What does a moonshine still and fine writing have in common? In the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains lies Franklin County, VA; also known as “The Moonshine Capital of the World”. A major moonshine operation and bust back in the 1930’s created a political and financial disturbance that affected the majority of families in this rural county; a disturbance that still resonates strongly today. (For more information on this historical event check out, The Great Moonshine Conspiracy Trial of 1935 by Keister Greer, and A Night of Makin’ Likker and Other Stories from the Moonshine Capital of the World by Morris Stephenson. Both are available at http://www.amazon.com.) Moonshine stills from decades ago linger in the lesser developed areas and remind folks of the old traditions that existed in a by-gone era.
For my followers who’s eyebrows are raised, this blog isn’t promoting moonshine! Its about a young man in the county that has taken history and turned it into a notable keepsake. Todd Mason is a talented creator of wood products, his speciality being PENS! On a recent outing he discovered the remnants of a moonshine still on his property and decided to turn the old perserved wood into fine writing instruments with the flare and feel of local Prohibition era. I purchased a few pens as gifts and was so impressed that I wanted to feature this gentleman’s work on my blog. Check out his new webpage: http://www.moonshinepens.com/apps/webstore/products/category/1310736?page=1 and order a little piece of history for yourself. You won’t be disappointed.
Rocky Mount man makes pens from old stills
Todd Mason uses wood from abandoned site in Franklin County Friday, April 17, 2015 By MORRIS STEPHENSON – Special to the News-Post When Todd Mason of Rocky Mount gets an idea, nothing is going to stop him from making his dream a reality. Early this year, he decided to make pens from wood he’s recovered from old submarine moonshine stills he found near his home. Now, he’s selling them online at moonshinepens.com. Mason is turning out pens on a small lathe he purchased online. His work area is his late father’s garage behind his mother’s home on Mason’s Lane. Once the equipment arrived, Mason went to work turning out the wood piece that fits on a brass “sleeve” in a pen kit he orders from an internet source. The idea of using wood reclaimed from abandoned moonshine stills came to him as he walked through the woods behind his mother’s home. There’s a site behind the house where white lightning was manufactured more than 30 years ago. Mason said he was a teenager the last time he remembers the still being in operation. Now, the wood and galvanized metal stills are slowly decaying. “The hollows along Providence Church Road that have spring water are filled with these old submarines,” he said. “But wood that’s not on the ground is still usable, and it only takes a small piece to make a pen.” Mason researched how to make ball point pens online, and he learned that every part needed can be ordered in kit form. “There are up to 13 parts in a package, depending on the pen’s style,” he explained. All of Mason’s moonshine pens have bright copper parts. But the style of pen can be customized for the buyer, he said. For example, Mason can order pen kits devoted to helping cure breast cancer. A certain percentage of the special kit’s sales go to research. “If a group wanted to sell those pens, I could order the parts packets and it would help raise money in that manner,” he explained. Mason, 42, has ordered pen cases to ship mail orders received from his new website. “I started getting ‘hits’ from all over the world the first couple of days after I posted the website. It was unbelievable,” he said. In the shipment, he includes a card with the order. The front of the card features a photo of the moonshine still where he recovered the oak wood for the first batch of pens. The back of the card notes the pen’s authenticity, stating the wood is from one of six 800-gallon submarine stills destroyed by state and federal agents in the “Moonshine Capital of the World.” The card also includes a brief history of Franklin County’s moonshine past. Mason offers four pen styles, but “the most popular by far is the most expensive, of course,” he noted. The favorite is the bullet shaped “rifle pen,” featuring a tiny rifle as the clip. A miniature “bolt action” mechanism extends and retracts the ink component. He is expanding his hobby to include other unusual wood samples from all over the United States and beyond. “There’s a purple-colored piece of wood that is found only in South America. I had to do a little special work on that one to bring out the color,” he explained. Another piece is olive wood that comes from Bethlehem, while another piece was shipped to him from Jerusalem. His latest project is the “teacher pen,” he said. The unique design uses black ink on one side and red ink on the other. His mother, Oneda, who works at The Franklin Center has sold many of those to her colleagues. Mason has also found retailers in Franklin County who want to sell his pens. “I’m looking to sell pens Photo by Morris Stephenson: Todd Mason of Rocky Mount displays two cases of ball point pens he has made during the last couple of months. He is now concentrating efforts on turning out moonshine pens made of wood reclaimed from old submarine-type stills.
wholesale at places where visitors are sure to stop when they come to visit the county, be it relatives or tourists.” His pens are sold at the Artisan Center in Rocky Mount, and he hopes to sell them at the historical society’s moonshine tour and the United Way’s “Shine ‘n Dine” event on Saturday, April 18 at Early Inn at the Grove. And this week, 87-year-old retired moonshiner Cecil Love provided Mason with pine wood from his submarine still that was destroyed by ABC agents in 2011. Mason said he will change the information on the card when he starts using wood from Love’s still. “But I’ll probably offer pens in both oak and pine or at least for a while, he said. Mason’s pens are priced at $40 and up. In addition to his website, Mason can also be found on Facebook or email firstname.lastname@example.org.