Unicoi County retiree’s hobby comes naturally
Posted: Wednesday, April 28, 2010 8:02 pm
ERWIN (AP) — By Erwin resident Walt Marston’s thinking, he has the perfect retirement.
While the shop at his Erwin home provides him with a quiet place to work, demand for items he makes has been anything but. Over the years, Marston has manufactured guitars, furniture, wall plaques, rocking animals, belts, gun holsters and custom gun stocks.
“This is not work,” he said. “This is fun. I mean, heck, I come in here on Saturday and Sunday and do this stuff.”
For Marston, this type of work just comes naturally.
“It’s almost impossible to teach people how to do this kind of thing,” he said. “It’s like trying to teach somebody how to be an artist — you just can’t do it. You either got it or you don’t.”
Originally from Maine, Marston has called Unicoi County home for the past 24 years. Previously he lived in Florida, but he was drawn to this area after passing through Tennessee on several cross-country trips.
Marston’s interest in woodworking began in 1972 when he started making guitars in the New England area. Although his first one came apart in about six months, he fared well with this before moving on to other crafts, as rocking animals then took over his local shop.
He made large “rocking carousel animals” — carousel-style animals set on a block with curved pieces of wood at the bottom similar to a rocking horse.
“I mean as big as I am, I used to ride the things all the time,” he said.
Marston also said these rockers, which included wolf, giraffe, raccoon and dragon designs and could take up to a month-and-a-half to complete, were originally made for children but he found they were being used for other purposes.
He said the rockers ended up being sold throughout the country, with a lot being sent out west to serve as office building fronts, and some were even shipped to the Bahamas. But he put work on them on hold several years ago.
“I’m getting too damned old to throw those hundred-pound blocks of wood around, so I pretty much stopped making those about five, six years ago,” he said.
But Marston never rules out returning to something he has done in the past or moving on to something completely new. “I’m an artist,” he said. “I can’t stay on one thing too long.”
These days, Marston makes gun-leather holsters for everything from concealed carry to Western fast-draw rigs and custom gun stocks and gun grips with inlay work.
“I design everything that I do,” he said. “I don’t steal designs. I’ll steal the concept, but I won’t steal the design.”
Demand has been good for gun leather and custom grips, and samples of his work can be seen at his Web site, gunfighter928.com.
“I’ve had two or three pretty good years, praise God, making holsters and gun grips,” he said. “It’s my retirement. They’re small, they’re easy, and as along as my hands work and God hasn’t put me down, I can do it the rest of my life, because there’s no room for true retirement these days.”
Marston also advertises with the Single Action Shooting Society, or SASS, which, according to its Web site, is “an international organization created to preserve and promote the sport of Cowboy Action Shooting,” while members adorn authentic Old West attire.
Because of this, Marston said, he has shipped custom grips all over the country and world, including Australia, France, Britain and Germany.
“It’s fun,” Marston said of SASS. “Everybody dresses up like cowboys, and they shoot real bullets. It is just fun. (They) wear anything from a 10-gallon hat to a preacher’s uniform with a shotgun in the coat of it. People think of the most unbelievable things.”
Published in The Messenger 4.28.10