By Rebekah Sanderlin
A lot of houses have been built in Raeford in recent years, and the rapid growth has apparently extended to the bird world, too. Drive past David R. Lee’s house on Lindsay Road and you’ll see everything from tiny starter homes for the budding bird family, to giant McMansions for birds who desire more room. There are A-frames, barns and bungalows, in an array of colors and finishes, to satisfy even the most finicky flying family.
David Lee builds birdhouses — as well as wooden bowls, vases, mortar and pestle sets, candle sticks, wooden ink pens and other items. He’s even made a few pen and pencil holders that look like old glass milk bottles.
“I get ideas outta’ my head,” Lee said. “I just make a lot of things I’ve seen.”
Much of the wood Lee uses comes to him naturally, as well. People just give it to him, or sometimes he finds it when he walks in the woods. His brother owns land nearby and Lee often searches there for wood he can use. He looks for pieces left behind after a tree has been cut down to use for his wooden home accessories. For the bird houses he uses planks, though. These he either buys from hardware stores or gets from a friend who works in construction and saves the odds and ends to give to Lee.
“I try not to throw nothing away,” Lee said.
The birdhouses are mostly made with pine or cedar, which is Lee’s favorite type for building. Some are painted and some are stained, others still are treated with a clear varnish so that the wood grain will show.
Lee said most of the bird houses have a hole cut large enough for a bluebird to pass in and out, but some have holes sized for smaller birds.
The bowls he turns are in a variety of woods: cypress, oak, cedar or pine, and are all left untreated so the wood grain will show and so they can be used for food.
“I love red cedar to turn things out of,” Lee said, “but it’s kindly hard to come by.” Lately he’s become enamored of another hard-to-come-by wood: Olive, from Bethlehem, Israel, which he orders from a supplier there.
Lee started working with wood in 2002, just before he retired. The Cumberland County native, who is now 71 years old, worked for 27 years at Burlington Mills and then 15 more years at Unilever, before he retired.
“I was a mechanic at work in a factory and I had access to a metal lathe that I could use,” Lee said. “I thought I’d like to see what I could do with a wood lathe.”
He began buying tools and collecting wood and, upon retirement, set up the little wood shop in the back of his house where his imagined creations now come to life. Lee’s wife, Brenda Lee (no relation to the singer), helps him by painting the houses and other designs.
“She don’t work in the shop, though,” Lee said. “She does her thing in the garage. She says my shop is too messy.”