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Tobacco sticks find new life with crafters

December 06, 2005|EMILY TOADVINE

LANCASTER - A lot of people are just letting their tobacco stick lay idle since they stopped raising the crop, but others are finding new life for them.

Russell Ball and his son-in-law, Kendall Barker, decided to make coffee tables and end tables with the sticks as the top. Ball wasn't keen on the idea when it first was suggested by his wife, Joann, and daughter, Leslie Barker.

"I told them they were crazy. Who'd buy a table made out of tobacco sticks?"

He quickly was proven wrong when they made five tables for the 2004 arts and crafts bazaar that benefits Lancaster's Up with Youth program.

The tables were gone the first two hours of the two-day event. This year, they created a dozen end tables and three coffee tables and they still held a lot of appeal.

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"We had several people come back because we ran out," says Joann Ball. "One lady said, 'I've had to wait a whole year to come back.'"

They charge $35 for the end tables and $60 for the coffee tables. Some of the tables have legs painted red, navy or dark green. First, the legs are painted black and then the color is painted over that. Then, they are sanded and stained, and varnish is applied.

"So it's kind of a process," JoAnn Ball says.

Leslie and Kendall actually raised a tobacco crop until a couple of years ago, but now the sticks are just laying around.

"We had so many, we thought, 'Surely, there's something we can do with them.'"

At first, Leslie Barker and her mother, who operate A Touch of Oak on U.S. 27, made ladders, but then they asked the men to make the tables. Leslie Barker likes the idea so much that she has one of the coffee tables in front of her couch. Her sister uses one on her porch.

This family wasn't the only one at the bazaar who recycled farm products. Rick and Adrienne Gastineau of Burdette Knob Road make birdhouses from barn lumber. Adrienne Gastineau says they have a barn that is falling down.

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