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Local artisan takes work out of wood

Bobby Blalock spent 20 years working as a timber consultant; now he spends his retirement turning wood into furniture. Whether it is an entertainment center for his grandson or a bookcase for his wife, Blalock leaves a legacy of his handiwork for his family to enjoy for years to come. He uses pine, maple, cherry, walnut and a few pieces of cedar, but his favorite is oak. I do more work with oak than anything else and it’s easy to acquire. It’s good hard wood and finishes good, said Blalock, also the former mayor of Zebulon. Blalock got interested in wood craft while he was a high school student in Roberta. The school had a large shop class where students built items like boats and truck bodies as well as bookcases. He made a cedar chest for his mother, and it is still in the family. His sister has it. After high school he built a bookcase for himself and a table for his mother from pecan. He built his first grandchild a twin sized bed. He even built an entire house from scratch to finish in 1986 when he lived in Taylor County. It was the biggest project I’ve ever taken on, he said. He began to develop a serious interest in building things from wood in the 1990s in Unadilla. He met a man who taught him a great deal. We did a lot of work in his shop, Blalock said. He used his skills to help furnish his and his wife Sandy’s home in Zebulon. This includes oak countertops in the kitchen, a cherry entertainment center, a sewing desk, a hutch, a kitchen island and even their bed. He followed the wood he used from stump to completed furniture. Every piece has a story, he said. His wife Sandy recalled the story associated with a maple vanity table with a mirror he made her. One day she was sitting on the stool using the vanity when she noticed the wood appeared to move. Something was in the wood. Suddenly a worm as big as my finger came out of it, she said. She screamed when she saw it. Blalock said it was a wood bore worm that had probably been in the wood a couple of years. It hatched in the wood and ate its way out. He now treats the wood he uses with paint thinner to avoid any more worm episodes. He recently made a rabbit box to catch an armadillo that was ravaging his garden. I caught two possums instead, he said. When the Zebulon Downtown Development Authority improvement project was underway, a few trees had to be removed from the courthouse lawn. One pecan tree caught the attention of landscape architect John Sell, so he took it and sawed it into lumber which he then gave to Blalock. He told me to make something special,he said. That special something is a five-point star pedestal with a glass top which he presented to Pike County commissioners for display in the courthouse. I just did it because it was unusual, he said. Most recently he made a miniature replica of an 1800s log cabin from scraps of wood lying on the floor of his workshop. It is built from a combination of wood, including pine, oak, hickory, walnut and maple. He got the idea from log cabins that sit on his neighbor’s property. The log cabin has a hole in the roof so people can view an interior with miniature furniture of that period. It also has windows and a door on hinges. Blalock has loaned the cabin to the people of Pike so they can view a little piece of history. It sits on the glass table in the lobby of the courthouse. Sharing his talent with others keeps Blalock motivated. His next project is to build benches for the meeting room at Zebulon city hall. He plans to build six of oak, and he will begin when he finds just the right wood.

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