Fred Wilson has discovered a third calling in life, making the write stuff.
Fred Wilson handcrafts one-of-a-kind pens, fountain or ballpoint, from wood, deer antlers and other materials.
Fred spent 30 years in the Marine Corps retiring in 1990. He then spent 22 years working maintenance at Saint Mary’s School before retiring again, but retirement just wasn’t in the cards for Fred.
“I decided to go back to school,” Fred said. “I took cabinetmaking at Palomar College. Part of the course was making a clock, and then you made a piece of furniture of your own design. That is when I got into wood turning. I fell in love with it.”
Fred began crafting his pens about four years ago.
“I started making them for my children as gifts at Christmas. They loved them and asked if I could make pens for some of their friends. Well, they loved them too and told me I had to start selling these things. So that is how it began.”
“This is a hobby for me,” explained Fred. “A hobby that mom [his wife, Gloria] and I get to spend time together doing, and we meet people here at the Sunset Market. We just love the market. You meet people from all around the world with diverse backgrounds. There are all types of wood turners that come along and we sit and talk. I also meet all types of pen makers and we pick each other’s brains. We just have a ball doing this.”
Fred has sold pens to people from across the globe.
“We like to say we are international,” Gloria quipped. “We had a gentleman from Australia that purchased a pen from our patriotic series. I said ‘You know that pen has “God Bless America” on it.’ He said, ‘That’s okay we like Americans.’”
Fred also enjoys teaching his craft.
“I was teaching my son how to turn wood. He was so engrossed in what he was doing he didn’t notice his wife snapping a bunch of photos of him,” Fred said. “Now I am working with the Turn Around for Vets Project aboard Camp Pendleton sponsored by the San Diego Woodturners. We work with our wounded warriors teaching them how to make bowls, lamps and pens. They do beautiful work. It’s a great program.”
The pens Fred crafts are each unique.
“Each piece of wood is like a fingerprint. No two pieces are alike. I get my blanks from all over, including the forest, Hawaii and even the backyard. The deer antlers are shed. No deer are killed to get them. The design of the pen is only limited by your imagination.
“I had a fountain pen I made out of deer antler. There were several people here at the booth looking at it but there was one guy that wouldn’t take his eyes off it. He told me, ‘I want that pen.’ I said OK, gave it to him and handed him some refill cartridges. He handed them back and told me that ink will never flow through it. He was a collector and he explained he had a case specially made for pens and had a spot for it. The pen will never touch paper. That was kind of fun,” Fred laughed.
Fred likes working with cocobolo, a tropical hardwood from Latin America. “It is a beautiful wood for pens.”
Designs by Wilson has several pen series, including one for all branches of the military along with first responders.
“The military personnel loves the pens with the chevrons,” Gloria said. The chevrons are all inlaid wood, glued individually, piece by piece, and then turned.
“They are very time consuming to make but I love it,” Fred said.
Find Fred and Gloria Thursdays at the Sunset Market in Downtown Oceanside.