BAY ROBERTS, NL – If you want to find Graham Mercer, just look at the back door of his home in Bay Roberts.
There you are more likely to find a small, white piece of paper with the words “out in the shed.”
When you follow those directions, you just have to turn around and walk a few steps toward the side door of the 84-year-old’s shed.
Inside, Graham runs a small piece of wood through an electric saw in the middle of the shop. Surrounded by bottles of wood glue, sawdust and other pieces of wood, Graham’s concentration never leaves the piece on his desk.
This is a piece of what would be an X-Wing fighter from the Star Wars series for his son.
“I cut it all out and I do it all myself,” Graham said.
The hobby began to take shape, so to speak, two decades ago after Graham retired. Previously, he and his wife regularly took their trailer on trips to and from the south for several months each winter.
While there, Graham met an Alabama man who showed him how to take a piece of wood and carve it into something smaller and more intimate. Once he has started, he will shred the wood into the rough shape he wants and then finish it off with a Dremel tool.
His first piece was a little cowboy boot. Since then, he has made things like dolphins in the middle of the jump and even a set of replica pocketknives placed on a shelf in his kitchen.
“I’ve never been a woodworker, but I enjoy it,” Graham said.
“I’ve never been a woodworker, but I enjoy it.” – Graham Mercer
In the years that followed, arthritis meant she could no longer lose weight, so she switched to electric saws to maintain her hobby.
For the past dozen years or so, Graham has assembled wooden models with the shapes of trucks, tractors and trains. He thinks he’s done 60 or more since he started.
If you look at those pieces, it’s easy to see Graham’s talent in shaping and assembling wood. Whether it’s a replica of a Newfie Bullet train or a truck with a drill auger mounted, each one is intricately detailed and realistic.
The auger moves in place like it would in a real drilling truck. So was the winch on a tow truck sitting on a shelf in his living room. There is even a bucket truck with a working bucket arm.
Some works were made by Graham from memory, while most were built from blueprints he ordered from a catalog. Sent him the design, the wheels and a few smaller parts, then composed the rest, with each piece carefully carved from a piece of recycled wood.
“I want to be in (woodworking). It’s a great hobby, ”Graham said.
One of Graham’s pieces now hangs on the wall of Bay Roberts Fire Hall. A former firefighter, Graham designed and assembled an aerial truck, with a sliding ladder, as a gift for the department.
Bay Roberts Fire Chief Doug Mercer, who is a woodworker by trade, made a frame for the truck soon after it was received and admired the meticulousness of Graham’s work.
He said the department is very pleased to receive the gift and display it in the fire hall.
“It is a marvel actually. It’s very unique, and it’s put together, ”Doug said.
Graham usually starts his day cycling before he heads out to his woodwork.
Every day, he slips into his gray shrouds, puts on his boots and heads to the workshop.
Every time he opens that door, a new project awaits him.
“I’d rather be like this than drink coffee,” Graham said.
Nicholas Mercer covers Conception Bay North for the SaltWire Network.