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Turning Out Beauty: Brookhaven native creates one-of-a-kind wooden treasures

APRIL GARON / Maurice Smith in his Brookhaven workshop, with a hand-turned bowl he made out of Magnolia wood. Smith makes a variety of wood projects and sells them at craft fairs.

APRIL GARON / Maurice Smith in his Brookhaven workshop, with a hand-turned bowl he made out of Magnolia wood. Smith makes a variety of wood projects and sells them at craft fairs.

When Brookhaven resident Maurice Smith sees a block of wood, he sees a masterpiece.

“I don’t think God made an ugly piece of wood,” Smith said. “I won’t sand knots and blemishes out of the bowls. It’s a character flaw, and that’s what makes it beautiful.”

Close up of a small decorative bowl.

Close up of a small decorative bowl.

Smith says he knows exactly what kind of bowl he can create with each block of wood.

“Generally speaking when you block one out, with experience you’ve had, you know basically what type of bowl it will make,” Maurice Smith said. “In the process of making, you see little flaws in the wood that cause you to change your original plan, but stick pretty close with what you thought in the beginning.”

Smith sands a bowl made of river birch on the lathe in his workshop in Brookhaven.

Smith sands a bowl made of river birch on the lathe in his workshop in Brookhaven.

Smith has done well by his plan to return to his love of working with wood. Smith bought a lathe (wood working machine) in 2011, and ever since he’s been turning out one-of-a kind handmade projects, such as bowls, candlesticks, cake stands, cutting boards and other items made with a unique eye and informed by decades of experience. His newest experiment is making checkerboards.

“The way you start a bowl, is to start out with a block of wood, shape it as close as you can to a circle, mount it on a base, attach the base to the lathe, start your turning process, then it goes through four sanding processes,” Smith said. “After you get it sanded to your satisfaction, you put the finish on it. I use lacquer finish on them and a biodegradable oil for cutting boards.”

Close up of bowls.

Close up of bowls.

He has worked with many types of woods, some of which were given to him by locals, including poplar, cherry, pecan, holly, river birch, cedar, oak, catalpa and walnut.

As for his next project, Smith said he is trying to locate box elder and sassafras that is large enough to turn into bowls.

Close up of bowls and candlesticks

Close up of bowls and candlesticks

Smith’s father, Clemmie Smith, owned a cabinet shop in the 1940s, when Smith was in his teen years. Ever since he was a child, Smith had a passion for working with wood. He has built cabinets, hutches, entertainment centers and more.  When he bought the lathe, he said he never intended to sell his bowls, but when he needed a new chisel, his wife Lucinda Smith encouraged him to sell his work to fund his hobby. Since then, he has sold his items at five craft fairs, most recently at Vicksburg’s River Fest.

Smith sands a bowl made of river birch on the lathe in his workshop in Brookhaven.

Smith sands a bowl made of river birch on the lathe in his workshop in Brookhaven.

Smith said he enjoys sharing his projects with others.

“It pleases me that they like what I’ve done,” Smith said. “That’s part of turning—you want it to turn out as beautiful as you know how. I’m still in the learning process. Every time I talk to someone about turning bowls, I learn something. I watch videos online, it gives you more skill and I’ve learned some shortcuts.”

Maurice Smith stands behind a display of his handmade wood items, including bowls, candlesticks, cutting boards and more.

Maurice Smith stands behind a display of his handmade wood items, including bowls, candlesticks, cutting boards and more.

If you are interested in purchasing an item, call Smith at (601)-833-6904 to make an appointment.