For many, woodworking is either a fun hobby or a way to earn a living, but not for this master craftsman. To Herb Hanna of Elizabethtown, it’s a way to keep busy during his retirement years and also a way to help others.
On Saturday evening at the Bladen Habitat for Humanity Dinner and Auction, some of Hanna’s pieces will be going on the auction block. He has donated a tray table, a bench, a cedar chest, shaker jelly cupboard, and a child’s high chair.
“It’s all about helping others,” said Hanna of his donation.
Hanna, who does not sell his creations, has been donating items to the Habitat auction as long as they have been in Bladen County.
The 83-year-old Hanna began woodworking as a hobby after his retirement from Veeder Root in 1986. At first he was simply looking for something to do to keep him busy and it grew from there.
“I honestly think I would go crazy without it,” he said.
Hanna said initially he would make pieces of furniture or other items for his family.
“I would tell them to tell me what they wanted and what size; then leave me alone and I would make it to the best of my ability,” said Hanna.
He has pieces of his own work throughout his home. He has made pieces for his daughter and grandchildren throughout the years. His inspirations for designs come from various sources including television shows and improving on current designs.
Hanna said he doesn’t take short cuts in building his furniture. He looks for ways to make it as durable as possible without sacrificing the structural integrity of the design.
“I make things that are useful. I don’t make anything decorative,” said Hanna.
Hanna buys very little lumber because the majority of his wood for his pieces is donated by various contractors, lumber yards, and private individuals. He said sometimes he will get up in the mornings and find a piece of plywood left beside his car port or a small stack of scrap lumber from a contractor left beside his drive way.
Hanna said he started making the tray tables after a friend had to have hip replacement surgery. While he recovered, he was unable to move around much and he asked Hanna about making him a tray table. The table is designed to sit next to a chair or a bed and allow the patient to use the tray for meals, reading books, or other activities. He set about making one for his friend and has made many others through the years. He has even sent one to South Carolina.
“The wife of the man in South Carolina wrote to me and said it was the most useful thing they had ever had. She wrote I would never know how much it meant or how helpful it was,” recounted Hanna.
He estimates he has made between 50 to 100 of the tray tables.
“I’ve sent a lot of them out and don’t expect anything at all,” said Hanna of being reimbursed for his time and effort.
He says his goal of building his tray tables and other items for the sick and disabled is his way of making things easier for others. None of his works can be found for sale in any stores. He donates the pieces to various organizations or sends them directly to people who need them.
“I honestly think the more you give, the more you get,” said Hanna.
Besides donating items to Habitat, Hanna also has creations being auctioned off at the Bladen We Care dinner and auction next week.