'I'm just a simple man': Retired educator has affinity with woodworking

·4 min read

Jun. 26—TUPELO — Larry Anderson — or "Dr. A," as many of his former students call him — is a retired educator whose jobs included bus driver, industrial arts teacher and principal.

But his life is anything but staid, as he's kept busy with writing, consulting and public speaking.

"I'm just a simple man," he likes to say, but one glance at all his "toys" his drags out to the driveway that's nicely shaded are anything but.

Woodworking is something Anderson knows well, going back to his days teaching industrial arts. He's made more than 100 cutting boards over the years, along with other pieces.

His latest addition is Lazy Susans.

"I made my first one for Kathy (his wife) last fall, and when people saw it they went nuts for me to make more," he said. 'So I made 12 and they all sold in one day."

Anderson uses a variety of woods to make the small spinning tables — poplar, cherry, maple, mahogany and even exotic wood like bubinga.

Some of the wood is near and dear to his heart. Some of the mahogany is Honduran mahogany, often called genuine mahogany.

The Honduran mahogany comes from the former Herschede Hall Clock Co., where Anderson got scrap pieces of wood from the workers and owners to use for his woodworking classes he taught.

Herschede was well-known for its grandfather clocks, which can sell for $20,000 or more depending on their condition.

"We made all sorts of things with the wood that were cutoffs, etc., from those grand clocks," Anderson said. "I am immensely proud to still have a few pieces of genuine honduras mahogany, walnut, poplar,and cherry that the Herschede guys gave me for my personal use, so I would have something to keep me occupied in my retirement.

"They would tell me to take that wood home, stack it up and don't touch it for 30 years or more. Well, it's been about 50 years and the few things I'm able to make with the 'Herschede scraps' are genuine heirlooms because I know the history. And, the price I charge — if I decide to sell any of it — is heirloom, too, because that wood can never be found again."

For the items he makes not from his Herschede inventory, Anderson doesn't sell them to make a big profit.

"My honest feeling is that I want to use my God-given talents and time to help other people have the things they would like but cannot make for themselves," he said.

Right now, selling like hotcakes are his pens, made from an even broader variety of wood that also includes olive, ipe, aromatic cedar, iroko, chechen, cocobolo and others.

"I've been making pens about four years because I love the lathe work and have made lots of bowls, candle holders, etc., but I didn't turn any pens during the pandemic," he said. "I picked it back up in 2021, and now I can't make them fast enough for folks. It's fun and so fulfilling."

Anderson does most of his work on his driveway, pulling out his equipment — lathe, table saw, drill press, band saw, 5-in-1 — under some trees that provide some much-needed shade.

"It makes a mess in the garage," he said with a laugh.

Anderson takes mall rectangular pieces of wood, shaves them down, shapes them, sand them and then builds a pen. From start to finish it takes about two hours.

A custom-made pen like Anderson's can go for $100 or more, but his pricing is far less.

"It's just plain fun," he said. "People can make them as gifts; they can keep it for themselves. But they're easy to take apart and change the refill."

Customers can find his pens, Lazy Susans and other products online at www.larryscustomcrafts.com.

And Anderson said all of his products are well-made.

"If it's something I wouldn't give to family member or my mother or if it's something I don't want seen by somebody I know, it's not going out," he said.