Penmanship takes on new meaning with local craftsman

He spends his time as most retired individuals do’finding things to keep him busy. Pens and pencils are tools used by every person at one point or another each and every day. To some, a cheap plastic ink-filled tube is all they need. For others, using a unique high quality writing instrument is one of the finer things in life. Dayton Boren has lived most of his life in McCulloch County. He was raised in the Elm Grove and Milburn communities where he grew up as a farmer and rancher. He has always had a knack for tinkering with things and making things with his hands. The life of a rancher gives one the opportunity to develop handyman skills that assist in dealing with the daily chores that come with running a working ranch. The days on the ranch are long gone and a lengthy career in the natural gas business gave him 28 years of time served working for the Brady Municipal Gas Company. Nowadays, he spends much of his time in the small workshop located only a few short steps from his back porch. Scraps of various types of wood and old deer antlers dropped off by area ranchers are scattered about. His tools cover the gamut, and he even has the first power tool he ever owned securely mounted on the wall of his shop. It still works amazingly well and is only an arm’s reach away. With only a quick glance, the organized workshed is obviously a place where a man’s passion and hobby are combined into one’woodworking. Using his hands he creates works of art from chunks of wood that otherwise would go unnoticed. From bowls turned from a solid block of wood to magnifying glasses and even picture frames, his talent with woodworking tools is evident at first glance. “I have worked with my hands all my life,” said Boren. “When I was in the military, I was able to sign up for a cabinetmaking class which gave me some formal training.” The coffee and end tables he built while in that class some 40+ years ago still hold their place in he and his wife, Virginia’s, living room. On his back porch hangs a unique double-sided frame that houses an old handwritten letter his grandfather wrote to his daughter, Dayton’s mother. The letter was written in classic script on two sides of two sheets of paper. With a bit of creative resolve, Boren constructed a two-sided frame that allows the letters to be read by simply flipping the frame. Many people around the Heart of Texas know Boren for his creative works of art. In recent years, he has become widely known for his hand-crafted pens and pencils. “I met a guy back in the early 90s who made pens, and I looked at some of the ones he made and told myself’I can do that,” said Boren. He started with a simple design and began tinkering with various styles. He would take a small piece of wood, bore out the center and turn it in any number of designs. Many of the pens that first came off his lathe are still in his possession. “The first ones I did were pretty simple,” said Boren. “Over time, I have come up with some designs that people seem to really like.” One design that seems to be most popular is any style of pen made out of deer antler. He took those designs and began selling them from a booth at the annual Goat Cook-Off. “I started doing this as a way to get away from things and to get my mind off of work,” he said. “Since then, it has become kind of a passion. I used to try and sell a lot, but now I usually make them by request. Some I give away, and others I sell.” One of his pens made from antler recently was purchased in the Brady band auction for $60. He makes each pen by hand using kits purchased from a speciality catalog. Matching pen and pencil sets are also available, and custom designs and special requests are only a drawing or a few descriptive words away. He says he’ll make just about any design someone desires. He recently completed a special request of duplicating a spoke off of an antique spinning wheel. “The hard part was getting the right wood and stain to match the new spoke to the old one,” he said. “I eventually figured it out and when I was done, the owner had a difficult time telling the original from the new one.” He has an old refrigerator next to his shed where he keeps working stock that is ready to go. In only a few short minutes, he can have a block of wood on the lathe and wood chips flying. All in all, he can take a piece of stock wood and create a shiny, polished finished product in 30 minutes; the antler pens take about twice as long. He is an active member of the Brady Rotary Club where he volunteers his time as often as possible. For years he has been a behind the scenes “Mr. Fix-it” at the First United Methodist Church. Unlike some retirees who have a hard time finding things to do to keep busy, he is usually just a pen’s throw away creating another work of art.

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