Woodworker C.T Welch is on a mission
By Susan Shinn
For The Salisbury Post
CHINA GROVE ó Looking for a unique and functional Christmas gift?
C.T. Welch can hook you up.
A junior at South Rowan High School, C.T. took woodshop last semester. His favorite thing was making pens on a lathe.
C.T. crafts the writing instruments out of wood or acrylic.
“I saved my money and went out and bought everything,” says C.T., 16, of his penmaking equipment. That includes a 14-inch by 40-inch wood lathe and a mandrel set that holds the pens while they’re turning.
You could also use it, he notes, to make candleholders or wine bottlestoppers.
At the moment, however, C.T.’s focus is on pens ó and he’s making them for a good cause.
For the third year, C.T. is participating in a mission trip to Jamaica in July with his church, Blackwelder Park Baptist. He wants to raise most of the amount, $1,350, on his own by making and selling the pens.
“I just started making them and people asked to buy them,” C.T. says.
He sells them for $20 each.
C.T. is the son of Larry “Poss” and Sandy Welch of China Grove, and the grandson of Dot and Carl Bradshaw of China Grove and Blanche Welch of Salisbury.
Sandy wants him to sell at least 60 pens toward his trip. She’ll chip in some money, too, she says. She’s been taking orders from co-workers at China Grove Elementary, where she’s a teacher’s assistant, and from her hairdressing clients. Poss owns P&S Cleaning Service.
After turning the pens, C.T. continues the process by dry sanding, wet sanding, polishing, buffing and inserting the hardware with a penpress.
“That and making sure it writes,” he says.
C.T. is already looking forward to the mission trip.
“It used to be just the youth group but now people throughout the church are going,” C.T. says. This year, about 40 church members will participate.
“I really didn’t want to go the first year I went,” C.T. admits. “But I loved it so much. It was a lot of fun.”
While in Jamaica, church members have led Bible school and built community centers and houses. They’ll do more of the same this summer.
Last year, C.T. gave away three pairs of his size 12 shoes, including a new pair of Nike Shox, to a boy whose house had burned.
“It made me so proud he would do that,” Sandy says.
“He needed them,” C.T. says simply of the boy he helped.
In the meantime, C.T. is staying busy in the basement, turning out pens. He can make one in about an hour, he says. Some of the softer woods, he notes, take less time.
“Acrylic looks prettier, I think,” he says, “but some wood, it’s just bam, an awesome color.”
He’s gotten some requests for acrylic pens in team colors, such as turquoise and black for the Carolina Panthers or yellow and purple for East Carolina University.
“If I find it,” he says of special requests, “I get it.”
He buys the acrylic ó which comes in rectangular blocks called pen blanks, from Woodcraft or Penn State Industries. He and his mom pick up the hardware from a store in Matthews.
He puts the blanks, which come in two sections, on the lathe and starts to work.
“That’s coming along pretty good there,” he says, as the colors emerge from a pen that will be yellow and purple.
“He loves doing it,” Sandy says of her son’s hobby. “He can make a little bit of money at it. I just hate the school did away with that class.”
“I wanted to take Cabinet II at Carson, but my schedule did not allow,” C.T. says. He thinks a lot of his former teacher, Joe Owens.
At South, C.T. is a member of the FFA and the swim team. He plays guitar in the praise team band at church.
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If you’d like to order a pen, call C.T. Welch at 704-855-1466.
Freelance writer Susan Shinn lives in Salisbury.