America’s Cup souvenirs with an Island twist
After finding some Bermuda cedar in a basement, Alan Murray formulated a plan.
He would try his hand at carving pens and give them to family members as gifts.
Fast forward a few years and Bermuda Cedar Gifts is a thriving business.
“I had no idea it would get to this point,” the 56-year-old said. “I just thought it would be a hobby.
“Now it's almost a job in and of itself because of the time it takes — almost as much as my job in IT. I work part-time and spend the rest of my day working on the pens.”
Mr Murray's grandfather taught him some carpentry skills when he was still in elementary school. The Nova Scotia native learnt to make everything from bookcases to bedroom sets out of Canadian woods such as maple, birch and pine.
He only worked with cedar after he stumbled across the wood in his wife's grandfather's basement.
“[Cindy's] grandfather was a carpenter as well,” Mr Murray said. “That's how he ended up having the cedar in his basement that we stumbled across 15 years ago.
“I started working with it and just experimented as much as possible. I learnt some things from watching videos on the internet and reading books. The first pens I made were OK. I gave those to my wife's cousins and family members so they'd all have a little piece.
“That's when everyone started saying these would be nice for other people. I figured it was a good idea and decided to make it a little side business six years ago.”
He started selling the pens and the men's shaving kits he made at the Farmer's Market; three years ago he moved to Harbour Nights as well.
Ten months ago he got an idea for how to get his pens out to a broader audience.
“Shortly after they made the announcement the America's Cup was coming to Bermuda we put in our application to sell our pens,” Mr Murray said.
“My wife came up with the idea. She said, ‘We need to be the people that are putting their logo on our pens and we need to find out how to do that'.
“It was around Christmas time that this whole thing started and we just finished that application process recently.”
Mr Murray is hoping that the exposure will grow his business.
“I think this event is important for the whole country and the economy,” he said. “And it just gives people some work to do.
“It's cool to put Bermuda on the world stage and for everyone to see what we're all about.
“A lot of small businesses are taking advantage of this opportunity. There was a vendors' meeting a few weeks ago and it was a packed church hall.
“I'm excited just to see the people, all the buzz and the sales that come from this.”
Cedar is an enjoyable wood to work with, he said.
The wood is easy to carve and has a fragrant smell. Plus, the end result is always a polished and shiny souvenir.
But that does not mean the craft is without its challenges.
“The hardest thing can be getting the cedar itself,” he said.
“We can only use recycled wood. It often comes from trees that blew down in storms, so sometimes I go around and purchase old trees, take them to the saw mill and go from there.
“Other times people give it to me and I will make them a pen out of it in return.
“I have had people give me a piece of cedar that came from their grandparents' house when it was torn down and I make them a pen out of that.
“One guy had a grand cedar tree that blew down and he gave me a piece of the root.
“It was very aromatic so I made him a nice pen out of that as a keepsake.”
• Visit Bermuda Cedar Gifts on Facebook or www.bermudacedargifts.com. E-mail email@example.com.