PEI

How this P.E.I. man is crafting custom pens from trees downed by Dorian

If you're lucky you may have found a special wooden pen underneath the Christmas tree this year, handcrafted from a tree taken down by post-tropical storm Dorian.

'The emotional value is significant'

Sid Watts crafts customized pens in his home workshop, made from pieces of trees damaged during post-tropical storm Dorian. (Sam Juric/CBC)

If you're lucky you may have found a special wooden pen underneath the Christmas tree this year, handcrafted from a tree taken down by post-tropical storm Dorian.

Dorian left many fallen trees in its wake when it hit P.E.I. in September, and Islander Sid Watts has been turning the storm's destruction into mementos for people to hold on to. 

"I put a small posting after the hurricane out there on my Facebook and said, 'I could do this if people wanted me to,'" he said. "And I had quite a few people contact me." 

Watts, who lives in Kilmuir, P.E.I., near Montague, said a number of Islanders have come to him with a piece of a tree damaged during the storm.

'It's a bit of a process,' to make the pens, Watts says. (Sam Juric/CBC)

"In total, I think I had about seven people who actually brought me a piece of their trees. Something that meant something to them and they wanted to hang on to that," he said. 

"I feel honoured to work on those pieces of wood for those people because I'm sure the stories to them are very, very special."

'Bit of a process'

Watts said he typically needs between six and eight weeks to take the pieces of wood and turn them into customized pens.

He starts by sawing the wood, slicing it into a piece about an inch wide. Once the wood is cut, he dries it in his furnace room. 

Even though the tree may be gone, Dorian may have knocked it down and taken it, but they now have a piece of it they can hold on to forever.— Sid Watts

"Once they've dried for a couple of weeks I'll bring them to my table saw, I'll slice them into squares which are about three quarters of an inch or a little bit more than that, and then they go back to my furnace room," Watts said. 

"It is a bit of a process for sure." 

Watts starts off the process of making the pens by sawing the piece of wood brought to him, slicing it into a piece about an inch wide. Once the wood is cut, he dries it in his furnace room. (Sam Juric/CBC)

Once the wood is dried, Watts cuts it into even smaller pieces. 

"Most of my pens are made with two pieces, a top and a bottom piece, so I keep them numbered and put marks on them so that the grain flows right through the pen," he said. 

"They have to be drilled, cut to exact length ... after it's drilled, a metal insert is placed into them to hold the pen parts when they're eventually put together."

During the process of crafting the pens, Watts said he often feels as if he's on a mission, hunting for each pen's unique personality. 

April MacLean commissioned Watts to make three pens from a tree once located on her parents' yard, which was damaged during post-tropical storm Dorian. (Sam Juric/CBC)

"No two of them could ever be exactly alike. They're like snowflakes. 'Cause they're hand-turned, I'll never turn two of them exactly the same and the grain in the wood will always be different." 

'I love doing it'

When April MacLean saw Watts' Facebook post she decided to bring him a piece of a tree from her parents' home in Summerside, which unfortunately did not survive the storm. 

"The pens were made from a tree that was lost in hurricane Dorian, in my parents' yard and they were quite disappointed with losing the tree, as it was planted when their oldest grandson was born," she said. 

I love to see people just being happy about what they have and that they can hold on to those mementos.— Sid Watts

"It was a red oak tree and it was to the west side of my parents' home."

The tree was first planted about 15 years ago, when MacLean's oldest nephew, Ben, was born. 

'No two of them could ever be exactly alike. They're like snowflakes,' Watts says. (Sam Juric/CBC)

MacLean commissioned Watts to craft three pens to be made from the treasured piece of wood, one each for her mother and father and one for her nephew Ben. The pens were engraved with Ben's name. 

"The emotional value is significant," she said.

Watts said he's been bringing older or worn pieces of wood back to life for people for years and loves being able to continue doing it with his Dorian pens. 

MacLean commissioned Watts to craft three pens to be made from the treasured piece of wood, one each for her mother and father and one for her nephew Ben. The pens were engraved with Ben's name.  (Submitted by April MacLean)

"I love doing it because I love to see people just being happy about what they have and that they can hold on to those mementos," he said. 

"Even though the tree may be gone, Dorian may have knocked it down and taken it, but they now have a piece of it they can hold on to forever." 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sam Juric

Reporter

Sam Juric is a CBC reporter and producer, through which she's had the privilege of telling stories from P.E.I., Sudbury and Nunavut.

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