Searching for a retirement hobby, Evea Jackson uses her yard sale lathe to create pens from wood, cactus, and even deer antlers as gifts for friends and family in southeastern Idaho.
“Look at the wood grain on these,” said the Rupert resident, showing her recent Christmas gifts of purple heart, zebra wood, and Wenge African hardwood.
“It’s fun to see the character of the wood come out—even local wood often taken for granted like cedar, sagebrush, and poplar. Black walnut is amazing for its durability and beauty.”
Telling her family she “is happy with a handful of sticks for gifts,” she has plenty of material for the coming year.
One of her most sentimental woods is silver birch, made from the trees growing on a homestead she and her husband, Randy, purchased west of Gifford Springs. Writing with a light tan silver birch pen she has made connects her with her homesteader grandmother and the outdoors, her favorite place to be—whether shooting archery, gold mining, hunting, or participating in mountain man rendezvous with Randy.
In 2018, Jackson discovered her love of woodworking after retiring from West Minico Junior High School. “I worked my whole life and didn’t know how to retire, so my son suggested I take a woodworking class he teaches at the Cassia Regional Technical Center.”
She accepted his invitation and eventually learned to turn wood on a lathe.
“I was hooked and found an inexpensive lathe at a yard sale,” she said.
To make a pen, she starts with pieces of wood a friend has sawed into manageable sizes, about 3/4 inch square, and secures two pieces to her lathe. As it rotates, she holds a turning tool, shaving off layers of wood.
“I never get tired of seeing the wood’s grain and color as layers come off.”
Sometimes, the wood fails to cooperate. “Cedar, sagebrush and saguaro cactus all have natural inclusions, and sometimes when I’m using the turning tool, the wood just blows to pieces.”
After she is satisfied with the shape of two pieces of wood that will form a pen, she sands them and applies Shellawax cream to make them shine. She then inserts a metal pen kit inside the pieces. Each pen is unique.
“I never know exactly what each one will turn out like. When I give these away, they really are one-of-a-kind. It makes me as happy to see people’s expressions when they get one.”
As she patiently turns a pen, Jackson thinks about the outdoors – her farming and ranching heritage and a frontier lifestyle she and Randy re-enact at mountain man rendezvous.
In 1953, her grandmother and namesake Evea Adams, a U.S. Army meteorologist, drew a homestead north of Paul when the North Side Pumping Division of the Minidoka Project opened.
“Because she was a veteran, she was given preference for drawing,” Jackson said. “Then my parents moved here from southern Oregon and purchased an assignment on a homestead. After proving up on that homestead, they sold it and bought a farm.”
Appreciating her heritage, Jackson learned homestead property was for sale near Gifford Springs and bought it. “We loved it so much that we built a cabin there.”
The inside of the cabin and also the Jacksons’ home near Rupert seems like a homestead house or a trading post at a mountain man rendezvous. Whenever she needs to write a note or letter, one of her wooden pens is nearby. The Jacksons have created a living history museum, preserving the beauty of wildlife with their big game mounts on walls, bear rugs, pelts, and framed pictorial arrangements that her mother made with pheasant feathers and other outdoor objects.
“Whenever I’m working with wood and wherever we are outdoors, I feel right at home.” ISI