Local woodworkers enjoy spending time together, hand crafting items

By Lynn R. Parks

Jack Dalton could be David Southerns grandfather. The 71-year-old Bridgeville man, retired from a career as a lobbyist, is decades older than Southern, 26, of Seaford.

But the two men spend a lot of time together. The reason: I love learning from him, Dalton said.

Both Dalton and Southern are woodworkers. Dalton, who was employed by the Ignition Interlock Industry, producer of systems that prevent intoxicated people from driving, creates wooden objects as a hobby. Southern, on the other hand, earns a living with his woodworking. At his workshop on Arch Street in Seaford, he builds furniture that he has designed, often inspired by work produced by brothers Charles and Henry Greene, California architects in the early 20th century.

Southern is especially proud of a pair of chairs that he designed and built. It took him 70 hours to create the two chairs, one of which he has sold and the other of which is available for $2,700. The chairs are made of pieces of sapele, a tree native to tropical Africa, and birds eye maple, pegged together with bamboo dowels.

They look like something you might see thats been made in Arizona, said fellow wordworker Karson Morrison, Georgetown. All three men are members of the Mason Dixon Woodworkers, a group based in Delmar that makes wooden toys for giveaway at Christmas.

No power tools were made in building the chairs, Southern said. Rather, he built them the old-fashioned way, using hand tools.

If I didnt have to earn a living as a woodworker, I would sell all of my machines, Southern added. When there arent any machines running, its so quiet and peaceful in the shop.

On a recent late fall morning, Southern and Dalton were working in Daltons shop, located behind his Delaware Avenue house. They were putting together traditional Colonial-style candle boxes, made from sapele and locally harvested black walnut and topped with sliding lids. The boxes will be available at several gift shops with which Southern deals, including the Seaford Florist in Blades.

Dalton already has two candle boxes on display in the Ross Mansion, Seaford, made from wood harvested from a Ross Plantation cedar tree that was blown over.

He also makes decorative rolling pins, a row of which hang on a wall in his shop, and oval nesting Shaker baskets, cherry with lids made from etimoe, a West African wood.

As for furniture, Dalton is making blanket chests for his 10 grandchildren; he also built a cradle, black walnut, for the great-grandchildren who are coming along. A book that he wrote to go with the cradle, with a space for the names of the children who sleep there, fits into a slot on the bottom of the bed.

In addition to chairs and candle boxes, Southern makes jewelry boxes, toy trucks, cabinets and sushi trays complete with chopsticks. He recently built a baby crib of cherry and walnut. A wine table and cabinet that he designed and created incorporates pieces of black walnut, maple, eucalyptus, purpleheart (a tropical wood from Central and South America), lacewood (Australia) and ebony.

Sharing knowledge isnt the only reason the two men like on occasion to work together. Woodworking is a solitary craft, Southern said. You spend a lot of time working alone in your shop, and working together is a great opportunity to get to know other people who love to make beautiful things.

Neither man sees himself stopping his work anytime soon. I get up every morning at 7:30, Dalton said. I eat my breakfast, fix breakfast for my wife, and by 10 oclock, Im in my shop. Im here all day, making things and creating things. Every piece of wood can be something, whether its a toothpick or part of a grand piano. I look at a piece of wood and want to make it the best that it can be.

In this modern age, you dont find many people who have the drive to make things by hand, Southern added. We are exercising the creative muscles in our minds, and thats a whole different satisfaction that you cant get from anything else.

Every morning, I wake up excited about my next project. This is what I want to continue to do until the day I die.

For your information For information about hand-crafted items made by Jack Dalton, call him at 302-542-2364. Fo r information about items made by David Southern, call him at 443-359-0117 or visit the Facebook page for David Southern Designs. Some objects that Southern has made are available at Seaford Florist, Market Street, Blades. Both men are willing to consider making something to order.

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