) I went to my lumber “stash” looking for something special from which to make the front. It is made from a piece of a Black Walnut slab that I literally dug out of a pile of slabs at a sawmill many years ago!

OTIS CLARK: Otis came to see his country cousins in the summer of 1956. I told him about my horse and he said he would like to see her. He said he had not put his hand on a horse in about sixty years. I will never forget his visit. I was in the front yard, sitting on a swing hanging from a big Black Gum tree waiting for his arrival. He was in a red and white Cadillac that looked to be about fifty feet long! A chauffer, dressed in uniform and wearing his cap, got out and opened the door for Otis and then went around and opened the right door. The most beautiful and elegantly dressed woman I had ever laid eyes on got out. I do not think I managed to even say hello! They spent several hours and ate dinner with us. By the time they left they were almost like old friends as both were as genuine as a one dollar bill.

Picture of a tobacco stick, tobacco knife, and a tobacco peg.

The top of this table is made of Mulberry. The legs are Smoke Tree. The two end sections and the center make a table 102 inches long. That is 8 ½ feet. When three leaves are added to each side of center, the table is 192 inches or 16 feet long. The leaves have not been exposed to sunlight very long and are a lighter color which will change in time. They fit in a storage compartment that is under the center section.

Homemade Smoker: In the early seventies I carried something to a welding shop in Alexandria, LA to have it welded. There was an extra welding helmet on a bench so I put it on and watched as a man ran a bead of weld across the break. I thought, “I can do that”! I bought a welder and have built many items of metal. This is the most complicated project I ever built. We do not kill hogs this day in time but still love smoked or Bar-B-Qued meat. I have used this smoker about forty years to cook catfish, chicken, goose, goat, mutton, beef, and our favorite – pork.

This is the front door of our oldest son’s house. It is made of black walnut and measures nine feet to the top of the arch and is eight feet wide.

This china cabinet is one of the most difficult items I ever built. It is made of black walnut. My customer gave me a picture of an antique china cabinet and asked if I could build a duplicate of it. Without dimensions it was very difficult to determine height, width, and depth. I decided what the dimensions should be, made a rough drawing, and gave the customer a price. It is built in three pieces. The top trim is the third piece. It is exactly ten feet from the floor to the top of the finial. It is made of black walnut.

Our Entertainment Center. It is made of black walnut. I was over ten years building this item. During that time we lived in three different states. This is the back which we originally used as a room divider. It has a space for a TV and speakers at the bottom. We had a record player and record storage over the TV and speakers. If you read music, you can play the first four measures of “Rhapsody In Blue” by looking at the notes. When Pat gave piano lessons I played that song as the guest piano player at her year-end concert.

Baby Doll pulling my buggy in the Fulton Centennial Parade in 1957.

This display case is twenty feet and ten inches long. The center unit is eight feet tall and eighteen inches deep. In cabinetry, “deep” is the dimension from the back to the front of the face frame. The units, each side of center, are reduced by three inches in height and depth twice, making the end units ninety inches tall and twelve inches deep. It is made of Kentucky Coffee Tree. Coffee Tree is seldom plentiful in any area but is found from Southeastern Canada to the northern part of the Gulf Coast states. I never attended a university that offered a course in Dendrology and can only wonder how or why trees and shrubs are found in the locations where they are native. I think one of the factors that influences their distribution is the fact that Kentucky Coffee Trees are not bisexual. Each tree either produces male or female reproductive flowers but not both. The blossoms are delicate and quite different but the casual observer might not realize they are different. The Kentucky Coffee Tree was named by early settlers that ventured to cross the mountains to the new frontier. One of the staple items many of them carried was coffee. Without a “Git-n-Go” market on every other corner, they soon used all of their coffee. I am enjoying my afternoon cup of coffee as I write this and can only feel sorry for them when they no longer had coffee to enjoy, morning, afternoon, or evening!

These were tough resourceful people that knew the dangers of traveling to the new frontier but loved adventure and the possibility of finding new wealth. Somewhere, sometime, one or more of these hardy travelers saw a tree that had strange looking seed pods that resembled a huge butter bean or lima been. These pods range in length from about four to ten inches long and are wider than the usual butter bean. They cling to the tree until the “beans” are dry and form seeds that look like two to six “bumps” in the pod. The seeds or beans are actually nearly round. Most fall from the tree by the time spring arrives. I have gathered coffee beans in several states and without fail, they will germinate even when the pods are about rotten and the seeds are lying on dried leaves and grass. Apparently most wildlife does not relish the taste of coffee beans as I do not remember ever seeing evidence that an animal had attempted to eat them. They are quite hard when dry and difficult to extract from the strong and tough pod. Few animals are equipped with the necessary means of opening them. I suspect these travelers wondered if they had found a new variety of nut to supplement their monotonous diet or perhaps a new vegetable to add to their bear or venison stew. Finding that they were not suitable for consumption, they decided to crush and roast them in order to make a substitute for coffee. Do not bother to look for coffee beans in order to make coffee! More than once I have tried them only to find that the flavor is much different and actually not as tasty as other substitutes used by our ancestors.

Kentucky Coffee Tree

A description of Kentucky Coffee Tree lumber often includes adjectives such as “course”, “tough”, and “hard”. All are correct! If you are lucky enough to find some lumber and desire to make your tater bins or favorite woodworking project of it, I would advise you to make proper preparations before starting. Use only carbide edged tools that are either new or have been sharpened recently. Anything less will “burn” the wood it cuts and leave black marks that are very difficult to remove, even with course sandpaper. Also, when feeding the material into a cutting or edging tool, make sure you do not stop, whether to reposition your feet or to catch a second breath. That will always result in having to do a considerable amount of sanding!

Kentucky Coffee Tree is a member of the Legume family, a very large family with members found in many and varied habitats around the world. Some of the members I have samples of includes, black locust, water locust, honeylocust, mesquite, mimosa, and red bud. Red bud is probably what i would name as my favorite wood! It is a bit softer and easier to work than coffee tree and black locust. It is subject to having more than one insect destroyer and a fungus but its beauty and varied color and luster when finished, make it a desirable species for small projects. I have never found Red Bud for sale anywhere but I have worked diligently harvesting trees that many woodcutters would ignore. To me, the beauty of Kentucky Coffee Tree and Red Bud are worth the effort required to deliver a finished project.

Sixth-three years ago I built my first items of wood. Our house burned in March, 1958. By August, Dad hired a finish carpenter to build cabinets and put trim around the doors and windows. He brought his table saw to the house and placed it in the basement. I still have an oak chest and a one-in-twelve scale model wood wheel farm wagon I built after promising the carpenter and Dad that i would not remove any fleshy portions of my anatomy! I have not outgrown the desire to make “objects of wood”! Mother taught school in a one-room school house before she and Dad got married. She always wanted her three children to be school teachers. When I reached high school I wanted, very badly, to take “shop” but she thought I ought to “enjoy” the more scholastic subjects. God blesses all of us with gifts! I consider woodworking to be the greatest gift God gave me! The only time I have not had access to woodworking tools were the years I earned a degree and a teaching certificate. Many times I have had to stop work on an item and ponder how to complete what I needed to do. God has always answered my prayer! Thank you Lord!