Bourbon and Bog Oak Pens
The Maker: Joel Lockridge
Joel Lockridge loves wood that tells a good story. And the master woodworker shares that passion for pieces of wood — and the stories behind them — in the finely crafted items he creates at his Alabaster workshop.
“I’ve made wooden pens from pieces of Oxford’s Christ Church College Great Hall (that frequently appears in the Harry Potter movies) and from bleachers that were once in Lambeau Field (home to the Green Bay Packers),” Lockridge says. “I started my Bourbon Barrel pen website a few years ago after a Kentucky friend sent me a stave from a barrel used to age the bourbon in a distillery.”
The Centre native grew up helping his father build birdhouses and taking shop classes at Cherokee County High School.
“I had a career as a graphic designer for about 25 years, but I was always woodworking, making picture frames, puzzle boxes and furniture,” he says. “Then one day I had a bit of an accident with a table saw and severed a finger.” But he could still use a lathe and engraving tools, “and I found I liked making pens.”
Lockridge was trying to figure out how to make his handcrafted writing implements distinctive, when his buddy delivered the barrel. “It made my whole workshop smell like bourbon,” he remembers. “I thought people who like bourbon might buy that kind of pen, especially if the wood came from their favorite distillery. So I started making the pens and including a Certificate of Authenticity that says which distillery the wood came from as well as a sample of the raw bourbon barrel used to make the item.”
Lockridge’s potent pen idea soon caught on with folks around the country, and today he buys barrels from a dozen distilleries in Tennessee and Kentucky.
In addition to his finely crafted fountain pens, cigar pens, slim pens, gentlemen pens and stylus pens, Lockridge makes shaving razor handles and pepper mills from all types and ages of wood, ranging from seven-year-old Maker’s Mark bourbon barrels to millennia-old English bog oak trees. Preserved after falling in the Fens of England (a marshy region in the eastern part of the country) 4,000 to 6,000 years ago, bog oaks have a deep brown color retained from the mosses that covered them for centuries. “Some are older than the pyramids,” Lockridge says.
When he’s not forming, sanding and finishing pens from pieces of wood, Lockridge creates them from exotic materials such as deer antlers and alligator jawbones. Still, he loves when a piece of ash, oak, pine or cherry with a tale to tell arrives at his door. “Folks will send me a baseball bat they had as a kid, or a piece from a cradle their grandfather used, and ask me to make a pen from it,” he says. “I think those are the ones that mean the most to people — pens made from something that’s been a part of their lives.”
The product: Pens of various types (including fountain, cigar, slim, gentlemen and stylus); shaving razor handles and pepper mills.
Take home: A “Maker’s Mark 46” Pen made from Maker’s Mark barrel staves combined with the toasted French oak staves used to flavor the distillery’s “Maker’s 46″ brand of bourbon ($58-$95, depending on pen style).