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Northern Alabama Wood Crafters ‘turn’ trash to pens for veterans

Northern Alabama Wood Crafters use scrap wood to make these attractive ink pens for soldiers. (PHOTO/TOM PROHASKA)
Northern Alabama Wood Crafters use scrap wood to make these attractive ink pens for soldiers. (PHOTO/TOM PROHASKA)
Tom Prohaska is publicist and photographer for Northern Alabama Wood Crafters. (CONTRIBUTED)
Tom Prohaska is publicist and photographer for Northern Alabama Wood Crafters. (CONTRIBUTED)

MADISON – Northern Alabama Wood Crafters use scrap wood to ‘turn’ that trash into treasured ink pens for war veterans.

With the scraps, the woodcrafters use kits from Nashville Woodcraft Store to fashion handsome ink pens for “Turn for Troops.” The 10-year-old project originally provided one-of-a-kind wooden pens to American troops at Christmas.

Stores now hold ‘turn-a-thons’ year-round to ship pens and notes of appreciation to military personnel on active duty or in rehabilitation.

Tom Prohaska, the woodworkers’ publicist/photographer, recently turned 20 of these pens. The store gave them “the kits or ‘guts'” with inner barrels, mechanism and ink. “We donate the wood, glue, finish and time,” he said.

Prohaska uses cut-down trees and scraps from hardwood floors and construction sites. The material may be cherry, Osage orange, black walnut and even Corian countertops. Turning ‘green’ wood is easier than dry/hard wood.

After cutting ‘blanks,’ he drills, epoxies brass, trims, mounts on a mandrel and turns wood to a comfortable shape.

In 10 years, Woodcraft has delivered 106,262 pens — this year, 11,124 pens.

Woodcraft shared a thank-you: Master Chief Samuel Rivera onboard the USS Harry S. Truman said 400 sailors were “excited to pick (a pen) and read attached notes. Something like this may seem small but actually means a lot.”

Prohaska has been woodworking since 1975 with his dad’s tools and eighth-grade woodshop class. Over the years, he added larger equipment.

“The hobby portion is making toys to give away and one-of-a-kind turning, usually bowls,” Prohaska said. First, he rounds the wood, removing as little as possible, and decides its shape.

After mastering pens, Prohaska advanced to bowls, platters and hollow forms. For a baseball bat stand, he turned a baseball-like finial and home plate for its base.

Other officers are president Greg Myers, vice president Tim Sullivan, secretary Russ Lakin, treasurer Nancy Chastanet and web coordinators Roy Bruton and J. Leko.

Founded 2.5 years ago, Northern Alabama Wood Crafters meet on second Tuesdays at Burritt on the Mountain. For more information, visit Facebook/tom.prohaska or nawoodcrafters.org.

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