Friday, January 26, 2007

Charlie Blake, Master Woodworker

by David Parmer

Charlie Blake was not only a farmer and grist miller on his Clover Fork farm but was also a wood worker and master craftsman. Charlie was the son of William L. and Janie Blake, grandson of Stuart J. Blake and Lucinda (Posey) Blake, and great grandson of pioneers John B. and Abbey (Crysemore) Blake who came to the Clover Fork area from Greenbrier County in the early 1800s.

To the left is Charlie with is wife Daisy (Heater) Blake.

Charlie, who was born in 1876, learned woodcrafting skills growing up on Clover Fork, in between farming chores. Charlie built a wood working shop on the banks of Clover Fork just below his residence, complete with carpentry and wood shaping tools, including a foot pedaled lathe. In this workshop Charlie produced straight chairs, rocking chairs, axe and hoe handles, benches, porch swings, and musical instruments such as violins and banjos for sale to his neighbors and residents of the Oil Creek valley.

Shown to the right is a rocking chair fashioned by Charlie Blake which was purchased by Coleman Jeffries in the early 1940s. Nearly seventy years old the rocker is still sturdy with the original split bottom and back intact and joints still tight.

Rosemary (Riffle) Crutchfield of Burnsville, granddaughter of Charlie and Daisy Blake, tells us that she used to go on the hill with her grandfather in search of the hickory saplings to make the splits used in constructing chair bottoms and backs. Her grandfather told Rosemary that the saplings had to have just the "right juice" to make good splits. Obviously he chose the right splits in making the rocker shown.

Charlie also made musical instruments. Charlie played a "little" on his fiddle and on a banjo which he also made which is in possession of other family members.
This photo of a violin, or "fiddle" made by Charlie was taken by Dustin Crutchfield, 3-great-grandson of Charlie and Daisy Blake. Click on the closeup below to see it in greater detail.

Around 1940 a devastating flood swept down Clover Fork and carried away Charlie’s workshop and tools. Charlie was in failing health and unable to muster up the strength to rebuild and start his woodcrafting anew. Today, still to be seen in the gravel bed of Clover Fork below the site of his workshop is Charlie Blake’s grindstone used in sharpening his blades and tools. Charlie died in 1948 at age 71, survived by his wife Daisy (Heater) Blake and his daughter Ruby Riffle.

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